How to be ethicalóand philosophically so!

Neven Sesardic
(Lingnan University, Hong Kong:

Even those obsessed with money,

like people from Hong Kong,

never ignore completely

the battle between right and wrong.


Although human nature

is red in tooth and claw,

the ugly beast within us

is constrained by moral law.


Three cheers for philosophers

who explained how ethics works;

they help us make good choices

and not be total jerks.


Socrates showed that no one

is ever wicked, oh no!

Peopleís misdeeds are due to

something they donít know.


Therefore the right response

is not to kick their ass,

but rather to enroll them

in a philosophy class.


Once they get acquainted

with the idea of the good

theyíll turn into bleeding hearts

and act exactly as they should.


Kant taught us important lessons:

First, that we should never lie,

even if our sincerity

makes innocent people die.


Second, that justice should be done

though the heavens fall,

even if the only survivors

are dreadful bugs that crawl.


If this Kantian doctrine

sounds odd and perhaps absurd,

luckily thereís another view

that also deserves to be heard.


This is consequentialism,

which claims that itís only humane

to compare our actionsí effects

in terms of pleasure and pain:


Do always, with no exception,

what advances happiness most

(counting people and animals,

but not plants or the Holy Ghost).


The leader of that movement

is notorious Peter Singer,

a big Kahuna at Princeton,

and, of course, a left-winger.


He says weíre all moral monsters

if we donít buy a lot of food

for all those complete strangers

who happen to be poor and screwed.


A  household needs per year

just  30,000 bucks,

if itís spent on necessities

but not on anything deluxe.


Everything else that remains

should go to those in need.

So write a fat check to Oxfam,

donít be a slave to greed!


Buying a gift for your daughter

instead of feeding chaps youíve never seen

is an act that stands condemned

as cruel and even obscene.


Next, people are just one species,

and not a special one, at that.

Our lives do not always weigh

more than those of a pig or rat.


Hence it may be that letting

a monkey enjoy his banana

takes precedence over helping

a dying old man in Montana.


Singer goes even further

and says thereís no ground for shame

if youíre more attracted to animals

than to a man or dame.


So donít worry if some bigots

exclaim that sex with pets is yuck.

Just go ahead with your hanky panky,

and try to have a good Ö time.