The Problem of Moral Relativism

The following is a truly outstanding explanation of everything in play here (written by Scott Sullivan at his scholastic philosophy page, read article below here or click to see other articles of Scott’s), and a good guide to see if one’s own tendency is towards moral relativism and if that is constructive or destructive:

The Problem of Moral Relativism
What is moral relativism? It is the ideology that there are no absolute right and wrong actions; it’s all just a matter of personal perspective. There is no objective good and evil, only matters of personal taste and opinion. Moral right and wrong are relative to a particular culture (cultural relativism) or is relative to the individual (individual relativism). Morality in this view is subjective (comes from within a person).
Moral absolutists on the other hand are those who think there is really a right and a wrong, regardless of what anyone thinks about it. Rape is really wrong, it doesn’t matter what the rapist or his groupies think. Morality in this view is objective (a real fact about the world).
Moral relativism It is the underlying philosophical assumption in these common trumpet blasts: “That’s true for you but not for me”, “That’s just your truth”, “That’s just your opinion”, “That’s just your value judgment”, “Don’t judge”, “What gives you the right to say this action is wrong?”, “Who’s to say this action is wrong?”, “I think this action is wrong, but I don’t want to say someone else can’t do it”, “Different strokes for different folks”, “Don’t like abortion don’t have one”, “Don’t impose your morality on me!”, “Just be true to yourself”, “Do your own thing”, “Be open-minded”, “There’s nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so”.
On the other hand even small children instinctively know moral absolutes. Hey don’t cut in line, that’s unfair, etc. Moreover, conscience tells us morals are objective and objective moral values are all around us in public discourse, international human rights organizations, war crimes, international law, UN resolutions, etc.
Which view is correct?
Four Arguments for Moral Relativism
The Argument from Tolerance, Guilt, and Compassion:

“Moral absolutes create guilt. Millions have been made to feel bad about their actions and lifestyle because of oppressive people thinking they can tell them what is right and wrong. We should get rid of moral absolutes to be more tolerant and compassionate!”
Response: Feelings are not the standard for determining morality. Certainly we wouldn’t want a rapist or a Hitler to feel good about their immoral actions.
Secondly, the argument assumes things like tolerance and compassion are really good. But this is self-refuting. If there are no moral absolutes these values cannot be really good. Why not be intolerant? Only a moral absolutist can take tolerance seriously. What is needed for true tolerance is the recognition that tolerance is a real good and that one ought to live in harmony with those whom they disagree on some relatively minor issues. Now, only an absolutist can have a real moral disagreement with another, for if relativism is true then there is no wrong opinion to tolerate, every view is equally true. The relativist just agrees with everyone, and agreeing is not tolerance.
Besides, grave immoral actions are intolerable. Should we tolerate genocide, enslavement, or tyranny? Can we tolerate racism, underpaying women or gay bashing?
The Argument from Differing Cultural Values:
“Different cultures and societies have different moral values. Individuals do too. Therefore right and wrong are determined by one’s culture.”
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Response:
There is a hidden false assumption in this argument, that it is good to obey one’s culture. Why shouldn’t that be relative too? It is self-contradictory to say there are no moral absolutes but that one should follow their culture.
Secondly, it is obvious that entire cultures can morally err. Cultures that enslave others, Nazi Germany, etc.
Thirdly, Even if this objection were correct, the argument is a non sequitur. Just because there is disagreement on morality doesn’t mean objective morality is nonexistent. It doesn’t follow that because there is lack of consensus there is no truth. If it did, then all one would have to do is object to this “consensus requirement” and thereby make it false too.
Finally, upon examination, the real difference between the values of different cultures is often exaggerated. Killing innocent human beings has always been wrong in every culture. What has changed is the justification for killing. The cultural differences are superficial, not absolute. No culture has praised cowardice, disrespect towards parents, and rape as morally good, and on then other hand condemned truth telling, love of one’s wife, and courageous patriotism as morally bad.
The Argument From Parental or Societal Influence:
“Morals are the result of upbringing. We would have different values if we were brought up in a different way. Morals are learned traits, not real.”
Response: The fact that morality is learned does nothing to prove its subjectivity. History and science are learned too, but that doesn’t make them relative.
The Argument From Freedom:
“Everyone should have the freedom to live out their own morality. The Supreme Court ruled ‘At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.’” (Planned Parenthood v Casey)
Response: This argument presupposes that freedom is already an objective good and that everyone ought to respect it. The relativist cannot consistently hold that there are no real values and that freedom is a real value. Only a moral absolutist can take things like freedom seriously.
Five Arguments Against Moral Relativism
1. Relativism is very often self-refuting: Relativism is almost always offered in a form that commits intellectual suicide. When someone tells you not to impose your morality on others, what are they actually doing? They are imposing their morality on you! They are saying that you shouldn’t do something. The person who professes this view thinks it is wrong to impose morality on others, but they can’t live by their own rule.” You are wrong for telling others they are wrong – you shouldn’t tell other people what they shouldn’t do”. If the relativists are allowed to tell others they are wrong and what they shouldn’t do, why can’t everyone else? The argument cuts its own throat. Consider these examples:
“People should just be true to themselves, do their own thing, and be open-minded. You shouldn’t condemn others!”
Notice that the relativist here uses the morally obligatory “should” word twice while at the same time professing that there is no such thing as moral obligation.
This statement is saying that we shouldn’t morally condemn the actions of others while at the same time it morally condemns one who believes in objective morality.
Don’t impose your morality on others!”
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But this very command is itself an imposition of morality on a person who believes in objective moral values.
“Who are you to judge?”
A rational human being with at least a basic understanding of logic and an intuitional knowledge of basic moral principles. This qualifies me to make moral judgments about individuals and society. Your claim here that I ought not to judge is itself a judgment against me and is therefore self-refuting.
These objections reveal the hypocrisy of the relativist – who first says we should not judge others or impose values on others, and then turns right around and judges others for judging and imposes their relativism on those who do not accept it
2. Relativism is unlivable: It’s easy sometimes to sit in the ivory tower of the university and pretend relativism to be true, but as soon as these folks go out into the “real world” they act like everyone else. They will get upset if someone cuts in line, steals their car stereo, and if there is a burglar in their house they will call the cops so the police can come and impose their morality on the burglar. If there are no objective moral values then everyone should be let out of prisons and jails because these convicted felons did nothing really wrong.
3. It is impossible for the relativist to say anything is wrong, including intolerance. If morals are relative then who are to say that one should not be an intolerant Nazi? Maybe my personal morality says its ok to beat women, or wear a white sheet and burn crosses in my front yard and go around lynching minorities. Why should the relativist force their idea of tolerance on them? Is it wrong to torture babies for fun? The relativist must answer “no”. If relativism were true, there can be no immoral societies and no immoral laws. Cultures that enslave others, Nazi Germany, etc. are morally neutral. Relativists cannot be moral reformers for culture. Why change the culture if there is no real standard? What could possibly be the objective moral standard by which a cultural reformer demands change?
4. It is impossible for the relativist to say anything is right, including tolerance or compassion. Since relativism rejects absolute moral values then they cannot say anything is truly morally good either. The actions of Hitler and Mother Theresa do not morally differ at all. In the same way, for the moral relativism there can be no moral improvement. “Moral progress” can only be an incoherent phrase in the vocabulary of the relativist. If there is no real good, there is no really good goal and so nothing towards which we can “progress”.
5. Relativism reduces to moral nihilism: Moral nihilism is the view that there are no moral values, period. If relativism is true, then moral nihilism is true. If moral values are personal and individual, then this reduces to everyone should be allowed to do what they want, which is indistinguishable from having no moral standards. Moreover, since our legal system is founded on moral norms, and if it turns out there are no moral norms, then there should be no criminal codes. There is nothing wrong with stealing someone else’s property, from neglecting one’s own children, underpaying and cheating employees, etc. If relativism is true then everything goes. There is no difference from being a moral relativist and having no morality at all.
We live in a culture inundated with moral issues and disagreements (euthanasia, gay marriage, abortion, embryonic stem cell research, just wars, etc.) yet our culture is continually telling us the morals are relative and hence there really is no truth to the matter. What a waste of time all of these arguments must be.
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This last argument really narrows it down. Either there are objective moral standards binding on everyone or there is no morality at all. Traditional morality holds that morals are prescriptive, that is, they are not simply describing what everyone is doing but authoritatively prescribing and governing what they should do.
It is indeed worth mentioning that the above are the main arguments for moral relativism. It doesn’t take much to see that moral relativism is one of the weakest and most transparent philosophies ever proposed – yet it is still very widespread in our culture.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about “MORAL RELATIVISM” lately and thought I’d share this escerpt from Geoffrey Biddulph’s article in Meridian Magazine:“: (in response to the question of weather we are meant to “judge,” in response to the moral reativists’ argument that the Ethics of Jesus Christ are largely in support of moral relativism as the path of a true Christian:

(is one who calls himself ‘Christian’ meant to “judge?”) “…..We are meant to judge every day whether it is better and morally correct for us to go to work or sit at the beach. We are meant to judge whether it is right or wrong to get in fights with those around us, honk at people who take a millisecond too long to go at the red lights, argue with lazy postal clerks. We are supposed to judge whether it is wiser for our kids to hang out with the local drug dealer or with the straight-A students.

We are supposed to make moral judgments every second of the day. Do we go home early from work so we can spend time with our family, or do we stay to impress the boss? What do we look at and think about during the day? What are our plans for the future? Every single decision we make is about moral judgments.

It seems to me that the true meaning of Jesus’ message was not that we should never make judgments. If you read the rest of the quotation (“For by what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged…why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”) it seems that Jesus is talking about the need to avoid hypocrisy. The Joseph Smith Translation makes it clear that Jesus is talking about judging righteously, not to avoid judging at all.

For example, if I am guilty of adultery myself, I have no place to lecture anybody about sexual sin. In addition, the rest of the Sermon on the Mount makes it clear that we should recognize and disdain the sin but love the sinner. Why else would Jesus tell the people that “whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart?” (Matt. 5:28)

Jesus is clearly setting down strong moral rules that involve self-control and self-mastery. And we are expected to teach these moral rules: “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach (them), the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:19)

Baby Boy walking on his first birthday.

baby boy walking on his first birthday

baby boy walking on his first birthday

Baby boy’s baby blues on his first birthday

President Bush lifts ban on off-shore drilling, says Congress must act to give Americans access to vast oil resources off of US coasts

Bush Lifts Ban On Offshore Drilling

Bloomberg
July 14, 2008

President George W. Bush said today he’s lifting a presidential ban on drilling for oil and natural gas on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf, setting up a showdown with Congress over a separate ban it put in place in the 1980s.

“Today I’ve taken every step within my power to allow offshore exploration of the OCS,’’ Bush said in a statement at the White House. “This means the only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources is action by the U.S. Congress.’’

Democratic leaders in both houses of Congress rejected the president’s call, saying the move to end the moratorium would have no effect on prices and better options are available.

Baby’s first birthday!

first birthday cake!

first birthday cake!

after cake cleanup

after cake cleanup

Consumer prices up 5%, to highest level in 17 years

U.S. Economy: Consumer Prices Up 5%, 17-Year High (Update2)

By Shobhana Chandra and Timothy R. Homan

July 16 (Bloomberg) — U.S. consumer prices surged 5 percent in the past year, the biggest jump since 1991, just as households struggled with falling home values and the credit crunch.

Spiraling expenses for food and fuel spurred the increase in June, the Labor Department said today in Washington. The cost of living rose 1.1 percent from May, more than forecast and the second-largest rise since 1982. Separate figures showed industrial production rose more than estimated because of the end of a strike at American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. and increased electricity output.

Price gains accelerated last month even after stripping out energy and food, underscoring the challenge for Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke as he attempts to steer the economy through the slowdown and credit crisis. Treasuries fell.

“This is a problem for the economy; it’s even worse for the Fed,” said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors Inc. in Holland, Pennsylvania. “Inflation numbers are high enough that under different circumstances the Fed would be hiking rates.”

Excluding food and energy, so-called core costs climbed 0.3 percent in June from the previous month and 2.4 percent from a year before.

Yields Jump

Benchmark 10-year note yields rose to 3.93 percent at 4:20 p.m. in New York, from 3.82 percent late yesterday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Stock Index advanced 2.5 percent to close at 1,245.36, after earnings from Wells Fargo & Co. topped analysts’ estimates.

Consumer prices were forecast to rise 0.7 percent, according to the median estimate of 79 economists in a Bloomberg News survey. Projections ranged from gains of 0.2 percent to 1.1 percent. Costs excluding food and energy were forecast to rise 0.2 percent, the survey showed.

Bernanke told lawmakers in semiannual testimony on the economy yesterday and today that inflation risks have “intensified.” At the same time, he dropped his June assessment that risks to the economic expansion had diminished, indicating policy makers aren’t ready to raise interest rates to contain expenses.

“We don’t think they’re going to raise rates now — until June next year now is our forecast — until basically the economy starts to get some footing,” Beth Ann Bovino, senior economist at Standard & Poor’s in New York, said in an interview with Bloomberg Radio. “Right now the beast is what’s going to happen with the economy.”

Exceeding Forecasts

Prices were forecast to climb 4.5 percent in June from a year earlier, according to the survey median.

A separate report today said confidence among U.S. homebuilders dropped to 16 this month, a record low. Readings for current sales, expected sales and buyer traffic in the National Association of Homebuilders/Wells Fargo sentiment index also were at all-time lows.

“The magnitude of the housing bubble was unprecedented, and the corrective process promises to be a long and painful one,” Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at Maria Fiorini Ramirez Inc. in New York, said in a note to clients.

The Fed said today that production at factories, mines and utilities increased 0.5 percent last month after dropping 0.2 percent in May. Capacity utilization, which measures the proportion of plants in use, rose to 79.9 percent from 79.6 percent.

Strike’s Resolution

The resolution of a three-month strike by General Motors Corp.’s largest axle supplier, American Axle, probably helped lift auto output. Excluding autos, factory output fell 0.1 percent for a second month.

Wholesale costs rose 1.8 percent in June, the most in seven months, the Labor Department reported yesterday. From a year ago, prices climbed 9.2 percent, the biggest surge since 1981.

Companies, unable to fully recover ballooning raw-material costs by raising prices, have cut staff and reduced equipment purchases as profits shrink.

Kimberly-Clark Corp., the maker of Huggies diapers and Scott paper towels, said earnings for this year will trail its previous forecast as expenses rise more than twice as fast as predicted,

“Inflation has outpaced our ability to offset higher costs in the near term through price increases, cost reductions and other measures,” Thomas Falk, the Dallas-based company’s chief executive officer, said this week in a statement.

Price Increase

Procter & Gamble Co., the maker of Tide detergent and Head & Shoulders shampoo, last week said it’ll raise prices as much as 16 percent due to higher costs for plastic, energy and paper. The increases start in September and are the Cincinnati-based company’s steepest in at least 18 months.

Energy expenses jumped 6.6 percent, the biggest gain since November. Gasoline soared 10.1 percent and fuel oil jumped 10.4 percent.

The cost of fuel will continue stoking price pressures. Crude oil futures reached a record $147.27 a barrel on July 11 and have risen almost 90 percent in the past year. Regular gasoline, which topped $4 a gallon for the first time in June, kept rising this month, AAA figures show.

The consumer price index is Labor’s broadest gauge of costs. Almost 60 percent of the CPI covers prices consumers pay for services ranging from medical visits to airline fares and movie tickets.

Food Expenses

Food prices, which account for about a fifth of the CPI, increased 0.8 percent, driven by the biggest gain in the cost of vegetables in almost four years.

The report showed that food and fuel weren’t the only items on the rise. Costs for airline fares jumped 4.5 percent, the most since 2001.

Rents which, make up almost 40 percent of the core CPI, also accelerated. A category designed to track rental prices rose 0.3 percent after a 0.1 percent gain in May.

Today’s figures also showed wages decreased 0.9 percent in June after adjusting for inflation, the biggest drop since September 2005, and were down 2.4 percent over the last 12 months. The decline in buying power is one reason economists forecast consumer spending will slow.

Americans trimmed purchases of automobiles, furniture and restaurant meals last month as the cost of gasoline soared, a Commerce Department report showed yesterday. Retail sales rose 0.1 percent, less than forecast, a sign the boost from the tax rebate checks is already fading.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shobhana Chandra in Washington at schandra1@bloomberg.netTimothy R. Homan in Washington at thoman1@bloomberg.net

Miss Philippines contestant takes John McCain’s and Miss Teen South Carolina 2007, Laura Caitlin Upton’s crown with the awesomest pageant answer of all time!

for reference, here is former title holder, Laura Caitlin Upton’s answer (who deserves the crown??? ….you decide, vote in the comment section here :)) hit play button below ::

Click here to see a transcript and more on Laura Caitlin Upton’s national TV PR campaign to “explain the answer….” and be defended by Matt Lauer on the Today Show

And Finally…John McCain bids for the crown in this gem of an answer to a question posed to him by our man Ron Paul (hit play on video below to see McCain’s answer):

Frame it this way now: America has an illegal employer problem, not an illegal immigrant problem.

Anti-immigration fanatics always seem to point to porous borders and the lack of a “big fence” around the country as the reason our labor market is flooded with workers (see my previous post about this issue for more back ground and research on the trend towards non-enforcement of illegal employment laws over the past 20 years or so as our republic has increasingly become more corporatist.), who they say keep American’s wages lower than they would be other wise (see supply and demand of workers.); what they should really be upset about is the magnet that is drawing these aspiring Americans into the American labor pool, namely, ILLEGAL EMPLOYERS AND NON-ENFORCEMENT OF NON-CITIZEN EMPLOYMENT LAWS. The New York Times has an interesting article about Big business and it’s battle to maintain the favorable supply/demand ratio of low wage workers the non-enforcement of illegal alien employment laws that they have enjoyed in our country for the past 12 years or so…The following is an excerpt from today’s NYTimes article by Julia Preston:

Business groups have resisted measures that would revoke the licenses of employers of illegal immigrants. They are proposing alternatives that would revise federal rules for verifying the identity documents of new hires and would expand programs to bring legal immigrant laborers.

Though the pushback is coming from both Democrats and Republicans, in many places it is reopening the rift over immigration that troubled the Republican Party last year. Businesses, generally Republican stalwarts, are standing up to others within the party who accuse them of undercutting border enforcement and jeopardizing American jobs by hiring illegal immigrants as cheap labor.

Employers in Arizona were stung by a law passed last year by the Republican-controlled Legislature that revokes the licenses of businesses caught twice with illegal immigrants. They won approval in this year’s session of a narrowing of that law making clear that it did not apply to workers hired before this year.

Last week, an Arizona employers’ group submitted more than 284,000 signatures — far more than needed — for a November ballot initiative that would make the 2007 law even friendlier to employers.

Also in recent months, immigration bills were defeated in Indiana and Kentucky — states where control of the legislatures is split between Democrats and Republicans — due in part to warnings from business groups that the measures could hurt the economy.

In Oklahoma, chambers of commerce went to federal court and last month won an order suspending sections of a 2007 state law that would require employers to use a federal database to check the immigration status of new hires. In California, businesses have turned to elected officials, including the Democratic mayor of Los Angeles, to lobby federal immigration authorities against raiding long-established companies.

While much of the employer activity has been at the grass-roots level, a national federation has been created to bring together the local and state business groups that have sprung up over the last year.

“These employers are now starting to realize that nobody is in a better position than they are to make the case that they do need the workers and they do want to be on the right side of the law,” said Tamar Jacoby, president of the new federation, ImmigrationWorks USA.

After years of laissez-faire enforcement, federal immigration agents have been conducting raids at a brisk pace, with 4,940 arrests in workplaces last year. Although immigration has long been a federal issue, more than 175 bills were introduced in states this year concerning the employment of immigrants, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

State lawmakers said they had acted against businesses, often in response to fervent demands from voters, to curb job incentives that were attracting shadow populations of illegal immigrants.

“Illegal immigration is a threat to the safety of Missouri families and the security of their jobs,” Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican, said after the Missouri Legislature passed a crackdown law in May. “I am pleased that lawmakers heeded my call to continue the fight where Washington has failed to act.”

But because of the mobilization of businesses, the state proposals this year have increasingly reflected their concerns. State lawmakers “are starting to be more responsive to the employer community because of its engagement in the issue,” said Ann Morse, who monitors immigration for the national legislature conference.”

Meet Dominic O’Brien, 8-time world memory Champion…

I would like to meet “8-time world memory champion,” Dominic O’Brian….and by ‘memory champion,’ they don’t mean the toddler’s card game, they mean the human with the greatest capacity for memory on Earth at that moment.

Currently, he is training others via “Peak Performance Training” (go figure) but he has written several books on his techniques for acheiving exceptional recall ability, so….

I’m going to pick up a few of his books next week, you should, too. Then, let me know what’s working for you, memory-improvement-wise.

The Noble Eightfold path

Ok so I’m not a Buddhist (yet:)), but I thought this was an interesting way to help someone focus on improving their behavior, the choices they make and probably the quality of their life….The big view.com has a nice page about this, the following is from their site:

The Noble Eightfold Path describes the way to the end of suffering, as it was laid out by Siddhartha Gautama. It is a practical guideline to ethical and mental development with the goal of freeing the individual from attachments and delusions; and it finally leads to understanding the truth about all things. Together with the Four Noble Truths it constitutes the gist of Buddhism. Great emphasis is put on the practical aspect, because it is only through practice that one can attain a higher level of existence and finally reach Nirvana. The eight aspects of the path are not to be understood as a sequence of single steps, instead they are highly interdependent principles that have to be seen in relationship with each other.

1. Right View

Right view is the beginning and the end of the path, it simply means to see and to understand things as they really are and to realise the Four Noble Truths. As such, right view is the cognitive aspect of wisdom. It means to see things through, to grasp the impermanent and imperfect nature of worldly objects and ideas, and to understand the law of karma and karmic conditioning. Right view is not necessarily an intellectual capacity, just as wisdom is not just a matter of intelligence. Instead, right view is attained, sustained, and enhanced through all capacities of mind. It begins with the intuitive insight that all beings are subject to suffering and it ends with complete understanding of the true nature of all things. Since our view of the world forms our thoughts and our actions, right view yields right thoughts and right actions.

2. Right Intention

While right view refers to the cognitive aspect of wisdom, right intention refers to the volitional aspect, i.e. the kind of mental energy that controls our actions. Right intention can be described best as commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement. Buddha distinguishes three types of right intentions: 1. the intention of renunciation, which means resistance to the pull of desire, 2. the intention of good will, meaning resistance to feelings of anger and aversion, and 3. the intention of harmlessness, meaning not to think or act cruelly, violently, or aggressively, and to develop compassion.

3. Right Speech

Right speech is the first principle of ethical conduct in the eightfold path. Ethical conduct is viewed as a guideline to moral discipline, which supports the other principles of the path. This aspect is not self-sufficient, however, essential, because mental purification can only be achieved through the cultivation of ethical conduct. The importance of speech in the context of Buddhist ethics is obvious: words can break or save lives, make enemies or friends, start war or create peace. Buddha explained right speech as follows: 1. to abstain from false speech, especially not to tell deliberate lies and not to speak deceitfully, 2. to abstain from slanderous speech and not to use words maliciously against others, 3. to abstain from harsh words that offend or hurt others, and 4. to abstain from idle chatter that lacks purpose or depth. Positively phrased, this means to tell the truth, to speak friendly, warm, and gently and to talk only when necessary.

4. Right Action

The second ethical principle, right action, involves the body as natural means of expression, as it refers to deeds that involve bodily actions. Unwholesome actions lead to unsound states of mind, while wholesome actions lead to sound states of mind. Again, the principle is explained in terms of abstinence: right action means 1. to abstain from harming sentient beings, especially to abstain from taking life (including suicide) and doing harm intentionally or delinquently, 2. to abstain from taking what is not given, which includes stealing, robbery, fraud, deceitfulness, and dishonesty, and 3. to abstain from sexual misconduct. Positively formulated, right action means to act kindly and compassionately, to be honest, to respect the belongings of others, and to keep sexual relationships harmless to others. Further details regarding the concrete meaning of right action can be found in the Precepts.

5. Right Livelihood

Right livelihood means that one should earn one’s living in a righteous way and that wealth should be gained legally and peacefully. The Buddha mentions four specific activities that harm other beings and that one should avoid for this reason: 1. dealing in weapons, 2. dealing in living beings (including raising animals for slaughter as well as slave trade and prostitution), 3. working in meat production and butchery, and 4. selling intoxicants and poisons, such as alcohol and drugs. Furthermore any other occupation that would violate the principles of right speech and right action should be avoided.

6. Right Effort

Right effort can be seen as a prerequisite for the other principles of the path. Without effort, which is in itself an act of will, nothing can be achieved, whereas misguided effort distracts the mind from its task, and confusion will be the consequence. Mental energy is the force behind right effort; it can occur in either wholesome or unwholesome states. The same type of energy that fuels desire, envy, aggression, and violence can on the other side fuel self-discipline, honesty, benevolence, and kindness. Right effort is detailed in four types of endeavours that rank in ascending order of perfection: 1. to prevent the arising of unarisen unwholesome states, 2. to abandon unwholesome states that have already arisen, 3. to arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen, and 4. to maintain and perfect wholesome states already arisen.

7. Right Mindfulness

Right mindfulness is the controlled and perfected faculty of cognition. It is the mental ability to see things as they are, with clear consciousness. Usually, the cognitive process begins with an impression induced by perception, or by a thought, but then it does not stay with the mere impression. Instead, we almost always conceptualise sense impressions and thoughts immediately. We interpret them and set them in relation to other thoughts and experiences, which naturally go beyond the facticity of the original impression. The mind then posits concepts, joins concepts into constructs, and weaves those constructs into complex interpretative schemes. All this happens only half consciously, and as a result we often see things obscured. Right mindfulness is anchored in clear perception and it penetrates impressions without getting carried away. Right mindfulness enables us to be aware of the process of conceptualisation in a way that we actively observe and control the way our thoughts go. Buddha accounted for this as the four foundations of mindfulness: 1. contemplation of the body, 2. contemplation of feeling (repulsive, attractive, or neutral), 3. contemplation of the state of mind, and 4. contemplation of the phenomena.

8. Right Concentration

The eighth principle of the path, right concentration, refers to the development of a mental force that occurs in natural consciousness, although at a relatively low level of intensity, namely concentration. Concentration in this context is described as one-pointedness of mind, meaning a state where all mental faculties are unified and directed onto one particular object. Right concentration for the purpose of the eightfold path means wholesome concentration, i.e. concentration on wholesome thoughts and actions. The Buddhist method of choice to develop right concentration is through the practice of meditation. The meditating mind focuses on a selected object. It first directs itself onto it, then sustains concentration, and finally intensifies concentration step by step. Through this practice it becomes natural to apply elevated levels concentration also in everyday situations.

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