The Arts, Always The Arts

The University of Sydney, established in 1850,...

The University of Sydney, established in 1850, is the oldest university in Australia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s Daily Prompt: “If you could take a break from your life and go back to school to master a subject, what would it be?”

Oh, what a joy. If I had the time and money to go back and restart my BA.

I’m sorely tempted at the moment to do just that. One problem I’d have is that there are too many subjects I’d like to study.

On my first run at Uni a dozen years back I started with English and Linguistics.

To go to University for a BA and not study English literature seems to me almost a crime. To be told I had to read all those great novels, plays and poems. To be told I had to listen to experts increase my understanding of them. To be forced to sit around an discuss them in tutorials. All I can say is ““Oh please Brer Fox, whatever you do, please don’t throw me into the briar patch.”

I loved English. I had such a good time.

Then there was linguistics. Apart from phonetics (aaaaaarrrgggggggg) I ate it up. There was the marvellous elements of systems in linguistics and an increasing understanding of how grammar worked that drew me in like a bee to pollen.

I also did a semester of mythology. I’d go back to that too. At the moment I have a couple of Joseph Campbell’s books sitting there waiting for me to read. I loved “The Power of Myth” and I’m looking forward to “The Hero With A Thousand Faces.

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Situational Ethics – To Kill Or Not To Kill

Sketch of English bark Mignonette by Tom Dudle...

Sketch of English bark Mignonette by Tom Dudley (1853-1900) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s Daily Prompt asks us to look at a question of morality. “Read the story of Richard Parker and Tom Dudley. Is what Dudley did defensible? What would you have done?”

So we have three men and a youth adrift on the sea many miles from the nearest land and close to death. When they decide to resort to cannibalism are they right to do so? Are their actions defensible?

There are definitely several questions here. Are their actions legally defensible? Are their actions morally defensible? Finally, are their actions right.

When it comes to the question of law we have to look at two things. The first is that the three survivors defended their actions as a ‘Custom of the Sea’ and could cite precedence in the case of the American whaleship ‘Essex’. Then their lawyer brought up the matter of the defence of murder through “necessity”.

The problem Dudley, who actually wielded the knife that killed the youth Parker, has is that he was Captain of the vessel and therefore had a responsibility to his crew member Parker.

The final legal problem he had was that the question of the common law defence of ‘necessity’ was being questioned while the English were attempting to codify their laws and the Judge who heard his case had decided not to allow the defence.

So while it was possible to mount a defence of his actions in the end Dudley (and Stephens) were found guilty of murder. Notice that the act of cannibalism is not part of the charges against the two men, this is why the other man in the boat, Edmund Brooks, was not charged. He took no part in the murder and denied that he had assented to it occurring.

This leaves us with the morality and ethics of the actions taken by the men.

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