Monday, November 20, 2006


I was pondering kindness the other day, or rather why it seems some people have it and others don't. Some people do kind acts instinctively: they don't think about it, it just happens. A kid cries in the store, they immediately go to him/her and see what to do to fix it. There's a bunch of homeless on the street, they empty out their wallets, or buy food, or at the very least, keep an active awareness that they are there (no putting on homeless blinders).

Then there are some people that aren't bad, they just aren't actively good. They blind themseleves to the poor, the suffering, and it seems like they could filter out any unpleasant sight or sound.

Then there are the misanthropes. The people who hate everyone, and seem to find glee in the misfortunes of others. The ones that are hopelessly jaded and cynical, and anything too sincere makes them uncomfortable. Sometimes, misanthropes are just idealists that got kicked in the metaphysical groin too many times, but sometimes they just seem born that way.

Finally, sociopaths. They don't feel anything towards anyone: everyone is just a tool to get him/her whatever s/he wants. They're a whole lotta not-touching-them-without-serious training.

What seperates these people out? What makes people kind and others cruel? There's the whole nature-and-nurture debate, but I'm thinking more of a less passive object way.

I posit that kindness is a reflex, like any other. If I went up to a person trained in Judo and grabbed their shoulder, I'm going to go flying through the air before that person even thought about it. The reaction has been honed until it was reflexive. At first, it felt awkward and didn't go exactly right, but practice made it sharp.

The same with kindness: one must train themselves to care and do something about it. AT first, it'll probably feel weird, and one might mess up a little bit, but then it will become more and more natural until it's not even thought about. You'll pick up the liter, you won't even think of not eating at McDonald's and you'll look and see everyone living in poverty.

Hey, if I'm wrong, what was lost?


At 10:20 PM, Blogger Teddy said...

Nicely PA, to those of us who know you. "I'm kind, and you're all either lazy or hateful."


At 12:59 PM, Anonymous huh? said...

Sorry for being slow, but what is PA?
Teddy, are you saying that she thinks she is kind and everyone else is lazy or hurtful?

At 5:24 PM, Blogger Noumena said...

Ethicists who talk about virtues usually define them as habits or learned dispositions to act in certain ways. They wouldn't like me saying 'in morally good ways', but that's a good way to understand it: we become virtuous by developing habits to act in morally good ways, just the way you describe it here. (The bad part is that a lot of these so-called virtue theorists are crazy conservative Catholics. But that just means they're deriving nasty conclusions from a good starting point.)

At 8:12 PM, Blogger Martha said...

You all all are assholes. Leave me the hell alone!!


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