Ponder this…

What do you think about this statement?

“There is a positive intention motivating every behavior, and a context in which every behavior has value.”

Is this true for all behaviors?  This definitely is postmodern thinking, which is typically the theory behind a lot of “progressive” drivel.  Is it possible for this level of asshattery to be true?

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How far can this go?  For example:
The positive intention of a white lie is to avoid hurting another’s feelings, and it may have value if the person on the other end of the lie is particularly vulnerable at that point.

The positive intention of drug trafficking may be to put food on the table for the family of the drug boss, therefore, the value would be providing sustenance for the boss’ family.

The positive intention of murder would be…

The positive intention of sexually victimizing somebody is…

Do you see where I’m going with this?  Is there a point in which the aforementioned presupposition does not hold true?  If it either is, or is not a universalized truth, how might this effect the way we govern society?



12 thoughts on “Ponder this…

  1. The first part could be taken in the Kantian account. That’s easy because it can become universal. When you bring in the second clause, then it loses it’s universal aspect, thus making it no longer a priori. However with Kant, it only works if you bring in a good will because a good will is always good. Any intention can be bad if it was brought about by a bad will.

    With the second clause, anything can be of positive value based on the context. But what context? Is it individual context? Society? The Moral Law? It doesn’t say.

  2. I believe the second clause is referring to the individual, based on where I found the statement.
    Maybe I made a mistake in applying a context for individuals to societal law.

  3. If it’s individual, then anything goes an it loses it’s universal function. So back to your examples:

    The positive intention of murder would be to get rid of some obstacle. Granted, the emotions don’t function well here, but I believe that emotions only look at goals on the short-term scale.

    The positive intention of sexually victimizing somebody is, I guess to display some sort of power?

    Also, is the statement that you gave suggesting it has to do with morality? Could it suggest just some positive thinking?

  4. I was thinking about something very similar to that earlier this week actually. Couldn’t have put it better myself.

  5. Shaun, the origins of the statement are from one of the presuppositions of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. As far as I can tell, it’s applied specifically to modifying an individual’s perception of a behavior. I don’t know if morality does or does not have anything to do with it.

    Trey and Katchie, what’s your opinion?

  6. Imagine that every individual performs their intended actions according to what they believe is good. Is all the evil in the world just our misunderstanding of another’s intent? If that were the case, then it would seem that we should be more forgiving of other people because the reality of our perception is just lacking the understanding of other person’s point of view. Just a thought.

  7. Here are my two cents. I don’t know if the statement is true or not but would tend to agree with it and thought I should point out that your behavior examples already have a context. Killing is not the same as murder. Murder by definition, has a context. Murder is killing someone when/where it is not justified. That definition implies that there are situations (contexts) where killing is justified – but murder occurs when, and only when, a killing has occurred in a context where it is not justified. Similarly, sexual assault by definition involves non-consent on the part of the victim. If you remove the context inherent in the definitions of murder and sexual assault, the questions become: Can killing someone come from a positive intention and have value in certain contexts? Self defense and just war are two examples. Can having sex come from a positive intention and have value in certain context? I sure as hell hope so! Finally, the quotation says that there is a context in which every behavior has value – which implies that there are contexts in which those same behaviors don’t have value. Context is the key but when you ask about murder and sexual assault you have already assigned a context to the behavior of killing or having sex. To assign a context to those actions and then ask in what context could that contextualized behavior have value complicates the question exponentially.

  8. Anonymous, that would make sense if your first sentence held true all the time. Isn’t it more accurate that most people perform their intended actions according to what they believe will benefit them most (which isn’t necessarily what they may believe is “good”)?

  9. Eric, you bring up a great point. I guess, by definition, murder and sexual assault are automatically assigned contexts. If I understand you right, you’re saying: Killing and sex are core elements, murder and rape are an evil context of those elements, whereas killing in self defense and consensual sex are positive contexts of those elements.

    Do I have this right?

  10. Yeah that’s pretty much what I was saying. I gave it more thought and decided that the statement is true – even if you consider it to be asshattery. Of course I have to qualify my statement to say that it is true if interpreted correctly. It’s a little tricky because it pushes the bounds of language but I’ll do my best to break it down.
    The first clause, “There is a positive intention motivating every behavior” I would argue is true. Intent applies to the person committing the action. Therefore, this is but another way of saying that people behave the way they do, that is, they commit their actions because they intend those actions to produce a positive result for them individually – positive result meaning a desired result at that moment – be it the satisfaction of some immediate desire or a step towards a long term goal. The alternate interpretation that every behavior (action) is motivated by an intention to produce a positive result for society is ridiculous, which is why I think it is the wrong way to interpret the statement. So I think the first clause is saying that all individual action comes from a belief that the action will bring a positive (desired) result for the individual committing the action. Again I have to clarify that the result is only desired at the moment the action is taken – people commit acts all the time that they know are wrong and wish they hadn’t – but as long as the act was of their own volition, it came from a positive intention (for them) at the moment of commission. This can have hugely important consequences. In many states the difference between first and second degree murder turns on whether the person committing the murder had “malice aforethought” – which means whether or not they formed an intent to kill – and it only takes a split second to form that intent.
    The second clause of the statement, “and a context in which every behavior has value” is also true. However, I think that the value could be either for the individual or society – depending on the context. Behavior (action) by itself has no value. It is the context in which the behavior (action) is performed that either creates value or not. As I mentioned in my earlier post, that there is a context in which every behavior has value implies that the same behavior in different context has no value. To judge the validity of this statement context must truly be removed. Which is what I was getting at with my point about murder and sexual assault. No value judgment can be made on the core behaviors of killing and having sex without context. Those core actions have value in some context but not in others. Basic moral relativism! Yikes!
    Your drug trafficking hypo provides another good example. I would say that the core behavior is selling drugs. If the statement in question is true than there has to be a context in which selling drugs has value. Consider three examples:

    1). A pharmacist who went to school, worked hard and now sells drugs to provide for his family and also out of a sincere desire to help cure sick people and provide relief to those in pain.

    2). 25 year old guy, comes from a broken family, raised in the ghetto, dropped out of the dead end school he was forced to attend and wasn’t learning much at when he was 13. Has had a few minimum wage jobs but it never seems to be enough. Knocked up his girlfriend when he was 20. He wishes he had done things differently and that he could escape from poverty, but it’s time for his kid to start school. He sells drugs to pay for the tuition at a decent private school so his child doesn’t have to have the life he has had. He knows that the drugs he sells are bad for people and even the violence that is part of the industry and he regrets it, but his intention to help his son escape a life of poverty overcomes these concerns. As soon as his son is in college he plans on quitting the drug trafficking.

    3). Guy from an upper middle class stable family, who went to decent schools and could have gone to college – his parents would have paid for it. He decided that he would rather get rich quick by selling drugs so he could obtain material comforts and hedonistic pleasure. He does not care at all that the drugs he sells hurt his consumers or that people die because of the violence of narco-trafficking. All he is concerned about is how he can get as much pleasure out of life as quickly as possible.

    So the same behavior – selling drugs – in three different context. Perhaps the behavior has some value in all three but my personal belief is that the behavior of drug seller #1 is very valuable. Similarly I would argue that the behavior of drug seller #2, while not as valuable as #1 has more value than drug seller #3 – because of the context. But I suppose that might just be my progressive drivel spilling out. 😉

    P.S. Sorry for the length of this comment – I’m unemployed!

  11. That’s why I love this whole blogging thing. You explained the probable intended reasoning behind the statement differently than I had interpreted it. As far as I can tell, your assessment is spot on. I suppose I have to accept the asshattery! Keep the analytical skills up and you can’t be unemployed much longer bro.

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