Thread: Off and On
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Old 05-06-2009, 07:11 AM   #10
Peter Goldsbury
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Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Join Date: Jul 2001
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Re: Off and On

Hello Matthew,

I am rushing to meet Jun's deadline for the next column, so my answer will be brief. Forgive me for saying so, but I think you are all over the place. I think ethics have to be seen as a system of rules--and the issue then is the status of the rule, and the possibility of exceptions to the rules. The issue is how these exceptions are to be treated. Some comments:

Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
Hi Peter, I'm having a hard time processing this question, so I apologize if I'm missing the point entirely. To my mind, any time a person is present, there are ethics involved, so in that sense any michi will have its own set of ethics, but depending on how rigid the demands of conformity are, those ethics will change somewhat over time to suit the subsequent generations' needs and tastes. I suppose the issue that comes next is to what extent a michi is defined by the ethics found in its practitioners...or to what extent the michi is defined by its practitioners.
PAG. Well, it was a question, initially directed at Susan, who appeared to me to believe that the instructor's treatment of the boy contravened some ethical system or other. I mistakenly assumed that the instructor was a Japanese in Japan, where the connection between a budo and an ethical system is not as clear as it would be in the US, for example, where the ethical system is both coherent, clearly expressed and completely distinct from a particular situation. The problems then lie in the gray areas.

I do not understand your statement that, "to my mind, any time a person is present, there are ethics involved". What do you mean by being present? Do you allow for any actions that are ethically neutral, such as getting up in the morning, collecting the newspaper and making breakfast? Where ethics are involved, what is the nature of the involvement? As a reference point or as a Kantian-type moral imperative? The prohibition on lying, for example, can be argued to be a categorical imperative and Kant allows no exceptions to the rule. Many, especially Japanese doctors treating terminally ill patients, have found this imperative too severe. The rest of your statement is unclear to me, since this initial statement is unclear.

Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
If I view the michi as having a relatively fixed set of ethics, I think the practitioner must somehow include those ethics in order to walk that path. For example, in the Aikido lineages I know of, the idea of not hurting your partner is a rigid ethic. Accidents happen, but the intent of not harming our partners must be actively engaged or we "fall" off the path...forgetting for the moment that interpretation of what constitutes harm will vary.
PAG. Well, I think that the idea of not hurting your partner is not at all a rigid ethic--and a moment's thought will show that it cannot be in a budo that is fundamentally martial. The early samurai were vexed by the Buddhist rule against killing, because they embraced Zazen as a method of relaxation, in order to kill more efficiently. So, where is your rigid ethic? So, are you thinking about what is desirable, or what is actually desired?

And you are not allowed to forget important parts of your argument.

Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
I guess that might depend somewhat on whether intent is considered enough in an ethical system, but my uncertain opinion is that for it to be a michi, it must actively apply outside the dojo just as much as inside.
What do you think?
Take care,
PAG. I can see your point that ethical budo training inside the dojo must lead to ethical budo behavior outside the dojo, given that the michi is an ethical system that is objective in its application: the validity is not affected by particular situations. However, how does the intent of an act change the ethical dimensions of the act? If you 'did not really mean' to commit adultery, because you were drunk, or you wanted to teach your incalcitrant wife a lesson, would this make the act any less adulterous?

Best wishes,


Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 05-06-2009 at 07:13 AM.

P A Goldsbury
Hiroshima, Japan
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