Circumstantial Propriety: Towards an Emergent Ethics


Linz said...

This makes me think about breakfast. Eggs felt so right for so long, but the other morning I woke up and wanted porridge.

It wasn't the latest nutritional study that made me switch; it was something about my mood, the air, the darkness...

And lo, a farmer tells me that winter is chickens' off-season. I'm aligned with the world (or at least with the chickens!) at breakfast.

Steve said...

Yes..and what about _thinking_? When you're actually thinking on something to make the decision?

This process, process of thinking, shifts the whole situation, and that becomes another situation?

There are different modes of thinking, for example:

1) logic, reasonable thinking - when you try to figure out what will be best in that situation. (E.g.1: "man in the bar.. and he's thinking: "yes, I don't wanna be drunk tonight so I take a 1 beer and go home.", E.g.2: "man in the bar, thinking: "I took this beer everyday and I know it's good, so I'll take it again") etc.

2) "Friend's thinking" - "..my friend have told me that beer is better, and I'll take it :)"

3) "Knowledge thinking" - when you are remembering facts, statements and trying to do something. For example: "Man's entering the bar, and thinking: "okay, I read a very cool post yesterday about rhetoric, and how to do things....so...what I should do now..using that knowledge?..""

Something like that :)

So what is the role of _thinking_ in life? How it's affects me, the situation?

Steve said...

Dear Daniel, can you say a little about .. how use all this rhetoric things in the real life, in everyday conversation?

I understand, that it's impossible :) because it's not a list of statements :) But... I want to find the answer :) and one of the way is to ask you :)

I spotted that sometimes, in some moment - I do the right things (!) not the "right for some Universal Law" nut "right" only for that moment...It's a feeling ... not a logic, or defensible reason... just a feeling :)
but such moments are not so often as I'd wish :(

I study your course from Berkeley (from webcast) - and thanks God I found it :) because, your course is.... The Best Thing in The World..among all things of all types :) really :) thank you very much! :)
and..return to my comment:

sometimes I think in the right way (for example, like you in a post about "Pixar..")...And that feeling is soooooo great!! When I understand that I'm using not a Universal Law - but a Circumstancial Law :) It's like a new world...new....I can't explain all this in words :)

But...such moments are not everyday and not everytime..

So, may be, you know something about how make it all "work everytime"? :) in a job, in conversation, in university, at the mall, in the car :)

Is it a conscious thing? Should I "think" on it or not?

What about kairos? Are there some "statements of kairos"...some "kairos's symbols"? How understand what moment is a "kairos" and what moment is not? Or any moment of action is a kairos-moment? (if I gonna live through it - so every moment will be "a moment of opportunity (kairos)"...but if I start think about my past or future decision - kairos will disappear?)
Is that moment (now, when I'm typing a comment) is a kairos? Or maybe I should write comments 2 hours later..or early..

Sorry, if my questions are a little stupid :)

Daniel Coffeen said...

Steve: I love your questions, truly.

"Thinking" takes many forms — some of which we're aware of as they're happening; some, we are not. Weighing pros and cons in your head is as bodily as it is metaphysical. I do not want to suggest a mind/body dichotomy.

So, that said, what does making sense in the moment entail? It is not a pure nowness at all; it happens in, and of, the moment but that moment is rich with all our experiences, memories, fears, desires.

And this includes our own universal rules — such as "I never mix gin and whiskey." There is nothing wrong with that; such rules emerge from a combination of what we've been told and what we experience.

For me, what I try to do, is approach situations from unexpected angles. That is, whenever I sense a set of assumptions — either my own or those of someone around me — I try to undo these assumptions, question them, jam them, see if there's a radically different approach to the matter at hand.

And this is a matter of skill, derangement, practice, and love — love of the new, the fresh, even at the cost of one's popularity.

If that makes any sense at all.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

This reminds me of what Buckminster Fuller said about how we are educated before we get to school or have adults tell us what to do. We are educated by experience! I tried to walk, I fell down, I got back up, I tried again... this is how we learn. What can you say about the positives learning from others? Where can the value be found? You have sired a child now so where do you draw the line between giving specific rules and instructions versus "guidance". My father always made me "sit and think about it" then he would come back and ask me what I had learned. "Well I am small and if I go into the road the cars do not see me. So I can't go in the road without being very careful." I only hope I was that articulate but more or less that's the story my father tells now. So, can you tell us sometime when do you bring down the strong arm of the law and give your child specific rules / instructions?

Daniel Coffeen said...

Eric: I don't want to create a hard and fast rule that prohibits hard and fast rules. I don't want to suggest that all rules are bad. I only want to say that rule-based ethical/moral systems are not the only ethical systems. That an ethical scenario is complex, an amalgamation of protocols and experiences, memories and fears, desires and deliberations.

So: do I ever tell my kid that he can or can't do things absolutely? I'm sure I do. But, most of the time, I explain to him that despite what his idiotic tv shows portray and despite what they tell him in school, things are complicated — there is rarely, if ever, a clear cut good guy and bad guy, that rules can be useful but also need to be negotiated.

This is to say: my job is, oddly enough, less to give him strict parental rules than to qualify the rigidity he is taught.