Real Good

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How are we to differentiate real from "pseudo" morality?  Cheryl Mendelson, who teaches philosophy at Barnard College, has some ideas in her new book, The Good Life: The Moral Individual in an Antimoral World. She joins us to talk about the status of morality in contemporary American life.


Cheryl Mendelson

Comments [38]

John A (1)

Thank-You. Lets hope that all the time wasted on Religion v Science could be shifted over to building the appropriately trained legal scholars who could take on the Supreme Court sometime in the future. I tend to fear its possible that gestation and childbirth might be "outsourced" to technology in the (too much) time that could take.
John A 1
Tolerance for everything has some correlation with amorality. I'm not able to write a full paragraph on this, but there is substance to that argument.

Jun. 20 2012 01:39 PM
John A 2

I think the definition of "cool" contemplated on the show is absurdly limited in scope. It is interesting, and even helpful to society, I suppose, to keep in mind and be wary of the side of being "cool" that is about, essentially, prejudice. But the variety of ways that people find to hurt one another is infinite, and I do not think that "cool", in the general way the term was presented on this show, is exclusively, or even predominantly damaging. The positive dimension of "cool" is that it is a representation of creativity and self-expression. Tom Wolfe's sense of style is an expression of his being, perhaps not as important as his writing, yet it is clear that both forms of expression go hand-in-hand. Lets hope that our world continues to move toward a society that is happy and able to allow the individual's striving, in whatever direction, whether toward loud or soft. Thank god for all the people of our world, past and present, who have dared to express their ideas, their style, their natures, wherever that lead them. Everybody is cool!

Jun. 20 2012 01:11 PM
rose-ellen from jackson hts.

This idea that you only have rights when you are in"proper" relation to others[the community notion of being human] is a pernicous superimposition of what it means to be human which allows for the destruction of all kinds of innocent sentient human beings-inside and outside the womb.A giant step backward in ethics and compassion.

Jun. 20 2012 09:29 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Brian Lehrer said that he wondered why Roe wasn't decided on religious freedom grounds. But it was, in part. The court said that it could not decide between groups that took different positions on when human life began. But that was not enough for the decision.

The Court also had to find out whether the Constitution or previous law implied protection for the fetus in the face of other people's rights. And they did not find it, for example that citizenship is always spoken of as 'post-birth'. So they said that 'If the society ever decided [through legislation] that human life begins at conception, then plaintiff's case falls to the ground, since the life of the fetus is protected by the fifth amendment' (Roe).

They could have said 'Science tells us that human life begins at conception and gone from there. Just as the court in the 1850s could have said 'We don't have the legislation to decide that a black person has legal protection and is a person, but on the basis of science we can establish that position'. But they didn't, and the Roe court didn't in 1973.

Jun. 20 2012 06:00 AM
Ed from Larchmont

The fetus is a 'blob of tissue' - so are we, in a materialist view, but with these characteristics: it is alive (since it takes in nutrients, etc., grows), and it has a complete human DNA code that no one on earth has. (Its growing indicates that the soul is present, matter doesn't grow on it's own.) So, agreeing with the AMA in the 1890s, the only clear point to see the start of human life is conception.

Jun. 20 2012 05:54 AM
Ed from Larchmont

The pain experienced by the fetus can by seen in non-reflex reactions to stimuli at about ten weeks. But we have a system that blocks pain, but this system doesn't develop until around birth. So the fetus feels pain at 2-5 times the intensity that we would feel it with the same injury.

Jun. 20 2012 05:52 AM
Ed from Larchmont

But the author's thesis that we're in an age, unlike others, that is antagonistic to morality as such is very interesting.

Jun. 19 2012 12:52 PM

Your quote of the day

"Happiness serves hardly any other purpose than to make unhappiness possible."
by Marcel Proust

Jun. 19 2012 12:34 PM
Ed from Larchmont

It's always interesting to listen to an argument defending abortion since it never works. If the criterion is that the person wants to live, what about the person who wishes to commit suicide? Well, at least if pain is a consideration, this theory would not approve of partial birth or late term abortion since the fetus feels pain and has no anaesthesia.

Jun. 19 2012 12:30 PM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Jg. Jewish, Islamic, Christian - "laws" are fine, follow them follow them if you must - just don't impose them on the rest us.

Jun. 19 2012 12:29 PM
Arthur from Astoria, NY

The conception of "cool" that the author describes is a bit too blunt. While she's right that coolness is ultimately too exclusionary to be useful for building a just society, it's a useful tool for stepping back and questioning the "herd mentality" that is programmed into us from a fairly early age. Also, it's a phase that many people go through in their moral journey, one that they (hopefully) grow out of as they become more compassionate. It also affords people a chance to explore alternatives to mainstream thought, which is vital to the project of morality overall.

What is much more dangerous is the absolutism that she speaks of, which would see a lot of otherwise productive, decent people deported (a la yesterday's segment on undocumented immigrants) because they're here "illegally."

Jun. 19 2012 12:04 PM
Wayne Johnson Ph.D. from bk

Professor Mendelson has no proof that that beating heart doesn't want to live. As for deciding Roe on religious grounds that would assume you could permit murder on religious grounds.

Jun. 19 2012 12:02 PM
John A.

She shot poor Ed and much of morality's "Base" in the foot by declaring a fetus 'not wanting to live'. I have yet to see young life of any kind (seedling, mosquito) that doesn't want to live, maybe a demoralized adolescent, but there's that word morality again.

Jun. 19 2012 12:02 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Arutz Sheva - Daniel Eisenberg, MD.

"The easiest way to conceptualize a fetus in halacha is to imagine it as a full-fledged human being -- but not quite.2 In most circumstances, the fetus is treated like any other "person." Generally, one may not deliberately harm a fetus. But while it would seem obvious that Judaism holds accountable one who purposefully causes a woman to miscarry, sanctions are even placed upon one who strikes a pregnant woman causing an unintentional miscarriage.3 That is not to say that all rabbinical authorities consider abortion to be murder. The fact that the Torah requires a monetary payment for causing a miscarriage is interpreted by some Rabbis to indicate that abortion is not a capital crime4 and by others as merely indicating that one is not executed for performing an abortion, even though it is a type of murder.5 "

Jun. 19 2012 12:01 PM

A "conceptus" how original - or am I just unread?

Of course "there are no rights of "conceptus" that
"more developed" humanity can be forced to recognize"
(I think that tracks a SCOTUS decision)

Jun. 19 2012 11:59 AM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

An interesting, thoughtful perspective. Wish philosophy was
and rational discourse more a part of our lives these days.

Jun. 19 2012 11:58 AM

Because of the political right and left on the abortion issue, we don't differentiate between a zygote and a late-term baby. Because of the ultra or religious right, there is no moral allowance for the medication taken within a couple days of possible conception. Because of the current right to an abortion, babies are being de-capitated, kicking struggling to not be killed. There's morality for you - morality without reason, without honesty, without intuition.

Jun. 19 2012 11:57 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Yes, things fell apart at the time of the Reformation.

Jun. 19 2012 11:57 AM

the beats worshipped black/jazz/bebop culture... the notion of 'cool' predates the beats.

Jun. 19 2012 11:57 AM
The Truth from Becky

Yes, you can be moral and cool.

Jun. 19 2012 11:56 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Nah, cool need not be hedonistic. She's criticizing one definition of cool, but they're others.

Jun. 19 2012 11:56 AM
Erica from BK

Cool isn't always a "club" but often the James Dean type loner. What about "loner" cool? The ones who don't fit in and don't care.

Jun. 19 2012 11:56 AM
John A.

Wished she could have moved through Abortion issue more swiftly. It can take over whole discussions -- If you can center on Self Obsession and Material Obsession that would be more geneeric. So, is "The Cool" a form of Narcissism?

Jun. 19 2012 11:55 AM
The Truth from Becky

Ed what?? Please elaborate.

Jun. 19 2012 11:55 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Hollywood has been trying to parlay "cool" into $$$ for decades.... HOLLOW wood!

Jun. 19 2012 11:54 AM
Jeff Park Slope

Sheer incompetence. Since when is killing a religious issue? If abortion is killing it is not a religious choice. If as she says, better to err on the side of preservation of life, then she comes to the wrong conclusion. Yes, some anti-abortion activists have committed murder, clearly they are criminals. And Bill Ayers and his wife and others blew up buildings and killed and were sorry that they didn't do more, so by that logic all leftists should be tarred?

Jun. 19 2012 11:54 AM
Karen from Westchester

late-term abortions shown on video prove that the formed baby fights to not be killed and screams while being decapitated.

Jun. 19 2012 11:52 AM
Ed from Larchmont

How would you have responded to the people who owned slaves? It's understandable that people would, wrongly, turn to violence. But it's understandable.

Jun. 19 2012 11:52 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Jewish Law states that one who purposely causes a pregnant woman to lose her child, that he is "worthy of death." One who accidentally causes a pregnant woman to miscarry must pay a monetary tort to her husband. It is ONLY in the case when a pregnancy will lead to the DEATH of the mother, according to the midwife or doctor doing the delivery, that the life of the mother comes first. Not her health or mental condition or material condition, but only when her LIFE is in actual danger, can the fetus be aborted during delivery.

Liberal Jews who support abortion are going against ancient Jewish Law.

Jun. 19 2012 11:51 AM
Ed from Larchmont

It's not religious ideas only, it's science that it's a member of the human species, it kills a human being. Can't do it. (And pain is felt early by the fetus.)

Jun. 19 2012 11:50 AM
Ed from Larchmont

We're not saying it's a person, we're saying it's human being, which it is biologically. A person who is in a coma has no evident will to live. Can we kill them? Try again. It's rational, science says it's a human being.

Jun. 19 2012 11:49 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Critical points about abortion -- that we don't EVEN want to question our assumptions on either side.

Jun. 19 2012 11:48 AM
oscar from ny

All My teachers loved me nd believed in me...we built many things together..

Jun. 19 2012 11:48 AM
Ed from Larchmont

But it is a human being and to kill it is positive evil.

Jun. 19 2012 11:47 AM
C.E. Connelly from Manhattan

Hippies are anti-morality? What?! This is nuts. A different set of morals is not the same thing as no morals. Opposing the Viet Nam more (under the threat of prosecution) was not moral?

Jun. 19 2012 11:47 AM
Ed from Larchmont


Jun. 19 2012 11:46 AM
John A.

Peg: Around 1987. The film "Wall Street" was released then, for one.
And, How about we recognize the excess now?
- - -
I love how the authors have come up with the word "Antimoral"; its as if we as a society are so illiterate to morality that the terms Amoral and Immoral have lost all their value.

Jun. 19 2012 11:21 AM

When did Greed become good??? Why don't we recognize when an ambitious quest has become an addiction for excess?

Jun. 19 2012 09:51 AM

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