I’ve started reading a page-turner of a book. It’s not by J.K. Rowling or Dan Brown or even E. L. James.
The book’s sexy title is “Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments,” by Peter Catapano and Simon Critchley (Liveright, 2017). As I thumbed through its pages at the library, I was intrigued by the chapter titles alone, some of which are listed at the end of this article.
This book satisfies two of my 2018 resolutions: read more books from the library and pay more attention to philosophy and ethics. Why? Ah, that monosyllabic question lies at the heart of ethics and of philosophy; it can be answered in any number of ways, and yet cannot be answered in any fully knowable way.
As we leave behind the sad old year, I am eager to welcome a happy new year by making more sense out of this hyperkinetic hallucination that lasts an average of 78.74 years (for an American male).
In everyday life, ethics is considered by some to be a minor inconvenience that gets in the way of our simple pleasures.
A person who never would think to shoplift in a bricks-and-mortar store doesn’t think twice about using someone else’s password to watch Netflix. What’s the big deal?! Ask the person whose compensation is tied to the paid consumption of what you took without paying for it, aka shoplifting.
In the long run, ethics determines what kind of person we are and what kind of life we create for ourselves and for those who depend on us for sustenance.
To that end, I’ve also resolved this year to be less narrow-minded about people I find narrow-minded. For some, the glory of humanity—and the ethical compass that guides it—is leaving your mind wide open to infinite possibilities. How you behave may be different from another person’s behavior; does that make it unethical for you to judge and disapprove of another person’s behavior?
The reason I’m fixating on ethics as the year turns is because it both distracts me from and clarifies for me the ever-elusive meaning of life. That great unknown can be overwhelming to mull too much. It also can be enlightening and uplifting.
Introspection on the meaning of life can lead to a more meaningful and productive life. It’s never too late to make a difference or to determine what difference it makes that we come and go in eternity’s blink of an eye.
As poet-philosopher Charles Bukowski said, “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.” To ply yourself with ethical questions is to get drunk on doubt in the hopes of stumbling across a sobering morsel of truth about your interior life.
As promised, here’s a sampling of the chapter titles in that ethics book whose pages seem to flip by without my lifting a finger. That’s fitting, since I have resolved to turn over a new leaf.
Fair warning: Some of these chapter titles may sound bizarre or hard to swallow, which illustrates why ethics is an endlessly fascinating, and endlessly frustrating, pursuit. Plus, the blunt, iconoclastic tone of a chapter title may belie what the essay behind it actually says. Part of the mystery and mysticism of ethics is how it can sneak up and surprise us.
- “Why Life Is Absurd”
- “The Dangers of Happiness”
- “God Is a Question, Not an Answer”
- “Is Our Patriotism Moral?”
- “Reasons for Reason”
- “Who Needs a Gun?”
- “Getting Past the Outrage on Race”
- “When Prostitution Is Nobody’s Business”
- “Think Before You Breed”
- “If Peas Can Talk, Should We Eat Them?”
- “Is Humanity Getting Better?”
Bruce “The Blog” Apar promotes local businesses, organizations, events and people through public relations agency APAR PR. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-275-6887.