Present your perspective on the issue below, using relevant reasons and/or examples to support your views.
"It is always an individual who is the impetus for innovation; the details may be worked out by a team, but true innovation results from the enterprise and unique perception of an individual." Some measure of consistency and stability in the law is critical for any society to function.
Present your perspective on the issue below, using relevant reasons and/or examples to support your views.
"The way students and scholars interpret the materials they work with in their academic fields is more a matter of personality than of training. Different interpretations come about when people with different personalities look at exactly the same objects, facts, data, or events and see different things."
Does a nation's greatness lie in the general welfare of its people rather than in the achievements of its artists, rulers, and scientists, as the speaker claims? I find this claim problematic in two respects. First, it fails to define "general welfare." Second, it assumes that the sorts of achievements that the speaker cites have little to do with a nation's general welfare when in fact they have everything to do with it.
At first blush the speaker's claim might appear to have considerable merit. After all, the overriding imperative for any democratic state is to enhance the general welfare of its citizenry. Yet the speaker fails to provide a clear litmus test for measuring that welfare. When we speak of "promoting the general welfare," the following aims come to mind: public health and safety, security against military invasions, individual autonomy and freedom, cultural richness, and overall comfort-that is, a high standard of living. Curiously, it is our scientists, artists, and political leaders or so-called "rulers" who by way of their achievements bring these aims into fruition. Thus, in order to determine what makes a nation great it is necessary to examine the different sorts of individual achievements that ostensibly promote these aims.
Few would disagree that many scientific achievements serve to enhance a nation's general welfare. Advances in the health sciences have enhanced our physical well-being, comfort, and life span. Advances in technology have enabled us to travel to more places, communicate with more people from different walks of life, and learn about the world from our desktops.
Advances in physics and engineering make our abodes and other buildings safer, and enable us to travel to more places, and to travel to more distant places, with greater safety and speed. Artistic achievement is also needed to make a nation a better place for humans overall. Art provides inspiration, lifts the human spirit, and incites our creativity and imagination, all of which spur us on to greater accomplishments and help us appreciate our own humanity. Yet the achievements of scientists and artists, while integral, do not suffice to ensure the welfare of a nation's citizens. In order to survive, let alone be great, a nation must be able to defend its borders and to live peaceably with other nations. Thus the military and diplomatic accomplishments of a nation's leaders provide an integral contribution to the general welfare of any nation's populace.
Notwithstanding the evidence that, in the aggregate, individual achievements of the sorts listed above are what promote a nation's general welfare, we should be careful not to hastily assume that a nation is necessarily great merely by virtue of the achievements of individual citizens. Once having secured the safety and security of its citizens, political rulers must not exploit or oppress those citizens. Also, the populace must embrace and learn to appreciate artistic accomplishment, and to use rather than misuse or abuse scientific knowledge. Of particular concern are the many ways in which scientific achievements have served to diminish our quality of life, thereby impeding the general welfare. It is through scientific "achievements" that chemicals in our food, water, and air increase the incidence and variety of cancers; that our very existence as a species is jeopardized by the threat of nuclear warfare; and that greenhouse gases which deplete our ozone layer and heat the Earth's atmosphere threaten civilization itself.
In sum, in asserting that general welfare and neither the scientific, artistic, nor political achievements of individuals provides the yardstick for measuring a nation's greatness, the speaker misses the point that general welfare is the end product of individual achievements. Besides, achievements of artists, scientists, and political leaders rarely inure only to one particular nation. Rather, these achievements benefit people the world over.
Accordingly, by way of these achievements the world, not just one nation, grows in its greatness.
I strongly agree with the speaker's threshold claim that international relations can never be completely harmonious. To assert otherwise would be Pollyannaish and would fly in the face of human history which is largely a story of power struggles, war, and general discord between nations and cultures. However, the speaker's rationale, although appealing and not without merit, is inadequate to explain why accord among all nations total is impossible.
Supporting the speaker's claim is the fact that each culture has its own distinct ethos consisting of its core values, principles, and spirit which defines and distinguishes the culture. And I agree that the failure of one culture to understand the unique ethos of another is what often lies at the root of discord between nations and cultures. An apt current-day illustration of this point involves a certain American Indian tribe in Washington State, and its traditional custom of whale hunting. Environmentalists denounce the practice as unnecessary endangerment of a species. However, underlying this custom is a centuries-old spiritual belief that ceremonial whale-hunting is sacrificial ritual honouring Nature, and an even more fundamental Native American ethos, characterized by a far greater respect for animals and for Nature than the ethos of white Americans.
The sort of unfair judgment exemplified by certain white Americans' denunciation of Native American customs and practices is what sociologists term "ethnocentricity" reference to one's own cultural ethos as a standard for judging the values and actions of other people. History informs us all too well that ethnocentricity leads inexorably to disharmony. Virtually all wars are rooted in religious ethnocentricity. Political ethnocentricity results in imperialism assimilation of any and all peoples with complete disregard or respect for ethos. Understandable resistance to British imperialism during the 19th Century resulted in the oppression and demise of many indigenous peoples of Africa and Indonesia. And ethnocentricity on a societal level can lead to mass persecution, as demonstrated by the legions of citizens and soldiers brainwashed by the Nazis into believing that the Jewish race posed some sort of threat to German society and to the Arian race.
Thus the speaker's contention that harmonious international relations are impossible because of conflicting cultural values finds ample support from history. Yet, as compelling as this argument might be, it nevertheless suffers from two notable deficiencies. First, in spite of their differences the world's mainstream cultures all share certain fundamental tenets particularly about the dignity of human life and that they all agree upon these tenets, at least tacitly. And people should judge other cultures against such universal standards. Otherwise, the end result is that we find ourselves acquiescing in or even sanctioning war and other such atrocities. Since all cultures share a universal ethos the speaker's rationale seems inadequate. Discord occurs not only as a result of an ethos clash but also upon violation of the universal ethos.
A second problem with the speaker's rationale is that it overlooks the fact that we can find considerable discord within almost every culture. On a microcosmic scale we all observe so-called infighting among members of the same church congregations, political factions, and so forth. On a larger scale infighting is all too evident from covert gang warfare and civil war to covert corporate espionage and political back-stabbing. Thus even if all cultures were to share the same ethos the promise of complete harmony would still be an illusory one. In short, contentiousness seems to be part of human nature.
To sum up, I agree with the speaker that complete harmony among nations is unrealistic, but not just because of conflicting cultural values; it runs contrary to human nature. Yet, the outlook for international relations is not necessarily so grim. An enlightened understanding of the ethos of other cultures, and of our own cultural bias, can foster a universal ethos of respect for human dignity and life. The end result would be to stem, or at least minimize, discord among nations and cultures.
Are people who make the greatest contributions to society those who pursue their personal intellectual interests, as the speaker asserts? Or are they the ones who focus instead on areas that are most likely to benefit society? I strongly agree with the speaker, for three reasons.
First of all, by human nature we are motivated to pursue activities in which we excel. To compel people to focus their intellectual interests only on certain areas would be to force many to waste their true talents. For example, imagine relegating today's preeminent astrophysicist Stephen Hawking to researching the effectiveness of affirmative-action legislation in reducing workplace discrimination. Admittedly, this example borders on hyperbole. Yet the aggregate effect of realistic cases would be to waste the intellectual talents of our world's scholars and researchers.
Secondly, it is unusual avenues of personal interest that most often lead to the greatest contributions to society. Intellectual and scientific inquiry that breaks no new ground amount to wasted time, talent, and other resources. History is laden with quirky claims of scholars and researchers that turned out stunningly significant that the sun lies at the centre of our universe, that time and space are relative concepts, that matter consists of discrete particles, that humans evolved from other life forms, to name a few. One current area of unusual research is terraforming creating biological life and a habitable atmosphere where none existed before. This unusual research area does not immediately address society's pressing social problems. Yet in the longer term it might be necessary to colonize other planets in order to ensure the survival of the human race; and after all, what could be a more significant contribution to society than preventing its extinction?
Thirdly, to adopt a view that runs contrary to the speaker's position would be to sanction certain intellectual pursuits while proscribing others which smacks of thought control and political oppression. It is dangerous to afford ultimate decision-making power about what intellectual pursuits are worthwhile to a handful of regulators, legislators, or elitists, since they
bring to bear their own quirky notions about what is worthwhile, and since they are notoriously susceptible to influence-peddling which renders them untrustworthy in any event. Besides, history informs us well of the danger inherent in setting official research priorities. A telling modern example involves the Soviet government's attempts during the 1920s to not only control the direction and the goals of its scientists' research but also to distort the outcome of that research ostensibly for the greatest good of the greatest number of people. During the 1920s the Soviet government quashed certain areas of scientific inquiry, destroyed entire research facilities and libraries, and caused the sudden disappearance of many scientists who were viewed as threats to the state's authority. Not surprisingly, during this time period no significant scientific advances occurred under the auspices of the Soviet government.
Those who would oppose the speaker's assertion might argue that intellectual inquiry in certain areas, particularly the arts and humanities, amounts to little more than a personal quest for happiness or pleasure, and therefore is of little benefit to anyone but the inquirer. This specious argument overlooks the palpable benefits of cultivating the arts. It also ignores the fact that earnest study in the humanities affords us wisdom to know what is best for society, and helps us understand and approach societal problems more critically, creatively, and effectively. Thus, despite the lack of a tangible nexus between certain areas of intellectual inquiry and societal benefit, the nexus is there nonetheless.
In sum, I agree that society is best served when people are allowed unfettered freedom of intellectual inquiry and research, and use that freedom to pursue their own personal interests. Engaging one's individual talents in one's particular area of fascination is most likely to yield advances, discoveries, and a heightened aesthetic appreciation that serve to make the world a better and more interesting place in which to live.
Does "originality" mean putting together old ideas in new ways, as the speaker contends, rather than conjuring up truly new ideas? Although I agree that in various realms of human endeavour, such as linguistics, law, and even the arts, so-called "new" or "original" ideas rarely are. However, when it comes to the physical sciences originality more often entails chartering completely new intellectual territory.
The notion that so-called "originality" is actually variation or synthesis of existing ideas finds its greatest support in linguistics and in law. Regarding the former, in spite of the many words in the modern English language that are unique to Western culture, modern English is derived from, and builds upon, a variety of linguistic traditions and ultimately from the ancient Greek and Latin languages. Were we to insist on rejecting tradition in favor of purely modern language we would have essentially nothing to say. The same holds true for all other modern languages. As for law, consider the legal system in the United States, which is deeply rooted in traditional English common-law principles of equity and justice. The system in the U.S. requires that new, so-called "modern" laws be consistent with and indeed build upon those traditional principles.
Even in the arts where one might think that true originality must surely reside so called "new" ideas almost always embrace, apply, or synthesize what came earlier. For example, most "modern" visual designs, forms, and elements are based on certain well-established aesthetic ideals such as symmetry, balance, and harmony. Admittedly, modern art works often eschew these principles in favour of true originality. Yet, in my view the appeal of such works lies primarily in their novelty and brashness. Once the ephemeral novelty or shock dissipates, these works quickly lose their appeal because they violate firmly established artistic ideals. An even better example from the arts is modern rock-and-roll music, which upon first listening might seem to bear no resemblance to classical music traditions. Yet, both genres rely on the same 12-note scale, the same notions of what harmonies are pleasing to the ear, the same forms, the same rhythmic meters, and even many of the same melodies.
When it comes to the natural sciences, however, some new ideas are truly original while others put established ideas together in new ways. One striking example of truly original scientific advances involves what we know about the age and evolution of the Earth. In earlier centuries the official Church of England called for a literal interpretation of the Bible, according to which the Earth's age is determined to be about 6,000 years. If Western thinkers had simply put these established ideas together in new ways the fields of structural and historical geology might never have advanced further. A more recent example involves Einstein's theory of relativity. Einstein theorized, and scientists have since proven empirically, that the pace of time, and possibly the direction of time as well, is relative to the observer's motion through space.
This truth ran so contrary to our subjective, linear experience, and to previous notions about time and space, that I think Einstein's theory can properly be characterized as truly original. However, in other instances great advances in science are made by putting together current theories or other ideas in new ways. For example, only by building on certain well-established laws of physics were engineers able to develop silicon-based semiconductor technology. And, only by struggling to reconcile the quantum and relativity theories have physicists now posited a new so-called "string" theory, which puts together the two pre-existing theories in a completely new way.
To sum up, for the most part originality does not reject existing ideas but rather embraces, applies, or synthesizes what came before. In fact, in our modern languages, our new laws, and even our new art, existing ideas are reflected, not shunned. But, when it comes to science, whether the speaker's claim is true must be determined on a case-by-case basis, with each new theory or innovation.
Otherwise, I strongly agree with the speaker's assertion that laws should be flexible enough to adapt to different circumstances, times and places. The law of marital property apdy illustrates this point.
On the one hand, a certain measure of consistency, stability, and predictability in our laws is required in order for us to understand our legal obligations and rights as we go about our day-to-day business as a society. For example, in order for private industry to thrive, businesses must be afforded the security of knowing their legal rights and obligations vis-a-vis employees, federal regulatory agencies, and tax authorities-as well as their contractual rights and duties vis-a-vis customers and suppliers. Undue uncertainty in any one of these areas would surely have a chilling effect on business. Moreover, some measure of consistency in the legal environment from place to place promotes business expansion as well as interstate and international commerce, all of which are worthwhile endeavours in an increasingly mobile society.
On the other hand, rigid laws can result in unfairness if applied inflexibly in all places at all times. The framers of the U.S. Constitution recognized the need both for a flexible legal system and for flexible laws by affording each state legal jurisdiction over all but interstate matters. The framers understood that social and economic problems, as well as standards of equity and fairness, can legitimately change over time and vary from region to region even from town to town. And our nation's founders would be pleased to see their flexible system that promotes equity and fairness as it operates today.
Consider, for example, marital property rights, which vary considerably from state to state, and which have evolved considerably over time as inflexible, and unfair, systems have given way to more flexible, fairer ones. In earlier times husbands owned all property acquired during marriage as well as property brought into the marriage by either spouse. Understandably, this rigid and unfair system ultimately gave way to separate-property systems, which acknowledged property rights of both spouses. More recently certain progressive states have adopted even more flexible, and fairer, "community property" systems, under which each spouse owns half of all property acquired during the marriage, while each spouse retains a separate-property interest in his or her other property. Yet even these more egalitarian community-property systems can operate unfairly whenever spouses contribute unequally; accordingly, some community-property states are now modifying their systems for even greater flexibility and fairness.
Thus, the evolution of state marital-property laws aptly illustrates the virtue of a legal system that allows laws to evolve to keep pace with changing mores, attitudes, and our collective sense of equity. This same example also underscores the point that inflexible laws tend to operate unfairly, and properly give way to more flexible ones as our nation's founders intended.
The speaker claims that individual enterprise, energy, and commitment, and not team-work, provide the impetus for innovation in every case. In my view, although the claim is not without merit, especially when it comes to business innovation, it overlooks the synergistic relationship between individual effort and teamwork, particularly with respect to scientific innovations.
With respect to business innovation, I agree that it is the vision and commitment of key individuals-such as a firm's founder or chief executive from which businesses burgeon and innovative products, services, and marketing and management strategies emerge. One notable example involves the Apple Computer made following the departure of its founding visionary Steve Jobs. It wasn't until Jobs reassumed the helm, once again injecting his unique perception, insight, and infectious fervor, that the ailing Apple was able to resume its innovative ways, thereby regaining its former stature in the computer industry. Admittedly, the chief executives of our most successful corporations would no doubt concede that without the cooperative efforts of their subordinates, their personal visions would never become reality. Yet, these efforts are merely the carrying out of the visionary's marching orders.
Nevertheless, the speaker would have us accept a too-narrow and distorted view of how innovation comes about, particularly in today's world. Teamwork and individual enterprise are not necessarily inconsistent, as the speaker would have us believe. Admittedly, if exercised in a self-serving manner-for example, through pilfering or back stabbing individual enterprise and energy can serve to thwart a business organization's efforts to innovate. However, if directed toward the firm's goals these traits can motivate other team members, thereby facilitating innovation. In other words, teamwork and individual enterprise can operate synergistically to bring about innovation.
We must be especially careful not to understate the role of teamwork in scientific innovation, especially today. Important scientific innovations of the previous millennium might very well have been products of the epiphanies and obsessions of individual geniuses. When we think of the process of inventing something great we naturally conjure up a vision of the lone inventor hidden away in a laboratory for months on end, in dogged pursuit of a breakthrough. And this image is not entirely without empirical support. For example, Thomas Edison's early innovations including the light bulb, the television, and the phonograph came about in relative isolation, and solely through his individual persistence and commitment.
However, in today's world, scientific innovation requires both considerable capital and extensive teams of researchers. Admittedly, in all likelihood we will continue to encounter the exceptional case-like Hewlett and Packard, or Jobs and Wozniak, whose innovations sprang from two-man operations. But for the most part, scientific breakthroughs today typically occur only after years of trial-and-error by large research teams. Even Thomas Edison relied more and more on a team of researchers to develop new innovations as his career progressed.
Thus the statement flies in the face of how most modern scientific innovations actually come about today.
To sum up, I agree that, when it comes to the world of business, true innovation is possible only through the imagination of the individual visionary, and his or her commitment to see the vision through to its fruition. However, when it comes to scientific innovation, yesterday's enterprising individuals have yielded to today's cooperative research teams a trend that will no doubt continue as scientific research becomes an increasingly expensive and complex undertaking.
The speaker maintains that the function of art is to "upset" while the function of science is to "reassure," and that it is in these functions that the value of each lies. In my view, the speaker unfairly generalizes about the function and value of art, while completely missing the point about the function and value of science.
Consider first the intent and effect of art. In many cases artists set about to reassure, not to upset. Consider the frescos of Fra Angelico and others monks and nuns of the late medieval period, who sought primarily through their representations of the Madonna and Child to reassure and be reassured about the messages of Christian redemption and salvation. Or consider the paintings of impressionist and realist painters of the late 19th Century. Despite the sharp contrast in the techniques employed by these two schools, in both genres we find soothing, genteel, pastoral themes and images certainly nothing to upset the viewer.
In other cases, artists set about to upset. For example, the painters and sculptors of the Renaissance period, like the artists who preceded them, approached their art as a form of worship. Yet Renaissance art focuses on other Christian images and themes especially those involving the crucifixion and apocalyptic notions of judgment and damnation which are clearly "upsetting" and disconcerting, and clearly not reassuring. Or consider the works of two important 20th-Century artists; few would argue that the surrealistic images by Salvador Dali or the jarring, splashy murals by abstract painter Jackson Pollock serve to "upset," or at the very least disquiet, the viewer on a visceral level.
When it comes to the function and value of science, in my view the speaker's assertion is simply wrongheaded. The final objective of science, in my view, is to discover truths about our world, our universe, and ourselves. Sometimes these discoveries serve to reassure, and other times they serve to upset. For example, many would consider reassuring the various laws and principles of physics which provide unifying explanations for what we observe in the physical world. These principles provide a reassuring sense of order, even simplicity, to an otherwise mysterious and perplexing world.
On the other hand, many scientific discoveries have dearly "upset" conventional notions about the physical world and the universe. The notions of a sun-centred universe, that humans evolved from lower primate forms, and that time is relative to space and motion, are all disquieting notions to anyone whose belief system depends on contrary assumptions. And more recently, researchers have discovered that many behavioural traits are functions of individual neurological brain structure, determined at birth. This notion has "upset" many professionals in fields such as behavioural psychology, criminology, mental health, and law, whose work is predicated on the notion that undesirable human behaviour can be changed through various means of reform and behaviour modification.
In sum, the speaker over-generalizes when it comes to the function and value of art and science both of which serve in some cases to reassure and in other cases to upset. In any event, the speaker misstates the true function and value of science, which is to discover truths, whether reassuring or upsetting.
I strongly agree that by studying any particular academic discipline we alter the way we perceive the world. As intellectual neophytes we tend to polarize what we see as either right or wrong, or as either good or bad. We also tend to interpret what we see by way of our emotions. Once educated, we gain the capacity to see a broader spectrum of opinion and perspective, and to see our own culture and even ourselves as a tapestry-like product of history.
Through the earnest pursuit of knowledge-particularly in history and literature we reveal to ourselves the Haws and foibles of other humans whose lives we study and read about. History teaches us, for example, that demagogues whom society places on pedestals often fall under the weight of their own prejudices, jealousies, and other character flaws. And, any serious student of Shakespeare comes away from reading King Lear and Hamlet with a heightened awareness of the tragically flawed ironic hero, and of the arbitrariness by which we distinguish our heroes from our villains.
Through education we begin to see flaws not only in people but also in ideologies that we had previously embraced on pure faith. A student of government and public policy learns that many of the so-called "solutions" which our legislatures and jurists hand down to us from atop their pedestals are actually Band-Aid comprises designed to appease opponents and pander to the electorate. A philosophy student learns to recognize logical fallacies of popular ideas and the rhetoric of our political parties, religious denominations, and social extremists. And, a law student learns that our system of laws is not a monolithic set of truths but rather an ever-changing reflection of whatever the society's current mores, values, and attitudes happen to be.
While education helps us see the flawed nature of our previously cherished ideas, paradoxically it also helps us see ideas we previously rejected out of hand in a different light-as having some merit after all. Through education in public policy and law, once-oppressive rules, regulations, and restrictions appear reasonable constraints on freedom in light of legitimate competing interests. Through the objective study of different religious institutions, customs, and faiths, a student learns to see the merits of different belief systems, and to see the cultural and philosophical traditions in which they are rooted.
Education also helps us see our own culture through different eyes. As cultural neophytes we participate unwittingly in our culture's own customs, rituals, and ceremonies because we see them as somehow sacrosanct. A student of sociology or cultural anthropology comes to see those same customs, rituals, and ceremonies as tools which serve our psychological need to belong to a distinct social group, and to reinforce that sense of belonging by honouring the group's traditions. And, by reading the literary works of writers from bygone eras, a literature student comes to see his or her own culture as a potential treasure trove of fodder for the creative literary mind. For example, by studying Twain's works a student learns that Twain saw 19th-Century life along the Mississippi not as a mundane existence but as a framework for the quintessential adventure story, and that we can similarly transform the way we see our own culture.
Finally, education in the arts alters forever the way we perceive the aesthetic world around us. Prior to education we respond instinctively, emotionally, and viscerally to the forms, colours, and sounds of art. Post education we respond intellectually. We seek to appreciate what art reveals about our culture and about humanity. We also seek to understand the aesthetic principles upon which true art is founded. For instance, an earnest art student learns to see not just pigments and shapes but also historical influences and aesthetic principles. An informed listener of popular music hears not just the same pleasing sounds and pulsating rhythms as their naive counterparts, but also the rhythmic meters, harmonic structure, and compositional forms used by the great classical composers of previous centuries, and which provided the foundation of modern music.
To sum up, through education we no longer see our heroes, leaders, and idols through the same credulous eyes, nor do we see other humans and their ideas through the black-and-white lens of our own point of view. In the final analysis, through education we come not only to perceive the world differently but also to understand the subjective, and therefore changeable, nature of our own perceptions.
The speaker asserts that many laws are ineffective in solving society's problems because moral behaviour cannot be legislated. I agree with this assertion insofar as it relates to constraints on certain personal freedoms. However, when it comes to the conduct of businesses, I think that moral behaviour not only can but must be legislated for the purpose of alleviating societal problems.
Morality laws that impinge upon freedom of choice about our personal lives to control what we do with and to ourselves simply do not work in a democratic society. People always find ways to circumvent such laws, which ultimately give way to more lenient laws that acknowledge personal freedom of choice. The failed Prohibition experiment of the 1930s is perhaps the paradigmatic example of this. And we are slowly learning history's lesson, as aptly demonstrated by the recognition of equal rights for same-sex partners, and current trends toward legalization of physician-assisted suicide and the medicinal use of marijuana. In short, history informs us that legislating morality merely for morality's sake simply does not work. Morality laws impinging on personal freedoms are not made any more useful or effective by purporting to serve the greater good of society, because on balance their costs far outweigh their benefits. For instance, those who defend the criminalization of drug use cite a variety of harms that result from widespread addiction: increased incidence of domestic violence, increased burden on our health-care and social-welfare systems, and diminished productivity of addicts. However, these defenders overlook the fact that outlawing addictive substances does not prevent, or even deter, people from obtaining and using them. It only compels users to resort to theft and even violent means of procuring drugs, adding to the economic costs of enforcement, prosecution, and punishment. In short, the costs of proscription outweigh the benefits.
In sharp contrast to personal behaviour, the behaviour of businesses can and must be controlled through legislation. Left unfettered, businesses tend to act on behalf of their own financial interest, not on behalf of the society at large. And when excessive business profits accrue at the expense of public health and safety, in my view business has behaved immorally. Examples of large-scale immoral behaviour on the part of businesses abound. For example, although technology makes possible the complete elimination of polluting emissions from automobiles, auto
manufacturers are unwilling to voluntarily make the short-term sacrifices necessary to accomplish this goal. Tobacco companies have long known about the health hazards of smoking cigarettes; yet they weigh the costs of defending law suits against the profit from cigarette sales, and continue to cater to nicotine addicts. And when given the chance, many manufacturers will exploit underage or underprivileged workers to reduce labour costs, thereby enhancing profits. In short, only government holds the regulatory and enforcement power to impose the standards needed to ensure moral business behaviour.
In sum, whether legislating morality is effective or even appropriate depends on whether the behaviour at issue involves personal freedom or public duty. Legislating personal moral behavior is neither practicable nor proper in a democratic society. On the other hand, legislating business morality is necessary to ensure public health and safety.
I strongly disagree that personality is the key to how a student or scholar interprets the material with which he or she works. Whether those materials be facts, events, data, or observations, in my view the key factor in their interpretation is a person's training and educational background.
Assuming that by personality the speaker embraces such personal attributes as individual temperament, disposition and general mood, and outlook, it seems to me that personality has little bearing on how students and scholars interpret the materials with which they work. Admittedly, whether an individual tends to be an optimist or a pessimist might have some beating on interpretation. For instance, an archaeology student with a generally sanguine outlook toward life might respond to a lengthy yet unsuccessful search for certain artefacts as discovery and progress insofar as certain possibilities have been eliminated, bringing us closer to affirmative discoveries. In contrast, an archaeology student with a generally pessimistic outlook might conclude that the same effort was in vain and that nothing has been learned or otherwise gained. Yet it strikes me that these reactions are emotional ones that have nothing to do with intellectual interpretation.
In sharp contrast, one's educational background and training can serve as a strong influence on how one interprets historical events involving human affairs, statistical data, and especially art. With respect to human affairs, consider the centuries-old imperialist policies of Great Britain. A student of political science might interpret British imperialism as a manifestation of that nation's desire for political power and domination over others. A student of economics might see it as a strategy to gain control over economic resources and distribution channels for goods. A sociology or anthropology student might see it as an assimilation of culture. And, a student of theology or religion might interpret the same phenomenon as an attempt, well intentioned or otherwise, to proselytize and to impose certain beliefs, rituals, and customs on others.
Educational training and background also affects how students and scholars interpret seemingly objective statistical data. It is crucial here to distinguish between numbers themselves, which are not subject to varying interpretations, from what the numbers signify that is, what conclusions, prescriptions, or lessons we might come away with. Consider, for example, a hypothetical increase in the rate of juvenile crime in a particular city. Although the percentage change itself might be subject to only one reasonable meaning, what the change signifies is open to various interpretations. A sociologist might interpret this data as an indication of deteriorating family unit or community. A student of public policy or government might see this statistic as an indication that current legislation fails to implement public policy as effectively as it could. And a student of law or criminal justice might interpret the same statistic as a sign of overburdened courts or juvenile detention facilities.
Finally, when it comes to how students and scholars interpret art, training and educational background plays an especially significant role. After all, while facts and figures are to some extent objective, the meaning of art is an inherently subjective, and highly personal, matter. A business student might interpret a series of art works as attempts by the artist to produce viable products for sale in the marketplace. However, a theology student might eschew such a cold and cynical interpretation, seeing instead an expression of praise, a celebration of life, a plea for grace, or a struggle to come to terms with mortality. Even art students and scholars can interpret the same art differently, depending on their training. A student of art history might see a particular work as the product of certain artistic influences, while a student of art theory, composition, and technique might view the same work as an attempt to combine colour for visual impact, or as an experiment with certain brush-stroke techniques.
To sum up, I concede that as students and scholars our working "materials" facts, data, objects, and events are open to subjective interpretation in terms of what they teach us. However, what our materials teach us is a function of what we've already learned, and has little if anything to do with our personal basket of emotions and moods called "personality."