Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mowing in the wind

The middle of a July morning, and a bright sun shines from a cloudless blue sky. And the wind-chill is something like 40 degrees. Priceless!

I was outside in short sleeves mowing my grass (which I never let get higher than eight inches or so), and the 25-to-30 mph gusts were waving tree branches with abandon, not quite howling, but raising goose bumps on my naked arms despite a "real" temperature in the mid-50s. It was a welcome break from temperatures in the 80s or more soon to return.

Of course, I left a few of those little eight-inch grass stalks, tassels waving in the breeze, to keep growing as they would. Not so much out of some sort of largesse or generosity towards individual brave blades, but because I have to wonder where those seeds might fly, or even grow. Fun to think about!

Then I went back into my house, plopped with some relief into my chair, watched the news (about the oil spill) and started watching the next philosophy lecture. This one was about Kant's "categorical imperative," a moral stance having nothing to do with the ends of one's actions, but the idea that we "act in such a way that the maxim (basic idea behind) your action would, if you were able, be instituted as a universal law of nature." That is just part of it. The idea also encompasses the idea that to use some other person as a tool means that you also may be used as a tool (morally speaking.) Thus, for instance, you may never lie.

Kant - and his most important influence, Hume - had not, I'm sure, ever thought about a cool summer day, an underwater oil spill, or a single stalk of grass blowing in the wind. And although Kant would call such concerns - gaining pleasure and avoiding pain - a lesser moral matter, underneath the "pure," "categorical," level of his moral thought, I wonder what essentially matters. A lie, or a seed in the wind?

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