So nice I wanted to post it twice
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By etrigan - Last updated: Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - Save & Share - 5 Comments

My most recent reply to “this post”:

> Is motive 100% unimportant?

To say I’ve been mulling this over all day is an understatement. Just before I posted last night, I knew that this would be the quick and easy hole in the argument. But, a good night’s sleep, a quality day at work, and an evening with a glass of box wine and a little inhalation of combination stain/polyurethane from finishing a desk, and I may have a reply. I don’t think you’ll like it much, though.

I’ve hit on this in the past without apparently getting my point across, but I’ll try a different tack: Motive is/should be unimportant on a human scale because motive is something that ultimately is between an individual and their diety.

Before you dismiss this outright, give it a little bit of thought. Say, for instance, that I go out and donate $15,000 to The Nature Conservancy (just to name a decent organization that shouldn’t generate much controversy). I say that I did it out of altruism.

How do you know that that isn’t the case?

Ultimately, you have to take my word for it. It’s feasible that I did it for the tax deduction, or because I knew that the local chapter was looking to buy the land immediately adjacent to mine, and I wanted a place to run the dogs, or maybe I did it to spite my neighbor who wanted to buy the same plot of land to put in a dirt track for Outlaw Racing.

I’ll go further – Stalin’s motivation for killing Ukrainians was to create a better state for all mankind; does that make it any less evil?

This is why, despite guarantees of freedom of religion (or from), liberal democracy cannot continue to exist without some form of religious involvement on the basis of the population. Not necessarily homogeneity, but there does need to be a common assumption of faith; a common assumption that each individual is acting in the realization that some day they will have to answer to a higher power, and can, in general, be counted upon to “do the right thing”.

Absent a shared conviction in a higher power (though individuals can differ on who/what that power is), motive comes into question, with the increasingly rancorous discourse that we as Americans have seen over the last few years. Party of the First claims that they are acting out of the best intentions, and Party of the Second alleges that Party of the First are a bunch of liars who, moreover, steal candy from children and money from old people and who crush small animals for pleasure. The entire exercise descends into name-calling and allegation-making, and people are left to pick sides entirely at random.

Yes, mudslinging and rancorous debate happened in the past, but there was at least an expectation that outright lying wouldn’t occur as there was an expectation that both the Party of the First and the Party of the Second would be more fearful of eternal damnation (or reincarnation as a slug, or failure to reach enlightenment, whatever) than in anticipation of temporal gains.

Increasing secularization of society is making it necessary for people to make decisions based on what is ultimately an unknowable quantity.

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5 Responses to “So nice I wanted to post it twice”

Comment from etrigan
Time March 30, 2004 at 10:10 pm

Here’s my quick-before-I-go-to-bed counter-argument: I believe that God watched over our country very closely these last few years and despite W’s bad intentions — killing America’s freedoms, fighting SH(Saddam Hussein) ’cause his family/country had been dissed, increasing global pollution, etc. — God was able to get some important big-world things accomplished. Maybe God even needed a man just like W to get it done, BUT I think God is done with W and it’s time for him to leave. He avenged his Pa and did his best to light the fires that would swallow our government whole. Hopefully he’s done.

W had bad intentions and we were blessed that it hasn’t escalated into another full blown terrorist attack on this country or too many full-blooded Americans being unjustly imprisoned (although the environment may not recover quickly.) I think his bad intentions will soon start bad events for America — i.e. continued terrorist attacks on our very soil, fewer freedoms and undoubtedly worse and lessened public outdoor spaces.

Comment from jank
Time March 31, 2004 at 12:05 am


Again, all well and good – GW’s going to hell, IYO. However, that doesn’t change that despite his intentions, he did the right thing.

The intentions still don’t matter.

BTW – still waiting for solid proof about the havoc wreaked on the environment by GW’s maintenance of the December 2000 status quo… (and I would love to be sympathetic to this – I am a closet green, as it provides more and better critters to hunt down, kill, and eat.)

Comment from KMc
Time March 31, 2004 at 8:02 am

I think there should be a bigger moral compass than an individual’s moral code, which is often based on a religion. Religion is too open to individual interpretation to be a guide for real-world issues, I think. How many slaveowners and segregationist were religious people? (All of them, probably). God hates shrimp.

I would say we should let the Constitution be the authority, but obviously it too is not immune to being perverted by misguided religion.

Comment from etrigan
Time March 31, 2004 at 8:13 am

Historically speaking, intentions don’t matter. Looking towards our country’s future goals, I think they do. Now that W has avenged his father, is he interested in more nation building? How about attacking more countries that aren’t housing terrorists? What if he wants to continue closing down national parks? What if he wants to continue opening their resources for private business to consume? What if his goal is to escalate the price of oil more? What if Ashcroft’s goal is to integrate more Christianity into the legal system? What if Rummy needs another war? What if W’s religious-based halt to stem-cell research is a cover because he’s secretly a Christian Scientist who thinks all medical research is anti-God?

Intentions matter when considering the future.

Comment from KMc
Time March 31, 2004 at 10:56 am

I was trying to think of a “past returns are not a predicter of future performance” argument too …

Without knowing the outcome, a pure motive is the best we can hope for. If you acted on bad motives in the past, you can’t be trusted to make good decisions in the future, regardless of how good it turned out last time. That’s why (hey, hey, ho, ho) GWB has got to go.

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