Circumstantial Propriety and Complexity

Circumstantial Propriety and Complexity from Daniel Coffeen on Vimeo.

Consider these two scenarios:

1. A parent tells his teen: "No drinking. And be home by midnight."

2. Another parents tells his teen: "Be safe tonight. And be home by a reasonable hour."

#1 offers a steadfast rule that is external to circumstance.

#2 offers a principle that is of circumstance.

Of course, this circumstance of #2 includes things that seem to exceed the now per se — previous experience, cultural norms, household norms, etc. But these are part of the circumstance, constitutive of the now.

It demands a complex negotiation of a breadth of factors. And it is by no means necessarily "more free." In fact, there are all sorts of insidious forces at work.

I mean only to point out the possibility of an emergent ethics.


Steve said...

Yes, but how a kid (teen) - can possibly know what exactly is right in the situation???

If you are adult - you have an experience - so you can make a right decision. But if you are a kid or teen - you have no so much experience - and you can't know what is right or wrong in the situation :)

For example: those phrases: "don't drink!" and "do the right things" - and..imagine this: you are at the party and someone says you "drink 10 bottles of beer - and you'll ROCK!" - ... and what if a teen never get drunk before - so he doesn't know what will be with him after 10 bottles...

So..if he has no experience - he can say "Yes, I want to ROCK"... and what will be then?

Is it _right_ decision for him at that moment? Or it is the wrong decision in any circumstances? Or it nad only for his parents? Or it good for him at the time of saying "Yes!" and wrong in the morning? :)))

Where's the right prospective? I think I'm lost :)

Daniel Coffeen said...

Does telling a kid what's right and wrong teach that kid anything — except adherence to a rule?

Life must be lived through. People must find their ethics — and this means doing odd things, sometimes.

And people do have a right and wrong — when a kid can't stand the taste or smell of, say, mushrooms, that's an ethical moment based on their bodies.

And, hopefully, a kid can sense who's worth trusting and who is not. This is not easy; it takes time. So, perhaps, one time a kid drinks 10 bottles of beer and does indeed rock or maybe pukes. So be it. He has now learned about his body, beer, and a bit more about how to assess other human beings.

This assessment never stops. We're never perfect at it precisely because life keeps happening, because we don't get to look back at it but have to live through it.

Once you surrender certainty, different modes of making sense emerge.