Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On the time dependance of Ethics

Imagine this, a village child is hungry and has a big chunk of cake kept next to her. But she is not havng it - because it does not belong to her. Thats seems like the right thing to do, right? Not taking something that does not belong to you seems correct.

Now, imagine if a few hours have gone by and still no one has come to claim it. Would you call it morally correct that she does not take the cake? Now consider if a day has passed and no one claims it. Would you now call her descision to not take it, moral? Now, if the cake is about to get spoilt and wasted, would you still call it moral correct to not take it?

The only thing that changes in this example is the time frame and it affects our sense of right and wrong.

This is not just a case with perishable goods, it goes for non-perishables as well. If a house is not being used for long enough, its ok to use it, right? But who decides long enough? Is one day enough to decide that the house owner is not going to come back? One month? One year? A decade? Fourteen years? Fifty years? A hundred years? The question is where do you draw the line. Time increases in continous fashion. And our sense of morally acceptable and not acceptable is dependant on two discreet (and ambiguisly defined) lengths of time - Long and Not-so-long.

Our inherent sense of right and wrong is based on our understanding of timeframes and it seems to change with it.

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