Archive for July, 2011
Chapter 1 – Blinds Posted
It’s a little before midnight, and I’ve finally decided to call it quits. Two thousand two hundred seventy seven dollars richer, I’m walking home through the streets of Chicago. This isn’t the Chicago everyone sees on TV. It’s closer to the modern version of John Dillinger’s Chicago. These are the nighttime streets of McHenry County, and I’m walking back to my apartment alone with a wad of cash in my tattered old messenger bag. My converses kiss the damp pavement with each step; apparently it rained while I was at Catherine’s. The bottoms of my jeans are already torn up because they are just an inch too long and always manage to sneak under my shoes. I can never find pants the right length. The moisture from the pavement gradually seeps into them, making them a darker and darker shade of blue.
The lamp posts coil up toward the gray slate sky, probably searching for the stars behind that smoggy countenance. A car alarm goes off somewhere far to my left. Everything seems to vibrate along with the rhythm of that incessant beeping, despite it being infinitely distant. I take ten more steps, and it’s quiet again; the alarm has been silenced. Yellow light sits heavily at increments along the pavement, cast down from the inquiring lamp posts. The yellow isn’t bright, beautiful, or sunny. No, it’s that vomit kind of yellow that everyone hates. The buildings along the street curve out and away from it as they rise, no doubt disgusted by the color. A bus floats by me, teetering left and right, like it’s on the verge of tipping. I hear the fatigue of a single mother, going home after the late shift at her second job, permeate through the bus windows. It lingers around me as I walk, taunting me. It would take that poor woman three months to earn what I just earned in three hours.
I live cheap. I don’t buy nice clothes, or many nice things. I don’t have a flat screen television, and all my furniture is second hand. My carpet is tearing up, and the paint on the walls of my apartment is chipping. It gets obscenely hot in the summer months, but I don’t want to pay the electric bill that comes with a window air conditioner. That is the apartment I have to look forward to as I make the right turn onto my street. Lynch Ave., the sign mocks me. I stop for a moment to stare at the sign. I don’t say anything. I just think it, because I know it can hear my thoughts. I’ve saved up over three hundred thousand dollars working and playing poker. I turn twenty one tomorrow. I’m quitting my job, and I’m buying a first class airplane ticket to Las Vegas. The sign shrinks away, defeated. It knows that it won’t be seeing much more of me. This street, this city, thrives on weak hearts and lost souls. Degenerates and failures roam around these alleys at all hours trying to find their way. They howl into the night, desperately searching for some respite, even if it means floating down the River Styx. I am not one of them. I know where I’m going.
I reach into my bag and grasp the lanyard at the bottom. The white lettering against the purple background reads Northwestern University. I earned a college degree at one of the top institutions in the country so I could play poker for a living. My parents would be so proud of me. A degree from Northwestern in communications leads to a position as the marketing director at a prominent publishing firm. That, in turn, leads to a consistent, substantial cash flow toward my poker bankroll. Managing to get that degree and landing that position at age eighteen means I have little to no expenses. Each motion I make now is motivated by these thoughts. I turn the key.
I take a step into my apartment and shut the door behind me. It sends a small gust of air into my body as it thuds into place. I turn the bolt to lock it. I reach for the light switch to my left, but before I can flip it, the lights flash on. I see figures rising up from behind my couches and crawling out from behind the walls and corners of my apartment. They all have wide grins on their faces, taunting grins, sickeningly happy that I’ve fallen into their trap. I break out sweating immediately and stumble back into my door. I can’t escape. They’ll be on me by the time I turn the bolt in the opposite direction to unlock the door. I’m trapped. Then I hear it, a collective yell.
My heart stops accelerating, and I let out a sigh of relief. My sister bounces toward me, wearing the biggest smile I’ve ever seen. Her gorgeous mahogany hair decorates her shoulders, perfectly accenting the dark green strapless dress she’s wearing. She is the most beautiful woman I know, perfect in every way. She stands five feet nine inches tall without heels. Her stomach is flat and taut, and she has long defined legs that glisten in every kind of light. She is the center of attention, and catches the eye of every man, through no real fault of her own. Her hazel eyes are doing a fiery salsa right now. She knows she got me good, and she’s absolutely thrilled about it.
My sister and I lost our parents in our early teens. It was the typical story they use in the driver’s education classes to teach teens not to drink and drive. Except, in this case, the children didn’t die, the parents did. My sister and I immediately clung to each other. She has been my rock throughout my entire life, the only real family I have left. There’re always aunts, uncles, and cousins, but the bond with them doesn’t come close to resembling the one I have with her. And, she decided to reaffirm that bond by throwing me a midnight birthday party for my twenty first.
“Are you surprised? Oh man, I got you! Admit it! Big confident card shark, never surprised by anything, always knows what’s gonna happen.” She lets out a triumphant laugh.
“Alright, alright, I admit it. You got me. This is incredible sis. I can’t believe you pulled this off. You’re the best.” I smile and give her a hug.
“Ok, say hi to all your friends. Then cut the cake and change. The limo will be here in half an hour, and we’re gonna party downtown all night!”
“Limo? You can’t be serious. This must’ve cost you a fortune.”
“You’re not the only poker player in the family ya know, just the only one who never spends any money. Plus, I have the boobs to distract all those guys at the table.” She pushes her breasts together and lifts them a little, then turns and bounces away into my living room.
I follow her, walking toward the cake in the middle of the room. I am greeted by my close friends, Katie, Barry, and Marshall. They take turns giving me hugs and kisses on the cheek, congratulating me on this monumental occasion. There are about a dozen and a half other people in my apartment. I know them all, but none of them are terribly close friends. Each of them congratulates me as well, giving me a pat on the back, or whatever gesture he/she finds appropriate for the moment. Katie, Barry, and Marshall are all wearing their nice “going out” outfits. For Katie, this means looking like a classy slut. She has on tight jeans and silver striped heels. She has a see through lace top and a frilly Victoria’s Secret bra underneath. Ok, maybe the word “classy” is giving her a little too much credit. Barry and Marshall are wearing gray and black suits respectively. They never wear ties when going out, and they have on their alligator leather dress shoes. We all went to buy our dressy shoes together, and they decided to get the alligator skin. Why not? They’re all smiling at me, and I’m getting more excited with each second that passes by.
I quickly blow out the candles after they sing. I cut the cake and go into my bedroom to change while they talk in the living room. I shut the door and push the little button next to the glass knob to lock it. It’s not really glass. It’s that glass-like plastic that they make doorknobs out of in vain attempts to make them look fancy. I slip off my shoes and throw them on my shoe rack. I keep it in my bedroom just because it’s more convenient, easier to get dressed in the morning, and I never have to worry about finding my shoes because I took them off somewhere and forgot. The carpet is soft, and the fibers snake in between my toes. I can feel the bottoms of my jeans giving my feet cold, sloppy, wet kisses. My carpet is a very light blue, gentle and subtle. I flick on the lights and see it contrast against the darker, overbearing blue my jeans have become. I unbutton them and labor to slip out. Tight jeans make me look good, but they can be very uncomfortable. I sit down on my bed after getting them down to my knees, feeling the pillow top cover hug my butt, holding it in all the right spots, just like a mother holding her new born child in her arms.
I grab the bottom of each pant leg in turn, pulling them down and off my legs. I hang my jeans on the edge of my closet door and start sifting through the clothes hanging in my closet to figure out what I’m going to wear for the night. I feel a cool breeze caress the backs of my thighs. I spin around on my heels, not because I’m scared, but because it’s fun. I see that I apparently left one of my windows open this morning. There are three long vertical windows on that wall of my bedroom. The middle is about three feet wide, and the outer two are half as much. The windows are half the height of the wall, but sit vertically centered, equal margins of wall spanning out from the top and bottom. The middle window is slightly open, and I can see the screen rippling from the breeze. I usually remember to shut them before I leave for work in the morning, but I have forgotten before. I suppose this was just one of those mornings.
I walk over, still pants-less, grab the edge of the wooden casing for the glass pane, and slide the panel down until it thuds in front of the screen. The breeze is gone. I begin to turn and walk back toward the closet, but I catch the light from the window glinting off something on the floor. I bend down to look closer and see a three of diamonds floating upon the fibers of my carpet. It sits lightly, like a gleaming red feather, barely kissing the top of each thread it touches. I don’t know where it came from. I am now hunched down, sitting on my haunches, staring at this card and periodically blinking like a curious animal. I’m not thinking anything, and I don’t know why. I snap out of the momentary trance after a few seconds, pick up the card, and set it on my end table. I am a messy person, and I usually have cards on me. I probably just dropped it, and it got blown toward the window or something. Maybe it was stuck to the bottom of my foot or shoe. I have more important things to concern myself with anyway. My sister and friends are waiting. I quickly slip on the only suit I own. It’s a cheap one hundred fifty dollar ensemble I picked up at JCPenney, but it looks nice enough. I slide into my Good Will second hand Florsheim’s and walk back out into the living room.
I’m in downtown Chicago now, after a long, champaigne-laden, inebriating limo ride.
It can be daunting. A woman can be very difficult to read, and it’s difficult to be sure if she wants to escalate the interaction physically. The problem is that the woman will almost never be the one to go in for the kiss, no matter how much she wants it. You’re the man; you need to take charge and go in for the kill…so to speak. In actuality though, it’s quite easy to tell if she is ready for that first kiss. The difficulty lies in getting the courage to actually go for it. So, I’ve compiled a list of tips to guide you through the process, from knowing she’s ready, to actually making contact.
1. The I.O.I (indicator of interest) – Women do several things subconsciously when they’re interested in you. They have gestures, mannerisms, and words that cannot be controlled when they are attracted to somebody. If you’re talking to a woman, and she plays with her hair, that’s an I.O.I. If she scratches the back of her hand or her cheeks, that’s an I.O.I. If she playfully hits you, that’s an I.O.I. She will also laugh at your jokes, even if they aren’t funny. That’s a good way to test if she really is interested. The general rule is that three I.O.I’s are enough indication that it’s OK to go in for the kiss.
2. Kino Escalation - The I.O.I’s, however, are not enough on their own. You can’t expect a woman to be comfortable with the kiss if you haven’t so much as touched her yet. That’s why it’s important to make her comfortable with your touch before you go in for the kiss. You can do this with high-fives, hugs, or other kinds of gentle touches. There are a variety of routines you can use, but you should develop ones which suit the social situations you’re generally in. A round at the pong table, for example, is a great situation for kino escalation. Congratulatory high fives and hugs are common place and do not indicate too much interest. This link will help you understand kino escalation a little better http://www.pualingo.com/pua-definitions/kino-escalation/
3. Overcoming the ASD (anti-slut defense) – Women hate feeling like sluts. If a guy gets a lot of girls, he’s a player. Unfortunately, a girl who gets a lot of guys will be deemed a slut. It doesn’t really matter whether this is right or wrong, it’s reality, and if you want to have any hope of closing with a woman, you absolutely cannot make her feel like a slut. If she thinks she’s being too easy, her defenses will immediately go up, and your chances will be blown. So, how is a guy to do this? Well, there are several techniques you can use to tear down the ASD. Have multiple girls with you. If a woman sees that you already have a proverbial heram, she will be less hesitant about joining it. Hey, everybody’s doing him, right? Why shouldn’t I? You also need to give her an excuse to physically escalate. Turn it into a game to make it fun instead of intimidating. Women will not follow through on their desires because they fear the Scarlet “A.” It’s up to you to give them a reason or environment where they can feel comfortable following through.
4. The Actual Kiss - A lot of advice out there tries to give you all sorts of goofy techniques on how to pull off the proper kiss. Most of it is nonsense. The key is just to be natural and nonthreatening. Don’t make it seem like a big deal. You need to be confident, like you’ve been there countless times before. Accompany the kiss with a gentle touch on the chin or a light finger through her bangs. Make sure your lips are inviting. Don’t be afraid to part your lips and invite hers to move along. She will become excited and engage you in the same way, I guarantee it. At the same time, don’t be too eager and sloppy. Don’t use the tongue, and don’t try to swallow her face. The more you think about it, the worse it will be. Just go for it, and you’ll be fine.
5. Getting Over Your Fear - This is entirely up to you, and there is no better teacher than experience. You have to grow a pair. Muster up the courage to do it. The first time you succeed, you will want to feel that triumph again and again. This will help mitigate the nervousness and anxiety you feel. Keep in mind, though, that a kiss will never really be stress free. After all, it’s that little bit of stress that makes it exciting and even better. You can’t expect it to just become routine, and if it does, then you’ve regressed into a boring place where you likely won’t enjoy any experience with a woman anyway.
Take these tips, use them, and build on them. I wish you the best of luck.
It’s that season when people begin thinking about their applications for graduate and professional school. You need to take all your standardized tests, get your recommendations, spend your savings on application fees, and write a personal statement for your application. I thought I would make it a little bit easier for you and share some insights into writing a killer personal statement. Below is a list of general tips to help you write a personal statement no matter what type of graduate school you’re applying to. Below that, I have pasted an old personal statement of mine to give you an example which may help you in your writing. Applying to graduate school can be daunting, and I wish you all the best of luck.
1. Don’t Try to be Somebody You’re Not – If you try to adopt a writing style that doesn’t resonate with who you are, it will show. Your sentences will seem contrived, and the statement will not flow. Some people are creative, others are direct, and still others are story tellers. Know your strength, and stick with it. Don’t try to write a dramatic story about a life altering experience if you can’t write with good imagery. Don’t try to write a resume-like statement if you have difficulty with clarity and impact organization. Know who you are. That is the first step.
2. Be Concise - Being long-winded is by far the biggest mistake that people make when writing a personal statement, at least from what I have experienced. Too much detail, redundancy, and unnecessary additions are all common problems. Say something once, and say it well. Then move on. You have no reason to laboriously elaborate on any one point. Think about it; if you’re sitting on an admissions committee, and you have to read hundreds, if not thousands, of these things, wouldn’t you want them to be concise and to the point?
3. Seamless Organization - A lot of people try to be creative and organize their essay around a theme or popular reference like The Wizard of Oz, Brave New World, or even sports. Tragically, a lot of people fail miserably at this because their statement loses direction and misses key elements that admissions officers look for. You need to explain how your interest in the field came about. You need to explain why you’re better than everyone else. And, you need to elaborate on your future ambition. You need to organize these elements so they flow seamlessly from one to the next. I usually stick with a chronological organization, but that’s just my personal preference. You can organize it however you want, but make sure your transitions are solid and not forced. The five-paragraph essay with stock transitions you learned to write in middle school will not cut it here.
4. The Importance of Ambition - More often than not, people leave out what they want to do with the degree they will receive. This is particularly true of medical school applicants. Yes, it is assumed that you will become a medical practitioner with an MD. However, there are a lot of different types of medical practitioner. Tell them what you want to be and why. Do you want to conduct oncology research trials? Do you want to work in a trauma response center? Do you want to work in mental health? Do you want to open your own clinic? This advice is not exclusive to medical school applicants. Everyone should demonstrate a desire and drive toward future greatness. Graduate schools love admitting students they think can gain the school prestige. If you’re going to be the next big Nobel Prize winner, what school wouldn’t want to admit you?
5. Demonstrate a Knowledge of Your Field - This is particularly applicable if you’re applying to a program in a social science. Show that you have a working knowledge of the top professionals in your field, that you understand how it operates. You need to show that you have the drive to succeed in your intended field, and there is no better way to do that than showing you already have a grasp on the fundamentals, and you’re ready to get your hands dirty.
7. Focus and Impact - This is the most important element! Everything you say should have a focus and impact. Everything should demonstrate a purpose. Why do I care if you fixed cleft pallets in Namibia? Did you develop any character qualities as a result? How have you grown and changed from the experience? If you can’t find a reason something matters, then take it out!
My Personal Statement
My fall in to the world of bioethics was rather serendipitous. I began my career at Case Western Reserve as a biochemistry pre-medicine student. I decided to take an introductory bioethics course and a philosophy course to complete my breadth requirements. Taking these courses was one of the best decisions I have made in my life. I immediately became mesmerized by the world of philosophy, and I changed my major soon thereafter. I decided very early that I was going to apply for admission into the integrated graduate studies program for biomedical ethics.
I enjoyed philosophical discussions, and I found that I had an aptitude for the critical thinking that philosophy requires. I decided to attend the National Undergraduate Bioethics Conference at Harvard University during the spring semester of 2009, my freshman year. I attended seminars and competed in the Bioethics Bowl with another student, and our team earned the honor of fourth place. I was particularly inspired by a panel discussion I attended about neuroethics. The panel centered around the Trolley Problem and recent neurological research being conducted by Dr. Joshua Greene that may provide a solution to the dilemma. I began to look into the issue on my own, and I proceeded to present at Case Western’s cognitive science conference. I also published an article regarding the same topic in Case Western’s peer reviewed Engineering and Science Review.
I realized that biomedical ethics could potentially impact my personal life as well, and I did not know where I stood on many issues such as euthanasia and human reproductive cloning. I spoke to my parents about end of life decision making and abortion, and I found that they looked to religion for most of their answers. My parents had been born in Pakistan and had been raised Muslim. I had also been born in Pakistan, and I had been raised in Egypt prior to coming to the United States. I felt a strong personal attachment to Islamic biomedical ethics, and I decided to write my undergraduate thesis on that topic.
I am in a unique position to contribute to this particular field of religious bioethics which has been largely untouched in Western scholarship. With the growing number of Muslims in the United States, and across the world, the importance of knowing what Islam has to say on matters of public policy and concern is becoming very pressing. In the future, I plan to cement a career in Islamic bioethics. From my experience with my parents, I suspect many Muslims are unaware of exactly what their religion has to say about biomedical issues emerging in the twenty first century. I would like to be in a position where I can be part of the discussion seeking to shed light on this issue. I plan to continue toward a medical and doctoral education, after which I plan to be a practicing physician and bioethics scholar. Ideally, I would like to practice and teach at teaching hospitals such as Johns Hopkins Hospital, Northwestern Hospital, or the Mayo Clinic Saint Marys Hospital. I also aspire to sit on an ethics review board at a hospital like the Cleveland Clinic.
I have been inspired by ethicists such as Dan Brock, researchers such as Joshua Greene, and philosophers such as Martha Nussbaum. I have an analytical and creative mind, along with unending curiosity. I have the humility to know that my aspirations will require a great deal of effort to achieve, and I have the drive to meet the challenges ahead of me with determination and optimism. I want to cement a career in biomedical ethics, and an MA degree from Case Western Reserve University would be an ideal first step. Thank you for your consideration.
I currently work as the design and marketing guy at Brainmaster Technologies and StressTherapy Solutions. While this position pays very well, it gets boring fairly quickly as most of the work does not lend itself to much creativity. So, I have started a design business of my own. I am talented, and I have already experienced a fair amount of success designing websites and marketing materials. What do I have to lose?
I already have a few clients and websites I’m designing, and I will post updates here as they happen. I will also be designing the company’s website at lightstrikedesign.com, so look for that as well!
For now, I need to decide on a logo. I have designed a couple, and I thought I would ask you all to help me pick one. Or, help me come up with ideas! If you give me a really good one, I’ll give you credit and some compensation for your suggestion. Hell, if this thing really takes off, you may even get a job Anwyay, check out the logos, and let me know!
Most people seem to possess some conception of right and wrong. Granted, the conception differs from person to person, and some people seem to have one that is drastically removed from that found in the rest of society, but each person nevertheless exhibits their own sense of morality. The important question is where this morality comes from. Philosophers have argued for several causes which generally fall into two categories: internal and external. Either a person’s sense of morality comes from within them as a natural occurrence or is developed by some external influence.
I don’t want to talk about what is actually right or wrong. I intend only to examine the possible bases of a person’s morality. There are differences between moral codes all across the world. I also have to mention that I distinguish morality from all its manifestations. Law, religion, etiquette, and all such codes are manifestations of morality, not potential bases for it. Rather, morality is a partial basis for all these things i.e. these codes are societal applications of moral principles.
Your Moral Innards
With that, let’s get started. The traditional internal cause of morality is regarded to be reason, deriving from idealist theories of epistemology. Idealists place morality in the category of knowledge. Because humans possess innate knowledge of all things, or at least the ability to recall or arrive at that knowledge by the use of the innate capacity of reason, they must innately have morality. In his dialogue, Meno, Plato answers the question of how humans attain knowledge by proposing that humans have an immortal soul. The soul has died and has been born again many times. Therefore, it has seen all things that exist “whether in this world or in the world below” and possesses knowledge of all these things. In Crito, Plato furthers this concept of epistemology to include moral judgments, rejecting the idea that society’s collective morality ought to be valued, and embracing the idea that there is a universal sense of right and wrong. In the dialogue, Socrates explains to Crito, “I only wish it were so, Crito; and that the many could do the greatest evil; for then they would also be able to do the greatest goo-and what a fine thing this would be! But in reality they can do neither; for they cannot make a man either wise or foolish; and whatever they do is the result of chance.” Socrates rejects the concept that society can influence the knowledge of man, and in so doing, rejects that society can determine morality. Rather, Socrates argues that we “must not regard what the many say of us: but what he, the one man who has understanding of just and unjust, will say, and what the truth will say.” The one man Socrates refers to, and the concept of truth he refers to, are both equitable to reason, both as an element of the Platonic and Socratic epistemologies and as per Socrates’ confirmation in the dialogue, “I am and always have been one of those natures who must be guided by reason, whatever the reason may be which upon reflection appears to me to be the best.” As such Socrates poses the conclusion that morality is innate, and this conclusion is based upon the premise that absolute knowledge and reason are innate.
Several arguments appear to mitigate this idealist view of morality. First, the premise of the argument is flawed. If in fact Plato’s argument of absolute knowledge resulting from an immortal soul is true, then humans must possess absolute knowledge of metaphysical principles and absolute knowledge of religious truths. This doesn’t realistically seem to be the case. People still wage wars in the name of what they perceive to be the correct religion, and philosophers to this day argue about the most basic questions of the metaphysical world. It would seem, if Plato’s reasoning were correct, that society would be able to arrive at a consensus regarding moral questions, rather than only a few select individuals being able to arrive at the truth.
As another flaw in the premise of Plato’s moral reasoning, he establishes, in his Theory of Recollection, sense perception as the starting point for the attainment of all knowledge. But, morality cannot be sensibly experienced. We can gather empirical evidence regarding the value of certain moral or ethical theories such as utilitarianism, but that doesn’t support experiential learning as the basis for moral conclusion.The moral theory or principle preempts the evidence regarding it i.e. we arrive at moral conclusions through reasoning and then test their validity empirically afterwards.
Aside from the epistemological premise, Plato’s conclusion about morality being innate is further subject to its own problems. If morality was innate, then it would be universal. Logically following from idealism, there is only one set of knowledge, or one set of truths, and that would include moral truths. However, different people exhibit different conceptions of right and wrong, meaning that morality cannot be innate, or at least, that it cannot be impervious to external influence. In fact, by acknowledging that there is a collective societal morality and that certain individuals possess moral conceptions separate from that of society, Plato acknowledges that one’s moral cognition is subject to external influence. Further, because morality is subject to external influence, certain individuals would possess moralities resulting from society’s collective influence, as Socrates himself admits by admitting that the many posses a collective opinion about just and unjust, regardless of whether or not we should regard that opinion as valuable.
The next possible internal cause of morality is God. God is classified here is an internal cause because, as per deist theory, He exists a priori, before any human experience. The question central to God being the basis of morality is whether or not God actually determines if something is right or wrong. Does God makes something good by approving of it, or does God approve of something because it is already good?
Plato supports the latter of these two arguments, arguing that what is good is good because it is good, meaning that God isn’t a cause or basis of morality. Plato bases his argument on the logic that, “A thing is not seen because it is in a state of being seen; it is in a state of being seen because it is seen.” As such, according to Plato, holiness must be in a state of holiness because it is holy, not for any other reason, meaning that God does not determine holiness by loving it but rather loves it because it is holy. Further, Plato argues that God loves that which is pleasing to Him because it is pleasing to Him, and it is not pleasing to Him because He loves it. Consequently, holiness and that which is pleasing to God are two separate things.
Plato’s argument appears weak in several respects. It isa semantic argument, and in terms of semantics, it isn’t logically sound. All the verbal logic Plato uses refers to states of being which require active participation from an external entity. For example, in order for something to be seen, something has to see it. This is not necessarily the case with holiness, as holiness is an attribute when it refers to moral principles rather than a state of being. So, the verbal logic doesn’t work because Plato is considering different parts of speech. Let’s take the analogy of a canvas that was painted blue by a painter. The question can be asked, is that canvas blue because it is blue i.e. it reflects blue wavelengths and absorbs all others, or is it blue because the painter painted it blue i.e. assigned the attribute of “blueness” to the canvas? The answer is both. Of course the canvas is blue because it reflects particular wavelengths, but it would not be reflecting those wavelengths had the painter not painted it as such. This logic can then be applied to holiness or good. Good is good because it is intrinsically good i.e. it naturally exhibits all the properties of “goodness.” However, if that is true, it does not preclude that God did not assign these attributes to that thing which is good. Plato’s argument does not logically work when applied to particular attributes or adjectives, only to states of being or verbs.
Therefore, Plato’s implication of separating holiness from that which is pleasing to God is flawed as well. Granted, God loves something which is pleasing to him because it is pleasing to him, but that does not mean that God did not make it pleasing to himself. For example, people decorate rooms in their homes so they are pleasing to look at. As such, the rooms are pleasing to those people because they are pleasing to them, but they are pleasing to those people because they made them pleasing. The same situation could occur with God defining what is good. Plato does not eliminate this possibility and does not sufficiently prove his own argument either.
But what if, in fact, good is good because it is loved by God? If God can attribute good and evil, then could he not make good that which is now evil? Could murder and rape not be deemed just by Him? The response is yes, of course they could. In God’s omnipotence, he could very well attribute these distinctions. So what if God assigned these attributions? Logistically, humans would have no knowledge of it. Just as now, they would accept those moral principles. We accept certain actions such as charity to be morally good. However, if God has made it that way, then we would be in the same state of acceptance no matter what God deemed to be good. Take for example the analogy of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Most people fear such an existence arguing that it is a complete subversion of one’s autonomy, and there would be no fulfillment in such an existence. What most people ignore is that one would be completely unaware of this lack of fulfillment. There would be no point of relativity form which to judge one’s existence because knowledge of all other forms of existence would not be available, resulting in blissful acceptance. The same applies to God defining morality; people would not be aware of any prior definitions. Second, God would not logically designate an evil act as one that is good despite his ability to do so; it would be ungodly to do so. In defining God, deist theory uses certain attributes: all powerful, all merciful, all just, all knowing, etc…If God made good that which is evil, he would be contradicting his very own properties of godliness, no longer being all just. For example, God would not make himself human, despite his ability to do so, because it would be ungodly. Humanity precludes mortality, imperfection, and dependence, all of which are characteristics unbecoming of a deity. Hence, God would not do something ungodly, meaning he would not assign good to that which is evil.
George Mavrodes poses his own arguments about why God is a basis for morality. He argues 1) God or religion is in fact needed because He gives us reason to act morally and 2) A religious basis for morality gives morality the deep significance or value that it needs.
Mavrodes’ argument, however, does very little in the way of providing a convincing argument as to why God or religion is a basis for morality. The chief issues with his arguments are that they are non unique and carry little to no impact. I will explain what this means. Mavrodes’ first argument exhibits both of these problems. It doesn’t leave God as the only viable option. People can have self-interest, reason, emotion, or a variety of other options as their motivation to fulfill their moral duties. It further carries no impact because Mavrodes never argues that motivation to fulfill moral duty is a necessity. Why do we even need a reason to be moral?
The second argument is just as bad. For the sake of argument, we can agree that there are few, if any other, options which carry the same deepness or significance of a religious basis for morality. But, Mavrodes fails to explain why morality has to be deep or significant. Why can’t morality be superficial, trivial, or perhaps even arbitrary? Mavrodes’ arguments rely on unexamined assumptions and unverified premises. In this way, his arguments offer little in the way of a convincing argument for religious basis for morality.
Finally, there are the other internal causes of morality separate from those already mentioned. These include Hobbes’s explanation that all human conventions of morality stem from innate self-interest and David Hume’s argument that human morality stems from emotions, because even reason is flawed in that it is subject to the emotions, among other similar theories.
While all such theories are tempting to adopt, they are flawed in their simplicity, and they all acknowledge exceptions. Hobbes, for example, addresses the role of human conscience in determining morality. He argues that, while conscience may exist innately, it is easily manipulated society or events that may occur in a person’s life. In this way, Hobbes acknowledges an external influence on human morality, rejecting his own argument for the universal determinant of self interest. Furthermore, Hobbes even admits the exceptional ability of some individuals to be altruistic, again denying his theory of self interest. The same problems exist with Hume. While Hume argues that human emotions make reason flawed, that is all they do, make it flawed. Emotions may be a flaw with human beings and their ability to reason, but they do not eliminate the existence of reason, and they do not eliminate reason as a partial basis for morality. Singular internal cause theories such as those of Hobbes and Hume attempt to oversimplify and, in so doing, sufficiently mitigate their potential validity.
It’s Raining Morality?
The main possible external cause of morality identified by philosophers is society, including all its elements such as family, culture, educational institutions, etc…The argument for an external basis for morality is demonstrated perfectly by Herodotus when he echoes Pindar’s sentiment, “Custom is the king o’er all.” Benedict and Mackie both pose similar arguments, and both site similar empirical analysis, relying on the observations that different societies exhibit varying sets of moral principles.
The problem with all these theories, and why they cannot be legitimately considered as definitions for the basis of morality, is that they are all arguments in support of moral relativism. They do not legitimately prove societal influence to be the cause or basis of morality. Rather, they argue by inference that, because all societies exhibit differing senses of morality, that societal influence must be the cause of these moral codes. Mackie, for example, simply poses an argument of logic. He argues that the default position is that of moral relativism, because that is what empirical evidence demonstrates. Mackie then questions why we ought not to accept the reality for what we see it to be? Why must we try to identify other causes, namely universal ones? In this way, Mackie attempts to argue by placing the burden of proof on the opposing side. Mackie’s argument is rather like the Occam’s razor of morality, arguing that there is no reason to unnecessarily complicate moral theory; the simplest explanation is the best.
The issues with this argument are that 1) it does not establish societal influence as the basis of morality by any active legitimate reasoning but rather by default, and such argument holds little or no value in the face of competing theories and 2) it does not sufficiently mitigate the possibility of the existence of an objective moral reality. Mackie attempts to disprove the existence of a universal morality, and therefore a universal cause for it, by arguing that relativism is the default position because it is observable. Although he does effectively place the burden of proof on the opposing side, he does little more to prove his actual argument. Hobbes’ theory of self interest arguably possesses an incredible amount of empirical proof because human self interest is directly observable in the everyday actions of most every person. Further, with Mackie’s logic, it can also be noted that societal moralities exhibit several similarities. For example, the vast majority of societies agree that it is wrong to kill innocent children. These similarities would indicate empirical evidence contrary to the conclusion formed by relativist theorists. It would rather indicate there is some common basis for morality other than societal influence.
The second flaw with Mackie’s analysis, and relativist analysis in general, is far greater. Relativist theory does not prove that there is no objective moral reality, only that humans cannot arrive at one. Granted, people exhibit differing moralities, but that does not mean that moral truths do not exist. Arguably, every moral question has a right answer. The death penalty is either just or unjust. Abortion is either wrong or not wrong. All Mackie proves, if his arguments are accepted to be valid, is that people cannot arrive at an objective moral truth; it does not comment whatsoever on whether or not that objective moral truth actually exists.
Rather than the moral relativists, interestingly enough, those philosophers who argue for singular causes, such as those mentioned in the internal bases section of this paper, seem to provide far more reasonable and convincing arguments to demonstrate how society can be a basis for morality.
So Where Does it Come From?
Upon examination of the possible bases for morality, no singular cause can be conclusively identified. Every theory has its merits and demerits, some perhaps with more of the latter. Rather than a single cause, whether it be external or internal, a person’s moral sensibilities probably result from a combination of causes. Humans possess the innate capacity to reason, and that capacity leads us to arrive at certain conclusions that form components of our moral code such as determinations of justice and human rights. This reason, however, is definitely flawed. Self interest and emotions, also innate within human beings, play a significant role in influencing our judgment. We preclude many of our moral principles, often despite our better reasoning, upon what will grant us the most benefit, or even upon some instinctual emotion that does not exhibit any purpose at all. God, assuming he exists, must also inevitably determine his own set of moral principles for people, revealing the desired moral code in His Holy Scriptures. Nevertheless, despite these internal causes, society is also a determinate factor for morality. How a person is raised, the people they encounter throughout their life, the government they live under, and the education they acquire all influence their sense of right and wrong. Every person’s morality is constantly growing and changing.
 Plato, “Meno,” Dialogues of Plato, trans. Benjamin Jowett (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1896).
 Plato, “Crito,” Dialogues of Plato, trans. Benjamin Jowett (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1896): 2
 Ibid: 3
 Ibid: 2
 Pojman, Louis. “The Theory of the Forms and Doctrine of Recollection.”Introduction to Philosophy Classical and Contemporary Readings. 4th ed. 2008.
 Ibid. 2:4
 As a matter of logic, it is important to note that these questions and the applicable arguments all presume that God exists. While it is a debatable point, the assumption exists here for the sake of argument. Further, I refer to the deity as God, again for the sake of argument, while that point is also debatable.
 Plato, “Euthyphro,” Dialogues of Plato, trans. Benjamin Jowett (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1889)
 Pojman, Louis. “Religion and the Queerness of Morality.”Introduction to Philosophy Classical and Contemporary Readings. 4th ed. 2008.
 Hobbes, Thomas, (1651). Leviathan. 15 December 2008: http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hobbes/thomas/h68l/
 Hume, David, “An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals,” 1751
 Ibid. 14
 Herodotus, “History of Herodotus,” trans. Geroge Rawlinson New York: Appleton 1859
 Pojman, Louis. “The Subjectivity of Values,” Introduction to Philosophy Classical and Contemporary Readings. 4th ed. 2008.