Rant: Own your Morality

My sociology readings are becoming like an annoying rash. I argue, I debate, I scream till I am blue in the face…yet academia demonstrates to me that society is unwilling (or unable) to accept morality as biologically inherent to the individual. We let outside sources direct our lives, but society’s mainstream view of reality is not the end-all-do-all to each individual life experience. Society becomes a factor when the individual allows the authoritative voice to overshadow the subjective.

It is within the ability of the individual to be good without external direction. Accepting morals and ethics is natural for a human organism, and listening to the demands of society is truly the coming together of individuals in a grand compromise to ensure that many can live together. Humanity cultivated morality and ethics so that “we can all get along.” I think this is a grand action on the part of natural selection, these adaptive qualities of species flexing from individual into the collective. Each individual is part of that shift, it is not a melting of many but a grouping of diverse experience. And who is to credit? …Nature, as nurture is a result of modified species.

 

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@MmePhilosopher #Dionysian

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Dionysian Origins

, I have not found a specific term to label Nietzsche’s alternative considerations, but he advised individuals to create themselves by experiencing pain and pleasure, allowing room for one’s own selfish concerns, and acknowledging progress to belong to evil intentions. Or, rather, asked for a redefinition/understanding of the terms “good and evil.” I think Nietzsche wants us to be honest and ask ourselves, “What do I think I want? Let us see…I’ll have to try each flavor, as I cannot rely on a universal demand to tell me I prefer lemon. I think I like chocolate better.” Here, duty would demand that lemon was the flavor and sucking a lemon tart was the moral thing to do. “Evil” urged that another flavor would not be as tart. Experience showed chocolate as personal preference. Evil encouraged change. {Imagine room full of stiff philosophers sucking on lemons, and Nietzsche stretched out with a box of Godiva. lol<>}.

Nietzsche saw the qualities of good and evil as motivating forces for humankind to determine their own path. However, the ability to improve fell on the side of evil and not good; Nietzsche said, “The strongest and most evil spirits have so far done the most to advance humanity… they forced men to pit opinion against opinion, ideal model against ideal model” (4). Real change were implemented by men of evil intent – the people who were not satisfied with current rule and used force to upend reality – while the men of good intent were attempting to keep life nice and easy. Nietzsche saw anything “new” as linked to evil because it disordered the previous good. Nietzsche said, “All refined servility clings to the categorical imperative and is the mortal enemy of those who want to deprive duty of its unconditional character…” (5). He saw duty as created obligation used as means to ensure that the average human fed the artificial system of society. He advised humanity to give up their moral high-horses and to recognize their own selfishness; Nietzsche said, “For it is selfish to consider one’s own judgement [sic] a universal law, and this selfishness is blind, petty, and simple because it shows that you haven’t yet discovered yourself or created for yourself an ideal of your very own…” (335). Selfishness is not all bad, as we have seen in previous texts this session. What matters is what one does with their selfish considerations.

The message I receive from Nietzsche is that we are all master’s of our own universes and not limited to strict morality as society understood it – individually, people are able to create themselves, and they do not need society to tell them how to do it. Dionysian pessimism was predicted for the future, in the hands of anarchists – those seized with romantic pessimism that extended their torture on the lot of humanity; Nietzsche said:

 

The desire for destruction, for change and for becoming can be the expression of an overflowing energy pregnant with the future (my term for this is, as is known, ‘Dionysian’); but it can also be the hatred of the ill-constituted, deprived, and underprivileged one who destroys and must destroy because what exists, indeed all existence, all being, outrages and provokes him (370).

 

Is this ‘Dionysian’ his term to replace morality? The becoming process was a path for unique and incomparable individuals who wanted to create their own laws as well as themselves, he said: “Sitting in moral judgement [sic] should offend our taste” (Nietzsche 335). Life was a process that required physicists to create reality.

 

Works Cited

Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science. Ed. Bernard Williams. Trans.

Josefine Nauckhoff and Adrian del Caro. Cambridge, United

Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Thank you for the picture:  http://content2.beyondretro.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/THE_DIONYSIAN_STILL_21.jpg

Morality as noted by Nietzsche

Nietzsche’s concept of morality was described as a natural human factor based on the societal urges of the individual – something he refers to as herd instinct. Social media displays a plethora of references to the masses of modern society as sheep – and the participants could easily have gotten this notion from Nietzsche; he said, “With morality the individual is instructed to be a function of the herd and to ascribe value to himself only as a function” (116). Humans require motivation to perform actions, but Nietzsche saw this as a biological expression not afforded nature, in other words – nature would not be defined by man’s laws.

He viewed the universe as accidental chaos, or a lack of order and said, “… in no way does [nature] strive to imitate man! In no way do our aesthetic and moral judgements apply to it! It also has no drive to self-preservation or any other drives; nor does it observe any laws” (Nietzsche 111). He viewed matter as an error and therefore an exception to what should be natural law. Nietzsche called for a re-evaluation of a de-deified nature – allowing room for nature and species to continue to change along it’s exceptional chaotic path. I see it as workings of evolution. Morals belonged to the herd instinct and were not dependent on religious factors, or God. Humanity itself, with the natural adaptive qualities of an organism, adapted to become godlike, erasing the need for God – Nietzsche felt the concept of deity would become a thing of the past, but he noted that the time he spoke was too soon; he told a parable of the madman: “This tremendous event is still on its way, wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. … This deed is still more remote to them than the remotest stars – and yet they have done it themselves!” (125).

Nietzsche saw culture as a product of social experience, but morality as an active motivator for the human species – accredited to the overriding demands of the community. Nietzsche held “…where need and distress have for a long time forced people to communicate, to understand each other swiftly and subtly, there finally exists a surplus of this power and art of expression, a faculty, so to speak, which has slowly accumulated and now waits for an heir to spend it lavishly” (354). Culture was what expression caught from experience, and though he felt artists lacking, it was their responsibility to form culture for society.

People are often upset when reading Nietzsche. Is this because we are still, even in the modern sense, not ready to accept natural lessons?

 

Works Cited

Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science. Ed. Bernart Williams. Trans.

Josefine Nauckhoff and Adrian Del Caro. Cambridge, United

Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Thank you for the picture:  https://jackflacco.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/zombie-herd-mentality2.jpg

Essay: Self-Directed Evolution: Transhumanism Eliminates the Struggle of Life

 Self-Directed Evolution:

Transhumanism Eliminates the Struggle of Life

by A.D. Shaffer

{Graduate Studies; originally written for Humanities 551 Spring 2015}

Humanism considers the nature and the experiences of the human being to be the central point to existence. Biology demonstrates the abilities of humankind as evolutionary genetic modifications and alterations to species throughout organic life over exceptionally long periods of time. Transhumanism recognizes the patterns of evolution – the perfecting of species as adaptable to its changing environment – and seizes evolution’s altruistic characteristics so as to expedite the process of preserving and bettering life. No longer will time reign supreme for the possibility of physical immortality. Disease and deformities could be a worry of the past. I intend to show that through the discoveries of science, humanity will be able to alter genetic makeup and bridge another gap between humankind and the unknown as well as developing a new philosophy for understanding these changes. This paper will first address the advancing human consciousness and then consider the progress possible for transhumanism.

Heightened human awareness ushers in advanced consciousness and integral philosophy with growing concerns for many world issues and problems. The advancement of the human consciousness is best understood through a spiral of growth instead of visualizing linear concepts. According to Steve McIntosh the co-founder of The Institute for Cultural Evolution, the levels of consciousness are: archaic, tribal, warrior, traditional, modernist, postmodern, integral, and postintegral. Each corresponding stage is in reaction to the predominant issue of discord from the stage before it: “This dialectical relationship among the stages can be seen in the way that each stage arises in an antithetical reaction to the problems created by the stage that precedes it. And as the stages unfold within the spiral as a whole, we can see how the themes of earlier stages are recapitulated in later stages but with greater degrees of complexity and sophistication” (McIntosh 35). The spiral is perceived in half, right to left – the right expresses the self while the left sacrifices the self. Humanity must learn to balance the betterment of the individual and the universal betterment for all life.

Integral philosophy deals with internal evolution or an evolution of thinking: “Just as the emergence of modernism produced cultural evolution through its new understanding and mastery of the external universe, we will soon begin to see how the emergence of the integral worldview will result in similarly dramatic cultural evolution through its new understanding and mastery of the internal universe” (McIntosh 17-18). Modernism realized the objective and subjective nature of humankind and allowed for scientific progress. Postmodernism saw the coldness of science, and fought against social Darwinism, demanding that all life is equal. The first integral philosopher was Georg W.F. Hegel: “By revealing how history unfolds in a dialectical process wherein conflict makes possible the transformation to a higher state, Hegel laid the foundation for the evolutionary understanding of the universe that has since become central to all scientific and philosophical thought” (McIntosh 160). Integral concerns, which are still in the process of emerging, will include a worldview with universal considerations and empathetic nature to the individual as part of a whole.

Nico & Vinz composed the song Am I Wrong? for what is commonly known as the collective or Anonymous – a group of people who share the same concerns in regards to the continuation of life. Their lyrics suggest a new method for progress, but the concept is only an idea and society attempts to conform their thoughts: “I ain’t tryna do what everybody else doing / Just cause everybody doing what they all do / If one thing I know, I’ll fall but I’ll grow /I’m walking down this road of mine, this road that I call home” (Nico & Vinz). Falling down indicates failure, but the meaning is positive because a lesson is learned. The sprawling political activist group Anonymous has championed this song, and it speaks to every person who has questioned the direction of authority. The song recommends to allow for the individual without reducing the whole of humanity: “Walk to walk and don’t look back, always do what you decide / Don’t let them control your life, that’s just how I feel / Fight for yours and don’t let go, don’t let them compare you, no / Don’t worry, you’re not alone, that’s just how we feel” (Nico & Vinz). The ‘I’ was changed to ‘We’ because Nico & Vinz know that they are not alone in feeling this desire to make the movement real – to issue in integral consciousness.

The Internet greatly assists the human consciousness by connecting the world with technology. Prior to the 1990s, information was gathered the old fashioned way – writing letters or word of mouth. People from dislocated areas were not connected with the Western world, but now technology is reaching out to bring the world online. Integral consciousness starts inside the human being, it is an inkling that something will fix the problems of the world once enough minds are aware that change is required to move forward. Society has not reached a full realization of the importance of preserving all the life in the world, but the institution is on the way. At the moment, a large portion of the Western world is lodged in postmodernism in which it faces: “an intense struggle with traditionalism to define the morality and attract the allegiance of the modernist majority” (McIntosh 61). Postmodernism fails to acknowledge the necessity of the spiral in that the lessons of consciousness lead to the ultimate goal of integral thought. Postmodern thought wants humanity to swallow down lessons that they are not quite ready for – namely the issues of Islam, a nation firmly rooted in traditionalist consciousness and highly tinged with warrior mentality.

Integral consciousness understands the importance of nations of people progressing properly toward enlightenment and beyond. The stages of the spiral are prerequisite before progress can be gained. Nations cannot be forced into a new understanding. McIntosh notes that humanity must experience the spiral:

The rise of postmodern consciousness has now had a significant impact on the politics of the Western democracies. In fact, each new stage of consciousness that has emerged in the sequence of historical development has been endowed with an advantage over the stage that preceded it by virtue of the increased depth and complexity of its values. Warrior consciousness defeats tribal consciousness because of its ruthless ferocity and energetic determination. Traditional consciousness is usually able to defeat warrior consciousness because of its superior organization and group discipline. Modernist consciousness overcomes traditional consciousness as a result of its technological and industrial superiority. And postmodern consciousness finds its advantage over modernism in its unique ability to bring about change through nonviolent political action and moral strength (57).

Everything alive is required to change so as to continue onward. Geological elements set the standard, and organic life is forced to respond to fluctuating nature. Consciousness or the ability to recognize and be aware of those changes is in itself an element of evolution. For human beings evolution has occurred inside the intellect. Adaptability is a gift of natural selection, it is a way for species to adjust their internal makeup or external abilities to better evolve with the habitat. In his piece “Zoological Philosophy (1809),” Jean Baptiste Pierre Antoine De Monet Lamarck discussed the ability to change one’s habits so as to fit with the ever-changing world, and in doing so he addressed the phasing out of one organ to issue a more appropriate and successful attempt at continued life: “Hence we may infer that when some change in the environment leads to a change of habit in some race of animals, the organs that are less used die away little by little, while those which are more used develop better, and acquire a vigor and size proportional to their use” (45). Much like evolution’s encouragement to species to adjust to the physical world, consciousness also adjusts to understand that world must change to allow for progress. Environment issues the playing field in which species must adapt to survive. However, modern human beings are able to control the environment in which they live – the ancients would view modern peoples as gods.

The way something is in existence is partially dependent on how the human mind perceives that something to be, and how humanity handles life is becoming less of a struggle with a greater consciousness. As the human race becomes more empathetic society will better accommodate acceptance. Ethical concerns arise over basic scientific issues with genetic enhancement such as side effects or animal abuse, but ultimately the fear of altering human nature is abundant. However, human nature is a changing thing that is also affected by evolution. Also, changing is the way in which consciousness perceives reality. Human nature is more advanced in modern times than it was in the ancient world – this is due to the adaptive abilities of humanity. In Radical Evolution, Jaron Lanier notices two areas of human progress: technological and moral. The moral incline of evolution can be understood when considering the past actions of humanity: “… those who deny the existence of a moral incline are not in touch with the enthusiasm humans once brought to raping, pillaging and burning” (Garreau 210). During the time of the Romans – known as the Golden Age – gladiators battled wild beasts and enslaved men till the death for entertainment, today these acts of savagery would be unheard of. Fear of losing human nature is impossible; although human nature is apt to change, the advances of science will not extinguish the nature of man but usher it further.

McIntosh notes the concern for human nature, but he describes human nature as selfish, war hungry, and a have or have-nots society – why would society fear the loss of these negatives characteristics? The fact that human nature evolves along with the physical self is a boon for integral thinking, and the evolution of the nature of man will permit transhumanistic implantation as acceptable. Currently, artificial enhancement is already present in modern America as seen every time a person puts on a pair of glasses or chews with false teeth. Humanity has been partially artificial for over a hundred years, easily. Scientific capabilities are an extension of man, or an expression of the human experience and therefore natural. Artificial intelligence is manmade but the process for humankind to utilize machines is definitely natural. Intelligence is humanity’s modifier of evolution; through the human ability to perceive and contemplate, people can imagine what-if scenarios as means to solve problems by envisioning the possible outcome so that human beings have surpassed natural evolution (Garreau 72). Evolution offers many gifts, the human responsibility is to experiment with one’s contemplative intelligence in order to discover or create new avenues to perfection.

Perfection needs clarified to mean the most suited to success as per evolutionary means toward advanced organic life. Perfection took on a new meaning in Aldous Huxley’s futuristic piece A Brave New World in which humanity was reduced to Alphas or Epsilons, world controllers or sewage workers (13). The Epsilons do not require intelligence like the Alphas do, and the Hatchery is working on genetic formulas to speed up the physical growth of the Epsilons so that they could begin labor at ten years old. The Alphas are removed from humanity. In order to avoid the upset of emotions, Alphas regularly take pills – somas – to remove experience, Lenina says, “A gramme is always better than a damn” (90). The people prefer virtual simulations to human interactions and no longer copulate as reproduction is handled at the Hatchery through incubation. Bernard refuses the culture and the soma, preferring the New Mexico holiday to be a reality instead of forced perfection and separation from the emotions.

Emotions are an evolutionary advancement that allows for species to connect with others to form society. Humanity is a known social creature, and the recipe is in the genes. Matt Ridley discusses ‘the selfish gene’ theory to determine the social interests of humankind; he said, “{Human beings} come into the world equipped with predispositions to learn how to cooperate, to discriminate the trustworthy from the treacherous, to commit themselves to be trustworthy, to earn good reputations, to exchange goods and information, and to divide labor” (522). The goal of trustworthiness is a social concern; humans want to be able to trust members of society. Human beings thrive in numbers and are not meant to live solitary lives. The evolution of emotions can be seen in the civil rights movements – people did not always care for the less fortunate as they do in postmodern times.

Morality is the ability to discern right from wrong as applicable to the society one wants to live in. Frans De Waal acknowledged morality in animals and recognized an advanced moral code in human beings. Evolution created morality: “Evolution has produced the requisites for morality: a tendency to develop social norms and enforce them, the capacities of empathy and sympathy, mutual aid and a sense of fairness, the mechanisms of conflict resolution, and so on” (Waal 513). Morality is a priori and a biological process accredited to genetic code. Morals belong to the human being and not to any spiritual or government office. Waal continues to prove that morality is a neurological process and not dependent on the heart: “Once thought of as purely spiritual matters, honesty, guilt, and the weighing of ethical dilemmas are traceable to specific areas of the brain. … The human brain is a product of evolution” (517). Ethics are inherent in human nature, yet religion has laid claim to morality. As humanity continues to ride the spiral of consciousness, the religious concerns of traditionalism will fade away to make room for transhumanistic endeavors.

Enhanced humans will create an advanced norm that a natural human will never attain. Joel Garreau discusses the future possibilities of transhumanism through genetic enhancement in his text Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies – and What It Means to Be Human. He describes three scenarios: Heaven, Hell, and Prevail. The scenarios are dependent on Moore’s Law and the upcoming Singularity. Technological advances such as gaming devices, cellular phones, laptops and the Internet are truly important aspects of modern human life. While in Silicon Valley, Garreau noted, “I have spoken to people who say they consider regular human relationships superfluous and outdated, that they get everything they need from the computer. They say that and mean it; they’re not kidding around” (63). Human dependency on machines is an everyday norm for modern America. In the average American home, even families that still sit down to dinner together typically resort to communication via text message over actually speaking to each other face to face. The Curve as well as human dependency on machines escalate each year, pushing towards the inevitable moment when the machines are able to control themselves and humans are no longer necessary…the Singularity: “This greater-than-human intelligence in turn proceeds to replicate and improve itself at such a rate as to exceed comprehension” (Garreau 82). Once the Singularity occurs, humanity will hold no authority. However, Garreau does not believe that will come to a head, he prefers the Prevail scenario as a balanced transhuman effort.

Before delving into the Heaven and Hell Scenarios one must understand the Singularity. Ray Kurzweil describes the upcoming Singularity as an exponential theory that the doubling of matter and technological advances will lead humanity to a point where nothing works anymore, to a singular point that humanity cannot come back from. In his TEDtalk “A University for the Upcoming Singularity,” Kurzweil notes that linear thinking will not solve this issue as Moore’s Law will run out in 2020, but exponential growth will work in the fourth dimension continuing progress. Moore’s Law decrees that reproduction will act in a doubling effect and spiral out of control. The Singularity holds that humans will not be needed, and the robotic force will exist without the fleshy human bodies taking up so much space. In efforts to slow down the process towards the Singularity becoming a current reality, Garreau presented the Heaven and Hell Scenarios.

The Heaven Scenario involves optimistic endeavors to adjust and enhance the human being using nanotechnology and genetics. In this scenario, the enhanced humans hold emotional value and pity for the natural humans, and gracefully skip into progress with their friendly robots in tow. Genetics currently comes in two kinds: somatic gene therapy and germ-line engineering. The former affects the genes that have gone bad in one person, but the latter is able to alter the genes that would be passed down through reproduction (Garreau 116). Ethical concerns worry for the future children who may not want gene alteration, and the added chromosomes may not sit well with the human composition. Ray Kurzweil sees greater love in the future and supports the Heaven Scenario. This greater love is a higher consciousness: humanity has a hold on survival and can now focus attention on participating, preserving, and enjoying life. Kurzweil refers to The Curve, or exponential growth, as a force of nature: “Like evolution, it is simply a pattern of life to be recognized, the outcome of billions of small actions. {Kurzweil} calls it ‘The Law of Accelerating Returns’” (Garreau 94). The deciding factor rests on the morality inside human nature to reach for the good.

As expected, the Hell Scenario is the pessimistic opposite of the Heaven Scenario. Here humanity is grotesquely mutilated by genetics gone awry and subjected to slavery by the dominant machines: “Probably more important is the ‘yuck-factor’ – the visceral rejection of technologies that are seen as anti-human. Headlines about human cloning produced one of the more vivid Hell Scenarios” (Garreau 171). Respected scientist Bill Joy is a member of this theory. In his TEDtalk, Joy notes his concern for the possibility of abusing nanotechnology. Joy is exceptionally concerned for self-reproducing nanobots or the ability of robotic machines to make more machines via the robotic will and not that of human will. Despite the depression Joy found himself in with studies of human extinction and the Singularity, he does see positives in three areas. Educational tools – such as computers and laptops – will lessen in cost while rising in speed and ability, environment issues find hope with nanomaterials which not only conduct but can also produce electricity, and human innovation in methods of defense through medicine to reduce a pandemic are all probable and possible (Joy). These possibilities can be reached, but Joy does not believe unlimited power with genetic alteration will benefit society. Regulations and rules are needed to govern genetics much like any other advancement. Joy calls for containment of information and demands some type of insurance for catastrophic risks.

Ancient minds reached for the gods, alchemists searched for the philosopher’s stone, and religion issued pilgrimages for the cup of Christ: the goal immortality. Scientists seized the torch and created reality for the imaginative mind through acknowledging the human genome in the twentieth century, and nanotechnology takes off from human abilities to act as an extension of species. The human ability to imagine allows for the acceptance of change to be a more comfortable reality. Fiction, as demonstrated with the twentieth century, pushed the boundaries of the human imagination: “Novels stretched our conceptions of human-created Heaven, kick-starting our thinking about what was possible, forcing us to change our perception of what was serious” (Garreau 109). Fiction familiarizes the imagined reality to become a probability. Science looked at fiction and saw a glimmer of reality to expand on through biological means – the alteration of genetic code.

Fixing what is broken is the initial concern of genetic alteration – cure the sick, repair structures, and implement immunities. In his piece “CRISPR – Technology and Controversy,” Dr. Shouguang Jin discusses the abilities of CRISPR to repair damaged DNA: “In theory, then, hereditary features that people consider advantageous, such as higher intelligence, better body appearance and longevity, can be introduced into an individual’s genome through CRISPR mediated reproductive cell modifications as well.” Regulations to alter the genome do not yet exist, but something is halting research. The transhumanistic desire to improve humanity is held back by ethical concerns. Why would society turn away from repairing one’s DNA? Overpopulation factors stiffen the reserve to resist progress.

Overpopulation is a major concern for the world as it is a current serious threat to the continuation of humanity. Modern scientists estimate that humanity may face extinction due to overpopulation because the world is not able to sustain more than nine billion people (Boundless). The World Population Clock keeps track of the number of people existing and states on average a new life is born every eight seconds while one life ends every thirteen seconds (Census). Overpopulation is a rational fear. Due to the technological and genetic advances of humankind, the threat of natural selection cursor to extinction appears to be a problem of the past – however, the causation for the longevity in continued lifespan could, in fact, be humanity’s downfall. Not only has the reproduction rate escaladed over the past two hundred years but the individual life expectancy rate has also doubled. Overpopulation is a natural issue as well as an ethical concern. As of June 12th of 2014 at 11:35 a.m., the total number of people alive on the earth was 7,249,376,950 billion (Census). Thomas Robert Malthus wrote “An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798)” in which he insisted that “… the power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man” (39). Malthus means that the earth is not naturally able to produce enough food for the number of individuals alive to be properly nourished.

Hank from the SciShow discussed “The Science of Overpopulation” in an online video. While he supports that the Industrial Revolution cured Malthus’ ills, Hank feels that humanity did take the threat seriously; Malthus’ piece encouraged a lessened reproduction rate, with the rate dropping from 1.3 million to 1.1 million (SciShow). Genetic abilities to resist death will create a greater issue of continued reproduction with no lessening in numbers. Marvin Minsky suggests immortality is possible in his video “Health and the Human Mind.” Minsky jokes about nanotechnology reducing the size of human beings so less space is taken up, or a single child sharing forty-six parents in a time-share method to reduce population. In Minsky’s future, people would have the ability to be immortal, but they would be stored on hard drives, coming out only every few thousands years to live a thousand years and then being placed back in storage so as to permit others time to live (Minsky). Nature can only sustain a certain amount of people, but humanity has surpassed the abilities of evolution to genetically modify food, plant and animal alike.

Pamela Ronald argues that modern genetics are the most effective method in agriculture in her TEDtalk “The Case for Engineering our Food.” After a decade of experimentation and research, Ronald isolated a gene in rice to allow the rice to survive flooding. If alteration can be accepted by society, this improved rice would not perish during the heavy flood months, thus avoiding famine for the people who rely on rice as a main sustenance. Genetically improved seeds will grow larger and healthier plants, and genetic improvements also encourage eco-friendly actions (Ronald). Malthus’ concerns for the earth producing enough food for humanity to survive are thus adverted by scientific advancement through genetic modification. Many Americans are uncomfortable with genetically modified food, and a large influx of holistic and natural food products are present in the country.

Production of food is not the main concern in regards to starvation because the world is able to manufacture through industry and double through genetic modification. Pete Alcorn opposes the predictions of Malthus because he did not allot for the evolutionary characteristics of humankind. Malthus was not counting on the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century in which humankind now holds the ability to produce enough food (Alcorn). The proper distribution of food and resources could save world hunger if obesity were to subside. Ellen Gustafson, a philanthropist who co-founded FEED and created “The 30-Project”, notes that there are one billion people starving and one billion people obese. While obesity is a result of overeating and neglecting exercise, what types of food one consumes also has a large role. Corn, grain, and wheat make up the majority of the American diet – filler food with lackluster nutrients. The obese nations have plenty of products to eat, but they eat the incorrect types of food. Processed foods lead to diabetic health risks as well as obesity. As the processed food is imported to other nations the health risk percentage rise in a global effect: “Internationally, WHO projects that by 2015, approximately 2.3 billion adults will be overweight and more than 700 million will be obese” (Gustafson). Gustafson proposes a thirty-year plan to cultivate a revised successful food plan to be made available for the entire world population to benefit.

Feeding the whole world would allow for the poorest members of humanity to move up the ramp of civilization, but the process of progress can only be realized once basic needs of survival are met. Dr. Hans Rosling acknowledges the area of humanity in which large population is due to poverty status, and he illustrates the influence of educated thought and preconceived notions to extinguish the myth of overpopulation extinction in his video “The Overpopulation Myth”. The world population graph shows that with education families reduce the number of children per household to ensure a better quality of life. By educating the women of these countries about birth control and basic sexual processes, the women understand that their body belongs to them. The women of Bangladesh are learning a fundamental concept of the personal rights of the individual, and are becoming aware to the value of smaller family size. Though progress seems to move slowly, within fifty years family size has been reduced from eight children per couple to two children in Bangladesh, and Dr. Rosling accredits democracy for directing some of the changes. In a previous TEDtalk, “Global Population Growth, Box by Box,” Dr. Rosling demonstrated the problem with overpopulation as an economic concern. The poorest people want to be able to eat everyday while the richest people want to fly away for vacation throughout the year. If the richest cultures would assist the poorest cultures – through education and limited mutual aid – the poor could move up slowly, to advance to wanting a bicycle and eventually an automobile instead of just dreaming of owning a pair of shoes (Rosling “Global Growth”). The poorest peoples cannot be expected to assume the richest society; much like the spiral of consciousness, realities must be assumed slowly so as to ensure the value of human experience is implemented.

Until the population increase better improves, the concept of extending the human life span seems like a slippery slope. As means to prevent death and suffering, science and medicine battle to eliminate the struggle for life by thwarting evolution. Humanity has surpassed natural selection and is steaming ahead towards progress as a transhumanistic force. In her piece “We are All Cyborgs Now,” Amber Case notes that humanity cannot turn its nose up to genetic modification because human society is already dependent on unnatural enhancements. Computers and cellphones are external brains, according to Case, who points out that the majority of Americans depend upon their machines. From asking Siri how to spell a word to late night steamy text messages, human beings enjoy their cellphones – especially their smart phones so as to connect online. Unsure if machines are connecting humankind or conquering humanity disguised as assistants, Case finds interest in the ethical debate regarding the incorporation of robotic intelligence into daily life because she notes that robots have been in our lives for over twenty years. Computers are not the first machines that have been integrated into the modern home. Televisions are common in nearly every room of the American household.

Nick Bostrom is also concerned with artificial intelligence becoming “smart” like a human being. In his TEDtalk “What Happens When Our Computers Get Smarter Than We Are?” Bostrom wonders which values will be preserved: those of the machine or those of humankind. Robotic intelligence can process information faster than humans and can store unlimited amounts of data. Garreau mentioned “smart water” surrounding a super-bowl dome to act as a security device against terrorism (70). The “smart water” is able to detect the prescience of not only people but also something as small as a nanobot. In 2015 nearly every American has a “smart phone” which includes a basic robotic assistant. The fear for human nature is that the robotic creations will surpass their creator – and naturally assume a devious nature intent on enslaving the creator race. I disagree as I cannot understand my iPhone as malicious – that is a trait reserved for humanity. The issue with fear inside human nature is that intelligent human beings question everything and sort out what-if scenarios to ensure the best possible method is practiced. In doing so, humanity forgets that other beings do not function along the same path of inquisition because they have not received the same lessons of evolution. Robotic creatures are not wired the same way that human beings have evolved.

Human beings accept artificial intelligence in the form of replacement limbs or organs for afflicted individuals. In current times, an elderly person who underwent hip replacement surgery is viewed as a successful senior and not as a cyborg. Society accepts medical advancement as well as cosmetic surgery and enhancements. Currently, the cosmetic craze involves collagen filled lips and Brazilian Butt-Lifts. Aesthetic beauty is a force of culture, and transhumanism will permit the individual to look however they want – even if that includes growing fluorescent wings that display messages of one’s emotions like Lanier suggested by mutating the glowing octopi (Garreau). Once integral philosophy is better understood humanity will be able to make exceptions for the genetically enhanced. Uri Dowbenko wrote “Transhumanism: The Anti-Human ‘Singularity’ Agenda” for wakingtimes.com. The website addresses the modern fears of transhumanism and shows concern for the human being in spiritual matters. The desire for an illusion of an all-powerful god will lessen as humanity becomes able to create and cure life, resulting in an advanced spirituality as replacement for religion – an evolution of spirit. Dowbenko fears the transhumanist will create a new god or become a god oneself. Until Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species, science and religion could be seen as working together, but the biological means as replacement for creation separated the elements of thought. The documentary “TechnoCalyps” defines transhumanism as the advancement of humanity via artificial means; it began as a vision of religion but became a scientific path to fine-tune the human body for immortal qualities (Theys). Whether repairing the ill or preserving the well, transhumanism aims to lengthen the human lifespan, and in doing so will override natural evolution.

INLOGY Documentaries produced the piece “Bionics, Transhumanism and the End of Evolution” to show the possible factors implicated with genetic alteration. Bionic humans as well as transhumans are processes projected only for the elite few while the rest of humanity will act as the working class. This negative view of humanity displays the inherent fear of the unknown. The worst of humanity will behave as badly as they can with no regard to ethical awareness. Monster Quest aired the episode “Joseph Stalin’s Humanzee Experiments” to show the ugly side of genetics. In efforts to create a more savage army, in 1932, Stalin had chimpanzees impregnated with human embryos. The video interviews locals who insist that Zena was a result of the Humanzee experiments, and they note her to have produced a son named Quib who’s tooth later analyzed included human and chimp DNA (Monster Quest). Crossbreeding species is a terrifying and unethical consideration, but the advantages to Stalin’s army would have been notable. Ethics request caution because knowledge is a powerful tool – if that power is placed in the wrong hands then unimaginable horrors are possible.

The 1930s issued negative vibes for any form of eugenics or genetic alteration. The actions of Adolf Hitler’s unethical experimentation on the Jewish people fueled ethical concern. Edmund Ramsden’s article “Confronting the Stigma of Eugenics: Genetics, Demography and the Problems of Population” discusses the bad taste eugenics left in society’s mouth. By the 1960s the ideals of eugenics shown a stigma transformation resulted from “its ability to allow geneticists and demographers to conceive of eugenic improvement in ways that seemed consistent with the ideals of individuality, diversity and liberty” (Ramsden 853). Harnessing the values of democracy made eugenics less evil, however, the nature-nurture issues that were realized in the 1970s still keep eugenics in an undesirable closet – morality and ethical concern keep the door locked.

Humanity is not comfortable with experiments being practiced on animals or human embryos. In the SciShow episode “The Science Behind ‘Genetically Modified Humans,’” Hank discusses germ-line engineering. Science is able to alter the DNA of children to be immune to diseases through the use of the RNA and CRISPR technology by replacing mutated genes with preferable genes. Altering the human genome, however, is not ethically sound as the GME is noted as tricky and outcomes are not guaranteed (SciShow “Genetically Modified”). Ethics cannot tolerate human embryos to be subjected to experiments. Scientifically, working inside the embryo holds keys to the origin of species. In Darwin’s piece “The Descent of Man” the likenesses of embryotic form between human and dog is strikingly similar; Darwin said, “It may, however, be added, that the human embryo likewise resembles certain low forms when adult in various points of structure. … Even at a later embryonic period, some striking resemblances between man and the lower animals may be observed” (“The Descent of Man” 182). Over one hundred and fifty years has passed since Darwin related humankind to the animal kingdom, it is high time ethics understood the necessity for experimentation. For progress to continue, ethics must allow for experimentation either on human embryos or other embryos that closely resemble humankind. Paul Root Wolpe calls for regulations to be set for genetic practices in his video “It’s Time to Question Bio-engineering.” A compromise must be met so that science may progress with an ethical edge.

Transhumanism bothers not only ethics but also the ideals realized in the enlightenment. In “Introduction: Toward a Critique of Posthuman Futures,” Bart Simon said, “The revolutionary Enlightenment narratives that challenged an oppressive feudal order and re-envisioned ‘man’ as rational, autonomous, unique, and free have been in turn challenged and deconstructed” (4). Humanism demonstrates the abilities of humankind as purely natural human traits not dependent on outside sources. Posthumanism to Simon is seen as anti-humanism, reaching outside of humanity’s natural abilities to incorporate artificial intelligence as a lessening to the human structure. However, the intelligence created was crafted by humankind, and the idea was realized by humankind – artificial intelligence is an extension of the natural and not a means to replace the original. The success or failure in morality will be dependent on the inherent goodness of progress – goodness as a further perfection – as humanity continues to mimic the path of evolution. R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell man a website called “Criticisms of Transhumanism” to discuss the book Transcendence: The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and The Singularity. In attempts to shatter the objections to transhumanism, the fears are broken down into four groups: feasibility, direct danger, indirect danger, and morality (Sirius and Cornell). Significant numbers of people distrust the abilities of science and do not support transhumanistic efforts. However, if society would allow for integral philosophy, the transition would not be as upsetting.

The fear of scientific progress is unnerving for a large portion of human beings. Michael Specter urges society to embrace the discoveries and abilities of science in his TEDtalk “The Danger of Science Denial.” Science is credited for the advancement of medicine, but society screams for blame to be placed on science for the disturbing rise in autism. Specter notes that “frankenfood” bans discredit GMO enhanced food products, and vaccines are taking the heat for autism. However, he reminds society that vaccines keep disease away from humanity. Prior to medicine and vaccines the mortality rate was a great deal lower than current standards of life expectancy (Specter). Even two hundred years ago, if one lived to be fifty they were considered elderly. In contrast to modern society, a person is considered elderly when they no longer can care for themselves. The discoveries of science must be embraced to ensure further advancement.

The rising consciousness of integral concerns will calm humanity’s reserves for transhumanistic endeavors. Time is required for understanding, and humanity should look to the example set by evolution to allow for gradual acceptance. Human beings use of machines goes back to the wheel – the natural edge of humanity is innovation. Society must embrace the innovative intellect and not cowardly turn away from progress. The future of the human race is difficult to imagine, but with the direction of science, and caution of ethics, the race of humankind will create their own future, forging ahead by means that modern minds cannot fathom.

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Essay: Acceptable Deceit: The Manipulation of Morals

Acceptable Deceit: The Manipulation of Morals

by A.D. Shaffer

{Graduate Studies; originally written for Humanities 510 Spring 2014}

Morals, honor, respect, and prestige are core values of ancient Grecian society as displayed by The Odyssey. Odysseus’ journeys are a depiction of the struggle of man to return homeland after discovering himself through war, life at sea, and intense suffering. However, how does the great hero achieve his desires? Odysseus uses deception with his clever wit to out smart his enemies. With the assistance of the goddess Athena, Odysseus is subject to and participant in illusions of disguise. The good-natured characters resort to deceiving their way through the narrative. Homer embellished on the tale to increase the significance of grandeur as means to emphasize the moral issues.   The characters are using lies to discover the truth. The interpretation, translation, and oral history references play a difficult hand for modern acceptance of myth or religion. However, the moral issues present in The Odyssey are still true for today, we just have different monsters. Morals, and prestige there of, are significant factors to uphold reason and a successful community – the purpose of the gods is to instill morality. The good man should be rewarded, and reward his people with sacrifice and feasting. The bad man should be reigned in to justice. The gods are given credit.

Modern science is taking approaches to understand the a priori value inside morality. Paul Zak notes man as a social creature and offers oxytocin as the moral molecule depicting humanity to hold a universal connectivity. In this grain, we are connected to the characters of The Odyssey as man is still rounded by morals. The TED Talk focuses on trust as a moral tester and conducts an experiment. Trust and trustworthiness were established by re-sharing the money. There is a touch of prestige present, that the individual who shared the money felt “good” about his choice, maybe produced some oxytocin. Zak also addresses the statistics of countries that held more trustworthiness than others: they produce more wealth and could eliminate poverty. The money itself was not important. The morals behind the choice are evident that man is obsessed with morality. While sex is the main action that stimulates the brain to create oxytocin, another means is rather simple, Zak says “Give someone a hug. Eight times a day” (TED Talk).  Even Kyklops needs a hug.

The moral issues addressed in The Odyssey are adultery, character, hospitality, and murder. All of these issues rely on trustworthiness. Odysseus trusts that Penelope will be waiting for him faithfully. Telemakhos trusts Athena that his father will return. Morality is considered inside the text and for those reading it. Reece notes on a variant interpretation of The Odyssey in which Telemakhos returns from his original trip with a seer Theoclymenus, who is possibly Odysseus in disguise. Bringing mysterious characters into the epic to announce visions adds depth to deception, “{Theoclymenus} shows up at critical moments to prophesy and then passes out of the story” (Reece 163). Deception is rampant in The Odyssey but most times for the greater good. Tests are presented to judge if one is good or bad.

Athena’s use of disguise propels the journey forward for Odysseus and his son. The gods are noted as all-powerful by Athena, “A god could save the man by simply wishing it – / from the farthest shore in the world” (Homer 451). Yet, Athena does not wish Odysseus home. He would not learn the lesson or suffer enough punishment to satisfy Zeus and Poseidon. Man is meant to struggle his mortal life. Occasional fortune is gifted from the gods. Athena suggests being lost at sea as means of protection from deceit. The moral lesson is in reference to Clytaemnestra’s acts of adultery – the giving in to her suitors – and consequent murder of her returned husband.

The justification of adultery in itself, however, is a crime of woman alone. Custom and culture of the times view man and woman with different conditions. Modern society holds gender reactions to situations, and what is deemed appropriate for each role. Odysseus’ time spent making love to Kalypso is not viewed as adulterous – he lays with her because she compels him to, but over the years he no longer finds pleasure with the nymph, and he weeps for his wife and homeland (Homer 486). How much of his time spent with Kalypso was solely under the influence of her insistence? Odysseus desired her, or he would not have stayed, especially not for ten years. Physically, Kalypso is seen as keeping him vital and youthful as long as he is on the island. While exemptions are made for men, women are not so lucky. Clytaemnestra is viewed as a harlot for committing adultery.

In contrast, Penelope is esteemed for her loyalty – by holding the suitors at bay for twenty years. Agamemnon’s shade praises Penelope who endured the absence of her husband, “The girl you brought home made a valiant wife! / True to her husband’s honor and her own” (Homer 759). Penelope is also noted for being crafty and wise. She tests Odysseus with mention of their marriage bed. This displays Penelope’s devotion to Odysseus, she says “But here and now, what sign could be so clear / as this of our own bed? / No other man has ever laid eyes on it” (Homer 749). The validity of the bed lets Penelope know that Odysseus is not an imposter as she’s experienced years of false hope and loneliness.

Whether a person is good or bad is displayed through speaking with them or monitoring them through disguise. Still true for today, understanding another’s character is relevant to the level of trust issued. Odysseus, disguised as an old beggar man by Athena upon his return to Ithaka, creates a character to go with his disguise, and claims to have word of Odysseus’ return. The beggar notes truth within his deception – for the greater good – and explains his circumstances, “The gods were with me, / keeping me hid; and with me when they brought me / here to the door of one who knows the world.” (Homer 617). The disguise does not cover an old scar from a boar hunt, the “scar’s origin is rhetorically rather representative when it is in fact extremely unusual” (Damon 19). The disguise covers all else of Odysseus yet the scar is exempt so that later he may use it as proof with the maid and his father. Odysseus is ultimately a good person, even though he disfigured the Kyklops and failed to keep his men from feasting on the animals of Helios, he is still a favorite of the gods. The gods come to his aid because he is good, and it would be better for his family if he were to return to Ithaka.

In contrast, Antinoos, a leading suitor, holds bad character as displayed by his arrogance and rudeness to the strange beggar, “You famous / breeder of pigs, why bring this fellow here? / Are we not plagued enough with beggars, / foragers and such rats?” (Homer 666). This suitor is tainted with ill intent. Telemakhos sums Antinoos character up to the forester, he says “With his unpleasantness, {Antinoos} will forever make / strife where he can – and goad the others on” (Homer 667). Antinoos is the first suitor who Odysseus kills, shooting him under the chin with an arrow. Odysseus then reveals himself to the suitors to address the violation of his house, wife, and the gods. Odysseus says, “Contempt was all you had for the gods who rule wide heaven, / contempt for what men say of you hereafter” (Homer 730). Good prevails over bad when Odysseus kills the suitors and fulfills the moral requirements.

Hospitality plays a large part in either direction: a friendly welcome to a stranger is customary because the Greeks believed that a god could disguise themselves as anyone, while rudeness could result in neglect of the gods. The people feared the gods and clung to reason and morals set by example in myths.   The swineherd is welcoming to the stranger even though he has little to share. Telemakhos is friendly with the stranger before he is privately revealed as Odysseus, and grants him passage in the hall. The prince is rewarded with the return of his father. Penelope is interested in the stranger and appalled at how he was treated by the suitors, especially the best contender who threw a stool at the stranger, she says, “they intend / ruin for all of us; but Antinoos / appears a blacker-hearted hound than any” (Homer 670). She invites the stranger to privately converse with her, and to hear his stories.

In The Odyssey, stories are seen as a requirement from travelers – they must explain themselves, where they came from, and what they intend to do as well as leave the foreigner with tales to carry of their own home, gifts, and prestigious acts (Homer 475). The fact that Odysseus tells her some facts and some lies to ensure his disguise makes me question how one holds on to honor if they are keeping their true identity hidden. Being lost at sea could drive a person mad to hallucinate immortal opponents – elemental wonders which dwarf mankind to that of ants – perhaps Odysseus did create many lies to gain esteem, but there needs to be motivation for him to remain on Crete that is not thoroughly provided by “The Cretan Odyssey: A Lie Truer Than Truth” (Reece 160).   This focus on alternative text still holds the same values as the original. No matter the arrangement, the focus is of human morality.

Murder is viewed as good and bad; the latter being an unjust action of man as in the suitors’ plans for Telemakhos, and the former seen as the gods’ intervention of aid on Odysseus’ behalf. Athena reveals the plot to Telemakhos, and she assists in his return to Ithaka. Athena says, “The suitors’ ringleaders are hot for murder / …they mean to kill you” (Homer 623). Later at the hall, to bring justice to Odysseus, Athena imposes fear and sends falcons to attack the suitors.  Leodes, Phemios, and Medon survive and appeal to Odysseus for mercy. Leodes the diviner attempted to marry Penelope; Odysseus chops his head off. Mercy is granted to the other two good men who were loyal to their house. In regards to the slain suitors, Odysseus tells Eurykleia, “Destiny and the gods’ will vanquished these, / and their own hardness. They respected no one, / good or bad, who came their way” (Homer 740). Pride and respect are returned to Odysseus and Telemakhos once the offending suitors are killed.

The gods willed peace for the end of the epic, and Odysseus returned to his wife and homeland. Morals are realized through The Odyssey, by the characters forcing the unreasonable to be righted with the return of King Odysseus. Through means of deception, the gods assisted the warrior’s struggle. Clever wit aids Odysseus’ family as they manipulate the suitors and regain control of their lives. The gods of ancient Greece instilled morality in man whether mythical, imaginary, or literally assumed. Man continues the obsession with morality, and remains a social creature – but ideals could be realized if stronger acts of morals were expressed by more of the population worldwide.

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