By Sarah Stubbs
Is morality a matter of fact or opinion?
Shawn Graves, assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Findlay challenged students and faculty to contemplate morality and asserted that we as humans have no choice but to be global citizens on Monday, March 16.
Graves presented his lecture titled “Love, Justice, and Global Poverty” in Winebrenner’s Theological Seminary’s TLB Auditorium as part of UF’s annual Religious Studies and Philosophy Lecture Series.
In his opening remarks, Graves shared a story about a viral video of 2-year-old girl who was hit by two vans in a narrow road in 2011. Both vans drove away after striking her and security camera footage showed 18 people walking past, around, and even over the whimpering, injured two-year old girl after she was hit. The 19th person to pass by finally helped her, but it was too late. She died in a hospital just over a week later.
According to Graves, people, including himself, searched for explanations as to why so many people would walk past an innocent child suffering—placing their personal priorities over that of a dying child.
In an attempt of psychological relief from this tragedy and the reality of tragedies like this throughout the world happening every day, Graves opened his discussion on our moral obligations as human beings.
“What is it I’m doing? Where am I headed that’s so important? So valuable, that it requires my leaving countless men, women, and children for dead in the cracked and pot-holed streets of grimy poverty,” said Graves.
Graves says that even though we don’t see injustices as often as those in poverty-stricken counties plagued with hunger and violence, doesn’t mean we have an excuse to not be aware.
“Just because I can’t see these injustices happening around me doesn’t mean I’m incapable of doing anything to alleviate their suffering. I can do something,” said Graves. “Whether it’s diverting money away from my lesser pursuits to fund reputable organizations that have a proven track record of effectively addressing the basic needs of poor people, or pressuring politicians to make sure that child and adult welfare and poverty relief are a top political priority.”
Graves later compared his story about the 2-year-old girl to the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Bible and shared Martin Luther King Jr.’s development of that story.
Graves says that King preached this parable in regards to the human condition—contemplating who merits our love and who merits indifference.
Graves said in his presentation that Jesus says that any human being is our neighbor and is deserving of love and justice.
According to Graves, if the claim that morality is a matter of opinion were true, charitable contributions and being a global citizen would be optional—thus by default, love and justice would have to be optional, too.
“It’s an interesting idea this notion that it’s all optional,” said Graves.
Graves said that we as humans should all be working to secure justice and love for our global neighbors. He quoted Cornel West, “Justice is what love looks like in public.”
According to Graves, in order to help aid the world in global poverty, individuals must love to promote a good life for anyone and everyone. A good life being one where at least all the individual’s basic needs are met.
“At minimum, love seeks to promote the flourishing of the beloved. Love strides and sees to it that things go well for the beloved. Love aims to improve the welfare or enhance the well-being of the beloved. It labors to be sure that the beloved has a genuinely good life,” said Graves.
Once love is the center of our lives, Graves says that charitable contributions are no longer optional and that individuals must discredit the thought that as long as they are making contributions every once in a while, they’re good.
“None of this is optional,” said Graves. “Love and justice are not optional. Being a good neighbor to the global poor, is not optional.”
In response to a question about how college students can act swiftly in this pursuit to aid global poverty, Graves said to start with our communities.
“You don’t have to pick between the global poor and the local poor,” said Graves.
Graves said that students should analyze their spending and if they find themselves spending money on trivial pursuits, they should consider how they can invest locally to make a difference.
“We must develop a disposition to go beyond ourselves,” said Graves.