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Striving for moral consistency?
July 1st, 2017
Striving for moral consistency?

« What people should strive for (…) is moral consistency » is a challenging perspective, because blanket, context-insensitive, one-size-fits-all answers are doomed to fall for abusive generalisations!

Consistency sounds great… until you start looking at reality! Reality is contingent, ineffable, perpetually changing.
Intuitively, doing the 'right' thing does not imply doing the same as before, "for the sake of consistency".
And you can never list all the nuances and sub-cases relevant to make a 'rule' appropriate to every single situation that may arise… A 'good' rule might cover 99% of cases, or even 99.9%, but there will always be exceptions, and so striving for 'consistency' has to be mitigated with striving for 'appropriateness'.

If impermanence is a key trait of reality, then consistency is a poor compass to navigate it. Imagine you're on a ship. You might think that to go 100km north from where you are, sailing consistently 100km north is a good strategy… but it is not!
Because you'll drift along the way, due to imprecisions and imperfections as well as sea currents, and if you never compensate for that drift, consistency will not get you to your destination.
It's not a like a compass pointing north is useless, quite the contrary, but consistency isn't a solution to the actual problem at hand (i.e. "getting to your destination", not "pointing north"!). Similarly, compassion is useful, but isn't a magic solution either (in particular if equanimity is left behind).

A comment in Lion's Roar on the article attached mentioned the Buddha stating « It is impossible for a monk whose mental fermentations are ended to intentionally deprive a living being of life. » — Sutava sutta (AN 9.7) in relation to the "trolley problem", but I'd argue this is irrelevant.
An arahant has no personal 'agenda', no personal 'intention', but (s)he still perceives appropriateness: (s)he sees when non-acting —'letting' 5 people die— is a form of acting. And it's not that complicated: non-acting is acting when there's something you could do to make the situation more wholesome (also known as "right effort") but you refrain from doing it. Non-acting is acting when you're actively going against the stream of (or refraining from) what would be wholesome. In fact, an arahant has left the raft of the Dharma behind, after crossing to the other shore, so it wouldn't even come to his/her mind to cling to a generic quote from a sutta, out of context, in order to self-servingly justify inaction.

#Buddhism #Dharma
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