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Kelly J. Cooper

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My Ten Commandments [Dec. 7th, 2009|06:05 am]
Kelly J. Cooper

I made a promise to myself that, once I finished reading The Ethics Toolkit: A Compendium of Ethical Concepts and Methods by Julian Baggini & Peter S. Fosl, I would write my own sort of liberal-influenced ten commandments.

This originally came about because, during the last election, there was a great hue and cry that liberals have no moral center. Frankly, I disagree with that. But I do think that there hasn't been a lot of effort to boil down the complex set of ethics to which liberals tend to adhere into a ten-statement oversimplification with fancy words attached.

Thus, I thought I might try that. Then I realized I don't know jack shit about ethics. So I did some research and ended up buying this book. And it's a great book, don't get me wrong, but it's sort of encyclopedic. Not that it's huge — each entry is only 2-4 pages long — but it is seriously DENSE with information and complicated concepts. So I've only been reading a few entries per week. I think I've been reading this book a little longer than Obama's been in office.

Anyway, I finally finished it today and I just wanted to get the goddamn ball rolling, because I've been thinking about this for over a year now. But I keep not writing anything down, thinking, oh, that's not good enough. Well, fuck it. It's good enough to start. Feel free to chime in or share this link with folks you believe would help refine the damn thing.

My Ten Commandments

    1. First, do no harm.
    2. All people are created equal and deserve to be treated with the dignity and respect that entails.
    3. Be good, do good.
    4. Protect the weak; stand up to the strong.
    5. Suffer not bullies to keep bullying.
    6. Love your parents; respect your elders.
    7. Listen to wisdom, respect experience, but do not close your mind to new things.
    8. Honor your promises; respect the oaths of others.
    9. Seek happiness, accept joy, but let anger and sorrow flow through you and pass on without taking action while in their embrace.
    10. Love everyone, including you.

I think probably 4 & 5 should be combined. Maybe.

I'm kinda excited by the idea of a list of things you should do, rather than a list of things you shouldn't do. But maybe I need to preclude stealing, cheating, and killing explicitly? I dunno.

What do you think? What are your ten commandments? (Or eight. Or twelve.)

[User Picture]From: dpolicar
2009-12-07 11:10 am (UTC)
Note that the original Ten Commandments were not in flowery language at all... they were simple imperatives.
The English translations are, admittedly, less so.'

In no particular order, and on ten minutes' thought, and I don't know if they are especially liberal:

  • Don't cause suffering.
  • Don't murder*.
  • Protect one another.
  • Honor one another.
  • Speak truth.
  • Redress unequal starting conditions.
  • Don't steal.
  • Don't hoard when there is need.
  • Learn from experience, including that of other people.

* Murder, not kill. I'm not sure I can define the difference crisply, but one difference is that "murder" implies lack of consent on the part of the dying, and another is that "murder" implies the personhood of the dying. No, I don't think I can define "person", either. For that matter, I'm not too clear on "suffering" or "honor" or "steal" or "hoard", while we're at it.
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[User Picture]From: drwex
2009-12-07 04:48 pm (UTC)

Murder vs kill

If I remember my Jewish ethics course material the distinction in place at the time was "killing someone inside the constraints of the social system" vs "killing someone outside those constraints."

The constraints at the time included war, capital punishment, and certain kinds of sanctioned killings. Those were not murder. Other kinds of killing were.
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[User Picture]From: lillibet
2009-12-07 12:36 pm (UTC)
Something like "Seek consistency." I notice that one of the things that outrages liberals about conservative positions is the perceived inconsistency and hypocrisy. E.g How can they support the death penalty and wars so enthusiastically while talking about "the right to life"? How can they complain that homosexuals are irresponsible sex-maniacs and oppose equality in marriage? How can they enshrine "family values" and cheat on their wives? How can they oppose the right to choose abortion, while also opposing contraception education and policies to support single parents? How can they enshrine "family values" and oppose parental leave? I've heard so many rants on those subjects and more that it seems like a key liberal value.

In my own life, this gets stated as "seek self-awareness and value it in others" but I think it's the consistency aspect operating in the public arena.
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[User Picture]From: blipvert
2009-12-07 12:45 pm (UTC)
My Ten Commandments
  1. Protect the environment.
  2. Try to have as few wars as possible.
  3. Do not burden future generations.
  4. Prevent the spread of disease.
  5. Provide for those less fortunate.
  6. Obey the law, or change it.
  7. Spay or neuter your pet.
  8. Be vigilant.
  9. Educate the children.
  10. Don’t be a dick.

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[User Picture]From: drwex
2009-12-07 04:50 pm (UTC)

I've never managed ten

Insofar as I have them:

1. Always strive to discover and do the right thing.
2. Be responsible for your actions; thoughts are free.
3. Keep your commitments.
4. Have fun.
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