Immoral acts: more questions than answers / Actos Inmorales: más preguntas que respuestas

Attempts to establish what is good and what is bad is a lost battle. Church signs -like the one shown here- are examples of the limitations of language and illustrations of futile attempts to regulate morality

Please, be moral

A town in Estado Guárico, Venezuela (April, 1993). 

(English version follows below). Al usar el lenguaje no pensamos sobre las premisas subyacentes en una palabra o en una oración. En general, la gente se comunica y se entiende mutuamente porque compartimos una referencia común y no cuestionamos esa premisa. Pero en el mundillo de la moralidad, la comunicación se hace cuesta arriba. Un anuncio como el de arriba representa un uso pobre del lenguaje. Qué son, exactamente, “actos inmorales”?  Es un besito en el cachete un acto inmoral? Agarrase de las manos lo es? Un beso francés? Y qué tal hablar mal de alguien? Bueno, matar a alguien es definitivamente inmoral, sin duda alguna! Pero esto último es verdad en todas partes, no solamente en este pequeño espacio que el anuncio pretende demarcar. De paso: cuán grande es este sitio o espacio donde los actos inmorales están prohibidos terminantemente?  Tratar de reglamentar lo que es bueno y lo que es malo constituye una batalla perdida. Carteles como el de arriba son ejemplos de las limitaciones inherentes del lenguaje y una ilustración de las intenciones inútiles detrás de la moralidad. Para un ejemplo más poroso y menos monolítico del uso del lenguaje, mirar aquí *


“Immoral acts are prohibited at this site” goes the sign above. We use language without thinking much about the underlying assumptions of a word or a phrase. In general, we understand each other because we know what those assumptions are and so we have a common reference. But in the realm of morality, things get tricky -or trickier, I should say. A sign like the one above is an example of poor language usage. What are exactly “immoral acts”?  Is a kiss on the cheek an immoral act? Is holding hands immoral? A french kiss, perhaps?  How about badmouthing someone?  Killing somebody must be for sure immoral!. But isn’t that true everywhere, not just “at this site”? Moreover, what are the exact boundaries of “this site” where immoral acts are strictly prohibited, how big is it?  Trying to regulate  what is good and what is bad is a lost battle. Signs like the one above are examples of the limitations of language and the futile attempts of morality. For a less monolithic use of language, feel free to read this *

Author: Constantino

A Chemical Engineer born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. He has worked for the oil refining industry in threes countries under different capacities. With photography and writing as hobbies, he has traveled the world (and has still to settle somewhere). Loves movies, Latin Jazz, black coffee and red wine... Kampai!

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