Are we ethically obligated to improve the world? | INFJ Forum

Are we ethically obligated to improve the world?


Oct 27, 2009
Lots of bad things go on in the world.. that's no lie and certainly no secret...

What kind of obligation do we have as everyday citizens to rectify the situation?

I have faith in humanity. I really think deep down most people are good, kind hearted, want to help others... maybe this is naive, maybe this is far from the truth... and if so that would change whatever we owe to humanity, which of our actions are justified morally and which are unjustifiable and truly wrong.

I don't know what to believe. There's a lot to be said for ignorance.... sometimes distraction is the only way you can cope, right? Watching the news 24/7 is depressing. I know of people who hide their sadness from others on a regular basis because they don't want to burden others with their misery. Positive emotions don't seem to be perceived in the same fashion; they are freely shared. Why? Refusing to look at the horrors of the world doesn't make them go away.. but maybe it makes them easier for us to deal with... but how can that really correct what's happened, you know? If God forbid something happens to you or someone close to you, you'd want people to know, you'd want to shout it from the rooftops, to get everyone with you, you'd want to change things... (or maybe you'd just want revenge...)

But most people just shut it out, shrug their shoulders and accept it as a part of life. I do too. But is this really what we should be doing? And if you start to look at it the first thing you'll notice is how impossible it seems to change. But lots of things seemed impossible at first... I'm sure railroads before they were set down were seen as an impossibility. Same with medical care. People have so much potential to collaborate and acheive great things.. our history has shown this over and over.. is our modern apathy in light of our previous achievements really justified from an ethical point of view?
I wouldn't say obligated. I think that apathy about such things is normal, and it's unreasonable to expect people to care.

That said, I do try to improve the world by donating to charities, and being nice to people. But I would never put myself in danger to help someone else who was being harmed. To some people, that erases all the good I do.

I suppose it all really depends on what school of ethics you subscribe to.
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I am reminded of some song lyrics I think I've posted here before, by Tom Petty.

"you used to be such a sweet young girl
why you wanna be somebody else?
you say you wanna change the world
why dontcha just change yourself?"

All any of us can do is be part of the solution and not part of the problem. The more people realize this, the better the world will be. All we can really control is ourselves.
I think not giving a damn is synonymous with being unethical. Using most moral systems, this is a hard point with which to content. However, everyone wants a reason to be ethical, and if their own existence as a human being with needs is not reason enough, then it will not be possible to convince them otherwise.
'Obligated' is a pretty strong word. I think duty is a better choice because it implies we don't have to, but it would lead to a lot of negative consequences if we don't. The most important of which would be the fact that we let ourselves down by being a poor human being.

I agree with April, I think most people are good on the inside. Just like it would be far-fetched to believe someone could be one-hundred percent perfect, I find it hard to believe someone could be entirely bad. Most people probably fall in between, and I think with the proper encouragement (that is, you help people, but don't become a sucker) anyone could change things. I think it was Gandhi who once said, 'Be the change you want to see in the world.'
I do think there are strong reasons to improve the world, but quite frankly it is unclear to me what improvement of the world means. Of course we can exhibit virtues like generosity and compassion, but if our entire conception of what makes life worth living and lives go well leads to emptiness and a shallow life, these qualities will not lead towards the best possible of worlds.

I am not trying to say that generosity and compassion are purely instrumental, but that generous actions for instance come in different forms. One mode of generosity is helping others by giving the means necessary to buy material things. Another mode of generosity might devote one's time to assist a person in learning how to cope with the difficulties of life. It is not enough to try to improve the world, one must consider what improvement means and improve the world in a way that is the that is pertinent and genuinely important, even if this means that the scope of the effects of one's actions is much smaller.
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I am, I would say all Christians are, though I can't speak for anyone else.

There would be no good in the world if it was expected.
On one hand you have to protect yourself. We all have bills to pay and we all have to keep a roof over our head. This means playing the game, at least to a certain extent. On the other hand should we turn a blind eye to the injusticies?

As you say it can get depressing when you think too much about some of this stuff. The danger is that if you switch off from it entirely then you become a soft target for exploitation because you haven't educated yourself about how the game is played. Also if everyone chooses to switch off from it then we are all exploited en masse.

The reality is that the only way for people to negotiate a better deal, from the people in power, is to unite. United we stand, divided we fall. Before they can organise, people first need a grasp of what is happening.

The people in power do not want people to switch on to what is happening so they will employ every trick they can conceive to keep people distracted, divided, hopeless, fearful and compliant. Sadly the media does a great job of this and it can really help people to recognise that this is the agenda of the media and to recognise the subtle ways in which the media is pushing this agenda.

The next time you watch the news or read a newspaper don't think: 'this is an objective reporting of what is happening in the world' as that is not true; think: 'this is a technique used by the power elites to shape my perceptions in order to make me feel distracted, divided, hopeless, fearful and compliant'. I bet you can trace each individual story back to one of those aspects of their agenda.

There isn't any reason to get depressed about any of this stuff. There is every reason to be hopeful. In the 1960's Timothy Leary believed that LSD was the way to get people to wake upto their full potential, to realise what is within each person and to see how the system is exploiting them and keeping them down. As technology improved he argued that computers could fulfill the role of LSD. Through the internet people can exchange ideas, overcome prejudices, educate themselves and feel connected.

People are waking upto the way the game is played and every economic crisis and every spate of unemployment wakes more and more people upto the inherent injustice and inequality within the system.

What people must not do is give into fear. Fear is what they will use to control people. The more people understand what is happening the less scared they will be.

These are very exciting times and the opportunity to shape the world in a fairer way is there for the taking.
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Yes. Well, not really 'obligated', just....told, instinctively know. Understand.

On the other hand, there's self preservation. It goes like a slide, methinks.

Now the slide changes depending on everyone, but there are people whose slide are firmly attached near one side, or near another. And there are moments when the slide moves to the other side, and to another; back and through. And again. And again.
I'm gonna leave it in better shape than it was when I started breathing the air and eating up the resources. I do feel obliged to do this, she takes care of me and I'd like to take care of her.

Other folks can do what they want, but if I ever observe someone blatantly hurting my planet...I will intervene.
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Obligated? No. Should we? Yes.
Obligated? No. Should we? Yes.


Ethics to me don't state that we have to improve the world. The vast majority of us though, do feel a moral obligation that is largely self imposed. Ethically it is not required. I know a few people that have tons of ethical standards, but no moral standards. They largely do not feel any requirement or obligation to better the world. I don't feel that way, but I am not on the other extreme either. I actually have a very sour distaste for people who try to impose this obligation on me (and maaaaan to they get pissed when I explain what they are trying to do to me is wrong. Damn mountain hippies, lol).