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Saturday, 25 February 2012

The Debate Begins: Are You Up For It?

English: Icon of U.S. currency.
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Allow me to introduce myself: Theo: I believe in honesty, truth, reason and equality. I'm rational, passionate, caring, neutral and considerative as well, I hope, as considerate. That's really all you need know about me.

Hi there, I'm Dave. Opinion's the only thing that counts on the web. Mine's as valid as anyone's. I don't really care about anything enough to get involved but I like to put my point of view out there. I'm not consistent and sometimes I fight for the other side just for the hell of it; know what I mean? For me, this debating lark's just that: a lark. So, listen up, join in and have a go at both, either or neither of us.

Today, by way of introduction to the idea, we're going to discuss the question:

Is Honesty Absolute or Can it be Measured in Degrees?

Dave: Easy. You're either honest or you're not. No discussion.

Theo: Not quite the spirit of the idea, Dave. But I understand why you might say that. The problem, I think, is that 'honesty' covers such a wide range, encompassing so much within its definition.

Dave: You'll get used to this with Theo. He's a great bloke but he loves his long words. If you mean there's a lot of stuff called honesty, why not just say so, Theo?

Theo: I thought I just did. But let's stick to the topic at hand, shall we? For instance, is stealing something you'd include under the umbrella title?

Dave: I guess so, but let's not include it here. That's got to make a topic all on its own, surely?

Theo: Excellent. So, we'll consider the idea of honesty as a quality, a way of approaching life, shall we?

Dave: Sure.

Theo: Then I'll ask, is honesty the best policy? Which, I suppose, is where we should have started.

Dave: Good thought, Theo. Best policy? Well, depends how you view life in general doesn't it? I mean, if you're honest, you're going to have to pass up on all those chances fate chucks at your feet, aren't you?

Theo: Give us an example, Dave.

Dave: Okay. You're walking down the street and you come across a small value note lying there. D'you pocket it or leave it, spend it or take it to the cops? If you're absolutely honest, you'd have to take it to the cops, wouldn't you?

Theo: Absolute honesty would demand that action, yes. But, let's consider the consequences. By taking this small note; we'll say a fiver if you're British or a $10 bill if you're from the States. The rest of you will, unfortunately, have to do the conversion to your own currency, if you don't mind. So, you have this small amount of currency and you take it to the police. They take your details and you fill in a form and sometime in the future (after 30 days in UK), you get the call to say it's not been claimed and it's therefore yours, legally.

Dave: Sounds okay to me. But I'd not bother to report something as small as a fiver.

Theo: You probably employ common sense in this decision, Dave. I know you're not a man who takes frivolous decisions. The question expands into the discussion and consideration of consequences. In reporting this small matter, you've used some of your own valuable time, caused the duty officer at the police station to use time he might otherwise have spent more usefully in preventing crime, and probably used fuel in the journeys. The latter, of course, means that you've added to the general pollution of the planet, risked lives by driving further miles, and put more mileage on the clock of your car, thus reducing its value and bringing the time for the service nearer.
So, was this act of honesty actually worth it?

Dave: Like I said, I wouldn't bother for just a fiver. And looks like you've decided you wouldn't, either.

Theo: So, would you do it for a tenner?

Dave: No.

Theo: Twenty?

Dave: Probably not. There's loads of them around.

Theo: Fifty?

Dave: Now you're talking. Yeah, I'd go to the bother for a fifty.

Theo: And your reasons?

Dave: Well, for a start, I've never had a fifty myself and I don't think many people have. Fifty's a lot to lose. You'd notice it, wouldn't you? The person who lost it might think it's worth bothering the cops to see if some honest person's reported it. So, yeah. Fifty's the starting point for me to record it. Anything from there up and I'd take it to the cops.

Theo: And you'd do this because you think it's the morally right thing to do, not because you think you might be in danger of being accused of theft if you failed to report it?

Dave: I don't think most people think like that. It's not mine, the cops won't be wasting their time, because someone's likely to report it lost. So, it just makes sense to give it in. If no one claims it, you're fifty to the good and you can spend it with a clear conscience, can't you?

Theo: And you've been honest, into the bargain. Do you think it was dishonest not to return the smaller notes?

Dave: Not exactly dishonest. It's about priorities and amounts, isn't it? I mean, we decided it wouldn't be worth if to anyone for under a fifty. So, it's just common sense, really.

Theo: So, not a question of honesty, but one of expediency, then?

Dave: If you say so. Are we done with this one?

Theo: In the way that I think we can say that honesty, in the sense it's used in everyday matters, isn't an absolute, but an attitude that encompasses such qualities as degree, common sense and personal priorities. Thank you, Dave. I look forward to our next debate.

Dave: Yeah, right. And you lot out there reading this, let's have your thoughts, eh? Have your say. That's what this is about after all.

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