Thursday, July 9, 2009

More Uncertainty!

Difficult lines must be drawn but many will not like them! I will attempt to explain why this is so.

For instance, concerning tax breaks, it seems obvious to most that those of limited means with many hungry children to feed should be entitled to tax breaks more so than others. But what if you were just beyond any given line of entitlement? What if your income and number of children just missed this “line”? Would you not feel cheated? Perhaps you think the line should be drawn to include you? Trouble is, there is always another unlucky bloke who happens to be just beyond this new line of entitlement leaving him feeling cheated just the same as you were before!

There is a seemingly never-ending succession of "yous", at least until everybody is entitled to said benefit. But of course this will never happen because we as a society can ill afford to offer entitlements to everybody. (also problematic with this approach is that it would simply be a case of "robbing Peter to pay Paul" in turn being ineffectual in redistributing wealth) Things will seldom if ever be “fair” drawing lines because they are by their very nature predicated on discontinuities. But most of life's matters can not be treated as such. Rather, most of life's matters tend to be based on continuities.

For instance, where does an embryo become a living, breathing human being? Clearly, it is not a living, breathing human being at its insemination (this being the left end of the spectrum) but clearly it is a living, breathing human being when it comes out of the birth canal (this being the right end of the spectrum).

Does it ever become a living, breathing human being? If not, is it always a human being or is it never a human being? This is silly, as a small clump of cells certainly can not be a living, breathing human being but I'm pretty positive I am a living, breathing human being! Perhaps it is both human and less than human all the while being neither? This exemplifies what is known as the “barber paradox”: if it can not be human, it must be human. Conversely, if it must be human, it can not be human. Is the set of all sets that are not members of itself a member of itself, or is it not, and if it is not, is it?

On the other hand, if it becomes a living, breathing human being, at what discrete point does it become so? It does not seem to at all but it must. If there is a discrete point whereby an embryo becomes a living, breathing human being, all we can be certain of is its uncertainty. I am using this example as a way to demonstrate the difficulty of drawing 1 absolutely right line in any given situation!

In any case, it appears people instinctively like to draw absolute lines, in all likelihood because they are slaves to their egos' pursuits. The problem with this is the lines themselves are arbitrary because lines are ultimately predicated on discontinuities whereas issues in life, especially the most difficult ones, are predicated on continuities. Therein lies the root of all (intelligent) controversy!

It is tempting to believe there is a discrete point whereby a fertilized egg becomes a baby worthy of protection. Just the same, it is tempting to believe there is a discrete point whereby a person is becoming of a given entitlement. But this is all opinion no doubt shaped by each person's perspective. Project this argument on all issues in life, especially the most difficult ones.

Can we all just learn to get along with all of our differences by realizing nobody is “absolutely” right?

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