Wednesday, February 28, 2007

On the Appropriateness of Thought

Think back to its unfettered infancy! When Isoceleria, in its bright salad days, offered posts that approached weekly? One movie review that was offered talked about whether or not it was appropriate to discuss moral heavyweights in the context of a lighthearted comedy. My answer at the time was no (although in a different context it would be yes), and I haven't wavered from that opinion. I also never gave a satisfactory explanation for why exactly that was the case. After a talk with my friend Brian, I'm finally equipped to give a good argument why.

The question is, when is it appropriate to have ethical or moral discussions about should the topic arise? Put slightly more tritely, when is it okay to think? To the scholar or the metaphysicist, the answer is always. If the question comes up, it must be answered; it must be answered immediately, to the best of the intellectual ability of everyone involved. After all, if not to examine the condition of life, what is the purpose of life at all? To the pragmatist or the cynic, the answer is never. What good is morality when you're dead? There are more pressing concerns, more important questions to answer now than "is (whatever) appropriate?" And to the idealistic-realist (which is what I've termed my own school of thought), the answer is completely contextual. It is always good to think, but in certain situations, the necessity of thought is better fulfilled with a different discussion than the one that presents itself.

Naturally I'm maintaining a sort of middle ground, finding a way to shift my argument centerward. People are always more willing to discuss when your opinion more closely matches theirs. My personal feelings on the matter allow for the sort of intellectual discussion that I prize to thrive, while also making sure I'm not wasting my time. And what would be considered an example of either? Arguing the ethics of a mechanic within a MMORPG is certainly the latter. The chat I had with Brian was regarding another discussion he had within the context of my second-favorite video game ever, World of Warcraft (my first, of course, being a tie among all of the Halo games). According to Brian, this discussion was regarding a certain practice in WoW that I'm not entirely familiar with. When presented with an argument like "People should frown upon (insert practice here)," Brian was irritated. I would have been too, though for a different reason. I don't think Brian would disagree with my placement of him into the pragmatist/cynic category. (To some extent, I'm a cynic too. Then again, I have some of those "scholar" characteristics as well. I see it as a continuum.) So it was understandable that he didn't want to have that discussion at all. My personal reason for not wanting to have that conversation would have been that having it wouldn't get you anywhere. While the argument of "supporting a practice against the will of the general public" is one that's generally worth having, contextually it's wholly irrelevant.

In this (as far as I can tell, mostly one-sided) debate, Brian was asked to present a counter-argument. Even though I know nothing about WoW, and though arguing it within the perspective of a video game is ridiculous, I respect the idea behind the general precept of this discussion. Here's my go. Saying that a large population "should" or "should not" adopt a certain stance is dreadfully difficult to argue. If the individuals within the population cared enough, the population would collectively change its mind. Because presumably this hasn't happened yet, it probably will not happen in the absence of some external galvanizing force. In other words, to effect this change, you must not only convince people that you are right. You must first convince them that they want to care at all.

Currently listening: Wincing the Night Away, the Shins

1 comment:

Samantha said...

Somehow I knew this post would talk about video games.