討論逐字稿 for Becoming Workshop 7: Money and Morals

This is the transcript and notes to our seventh hands-on philosophy workshop at becoming, "Money and Morals".
The transcript below actually starts at the end of the discussion with the concluding statements, which was where all the participants in the discussion made a statement on something they understood during the class or answering one or some of the questions provided for focus.

After the concluding statements are the notes and transcript from the first part of the class.


Concluding Statements:

Questions to consider:

What is being a good human being in terms of how you handle money?
In terms of debt, saving, credit, obligation, transactions all these things
What is the morally correct way to handle money matters? To give money? To get money?
Like, is it moral to earn a salary when you know the boss is taking out loans to keep the company running?
Is it moral to pay your debts? Is it immoral not to pay them?


-I have an idea about the first question: good human being in handling money. It's a behaviour where you’re managing your money by whatever activity, in a responsible way. Beneficial for you, beneficial for those around you, who you're trading with, and there's no huge loss in any part. In financial terms, in ecological terms, in social terms. It’s kind of utopian, a perfect balance that's not actually possible, but good to keep it in mind.
For the second question. I guess it depends who your boss is taking loans from. If it's a good loan sheep, then no problem. If a loan shark, then it's a problem
-but the loan sharks are all wearing sheep's clothing
-why a shark and not a wolf?
-sharks are seen as emotionless killers

-it's hard for me to answer those questions, because in my world, no matter what kind of way you handle your money it's okay, you can send money, or lend money to others, or borrow money from banks or from your friends, or take your money to do business, whatever you want, but the key point is that you need, no matter what kind of decision you make, you need to show the…results
If you borrow money from bank for business, you need to show that you have salary can pay back, or you have house that can do something, earn more money, like that. For instance, a few years ago in Taiwan, a lot of families use credit card to borrow money form banks, but they didn't seriously consider paying it back. So in this case I think it's immoral or not a good way to handle your money. But for the second question, I have a question. If you realise your company is doing bad things, can you still take money from them, your salary? For me, it's a typical question, because everyone just do things for their own benefit. I know a lot of banks do bad things to people, but I know I can earn a better salary from a bank, so it's hard to choose take money or not.
So that's right from the transaction. Because transaction is doing from by a lot of layers. If you are in a certain layer, then you don't have to consider what happen in the other floors. You can take the salary without feeling guilty, because you're not the one doing this. So that's related to what we said before about the transparency.
-if you don't know, it's understandable, but if you know…
-but if you're not the one directly doing it, you're just doing what others asked you
-that's the soldier logic. Just following orders.
-if you know, then responsibility comes into play.
-maybe you know they're putting toxic ingredients in the food, but you just do the packaging
-and your entire family depends on your salary
-that's how they get you.
-that logic works with a lot of shitty jobs.
-there's a certain level of privilege involved in being able to speak out
-but you'll make others lose their jobs
-morality of greater good?
-this is like the train question where you can kill one person or five and which do you choose

Michael Sandel justice youtube

-my mom would think that buying clothes and cosmetics was amoral when she was raising us. She thinks that the money needs to be used on daily necessities. But if, so I kind of have that concept in myself, thinking the way she thinks. But when it comes to buying books or going to cram school, or other things, it would be fine, and I’ll feel less guilty, because I’m growing, I’m getting knowledge. Spending it on food is fine too. I think that she thinks those things are luxuries, and you’re supposed to enjoy these luxuries only if you're satisfied in your daily necessity. She says those girls on the street are starving for being thin and so can afford those beautiful things but it's not good.
And she also thinks that saving your money is a moral way to handle your money. And about the job things, I should be proud of my job, because we're rescuing aboriginal language, but we're not doing it well, so it's wasting money to pay me. My job is to ask teachers to quickly compile the textbook, but they say things like the electricity has been cut, or they have to go around to other places to get it done. And there are so few people who speak these languages, and they're doing to many projects, and they don't really work hard, and we make the deadline, so they don't really submit on the internet, and we have to track them and call them, they're not experts, they just know how to speak the language. They're making the textbook to teach, there should be a procedure for teaching, but they're not teachers and me, as the assistant, I have to make the teaching plan, the form for them to fit in. They're teachers, they're supposed to be trained to do the plan, but I’m the one making the plan. And it's supposed to teach adults, so the content and level should be for adult students, and actually they're not. This is a project to conserve the language of the aboriginals, but this textbook is constructed from the aspect of mandarin speakers, not aboriginals. And our gvt is working on this, they have the money and they invest it in this.
So it's a huge project, and I should be proud of it, as I love language and culture should be happy doing this, but actually I’m not. I don't use my talents or professionalism in this. I'm just a labourer, being paid a pretty good salary for my work field.
So I feel it's immoral being paid to do this kind of job, while others work so hard to get low pay, and those who are unemployed.
-but then it feels like you're saying it's immoral to get a high pay because of all the others who have low pay or no pay at all.
-yes. I'm not doing something special.
-but I feel like you’re working in a field you like preservation of language, which is a noble thing. And you feel it's a shitty job.
-and 'm the one working in that project, and I know what the truth is, and we're brain washing others, and it's the first in the world.

-my outlook on these questions varies from week to week, depending on how I’m thinking about the world at that moment, but I mean, we all want jobs that are spiritually and financially fulfilling, and it's tough to get perfection, but I just think that the morally proper way to make money is just, like even if you're just…wage labour is slavery in its own way, and promotion and any experience you get is necessarily at the expense of someone else, or even yourself. Whatever is the morally proper way to acquire money, it’s just making sure that at the end of the day that you're not just being a virus, that you're leaving something positive behind, you're not just soaking up someone else’s' resources, and I think, well, it's a different situation, but you're working for a well-intentioned if misguided enterprise, the subject matter is fascinating even if you're going about it the wrong way. …
And I’m trying to figure out my life too, but it's okay to be stuck in a medium job some time, but you're right to fulfil your contract and jump something else, you still have a chance to do something right, you still have your self interest at the end of the day. If your job is not flipping derivatives or sending millions of people to die, if your job is not intrinsically evil but still has a lot of suck in it, there's still a time period at which to stick with it, but at the end of the day the morality of your money making, if your money is based off of net exploitation of people's money bodies, minds or whatever.





Transcript from the first part of class.
What do you understand ‘moral’ to mean? What is ‘morality’?
-one's an adjective and one's a noun.
-moral is used to describe a person, and morality is a group of ideas which one person is supposed to do.
-morality is a kind of principle accepted by a whole group of people.
-it's a generally accepted principle, a principle generally accepted by a group. Individuals might disagree but it's acknowledged to be the standard.
So in a multicultural society it's that the morality standards differ, and that's what's troubling to people.
-to me I’d say, most simply, morality is a should do list and a should not do list. Must do and cannot do is law, not the same thing as morality.
-so morality is not law. Is it incorporated in the law's attitude?
-law is the extreme of morality, it's a kind of guideline, but law is like the guide line put to the extreme, with detailed examples of what is allowed.
-I would say morality is bigger than the law
-yes, like the parent of law.
-if you don't follow the morality, you'll be punished, not physically but psychologically, socially
-and if you don't follow the morality, not just you, but your family or those with relationships to you will be punished.

-do you believe there is a universal right and wrong? Y1 n2 depends
-yes, but it has nothing to do with morality. It's more like cosmic law, or gravity, you're going to live, you're going to die, stuff like that. The laws of the universe
-I agree with you
-and you can't evade it. "I don't want to die" "kkkt." the universe is like, 'that's cute'


-do you believe a group has to agree on a standard of right and wrong? Y2 n depends
-this question is a bit imprecise. What's a group, what's agree
-when a group agree one standard does it have, can they enforce it upon the other individuals in the group? Or anyone can break the standard?
-I’m guessing, that's the reason why I want to say no. Because if a group agree on the standard, when it's wrong how do you correct it?
-welcome to planet earth!!!!
-and once again, the universe is like, "that's cute"
-no, I think it's like, hey, how are they gonna work this out!
-maybe they're not even watching.
-oh, I think the earth is like television soap opera central for them!
-like game of thrones.
-but way more interesting.

-if something is not moral, is it immoral? Which is to say, is there a middle ground? Do you believe morality could be on a continuum or sliding scale? -do you believe it’s absolute, black & white?
-in French we say 'amoral'. Which is like, no morals at all. It's not immoral, which is going against the morals, like killing when you know what you should do it. But amoral is about acting without regard to morality. Killing or not killing is the same to them.
-someone with no knowledge of right and wrong.
-a psychopath
-no, like someone who grew up in the forest, completely natural, or someone who's been studying morality for so long, realizes it's bullshit, and says 'I’ll do whatever I want'
-so this is why society doesn't punish kids, it's because they
-yes, they're amoral.
-and one of society's goals is to educate them to become moral, to civilize them
-to become supposedly moral, to fit the moral standard of the group
-like good puppies
-housetrained puppies!
-like a dog is like you want me to shit here, not shit there. It's all the same to me, but okay. I'll shit here, it's fine.
-immoral is purposely being bad, to be in opposition.
-but amoral is, it's all the same to me

What is profit?
-profit is selling something and getting the difference in price from your cost. -usually profit is the plus side, you sold for more than you bought
-when you gain extra from a sale
-gaining opportunity from how you sell, like from a loss leader.

What is ‘having the advantage’? What is it in terms of a transaction?
Compared to others you are good at it, so you have the advantage
-it's relative! Good point
-now, in terms of a transaction.
-you can use the minimum cost to exchange the maximum product
-what about having the advantage in a transaction in the context of racism.
-being white is a huge advantage
-well, now, being Chinese is a big advantage
-like the Indian comic. He's like Indians are the cheapest in the world, we always bargain down, and Chinese people are the biggest bargainers in the world, you can bargain with them but they'll still get every penny out of you. We can work together, we just can't work with them.
-speaking of being…whether you have the advantage is relative, we were talking about racism, because in the world we have the western ideas. The western people will have more advantage because they know more about that, so Asians will be at a disadvantage. So if the world was run on Asian terms.
-that will come soon.
-and why the world is like now, because the west kind of being faster than the oriental world to travel around the world and make people think their culture is better. But Asians also don't actually spend time to try to convince people that Asian culture is superior
-western proselytizes, but Asians don't
-western people colonize, but Asians people leave alone as long as you -acknowledge I’m the leader
-tribute
-and western culture is rational, you owe me, we have that relationship, it's debt. But Asian culture turns debt into obligation, and make you feel guilty about

-what's debt, what's obligation?
Debt is someone helping you when you need it. Obligation is people volunteering the help. Debt you have to pay back, but obligation you don't.
So you don't necessarily owe something to someone, but it depends on who's giving the obligation, like if it's the emperor, then off with their head!
Wait explain.
-in French 'oblige' is 'something you must do'. If someone gives you an order, you must do it.
-in class we said debt is transferrable, and obligation is not.
-also obligation is forever, whereas debt can be discharged.
-the transaction can be terminated

What is the morality of profit and advantage in a transaction?
Like asymmetrical information. Someone knows more than the other about the market in the transaction.
-in the economic world, the morality of profit of transaction is that you should make your best effort to maximise profit and advantage. So any action you take to make advantage in a transaction is allowed. In the economic world. Not in the moral world, not in normal life
-but normal life is economic life, in our market society!
-I kind of tend to be like, what's the immorality of it? Because having the advantage means taking advantage of someone. Your profit is someone else’s' loss, and where's the morality of that? It's completely immoral.
-and yet…
-we said that transactions are inherently unfair before.
-exchange implies equality, and transaction implies asymmetrical.
-if transactions are inherently unfair, why should people set a standard for a moral transaction?
-is there a standard?
-yes! Don't cheat! But what's cheating, and what's a normal unfair transaction?
-it's when the information is too asymmetrical? Like dealing with a kid, or mentally challenged person.
-that's tricky, because according to my text book, it said that buyers without enough information will get cheated by dealers. But the dealers have worked hard to have this information, they're getting paid for their hard work. Does that make sense?
-that's a very interesting way to say it.
-and the buyers who are cheated just don't want to know, they just argue they're cheated.
-I agree this part, but before I also think in this way, but then I met some people who told me that if you don't know where to find information,
-or if they don't have access to information
-now we talk about toxic food. I'm a buyer, and those sellers, they know they sell toxic food, but we have no idea about these materials, we cannot just, no matter, even if we spend a lot of time to find out the information, we still can't tell what's true, but for me I won't say I’m cheated. I'll just accept that my information was not enough.
-I kind of disagree with what you said. You said you didn’t know about what the toxic people were doing, so you don't feel like you're cheated. But I’d say the definition of cheating someone is to do it without them knowing. If I’m cheating someone, I’m not going to say "I’m cheating you!". Of course they're going around you so you cannot see it, so that's the definition of cheating.
-when is a transaction not cheating?
-never
-but it seems that a certain imbalance was accepted in the community in Europe in 15-17th century. So when is it normal unbalanced transaction and when cheating.
-but the scale of the transaction was small, and we know each other, and you don't want to bargain to much with them and break the relationship.
-you're arguing it's a scale thing and you're arguing it's a relationship thing
-it's the same thing, it's a small world in that case
-and everyone knows it
-it's transparent!
-if you did bad things, you have to take the consequences
-because everyone knows it
-but now those bankers, no on knows who did it at what time, who did what, -so they can escape

What are the human motivations behind doing a transaction?
-if we know they're unbalanced, then what's the motivation?
-because we don't have that something, and we need it, so we will do a transaction and pay a little bit more to those people who will do it for us. Cooperation!
-we think of it as the 'cost of not having it yourself'. Like, what am I going to do about it?
-you have no choice.
-it depends who and what side you’re seeing? The buyer the seller? For the buyer, she said it very well, so I agree with that, for the seller, it's basically either it's someone who worked hard to get the thing he's selling done, he feels like he deserves the difference! Or it's a greedy middleman who's squeezing all the pennies out
-maybe he feels he worked hard?
-but he's not the guy who worked so hard to make it.


Is there a correct or incorrect motivation?
-once again, it depends what you call incorrect!
Are we talking morality or biological determinism or realism?
-I wrote this before I realized a transaction could be basically thought of as immoral, like we're talking here.

Is there any morality in terms of a transaction? Can a transaction be moral?
-is there ever a moral transaction then?
-cuz in the world, human nature forever, we've always got a profit from our transactions.
-if you're selling food with any toxic materials, or selling poor quality building materials, then it's immoral.
-the transaction is immoral.
-because the buyer buys things from you, they want to buy something they can't make for themselves but can't, and you're supposed to provide the quality they want.
-so moral of the story is, don't buy anything made in china
-but everything is made in china!
-so stop buying things, just make it yourself!
-so are we going back to the 15th century village!
-but even if you make it for yourself, you still have to get the materials from somewhere.


Is it moral/immoral/neutral to have an advantage in a transaction?
Is it immoral or amoral?
-depends on the circumstance of the transaction
-for me it's neutral. Because motivation to doing a transaction is want to take an advantage. If you don't want to take a profit, you don't have a reason to exchange. So the key point is to what extent the advantage you get. It's a good advantage, a bad advantage, will you hurt people.
-speaking of hurting people, those builders might not think they're going to kill people, but they might do.
-they're just trying to save money, cost down.
-they should disclose the information
-but if they do that they're doing cheating wrong.
-but those people who do unfair things in a transaction, they don't think they'll be caught, they don't think they'll have bad luck. They have the chances to have the more profit without any risk.

-so we talked about last week the 9th century Islamic attitude that if you have a share in the profit you must have a share in the risk. Profit without risk was immoral.
-so cheating is profit without any risk?
-profit with low risk.
-this seems like a key point.

Is ‘moral’ related to ‘fair’?
-they're linked.
-is fair about a universal good, and moral is about a group decided good?
-moral could be wrong, right?
-is fair absolutely right?
-it's fair if you have the same start? It's a beginning fair or an end fair. You have the same start or you have the same background to compete.
-a level playing field.
-there are two competing running, and one is handicapped, so the handicapped one has to have enough things to compete with the one who is healthier, in order to fairly compete.
-in my point of view, fairness is linked to justice, and both are just human-made values, not something that exists in the universe, something people have created to structure their societies. Because without fairness everyone would be at each other's throats. It's not a universal law. Nothing is fair in the universe, it just is.
-so fair is also group-decided.
-yes, and one groups moral can be immoral to another group.
-morality is about a group decision, but fairness and justice are about all humanity. Morality is more elastic.
-moralasticity!
-we want more elasticity!

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