Saturday, October 19, 2013

Hutcheson on the Sense of the Ridiculous

It is plainly of considerable moment in human society. It is often a great occasion of pleasure, and enlivens our conversation exceedingly, when it is conducted by good-nature. It spreads a pleasantry of temper over multitudes at once; and one merry easy mind may by this means diffuse a like disposition over all who are in company. There is nothing of which we are more communicative than of a good jest: and many a man, who is incapable of obliging us otherwise, can oblige us by his mirth, and really insinuate himself into our kind affections, and good wishes.

But this is not all the use of Laughter. It is well known, that our passions of every kind lead us into wild enthusiastic apprehensions of their several objects. When any object seems great in comparison of ourselves, our minds are apt to run into a perfect veneration: when an object appears formidable, a weak mind will run into a panic, an unreasonable, impotent horror. Now in both these cases, by our sense of the ridiculous, we are made capable of relief from any pleasant, ingenious well-wisher, by more effectual means, than the most solemn, sedate reasoning. Nothing is so properly applied to the false grandeur, either of good or evil, as ridicule: nothing will sooner prevent our excessive admiration of mixed grandeur, or hinder our being led by that, which is, perhaps, really great in such an object, to imitate also and approve what is really mean.

Francis Hutcheson, Reflections Upon Laughter (1750), pp. 32-33.

Marriage and Surrogate Decision-Making

Luke Davies considers a case in which a woman in Illinois wants to marry her partner, who is in a vegetative state. She was denied a marriage license because -- well, because he is in a vegetative state. Davies argues, somewhat vaguely, that this was wrong. He ends by considering a possible objection:

Finally, one might also object that marriage isn’t the sort of thing for which surrogate decision-making is appropriate; that it is the type of decision that must always be made by the person on his or her own behalf. This seems wrong to me as well. There are many decisions that are far more significant to a person’s life than marriage. Some of these decisions will become the charge of surrogate decision makers. So, to say that marriage is a choice not amenable to surrogate decision-making is to claim there is something special about the institution. But, it seems to me that the onus should be placed on those who believe it is special to demonstrate that fact, rather than the other way around.

Significant as marriage is, it nonetheless seems quite clear that the difference of marriage here has nothing to do with its significance, but with its nature as a mutual contract. What Morris and Pourifoy actually have is a prior contract -- a contract to form and actualize another contract -- that one of the parties physically and mentally cannot complete because of an inability to engage in further contracts at all. Thus what Pourifoy is actually asking is for state to impose on Morris a contract, despite his inability to engage in contracts or fulfill any contractual responsibilities; and what Davies is arguing is that, given the prior intent, a surrogate decision-maker's decision should be adequate reason for the court to do so. It hardly needs to be said, in that light, that the judge's response was the only one seriously possible under Illinois law -- or, indeed, as far as I am aware, the marriage laws of any state. States in general only are able to requlate marriages qua contracts; this has the direct implication that they can't recognize marriages that cannot be legitimate contracts between the parties involved, nor can they recognize marriages that are not contracts of the sort that marriages are recognized as being under law. To change the status of a contract from being actually contracted between two parties to one in which it is contracted merely on behalf of one of the parties, is a very significant legal change, and not one that can be made arbitrarily by judges.

We could, of course, ask ourselves whether it would make sense to expand the law here so that such surrogate marriage-making were possible. But there are lots of situations in which someone will have a surrogate decision-maker, not all of which involve the patient in a vegetative state. So what conditions would have to be met for such a surrogate decision-making to be reasonable in the case of something like a marriage? What will be the result if a surrogate marriage-making happens and the person, perhaps misdiagnosed, wakes up and doesn't want to be in the marriage, or claims that their intent in proposing was not merely to be married but actually to engage in marrying? These are the sorts of things that would have be considered at the legislative end. There are reasons why laws are framed with the expectation that people will engage in their marriage contracts themselves rather than by surrogate decision-making: the latter just appears to be a morass that starts rendering the whole thing incoherent, and some positive reason for thinking it is not is surely necessary before any such major change.

Poem a Day 19

Destiny Reversed

Destiny, your name is Death,
you deal the hand, the hand we take,
and luckless spin upon the Wheel,
victims of our mournful fate.
You pound on me like a Judge
until I cower at your feet,
or drag me like careering Car
until I strike out with dark deed.
I seek to shake you, but I can't --
either Emperor or Hierophant
hunts me and I have no chance.
But no, I shall not cut and run!
I am a creature of the Sun.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Deuterocanon Friday: Grieved

On that day she was grieved in spirit and wept. When she had gone up to her father’s upper room, she intended to hang herself. But she thought it over and said, “Never shall they reproach my father, saying to him, ‘You had only one beloved daughter but she hanged herself because of her distress.’ And I shall bring my father in his old age down in sorrow to Hades. It is better for me not to hang myself, but to pray the Lord that I may die and not listen to these reproaches anymore.”

Tobit 3:10 (NRSV-C)

Poem a Day 18


Balcony to balcony the evening dives
within the orchid hothouse many-hued
in which the blooms of sunset thrive
until the feathers cover black
the lush fluorescence of the sky.

Down it un-soars, swooping low,
roc-like in its wingspan vast;
its shadow into shadows throw
the jewelry-shades of blossoms small
until the darkness stands alone.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Some Notes and Notables

* G. K. Chesteron's Encyclopedia Britannica article on Humor:

Wit corresponds to the divine virtue of justice, in so far as so dangerous a virtue can belong to man. Humour corresponds to the human virtue of humility and is only more divine because it has, for the moment, more sense of the mysteries.

* Nathaniel Peters reviews Denys Turner's Thomas Aquinas.

* Thony Christie corrects misconceptions about Mary Somerville and Ada Lovelace.

* Jeremy Gray, Epistemology of Geometry at the SEP

* The monks of St. Joseph Abbey in Covington, Louisiana recently finished a five-year court battle as the U. S. Supreme Court let stand the appellate decision that a state law restricting who can sell caskets. The Abbey is a Benedictine monastery; Benedictines, of course, are required to work as part of their religious rule, and they do so for two reasons, to support themselves and to do good to others. It seems the Abbey has a long woodworking tradition, and in 2007, they established a woodworks specifically to produce cypress wood caskets, the proceeds of which would be used to pay Abbey expenses -- medical and educational support for monks, as well as supplementary support for some of their services to the community. It turned out, however, that a Louisiana state law restricted public sale of caskets to state-licensed funeral directors of state-licensed funeral homes. (The Abbey seems to have a long tradition of making caskets, but since they mostly just made them for themselves, they had never before been engaged in public sale of them.) They received a cease-and-desist order from the state board of funeral directors, and it went to court. The district court ruled in favor of the monks in 2011, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of them again. Their opponents appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. It was widely expected that the Court would hear the case, because this is a murky area of law and we seem to have opposed rulings from different circuit courts on precisely this kind of question. But the Court declined to hear it, so the monks can continue to make their caskets, of which they currently sell about 200 a year.

* A while back Peter Gilbert hunted down the source of a legend about Plato in heaven, having believed in Christ when Christ preached in Hades.

Poem a Day 17

Sunrise on Birds and Ants

Light now trumpets like a train
as little airplanes swoop and swerve
in dogfights; little engines strain
to curve and curl and dive down straight.

In warmth below the traffic hums
through intersections, never ends;
constantly the engines thrum --
they turn around, anew begin.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fragmentary Philosophizing

Fragmentary philosophizing means only the making of thought-experiments by means of reason; these have little reliability, so long as the division of the whole has not been able to assign them their determinate place and relation to others.

Immanuel Kant, Opus Postumum (21:524). I would add the caveat, after 'reliability', that it depends on precisely what you are doing, but for most aims Kant's exactly right -- the quality of one's rational thought-experiments or philosophical fragments depends on division of the whole.

Poem a Day 16

The Moon

A goddess still she is, and still they pray,
in names they scarcely mutter, soft and low,
not knowing whom they beg. When after day
she rises, full of glory, rising high,
when splendid, red with blood, like martial queen,
she hangs above the waters, cruel and wise,
they know her, gaping-mouthed. Her sheen
is fair; her light will baffle fools,
and know her then they shall. And she,
as lunatic as all the world, and more,
shall swing extreme, of temperance free,
and never stand and stay 'tween more and less.
The children, too, shall know her, rhyming well
of lore their teachers lost in ancient days;
of man in moon and dogs who stories tell
we never shall be free, but endless night
new stories shall supply. And they shall yearn
to walk her dusty shores, where endless sea
of sun pours through abyss where starlight churns,
a byssal depth so deep it has no strand.

But once, a poet told me, and did not lie,
she shone above a garden, soft and clear,
where God ('tis said) did wait to die,
and wept through night of darkest dark.
Can any goddess rise on such a sight
and not be changed, though gods remain the same?
Yeah, sure, a glory now pervades her light;
the moon itself to newer life is changed.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Many Readings of Aristotle's Poetics

I was driving back from a philosophy talk tonight and was thinking about Aristotle's Poetics. (The talk itself was a very interesting one on psychoanalysis of dreams; it was not what got me thinking about the Poetics.)

We tend to read the Poetics as literary criticism. It's very difficult for us not to do this, in fact; you pick up the book and it talks at great length about plot and character and diction. It's worth remembering, though, that this is not how it has always been read. Medieval commentators, for instance, read it as a book on (quite literally) logic -- the logic that deals with imaginative acceptance rather than probability or certainty, and that concerns discovery rather than justification or proof. It is very difficult for people to understand this reading -- however interesting, it just seems wrong.

But we are partial to ourselves, and there is an excellent argument to be made that if the medieval way of reading the Poetics is wrong, so is ours. The reason, historically, that we read the Poetics as a sort of literary criticism is that Renaissance humanists started using it as a manual to guide the writing of texts, and this, obviously, also became used in analyzing them. The reason we read the Poetics as a text on literary criticism seems to be due to nothing else than the fact that a large part of the vocabulary for literary criticism was lifted from the Poetics in the first place. But basically the same was true of poetics as a logical discipline in the Middle Ages.

We probably cannot know for certain how Aristotle and his immediate audience would have understood the Poetics, but if it were a matter in which the bet could be decided, I would bet a lot that they would have read it not as a text on literary criticism (they wouldn't even know what that was), nor as a text on logic, but as a text on political philosophy.

After all, why is the subject of the Poetics -- tragedy in the extant first book, comedy in the lost second book -- important enough to talk about? What were these things discussed? They were rituals in the civil religion of the Greeks, rituals that were of very great importance to their civic life, one of the most obvious and fundamental things that they did together as citizens and as Greeks. What Aristotle is doing in analyzing them is analyzing one of the major society-building events of his day. And Aristotle in general, of course, can be read as nothing other than the theory of Greek civilization. [ADDED LATER: And, of course, how could I have forgotten the most obvious argument in this direction. Take Plato's Republic, a book that explicitly discusses the nature of the polis, and compare the first part of Book III with the opening of the Poetics.]

So, in other words, if you want to at least read the Poetics in a way analogous to (you probably can never get closer) the way Aristotle and his immediate audience did, go home and read it as a treatise on political discourse that is not concerned with persuasion. (Political discourse concerned with persuasion belongs to the Rhetoric, of course.) We can find loose analogues even in our own day. There are lots of things citizen and politicans do that don't concern persuasion. In the United States, for instance, we have this amorphous but pervasive civil religion of In God We Trust and Truth, Justice, and the American Way, and veterans who, martyr-like, have died for us and for our Freedoms. When Americans celebrate the Fourth of July, the discourse is not about persuasion. So what's going on there? Well, Aristotle, looking at Greek civic rituals that were (it has to be allowed) much more structured, gives some answers.

I actually think that neither the medieval nor the modern way of reading the Poetics is wrong. They aren't inaccurate. The difference arises because we read the Poetics very narrowly, as if someone were to read Augustine's Confessions as nothing but an autobiography, while the medievals read the Poetics very abstractly, as if someone were to read George Eliot's Romola as a treatise in the philosophy of religion. These readings aren't wrong at all -- Augustine's Confessions are autobiographical and Eliot's Romola is structured by a philosophy of religion. Such readings are uncovering genuine elements of the text. The reading of the Poetics as a logic text really takes off with Muslim commentators; Avicenna, Averroes, and the like faced the problem of how to make sense of Aristotle's Poetics not in Greek culture nor in Greek-influenced Latin culture, but in the very different Arabic and Persian literary cultures. And how do you solve such a problem of cultural difference while staying true to the text, particularly if you are hampered in your ability to engage in close historical investigation? Read the text for its general themes and abstract ideas. And they did; very well, in fact.

On the other side, it is a failure of our modern reading that while the medievals could have made sense of the Poetics as a text on literary criticism (they didn't read it that way, but there are plenty of reasons and hints to suggest that they could have), we have so much difficulty making sense of the Poetics as a text on the logic of imaginative plausibility. But our failure is not a failure arising from inaccuracy of reading; it is a failure arising simply from being stuck in one mode of reading. The way of reading is not itself wrong.

But, again, if you want to read Aristotle's Poetics, try sometime to read it as a treatise on non-persuasive civil and political ritual and discourse; it will at least show you a side of it that you might not have noticed without deliberately looking for it.

Poem a Day 15

The Rain Falls

The rain falls.
A pond slowly forms
two inches
over grass,
each blade waving like seaweed
as drops bounce above.

Monday, October 14, 2013

St. Angela of Foligno

On October 9, Pope Francis canonized Bl. Angela of Foligno. Such things are less of a deal than is usually thought -- people who have been beatified are already on the calendar as saints, they just aren't raised to the highest liturgical ranking (in particular, they are only on local calendars rather than the Roman universal calendar). So the big practical difference now is simply that she can be officially commemorated on her feast day all over the world (assuming that it isn't Sunday, which always takes precedence). (There are fully canonized saints that are not on the universal calendar; they get in under an ancient-devotion exemption, and are usually found in one of the official Martyrologies. Hildegard of Bingen was recently given a spot on the universal calendar, for instance; she was already officially recognized as canonized because she was recognized as a saint in the Roman Martyrology, and just needed a regular feast day for universal celebration. Saints recognized in the Roman Martyrology can be universally celebrated in the liturgy, but they have no regular, consistent day for doing so. Canonization of the beatified, on the contrary, changes the status of a person from local-commemoration-only to universal-commemoration-allowed.)

So who was St. Angela? She was a visionary from the thirteenth century (1248-1304). She is a 'sinner saint' -- that is, she led a very worldly early life, contemptuous of those devoting themselves to religious matters, then became convinced that she was going to hell; as a result, she repented and devoted herself to prayer and charity. In particular, she became a Third Order Franciscan. She wrote a book, called Book of Visions and Instructions, that describes her conversion and presents her visions (as you might expect). Pope Benedict XVI had an audience devoted to her, in which he summarizes some of her ideas.

Radio Greats: "The Callicles Matter" (Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar)

If you were to ask what was the most successful of all the great classic radio series, there are a number of possible candidates, depending on the exact measure of success, but there is no question that one of the candidates would be "the transcribed adventures of the man with the action-packed expense account — America's fabulous freelance insurance investigator," as its introduction went: Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. Looking from the outside, the show was highly formulaic: the story is told by Johnny Dollar, in the form of a letter (hence the title) to the insurance company for which he had been doing some investigating. The main part of the story was structured by Johnny Dollar's expense account, the items of which are sprinkled through the story in a matter-of-fact manner, like: "Expense Account Item 1: $200.05: Air Fare and Incidentals, Hartford to Los Angeles." (Sometimes a joke item would be thrown in, in which the expense is actually just a dollar item he puts on his feelings at the time.) At the end he would sum up expenses, and add some various remarks. The content would consist of Johnny Dollar interviewing various parties to get the background story. And at the end he would solve the case, getting down to the bottom of whatever problem had worried the insurance company that hired him. Several different people played Johnny Dollar over the years, each with a somewhat different style, but the overall impression sought for was noir-ish detective: lots of tough guys, beautiful women, usually some tense life-or-death situation. The title would be something like "The Callicles Matter", "The Burning Desire Matter", or "The Forbes Matter". Despite all the formula, every story is very different. The expense account gimmick is wonderfully successful -- it's a perfect way to sum up what's going on, and is sometimes interesting just in its own right.

The actual series had more than one run. The original series ran for about six years, from 1948 to 1954, and starred Charles Russell, then Edmond O'Brien, then John Lund as Johnny Dollar. It was a pretty standard detective series, popular but not much different from everything else. Then in 1955 CBS decided to bring Johnny Dollar back, rebuilding the show in a different way. The format was now set up so that episodes were usually only fifteen minutes long, and the stories came in five-episode arcs, just enough to fit a week, each episode usually starting with a teaser involving Dollar speaking to someone on the phone. Ironically, going from thirty minutes to fifteen minutes made it possible to give the story much greater depth: it was a way that CBS could justify giving nearly 75 minutes a week to a single story, especially since they were producing it on a sustaining basis -- it was not advertising-supported. That's a lot of faith for a network to put into a show: CBS was betting that people would tune in to listen to the show and keep listening (and it turned out to be a good bet). And the actor who played Johnny Dollar was Bob Bailey, who had experience in the detective genre, and managed to bring an extraordinary mix of tough-guyness, humor, intelligence, and sensitivity to the role. Bailey was Johnny Dollar in the five-episode format for thirteen months -- and in those thirteen months he became the Johnny Dollar. CBS then decided to return the episode to a once-a-week thirty-minute episode in 1956, but Bailey continued to be Dollar until 1960, when CBS moved its radio headquarters from California to New York and Bailey refused to move with it. Bob Readick and then Mandel Kramer played Johnny Dollar after Bailey, and the series continued until September 30, 1962. If you ask a solid classic radio fan when the Golden Age of Radio ended, that's the date that will usually be given: the day Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar and Suspense, two of the most popular and long-running powerhouses of the Golden Age, ended, and radio drama never fully recovered.

I have wanted to do a post about "The Callicles Matter" for something like two years now, in part because it is an excellent five-parter starring Bob Bailey, and in part because of its philosophy theme -- there's a reason that the story is named after a character from Plato's Gorgias. Dollar is investigating the apparent disappearance of a young man named David Parsons, Jr. He talks to Parsons's father and wife of fourteen years, and finds that, contrary to what one would expect, they are not very cooperative -- they hardly seem to care. And then Johnny Dollar is involved in a terrible car accident. It's a story involving ruthless corporate maneuvering, imposters, the death of an innocent, and a Greek whose name keeps coming up who said something once about a man shaking off his chains....

The total expenses for Johnny's investigation sums up to $1100.59, including items like:

$200.05 Air Fare and Incidentals, Hartford to Los Angeles
$4.55 One Long Distance Phone Call
$0.26 Pack of Cigarettes
$14.95 One Night in the Hospital
$25 Car Rental
$100 Legal Retainer
$0.10 One Newspaper

There are lots and lots of Johnny Dollar episodes, so there's probably no story of the series that would get universal acclaim as the best of Johnny Dollar. But this episode, while involving less actual mystery to solve than most (but there is still a mystery there), has a great many of the elements that made the series popular. And a philosophy reference.

You can listen to "The Callicles Matter" (episodes 383-387), and many others, at My Old Radio.

Poem a Day 14

The Gods of the Kerlistians

They are strange folk; their gods flow in and out,
from one through one to yet another one,
in and out they flow, bewildering to behold.
They are strange folk; many are their rites
and from birth through wedding unto death they pray
with strange kneelings and bowings,
and much listening to words --
endless words do they love, chanting and reading,
and charming all things in every way by words,
a people who live by words.
They are strange folk; they carry death-magic,
and charm all things that they find with it,
unafraid of the price of charming with death,
and they claim to seek death (but I think they lie),
yet never stop trying to overturn it.
They are strange folk; they worship mothers,
and especially mothers who weep at death,
and they seek supplication from mothers long gone.
They are strange folk; their gods flow in and out.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Fortnightly Book, October 13

I have been called an unkind mother, but it was the sacred impulse of maternal affection, it was the advantage of my daughter that led me on; and if that daughter were not the greatest simpleton on earth, I might have been rewarded for my exertions as I ought.

When we think of the works of Jane Austen, we usually think of The Six: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Persuasion, Emma. There are, of course, some minor poems and some unfinished novel fragments like Sanditon and The Watsons, as well as some juvenilia, but we also have a full draft of a novel. It seems to have been written fairly early, but it was only published in Austen-Leigh's memoir of his aunt. Austen-Leigh also gave the title-less story a title, by which it has been known since: Lady Susan. It's relatively short, but it's in epistolary form, which allows for a lot of indirect implication about what's going on -- you can tell quite a bit of story in short space with skillful use of the epistolary form. It is also notable in being the only complete surviving draft of any novel of Austen's -- it seems to have been her practice to destroy prior drafts once published. It's unclear whether she ever intended to publish it, although she may have contemplated it after 1805 or so, when the surviving manuscript was copied from some prior draft. If she had published it, it's unclear whether it would have been published as is or reworked as a more conventional novel; her early novels often show some signs of at least partial conversion from epistolary format.

Lady Susan gives us something rather different from what people expect of Austen. The main character is beautiful, intelligent, wealthy, titled, widowed, and older than main characters in Austen usually are -- Lady Susan is at least 35, and probably closer to 40. And, most notably, of all, unlike Austen's other main characters, she is through and through a villain: self-centered, ruthless, manipulative, and inclined to do things just because she can. And she can. She can manipulate people like nobody's business, especially men, and she is completely unfettered by any attachment to common moral standards about the relations between the sexes. And we see most of the story from her point of view. I don't think there's really any barrier to calling her genuinely wicked; and if one does, I would say she is one of the most plausibly wicked characters in all of fiction. You have to get used to the indirectness of the epistolary format, but imagine a writer of Austen's caliber and biting wit showing what the world looks like from the perspective of a villain as intelligent as she is, and you have Lady Susan. The quotation at the top of the post is Lady Susan herself. And she is very quotable. From the same letter:

I have more than once repented that I did not marry him myself, and were he but one degree less contemptibly weak I certainly should, but I must own myself rather romantic in that respect, and that riches only, will not satisfy me.

From another letter:

To be sure, when we consider that I did take some pains to prevent my brother-in-law's marrying her, this want of cordiality is not very surprising--and yet it shows an illiberal and vindictive spirit to resent a project which influenced me six years ago, and which never succeeded at last.

And from another letter, also talking about her daughter:

You are very good in taking notice of Frederica, and I am grateful for it as a mark of your friendship; but as I cannot have a doubt of the warmth of that friendship, I am far from exacting so heavy a sacrifice. She is a stupid girl, and has nothing to recommend her.

And again, even better:

Some mothers would have insisted on their daughter's accepting so great an offer on the first overture, but I could not answer it to myself to force Frederica into a marriage from which her heart revolted; and instead of adopting so harsh a measure, merely propose to make it her own choice by rendering her life thoroughly uncomfortable till she does accept him.

I could quote her all day; she just doesn't stop. And what is remarkable is that it is all very plausible: you know people who act like this on a small scale; they just don't have Lady Susan's boldness, which arises from her complete incapacity to see anything she does as requiring genuine repentance, and her remarkable ability to get away with it.

Poem a Day 13

The Same

The thought will wrap around me,
regardless of what's true:
to be with you again
and start that life anew.
But what good could thus be had
from returning to the game?
I have not changed one little bit.
You are still the same.

The whisper of the serpent
tickles in the ear;
in the mists of faded memory
what man can see quite clear?
But where could we find refuge
from the fire of that flame?
I have not changed one little bit.
You are still the same.

I remember how it ended;
how it broke beneath the weight
of both our hearts upon it,
how redemption came too late.
And what good would it do us
to return to hurt and blame?
I have not changed one little bit.
You are still the same.

How much I wish to do it,
to wrap your arms around me
like somebody coming home,
and fall through infinity.
But where does that all end,
To launch without an aim?
I have not changed one little bit.
You are still the same.

Impossible so Much as to Murder Each Other

...we may observe, that it is impossible for men so much as to murder each other without statutes, and maxims, and an idea of justice and honour. War has its laws as well as peace; and even that sportive kind of war, carried on among wrestlers, boxers, cudgel-players, gladiators, is regulated by fixed principles. Common interest and utility beget infallibly a standard of right and wrong among the parties concerned.

David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, Section IV. Some of the points Hume adduces for this conclusion are amusing, although nonetheless on point; I particularly like this one:

I hate a drinking companion, says the Greek proverb, who never forgets. The follies of the last debauch should be buried in eternal oblivion, in order to give full scope to the follies of the next.

Or, in other words, human beings will come up with rules for distinguishing right and wrong even if it is a matter of rules distinguishing the right and wrong ways to debauch themselves.