Are virtues all that they're cracked up to be? - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 11-20-2011, 11:05 PM
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The compassion for pedophiles thread got me thinking - is compassion necessarily a virtue? Is loyalty? Courage? Truth telling?

I don't think so - I think it all depends on the use to which they're put. I can overflow with compassion for simply everyone, and it does no one any good if I don't put it into practice. It's a phenomenon I've seen on VB many times - for instance, people complaining about how someone they know treats their dog, but not actually doing anything about it. If you have compassion for pedophiles, why not find one on your local sex offender registry and invite him over for dinner?

If someone is loyal to his Mafia boss, is that a virtue? Is the courage it takes to rob a bank a good thing? Is it a virtue to tell the truth to an abusive husband about where his wife is?
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#2 Old 11-20-2011, 11:17 PM
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I agree with you, MLP. It is entirely situational.

"If you are lonely when you're alone, you are in bad company."
Jean-Paul Sartre
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#3 Old 11-21-2011, 04:51 AM
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I think it has more to do with survival than with good or bad. Virtues like loyalty help bind societies, even small societies within larger societies, together. Whether or not societies are worthy of people who exhibit those virtues is subjective, and ultimately evolution decides who was right and who was wrong.

"I'm not in this world to live up to your expectations and you're not in this world to live up to mine." Bruce Lee.

"On a large enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero." Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club)

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#4 Old 11-21-2011, 11:32 AM
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I agree with you, MLP. It is entirely situational.

+1
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#5 Old 11-21-2011, 12:00 PM
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We can only have compassion for people we're willing to invite for dinner?
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#6 Old 11-21-2011, 12:16 PM
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We can only have compassion for people we're willing to invite for dinner?

No, but it does no one any good to be overflowing with compassion for someone if that's all we do - overflow with compassion.

I would think that the best way to show compassion to an ostracized member of society is to include them in your circle - if you don't want to invite them to dinner, have a cup of coffee with them, have a chat - make someone feel less ostracized. For instance, at least have the decency to make eye contact with homeless people you encounter, instead of just telling others that you have compassion for the homeless and they should too. Otherwise, you're just patting yourself on the back for being oh so compassionate. Above all, don't tread on someone else's feelings instead of actually doing something FOR someone.
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#7 Old 11-21-2011, 12:18 PM
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Compassion to me means empathy and sometimes sympathy. I can be empathetic to anyone, any living being by understanding that they are having difficulty, are suffering, or are tormented simply because those things are a part of the life experience for all of us. Having empathy doesn't mean that I have to condone, pardon or forgive. I don't have to invite people who hurt other people over for dinner.

Loyalty is different. Loyalty has limits, whereas I don't think compassion should (in an ideal world). I feel the same about courage.

Virtues, in my mind, are things like being honest, not stealing, not coveting or being envious of the good-luck of others, and being sexually honest and responsible. Not killing, not holding grudges, and not being gluttonous with material possessions are things that I think of as virtues. I don't even think that virtues are something a person necessarily possesses, but works toward. It will probably take me my whole life (and maybe longer ) to be a truly compassionate, honest person.

It is our choices that show what we truly are far more than our abilities. ~A. Dumbledore
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#8 Old 11-21-2011, 12:24 PM
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So what is the point of compassion if it doesn't entail any effect on your actions? The other virtues you mention all manifest themselves in how you act. What makes compassion different, that it resides on a purely theoretical sphere, and that it is a virtue sufficient unto itself?
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#9 Old 11-21-2011, 12:35 PM
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No, but it does no one any good to be overflowing with compassion for someone if that's all we do - overflow with compassion.

So compassion is useless for people we have never met?

Well, guess I don't have to worry about the disadvantaged people in other countries.
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#10 Old 11-21-2011, 12:45 PM
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So what is the point of compassion if it doesn't entail any effect on your actions? The other virtues you mention all manifest themselves in how you act. What makes compassion different, that it resides on a purely theoretical sphere, and that it is a virtue sufficient unto itself?

I don't think I understand. Of course compassion affects actions. It just doesn't require that you fix dinner for the neighborhood child molester. I think that if I knew that there was a molester on my street (and I don't know that there isn't), my personal belief would be that while I may not choose to befriend him, I would call the fire department if his house were on fire or call an ambulance if he fell off his ladder. I would empathize, internally, with the demons that must be living within him, but I would also make damn sure that my daughter knew that he was not to be trusted.

It is our choices that show what we truly are far more than our abilities. ~A. Dumbledore
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#11 Old 11-21-2011, 12:49 PM
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So compassion is useless for people we have never met?

Well, guess I don't have to worry about the disadvantaged people in other countries.

I guess I'll turn that question back to you. What good does that compassion of yours do those people? Now, if you donate the price of a cup of coffee to the relief effort, that does them some good. If you post support for the victims of a tsunami on a FB support wall, it might help those who become aware of that emotional support, to some degree.

If you post about your compassion for child molesters on a public forum, that perhaps will make the child molesters who read it feel better about themselves. OTOH, it will also be read by people who were raped in childhood, and it may well make those people feel as though their experiences are being minimized, and it may well trigger certain emotions in them. Why take any risk in hurting people who were molested/raped when you can reach out and actually do some real good for molestors/rapists by giving them a friendly greeting or having coffee with them? In the former situation, the victims are paying the price for your compassion; in the latter situation, you're actually making human contact that has no cost to anyone other than yourself.
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#12 Old 11-21-2011, 12:55 PM
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I can overflow with compassion for simply everyone, and it does no one any good if I don't put it into practice.

If compassion influences other people to be compassionate then not one single drop can ever be a waste.
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#13 Old 11-21-2011, 12:56 PM
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I don't think I understand. Of course compassion affects actions. It just doesn't require that you fix dinner for the neighborhood child molester. I think that if I knew that there was a molester on my street (and I don't know that there isn't), my personal belief would be that while I may not choose to befriend him, I would call the fire department if his house were on fire or call an ambulance if he fell off his ladder. I would empathize, internally, with the demons that must be living within him, but I would also make damn sure that my daughter knew that he was not to be trusted.

Well, I don't think that calling an ambulance or the fire department for anyone requires compassion - it just requires basic human decency.

So, I ask again, what good does all that internal empathizing do anyone (other than yourself, if it makes you feel good to think of yourself as compassionate)? I mean, I'm overflowing with compassion for all the dogs and cats who are being killed daily because there's no one adopting them. Does that do them any good? Does that do anyone any good? Only to the extent that I act on that compassion.
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#14 Old 11-21-2011, 12:58 PM
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If compassion influences other people to be compassionate then not one single drop can ever be a waste.


And it's so very easy for no one to actually act on that compassion. No one so far has evidenced a willingness to even give a polite nod to a child molester encountered on the street. But it sure is easy to empathize.
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#15 Old 11-21-2011, 01:08 PM
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I think that compassion is shown in basic human decency.

Internal empathizing does good when it changes the hearts of those who experience it. Internal empathizing is the beginning of a series of events that causes one person to smile or buy coffee for a molester.

It seems to me that your main objection to this whole discussion (stemming from the pedophile thread) is that you believe that a person shouldn't be public about compassion for molesters/abusers/rapists in places where victims can see it and be re-hurt. While I can understand your position, that's asking an awful lot from members of an internet forum who don't know each other or even each others histories. People in recovery unfortunately cannot be guaranteed that they will not run into hurtful situations in unexpected places.

It is our choices that show what we truly are far more than our abilities. ~A. Dumbledore
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#16 Old 11-21-2011, 01:15 PM
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I think that compassion is shown in basic human decency.

Internal empathizing does good when it changes the hearts of those who experience it. Internal empathizing is the beginning of a series of events that causes one person to smile or buy coffee for a molester.

It seems to me that your main objection to this whole discussion (stemming from the pedophile thread) is that you believe that a person shouldn't be public about compassion for molesters/abusers/rapists in places where victims can see it and be re-hurt. While I can understand your position, that's asking an awful lot from members of an internet forum who don't know each other or even each others histories. People in recovery unfortunately cannot be guaranteed that they will not run into hurtful situations in unexpected places.

True. I wonder what excuse the people have who have repeatedly been active in threads, advocating for rape victims to take responsibility, advocating for people to feel compassion for child molestors - after all, after the first couple of threads, they should have
noticed the hurtful impact on the people who have been on the receiving end of such assaults. I guess it really calls their compassion into question, at least their compassion for those who are not perpetrators.
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#17 Old 11-21-2011, 01:27 PM
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People are allowed to express opinions, even if they are not popular. I'm absolutely, 100% positive that everyone on VB has compassion for the victims of child abuse/molestation/and rape. Absolutely positive. Advocating compassion for the perpetrators, or suggesting that rape victims could have perhaps prevented a certain specific situation by making other decisions, doesn't, to me at least, suggest that compassion isn't present, but that it just takes a different perspective.

It is our choices that show what we truly are far more than our abilities. ~A. Dumbledore
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#18 Old 11-21-2011, 01:37 PM
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People are allowed to express opinions, even if they are not popular. I'm absolutely, 100% positive that everyone on VB has compassion for the victims of child abuse/molestation/and rape. Absolutely positive. Advocating compassion for the perpetrators, or suggesting that rape victims could have perhaps prevented a certain specific situation by making other decisions, doesn't, to me at least, suggest that compassion isn't present, but that it just takes a different perspective.

I find it difficult to be absolutely positive about most people on the internet - after all, I think not an insignificant number of people on here were quite shocked to learn about Mr. F. If I had seen any indication over the years that certain people were willing to modify the expression of their views because of the quite obvious hurt the nature of that exprssion is causing, repeatedly, I would be more inclined to share your positive-ness. As it is, I'm far from positive.

ETA: Are you equally positive about Mr. F's compassion for victims of child molestation/child rape? Statistically speaking, BTW, the probability is that there are other child molesters who are members of VB.
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#19 Old 11-21-2011, 01:47 PM
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Oh I'm not completely positive about people on the internet, no where near! But I do believe that VBers as a whole empathize with victims of abuse, whether it be children, rape victims, or animals. That is shown in thread after thread. What happens, I think, is that people get so wrapped up in making their case and arguing with their favored adversaries, that they forget that there's a very large audience out there, reading everything, some of whom might be very sensitive.

It is our choices that show what we truly are far more than our abilities. ~A. Dumbledore
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#20 Old 11-21-2011, 01:49 PM
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So you're no longer 100% positive about "everyone"?
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#21 Old 11-21-2011, 02:23 PM
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Ok, 100% is a bit silly considering that we have a fair share of spammers and robots. But I do sincerely believe that those here who take the time to be a part of this forum are united in empathy to abuse victims. Yeah, I do. On the rest of the internet? No, I'm not nearly so positive. There are some grumpy *******s out there!

It is our choices that show what we truly are far more than our abilities. ~A. Dumbledore
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#22 Old 11-21-2011, 02:37 PM
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I guess I'll turn that question back to you. What good does that compassion of yours do those people?

If we don't feel compassion for other people, how will we decide when to act?

Is it not better to feel empathy for everyone, to realize that we all beings capable of feeling joy and misery, pleaasure and pain?

Or should we see other human beings as mere objects, completely separate from ourselves and unlike ourselves?

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If you post about your compassion for child molesters on a public forum, that perhaps will make the child molesters who read it feel better about themselves. OTOH, it will also be read by people who were raped in childhood, and it may well make those people feel as though their experiences are being minimized, and it may well trigger certain emotions in them.

Some victims are blinded by hate and rage, and are probably offended by even the merest suggestion that doesn't involve flaying abusers to death.

But I suspect most victims, especially here at VB, can differentiate between compassion and condoning. Maybe I'm overestimating the enlightened attitudes at VB, but I don't think so.

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Why take any risk in hurting people who were molested/raped when you can reach out and actually do some real good for molestors/rapists by giving them a friendly greeting or having coffee with them? In the former situation

Er, not really sure how a friendly greeting or having coffee with them does some "real good".
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#23 Old 11-21-2011, 08:03 PM
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When I stated I had compassion I didn't expect anyone to interpret that as a proclamation of virtue.
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#24 Old 11-22-2011, 08:09 AM
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Yes, agreed that benign intentions can lead to unintended negative consequences. But I would not blame virtues for this. I think virtues are the positive elements in our nature that improve our judgment, the way vices are the negative elements in our nature that cloud our judgment. You can take one virtue in isolation and point out ways it can run amok (misguided loyalty, courage untempered by restraint), but who has just one virtue? We all have them all, and we all have all the vices. Where individuals differ is what qualities get the upper hand. We have some control over that, particularly in as far as we develop habits that tend to strengthen or weaken one against the other.
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