Flash back to 1967: having just read Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls --- more for the Spanish language profanity and the battle scenes, than for literary merit --- ^z sought out other works by Papa H. In the card catalog he found Death in the Afternoon, a paean to the art of the bullfight. This volume was held on a special shelf behind the high school Librarian's desk, presumably due to its "adult" content --- comments re sexuality, that is, not violence. By modern standards it would barely rate a "PG".

Most of DitA is long forgotten, but a bit of homespun Hemingway philosophizing still sticks with ^z. "What is moral is what you feel good after," Ernest opines at one point, "and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."

Really? Agreed, it's probably wise to open up the time dimension (viz. the word "after" in the above) and rate actions on their long-term effects, not just on momentary sensation.

But shouldn't the feelings of others haves some small weight in the calculus of goodness? How did the bulls feel about their part in the drama, for instance? And what about decisions that benefit one person at the expense of many other people?

Maybe just changing "you" to "we" in Hemingway's aphorism would be a good start. "What is moral is what we feel good after, and what is immoral is what we feel bad after." Then the job becomes to better define that little word we ....

(see also WhatCounts (19 Nov 1999), KindergartenEnvironmentalism (28 Jan 2000), SufferTheAnimals (11 Jun 2000), FishShake (24 Jun 2000), RobertNozick (2 Feb 2002), ...)

TopicLiterature - TopicPersonalHistory - TopicPhilosophy - 2002-09-08

(correlates: DalaiLamaBirthdayGift, Comments on High Voltage Fiberoptic Cable, StagesOfCredibility, ...)