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A moral being is one who is capable of reflecting on his past actions and their motives—of approving of some and disapproving... Options
Daemon
Posted: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 12:00:00 AM
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A moral being is one who is capable of reflecting on his past actions and their motives—of approving of some and disapproving of others.

Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
Corner of Josh
Posted: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 12:45:03 AM
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Ongoing self-reflection and self-awareness - the capacity of looking into oneself with a third eye - are the most important, and basic ingredients of intelligence.

To act upon these reflections and to better oneself constantly is being moral.
will
Posted: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 7:51:54 AM
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Charles Darwin wrote:
A moral being is one who is capable of reflecting on his past actions and their motives.

Amen to that.
will
Posted: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 7:52:39 AM
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Oops! Double post. d'oh!
jcbarros
Posted: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 7:56:50 AM

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Arguable.
Marissa La Faye Isolde
Posted: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 9:54:22 AM
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I was about to say that Darwin doesn't speak of one's present or future actions in this quote, and wanted to add that just to reflect upon one's past[/i ]deeds is a great and wonderful thing, but it isn't enough to look back and say: 'oh, I shouldn't have done this or that' or 'my motivation for some action I took was wrong', because without this 'reflection' in the present moment before one takes an action, it doesn't prevent a re-occurrence of the same action. And without remorse for what one has done, what [i]prevents one from committing the same wrong deed? But when I read Wisdom of Josh's post, I realized it better expressed my thoughts and elaborated on Darwin's central idea more elegantly than what I could hope to do.
pedro
Posted: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 10:09:22 AM
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Of course such reflection may not have a moral aspect at all. Man's ability to visualise a situation and analyse why it went wrong enables him to avoid mistakes in the future. the earliest such 'thought experiments' were more to do with self preservation than morals I suspect.
HWNN1961
Posted: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 11:57:36 AM
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The unexamined life is not worth living.
percivalpecksniff
Posted: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 12:18:44 PM
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Surely Pedro is right. A thief may acknowledge that stealing is wrong, but he is still a thief if he leaves it at that. One may say he worse than a thief, for he is in this sense amoral. Yes there is a sense of self-preservation in doing good since the actions of one, good or bad, affect the many. But self-preservation is surely secondary... one does not do good purely on that basis.

I have often thought of the quality of goodness and how one might define it. Goodness is a quality or aspect of love as are all moral qualities.That is why Jesus summed up the entire Mosaic Law consisting of 610 laws in one word... Love.

If, for example, one was driving along a country lane and a glass bottle was lying smashed in the road. There are two options. Swerve to avoid it and drive on or pass... stop... and push the glass to the side kerb or pick it up. The last option well defines goodness since there are no witnesses to observe your good act. A good person is good right through he does not need approval for good acts or a reward.

Folk often criticise the now obsolete Mosaic Law while not understanding it. An example was the law on bird nesting. On coming upon a bird's nest one could take the eggs or chicks for food and the bird could nest iagain in the future. But if the parent bird sat tight, one was not allowed to harm her since she was protecting her young and in a disadvantaged state.


Why this law... for the sake of the bird? No. The law was to teach the Israelite that if His Maker protected the bird in its disadvantaged state how much more should he, the Israelite care, for his brother when found in a disadvantaged state?
percivalpecksniff
Posted: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 12:43:52 PM
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Josh your signature says: As long as your mouth remains closed, you may be considered wise (Wisdom of Josh, 2012).

Are you sure that is the wisdom of Josh or someone else's wisdom?

Proverbs 17:28

New Living Translation (NLT)


28 Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent;
with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.
beanz
Posted: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 1:00:18 PM
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I think Darwin put it best.
curiousmind
Posted: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 2:23:37 PM
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1 Chronicles 28:9
..for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts..

Whether our actions are caused by one's selfish ambitions, social mandates, obedience to God, or selfless love for others, God knows it and we ourselves know it too. Are you moral? I know my answer.
Jimbob
Posted: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 10:10:52 PM
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hi :)

Descent of Man and Relation to Sex : by Charles Darwin (according to book search)

A moral being is one who is capable of reflecting on his past actions and their motives-of approving of some and disapproving of others; and the fact that man is the one being who certainly deserves this designation, is the greatest of all distinctions between him and the lower animals. But in the forth chapter I have endeavoured to show that the moral sense follows, first, from the enduring and ever-present nature of the social instincts; secondly, from man's appreciation of the approbation and disapprobation of his fellows; and thirdly, from the activity of his mental faculties, with past impressions extremely vivid; and in these latter respects he differs from the lower animals. Owing to his condition of mind, man cannot avoid looking both backward and forward, and comparing past impressions. Hence after some temporary desire or passion has mastered his social instincts, he reflects and compares the now weakened impression of such past impulse with the ever-present social instincts, and he then feels that sense of dissatisfaction which all unsatisfied instincts leave behind them; he therefore resolves to act differently for the future-and this is a conscience. Any instinct permanently stronger or more enduring than another gives rise to a feeling which we express by saying that it ought to be obeyed. A pointer dog, if able to reflect on his past conduct, would say to himself, I ought (as indeed we say of him) to have pointed at that hare and not have yielded to the passing temptation of hunting.

TFD : Instincts : 1. An inborn pattern of behaviour that is characteristic of a species and is often a response to specific environmental stimuli.

OD : Instinct : 1. innate pattern of behaviour.

Latin : instinctus roused, from instinguere to incite; compare instigate.

Here Darwin uses the word Instinct several times. So we (humans) are Instinctive beings to some degree, for better or worse. We are above or say perhaps next to the animal Kingdom. What is it that we do to Gods green Earth and in the process what does that make us. Mankind's actions have been far from Environmentally friendly to say the least to a point of no return in some aspects (extinction). The problem lies with trying to find another inhabitable planet quickly if at all even possible. Simalar to Darwins voyage of dicovery. There had been some interesting postings on TFD, I think Space and the Milkyway recently, distance obviously being the issue. Sort of like another time another place...planet. It can't happen quick enough in my books. Anyway not that I don't like planet Earth more the future is always uncertain.

I would haved liked to comment on the dog bit, but in a hurry today, gtg catch up with mates :-)
FounDit
Posted: Wednesday, February 8, 2012 11:50:36 AM

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Descent of Man and Relation to Sex : by Charles Darwin (according to book search)
But in the forth chapter I have endeavoured to show that the moral sense follows, first, from the enduring and ever-present nature of the social instincts;

Our first and most basic instinct is selfishness. This promotes our survival as babies. As we grow, we become aware of others and a second instinct, to be connected emotionally with them, comes into play. This becomes our social instinct. How do these social instincts manifest if not as Darwin says here:

secondly, from man's appreciation of the approbation and disapprobation of his fellows;(?)

and thirdly, from the activity of his mental faculties, with past impressions extremely vivid;

Memories of past actions that received approval or disapproval from our peers influences us, causing us to feel either pleasure or emotional pain. Consider for a moment that the thing that gives us the greatest fear is not so much what another person may do to us, but what other people may think of us. We live with this fear on a minute to minute basis.

and in these latter respects he differs from the lower animals. Owing to his condition of mind, man cannot avoid looking both backward and forward, and comparing past impressions. Hence after some temporary desire or passion has mastered his social instincts, he reflects and compares the now weakened impression of such past impulse with the ever-present social instincts, and he then feels that sense of dissatisfaction which all unsatisfied instincts leave behind them;

So after an instinct (selfish desire) has been dampened by the need for social approval (another instinct), he reflects and compares his impulse with his social needs. Depending on how strong is his desire and sense of dissatisfaction in comparison to his need for social approval, he will either abandon that desire temporarily, or seek a way to exercise it secretly, in the hope of not getting caught.

he therefore resolves to act differently for the future-and this is a conscience. Any instinct permanently stronger or more enduring than another gives rise to a feeling which we express by saying that it ought to be obeyed.

And this is the goal of socialization of the young: to get them to obey the social instincts for approval of behavior rather than the selfish instincts with which they were born.

In setting up a code of approved and disapproved behavior, we establish morality. Since we designed it, we can change it, and we sometimes do. That's why some things once considered immoral are not thought so rigidly to be so today. However, a moral code that changes too much, or too often, is of little use. That's why it takes a colossal social struggle to make changes to it (e.g. slavery, women's suffrage, civil rights, etc).

percivalpecksniff
Posted: Wednesday, February 8, 2012 12:22:21 PM
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Foundit much as you attempt it you do not nor cannot, explain the arrival of, or the reason for the existence of altruism... morality... conscience or even thought. Thought is abstract, and neither you, no anyone else can explain it. You cannot hold it... see it... grasp it. It is just so.


It is like the thread that purports to find the starting point of consciousness. It is obvious to anyone of some intellect that it is an impossibility. It is like chasing after the wind that cannot be caught.


Instinct cannot, as you claim, be allied to selfishness and desire for approval since it is an unconscious act needing no thought.

You talk about emotion and pleasure as a developmental matter in the evolving of man as he sought approval... but cannot explain why or how it exists. You dismiss all the noble unselfish acts of humanity throughout the ages as if man is governed alone by self-interest... he is not. It follows that an act that is right, is for the good of all, whatever the motive for expediating it.



will
Posted: Thursday, February 9, 2012 11:16:46 AM
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percivalpecksniff wrote:
Foundit much as you attempt it you do not nor cannot.....whatever the motive for expediating it.

And amen to that too. Pray
FounDit
Posted: Thursday, February 9, 2012 3:34:29 PM

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Perci wrote:
Foundit much as you attempt it you do not nor cannot, explain the arrival of, or the reason for the existence of altruism... morality... conscience or even thought. Thought is abstract, and neither you, no anyone else can explain it. You cannot hold it... see it... grasp it. It is just so.

It is like the thread that purports to find the starting point of consciousness. It is obvious to anyone of some intellect that it is an impossibility. It is like chasing after the wind that cannot be caught.

In that, I would agree. Seeking the origin of consciousness is, in my opinion, merely a pleasurable exercise of speculation, logic and reason, with the end remaining elusive.

However, my opinions on the matter at hand stand alone, and do not have any relation to posts in other threads. I am not attempting to explain the root of thought. Rather, merely pointing out what seems to me to be empirically obvious: that pleasure is derived from pleasing others and/or pleasing self, and that this is a learned behavior.


Perci wrote:
Instinct cannot, as you claim, be allied to selfishness and desire for approval since it is an unconscious act needing no thought.

From TFD
in•stinct ( n st ngkt ) n.1. An inborn pattern of behavior that is characteristic of a species and is often a response to specific environmental stimuli;

Can there be any doubt that a baby’s instinct is to cry? If cold, they cry; if hungry, they cry; if they experience pain, they cry; if they need comforting in the form of being held, they cry. Thought is not necessary for this behavior to occur. They cannot and do not think of others, but rather respond only to the needs of the self. This is instinct and it is self-centered. The desire for approval comes later, as I suggested in my post, and it is here that thought plays a role.

As to altruism, does a child have to be taught to share, or do they naturally give away that which comes into their possession? I have never observed, nor do I know anyone who has observed, a child being naturally altruistic until they have been taught to share.

While it may occur on rare occasions, I would suspect it is not common. However, once taught to share and in so doing, the child receives pleasure, either from approval of an authority figure, like a parent or peer, altruism may spring. It will be reinforced by the self-approval inculcated by the same.

Perci wrote:
You talk about emotion and pleasure as a developmental matter in the evolving of man as he sought approval... but cannot explain why or how it exists. You dismiss all the noble unselfish acts of humanity throughout the ages as if man is governed alone by self-interest... he is not. It follows that an act that is right, is for the good of all, whatever the motive for expediating it.

I spoke of the behavior of humans as they exist, not as they evolved. I said nothing of evolution. However, as concerning emotions, I would suggest that we humans do not have emotions per se. What we have are reactions. We react to perceptions, both external and internal. It is, after all, clearly evident that we can experience a reaction simply from the thoughts we think. You and I both have reactions to the words we read on this forum, do we not? How those reactions are expressed form what we call emotions.

Also, I in no way dismiss all the noble unselfish acts of humanity. I applaud them, even if, as I believe, they are done out of the desire for self-approval, which is not a negative thing. It is in fact, a very positive thing. Everyone should approve of themselves, generating a positive sense of self-esteem and self-worth. The only caveat I suggest is that they be genuine, and not a result of self-deception as in the case of vanity or egoism.

You said, “…an act that is right, is for the good of all…” and I would agree. My point was that what is right is determined by the code we set up which establishes what is “right” and what is not. You will surely say God gave us that code. I would say we humans devised it. On that point, we will disagree, but I hope we can agree that following a code of behavior that teaches one to be considerate and respectful of one’s neighbor is a fine code to follow, and fit to be called a moral code. My earlier post was a quick collection of thoughts on how and why we follow such a code, as is this reply.

percivalpecksniff
Posted: Friday, February 10, 2012 7:24:42 AM
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I enjoyed your comments Foundit, and the manner you expounded your thoughts. You are obviously a thinker.

You said Foundit:’ I would suggest that we humans do not have emotions per se. What we have are reactions. We react to perceptions, both external and internal.


Foundit is this not playing with words? For example:

‘How did the fellow react?’
‘Oh, he was very emotional.’
‘Not at all, not at all’ said Mr Perry. ‘I thought he kept his emotions in check.
‘I hold to my view… the fellow is a very emotional person.’

Not a very reactional person but a very emotional person. ( Have I coined a new word?)

So one can react with varying degrees of emotion. Indeed one can respond with little or no emotion.


You said Foundit: ‘Also, I in no way dismiss all the noble unselfish acts of humanity. I applaud them…. As to altruism, does a child have to be taught to share, or do they naturally give away that which comes into their possession? I have never observed, nor do I know anyone who has observed, a child being naturally altruistic until they have been taught to share.’ unquote


I agree with your comments about the value of self- approval, or worth, and your recognition of noble acts.

I have raised two children and can say that mine have on many occasions shown altruism to a greater or lesser degree. Even if one were to say it is taught in some measure, the question still goes begging from whence did it arrive? History shows that noble selfless acts are a part of the human psyche. The words of Jesus ring out when he said:


‘There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’

He also said:

‘There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.’

Why is that? One usually does not give for approval but because one cares, but it is true that some do. Many folk give anonymously to charities while others do to seek notice. My view is that the existence of altruism is common and across the board.

Every day, every hour of the day, throughout the world folk give without any recognition by their fellow man. It is good for the humans to give… it is bad to be selfish, but notbad to care for oneself. This is a part of us and will never alter. The less mankind follows this way, the poorer he becomes. Unselfish concern for others….altruism…is noble. The existence of altruism is a problem for the evolutionist for it does not fit in with survival of the fittest.

You commented Foundit: You said, “…an act that is right, is for the good of all…” and I would agree. My point was that what is right is determined by the code we set up which establishes what is “right” and what is not. You will surely say God gave us that code.

I see problems for the idea that humans set up the moral code for ‘what is right.’

Why? For survival means? Trial and error as to what works? Altruism is not a code is it? Unselfishness cannot be enshrined in a code or even a law. You cannot enforce it. Goodness, long- suffering, patience, joy peace kindness, love etcetera cannot be planned or arrived at as a code. These qualities spring from what we are and not what we are told to be.

Paul put it well I think.


Romans 2:14, 15
14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.
15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them’ unquote

As to instinct I do not think that is learned but rather innate. Animals are dominated by it, humans are not.

Yes you are right, I do believe in God, but not in religions. As you say we take different views on this. I think law only became necessary because of the fall of man and his due to his independence from his maker.
pedro
Posted: Friday, February 10, 2012 7:30:41 AM
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percivalpecksniff wrote:
Foundit much as you attempt it you do not nor cannot, explain the arrival of, or the reason for the existence of altruism... morality... conscience or even thought. Thought is abstract, and neither you, no anyone else can explain it. You cannot hold it... see it... grasp it. It is just so.

It is like the thread that purports to find the starting point of consciousness. It is obvious to anyone of some intellect that it is an impossibility. It is like chasing after the wind that cannot be caught.



Altruism is a challenging puzzle in evolution, but not necessarily an insoluble one. The old explanation based on kin selection (which prompted JBS Haldne's famous comment "I would lay down my life for two brothers or eight cousins")was formulated by WD Hamilton. Apart from Haldane's put-down, it would fail to explain why sterile worker ants with no chance of reproducing will lay down their lives for their Queen. This is no problem for the creationist I suppose, but there are alternative theories that posit group selection and there have been some interesting experiments on this- see links below for info on both. I would challenge almost ANY statement that says that something will never be explained. I recall some famous thinker (I thought it was Ludwig Wittgenstein but I'm not sure now) who said that 'we will never know what stars are made of'. With the discovery of spectroscopy we know pretty exactly what stars are made of and they are predictable enough even to determine when they will die too. We can see the history of the universe by pointing a receiver at it. The further we look, the further back in time. For what it's worth, I suspect that evolution works on every level, genetic, cellular, species, group etc. Will we ever know about the mysteries of consciousness? A harder task than star composition doubtless but then there was a time we had none(consciousness) and there will be again, unless I am pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised, at point of death, and we do get about eight hours unconsciousness simulation every night.

http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100825/full/news.2010.427.html

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/altruism-biological/



FounDit
Posted: Friday, February 10, 2012 10:37:39 AM

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Perci wrote:
So one can react with varying degrees of emotion. Indeed one can respond with little or no emotion.

It may appear that I am playing with words, but I think there is a profound piece of knowledge to be gained here.

The key to this statement of yours is the word “respond”. I believe that we have reactions to situations, including our own thoughts, and that the expression of those reactions is what we call emotions. However, the expression may, or may not, be intense but will rather follow along a continuum depending on the level of pain or pleasure felt.

For example: a woman believes she is loved by her husband and thinking of him gives her great pleasure. She will express her delight in him in tender and loving ways. However, should she come to believe (with no evidence other than she imagined) that he has been cheating on her with multiple women, her expressions towards him will be altered to the degree of her hurt.

Would you agree? If so, then can you not say that she is experiencing a reaction in each scenario to mere thoughts, and expressing her reaction accordingly? Also, the level of intensity will vary with whether or not a confrontation occurs and the response she receives in return. The reaction doesn’t change in each scenario, merely the expression and intensity.


Perci wrote:
I have raised two children and can say that mine have on many occasions shown altruism to a greater or lesser degree. Even if one were to say it is taught in some measure, the question still goes begging from whence did it arrive? History shows that noble selfless acts are a part of the human psyche.

You acknowledge the possibility of having taught them as parents, and no doubt they also picked up this teaching at school and church as they grew and learned. I would suggest that the expressions of altruism you observed were directly related to seeking approval from you as the parent and authority figure, and the pleasure derived then becomes self-applicable. “Please parent, get approval; repeat action and in the mind, receive same pleasure with imagined approval.”

Self-approval by this means is the most satisfying as no one can stroke your ego like you. So, noble actions caress the ego, making one feel supremely contented. I do no condemn this behavior. It serves a very useful purpose. Whether it is done to please the ancestors, God, karma, or the idea of brotherly love, it is a good thing. Again, actions that demonstrate respect and consideration towards others are the best and highest behavior for humans.


Perci wrote:
The existence of altruism is a problem for the evolutionist for it does not fit in with survival of the fittest.

I would disagree with this statement on this wise: altruism (by my definition) aids in the bonding of humans. It is the co-operation and serving of others in one’s peer group that cements that bond. Aiding a fallen comrade or sharing in food or protection of the young, all which may be considered altruistic, contribute to the establishment of this bond. The group that can best do this is the one that will become the fittest and will survive.


Perci wrote:
I see problems for the idea that humans set up the moral code for ‘what is right.’

Why? For survival means? Trial and error as to what works? Altruism is not a code is it? Unselfishness cannot be enshrined in a code or even a law. You cannot enforce it. Goodness, long- suffering, patience, joy peace kindness, love etcetera cannot be planned or arrived at as a code. These qualities spring from what we are and not what we are told to be.

Altruism not a code? If not, then why are the qualities you list then enshrined as behaviors to be emulated? We do not do them automatically, but can choose whether to be altruistic or not. However, to receive approbation rather than condemnation, we are taught that these behaviors are what must be expressed.


Perci wrote:
Yes you are right, I do believe in God, but not in religions. As you say we take different views on this. I think law only became necessary because of the fall of man and his due to his independence from his maker.

In my view, the law became necessary to motivate individuals to behave when out of sight of the group. This is also the root of what we call guilt. However, fear of punishment is a great motivator. Was it not Solomon who said, “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil”? Ecc. 8:11

To this day, the only thing that keeps men from doing whatever they feel like doing is the fear of what other men will do to them when they are caught. This is the function of the law regardless of whether it came from God or man. Giving authorship to a god, however, lays an extra layer of fear on the law. A person might believe he can avoid fellow humans, but not a god.


percivalpecksniff
Posted: Friday, February 10, 2012 11:04:32 AM
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I noted your reply FounDit, and conclude we can go no further with this since the gap is too wide. Thanks for your response.

PS. Every emotion is a reaction, but not every reaction is emotional. The words exist as separate entities and meanings. One can react and at the same time control ones emotions out of respect... or exercising self-control... or some other motive. Emotions and reactions are not the same thing, although one may bring forth the other.
FounDit
Posted: Friday, February 10, 2012 2:18:52 PM

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No problem. It was an interesting discussion. Take care, and I hope your ankle heals with no problems.
will
Posted: Saturday, February 11, 2012 8:23:15 AM
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percivalpecksniff wrote:
Foundit much as you attempt it you do not nor cannot, explain the arrival of, or the reason for the existence of altruism... morality... conscience or even thought. Thought is abstract, and neither you, no anyone else can explain it. You cannot hold it...

Oh, apparently you can... and Peter seemed so certain.

Loved the PS after the bail out. Nice touch.

Whistle
SilvatungdaViel
Posted: Saturday, February 11, 2012 10:00:45 AM
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dusty
Posted: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 5:51:45 AM

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How come nobody is saying that it might be better stated "his motives" as apposed to "their motives"?
floccinaucinihilipilificatinator
Posted: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 4:58:53 PM
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so if im a serial killer and reflect upon my past murders, approve of how i got away with it and disapprove of how i didnt kill more ppl im a moral person? ;P
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