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Passions in Poetry

The Ant and the Grasshopper

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Huan Yi
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0 posted 01-06-2005 01:52 AM       View Profile for Huan Yi   Email Huan Yi   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Huan Yi

“The Ant and the Grasshopper

In a field one summer's day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart's content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.

"Why not come and chat with me," said the Grasshopper, "instead of toiling and moiling in that way?"
"I am helping to lay up food for the winter," said the Ant, "and recommend you to do the same."

"Why bother about winter?" said the Grasshopper; we have got plenty of food at present." But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil.

When the winter came the Grasshopper had no food and found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing, every day, corn from the stores they had collected in the summer.”

http://www.umass.edu/aesop/ant/roberto/ant_trad.html

Question:  What, if any,  moral obligation does the ant have to the
grasshopper, and why?
serenity blaze
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1 posted 01-06-2005 02:52 PM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

I have been studying ants for about five years now, and I think I know this ant of whom you speak.

He had no compassion for the grasshopper. In fact, that winter, when the grasshopper starved to death, the ant ate him too.

This seemed to be very a wise thing to the rest of the ants in the the colony. So the ants held a meeting, and together it was decided that since grasshoppers were generally lazy and served no apparent purpose to the insect world, there was no immorality to the lack of compassion. "Besides," protested an elderly ant, "when we feed the no-good grasshoppers, we are taking food out of the mouths of our own."


"Murmer, murmer" with much nodding from the ants, who were anxious to get back to work, because ants are so industrious that they felt even the discussion of morality a waste of time.

And that, my friend, is the true story of the day the music died.



So what, you might ask?

So I'll leave you with the following story from the Tao:

…during a stroll over a bridge…, Chuang Tzu looked down into the water and said, “Look how the minnows dart hither and thither at will.  Such is the pleasure fish enjoy.”  The skeptical Hui Tzu replied, “You are not a fish.  How can you know what gives pleasure to a fish?”  …Chuang Tzu answered, “You are not I.  How do you know I don’t know what gives pleasure to a fish?”


Now. I have to go write. (I've made a resolution to write two hours a day. Shrug. Dunno why. It serves no apparent purpose...but? Sometimes I sing a bit too.)



Skyfyre
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2 posted 01-06-2005 03:53 PM       View Profile for Skyfyre   Email Skyfyre   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Skyfyre

It would seem to be a simple answer.

"Of course the ant has no obligation to the grasshopper.  That lazy bug made his own bed and now he has to lay in it."

I find some amusement in your wording, however, in saying "what moral obligation .." since you reference Aesop, whose fables always end with morals.

"Then the grasshopper knew: it is best to prepare for times of necessity."

A quaint bit of wisdom, but I ask you, what good does it do for the grasshopper to realize this after he's doomed to starve over the winter?

Now, I don't think you meant this as a simple question.  After all, Aesop wasn't writing about grasshoppers and ants, was he?  If I, as a person, was the "ant," would I have any moral obligation to the person who was the "grasshopper?"  

You betcha.  Why?  Because I'm human, and the ability to look beyond instinct and cause and effect to feel compassion for another is part of what makes me human.  I would not stand in the midst of plenty and watch another starve, literally or metaphorically, if there was anything I could do to change it.
Stephanos
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3 posted 01-06-2005 04:13 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Uh, this is strange.  My kids were watching "A Bug's Life" at their grandparent's home a few days ago.  This isn't a new theme?


Stephen.
Skyfyre
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4 posted 01-06-2005 06:36 PM       View Profile for Skyfyre   Email Skyfyre   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Skyfyre

Correct me if I am wrong, Stephanos, but didn't "A Bug's Life" portray the grasshoppers as oppressors to be overthrown?

I may be confusing it with one of the other bug movies that came out at the same time, but if not, I'd say it raised a different set of questions entirely.
Essorant
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5 posted 01-06-2005 06:50 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant


There's only one moral answer to a need: giving what is needed.


Huan Yi
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6 posted 01-06-2005 07:59 PM       View Profile for Huan Yi   Email Huan Yi   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Huan Yi


The “plenty” is by virtue of the ant’s work and is intended
to protect the ant against hardship and even to provide
a prosperity in the form of current and future freedom from want.
Any plenty beyond what proves to be actual needs during
such hardship could be to the benefit of the ant in making its life
easier in the future.  Yet the case is made that the ant
has an obligation to provide for the grasshopper regardless
of the grasshopper’s irresponsibility.  Does that obligation
extend to the inconvenience or even risk that the
ant itself may or will suffer some part of the hardship
it worked to avoid?  How long in the face of irresponsibility
does the ant’s obligation persist?
Ron
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7 posted 01-06-2005 09:55 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

What do you call it when one person, either through force of arms or law, compels another to work for them without mutually agreed recompense?

Can any obligation, moral or otherwise, be imposed upon a person against their will, simply through the expedience of being alive?

Seems to me, that would still be called slavery.


Huan Yi
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8 posted 01-07-2005 12:05 AM       View Profile for Huan Yi   Email Huan Yi   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Huan Yi


What about: from each, (ant), according to its ability,
to each, (grasshopper), according to its need?

Ron
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9 posted 01-07-2005 10:45 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

What about breaking the ant farm into a few score smaller, bickering ant hills right now and save ourselves another fifty years of Soviet history, John?
Brad
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10 posted 01-07-2005 05:32 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

What's a moral obligation?

Don't laugh just yet. Doesn't a moral act require that it be freely chosen?

This may be what Ron was getting at, but it if you have to do something, why is it moral or immoral?

Giving food to those in need is a moral act (the history of the person in question is irrelevant, that's a pragmatic consideration -- keep this in mind).

Not giving food is neither moral nor immoral.

Stealing food from another is immoral.

Making someone feel guilty about not giving food is really, then, just one more way to persuade them to do what you want.

Skyfyre
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11 posted 01-07-2005 05:33 PM       View Profile for Skyfyre   Email Skyfyre   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Skyfyre

quote:
What do you call it when one person, either through force of arms or law, compels another to work for them without mutually agreed recompense?

Can any obligation, moral or otherwise, be imposed upon a person against their will, simply through the expedience of being alive?



In my case, it would be a choice.  I wouldn't give because I had to give ... so I suppose "obligation" is a strong word.

One would hope that the grasshopper learned from his mistakes, no?  Otherwise why have a moral at all?

Huan Yi
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12 posted 01-07-2005 08:03 PM       View Profile for Huan Yi   Email Huan Yi   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Huan Yi


“Not giving food is neither moral nor immoral.”

Many, (including the Pope I imagine), would disagree.

“Stealing food from another is immoral.”

In the face of need, that might be in doubt.

“Making someone feel guilty about not giving food is really, then, just one more way to persuade them to do what you want.”

And could be considered a moral act.
Brad
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13 posted 01-07-2005 09:56 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Not if the Pope understood what I meant. Somebody, somewhere is starving. You are not giving them food right now.

Is that immoral?

Taking food from someone without their consent is immoral. Why? Because you aren't allowing them the option of being moral, of committing a moral act.

There's nothing wrong with trying to persuade them, however, to perform a moral act.

The difference is this:

If you don't give food, you are going to Hell.

If the food is given for this reason and this reason alone, it is neither moral nor immoral. It is an exchange. (That's not quite right because there is also a morality of exchange but that's a different thing.)

If you don't give food, people will starve.

If the food is given because you think starving people is a bad thing, it is a moral act.
Stephanos
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14 posted 01-08-2005 12:00 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad, are you saying that inaction can never be a moral failure?  


Stephen.
Brad
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15 posted 01-08-2005 12:15 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Sure it can be a moral failure. But you have to be careful with the usage, I think.  A moral act is moral regardless of consequences. Inaction is simply a different type of action.

I admit it gets a little weird, counter-intuitive, but I don't see how you can get around the 'freely chosen' underpinning of a moral act and still call it moral.

Stephanos
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16 posted 01-08-2005 01:01 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

But Brad, I just don't believe in absolute freedom (other than at the philosopher's arm-chair) ... I don't believe we (as creaturely dependent as we are) were ever meant to have full autonomy.


For example, I don't have a qualm with my son being obedient, just because I told him to be.  And yes, I think it's a moral issue as well as a practical issue for him, even now.  Of course, as a father, I look forward to the day of a more mature internalization, where it's just part of who he is, to honor his parents (actually it already is, in part).  However, even his adult "free" choices will be a direct result of responding to the childish legal forms of morality in his earlier years.  If rewards and punishments can be given with love, then they can ultimately be recieved with love ... (or in other words, with more than mere self interest).


Stephen.  
Huan Yi
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17 posted 01-08-2005 01:12 AM       View Profile for Huan Yi   Email Huan Yi   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Huan Yi

Brad,

“Not if the Pope understood what I meant. Somebody, somewhere is starving. You are not giving them food right now.

Is that immoral?”

So knowing of someone somewhere who is starving, another does not give/send
them food right now.  Is that immoral?  What do you imagine the Pope,
(dim as he might be), and his kind would say?

Brad
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18 posted 01-09-2005 11:11 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

quote:
But Brad, I just don't believe in absolute freedom (other than at the philosopher's arm-chair) ... I don't believe we (as creaturely dependent as we are) were ever meant to have full autonomy.


Well, I know there's no such things as absolute freedom for us, and I certainly don't believe in anything that might sound like 'full autonomy'. Yet, none of that interferes with the idea of choice.


quote:
For example, I don't have a qualm with my son being obedient, just because I told him to be.


Neither do I, I just don't consider it a moral decision on his part. If, however, he decides to be a good son because he thinks it's the right thing to do, well, I think that is a moral decision. How he came to that conclusion is irrelevant to the conclusion itself.

quote:
And yes, I think it's a moral issue as well as a practical issue for him, even now.


I suspect so as well. Even young children have already internalized a whole lot of things.

quote:
Of course, as a father, I look forward to the day of a more mature internalization, where it's just part of who he is, to honor his parents (actually it already is, in part).  However, even his adult "free" choices will be a direct result of responding to the childish legal forms of morality in his earlier years.  If rewards and punishments can be given with love, then they can ultimately be received with love ... (or in other words, with more than mere self interest).


No disagreement here.

Actually, I'm trying to keep the thing as simple as I can. In the real world, there are multiple reasons for any decision we make. I just want to stress that moral decisions/acts, insofar as they are moral, are neither bases on your history, nor the history of the other, they are based on morality.
Brad
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19 posted 01-09-2005 11:17 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

quote:
So knowing of someone somewhere who is starving, another does not give/send
them food right now.  Is that immoral?  What do you imagine the Pope,
(dim as he might be), and his kind would say?


Hmmm, if it's immoral, then they're guilty too?

I suppose you can go that route, but, for me, it's far better to emphasize the morality of giving rather than the immorality of not. Thus, we can say that deciding not to give is neither moral nor immoral.  Back to the ants: If the ants decide to give, they are being moral. If the ants decide not to give, they are neither being moral nor immoral with respect to the grasshopper.
Essorant
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20 posted 01-10-2005 06:59 AM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

The immorality is not giving to someone in need where one may.  

The other name for that is: greed.
Brad
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21 posted 01-10-2005 07:12 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Who determines "where one may"?
Ron
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22 posted 01-10-2005 08:14 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

LOL. Essorant, when you get your dinner served to you tonight, you "may" (as in, you have our permission) jump on a plane to Africa and deliver it to someone who will, without your intervention, likely be dead next week. If you choose not to do that, however, for whatever reasons you might have, I promise ... I won't call you greedy.
Juju
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23 posted 01-12-2005 09:14 PM       View Profile for Juju   Email Juju   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Juju's Home Page   View IP for Juju

I think the moral answere which I know none probable thought of is simply "Is it the ants right to give the colonies food to the grass hopper. You see I am sure that is not the only ant working to sustain the colony. That is the colonies food and not the ants.
The ant larve may not have a chance at life.

Now if for some reason there was more then enough food to last say 2 winters than Share. As long as there is enough to sustain the family.

Now the isssue of slavory came up. Phillianthrope should be a choose not an obligation.  The sad thing about it all is I know the grass hopper will probably do the same thing the next summer. In which case at the end of the winter tell him that oits time for him to grow up and live on his own you wont help him next winter.

Juju  
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24 posted 01-13-2005 11:10 AM       View Profile for Not A Poet   Email Not A Poet   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Not A Poet's Home Page   View IP for Not A Poet

Actually, it makes little difference. As with most insects, the grasshopper has a very short life span anyway.
 
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