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  • Writer's picturePaul Cotter

Blurred Boundaries

City skyscrapers covered in fog in Charlotte, North Carolina

My college philosophy professor was a staunch believer that every action is either purely right or purely wrong from a moral standpoint. If you believe something is wrong, he argued, then it must be wrong in every case, regardless of circumstances. There could be no debate on this issue, and he ridiculed anyone who held a countering viewpoint.

I quickly learned that if you wanted a good grade in this professor's class, your essays needed to parrot what he taught in his lectures. That's what I did, and I got my "A" for the course.

That was then. If I could talk to this professor today, I'd tell him: Screw the grade – you're wrong. When it comes to moral judgment, the lines are not as clear as you insist they are.

Like buildings shrouded in fog, there are a lot of hazy grey areas where the boundaries are blurred.

If you give your rich aunt a fatal dose of her meds because you want to collect your inheritance early, you're swimming in a moral cesspool. But if you commit that same act out of compassion after your aunt told you she couldn't bear the pain and she was pleading to die, that's a different story. In that case, I refuse to believe that you would be (as the song goes) Damned For All Time.

You may disagree with every word I've said. And that's fine. Unlike my college professor, I welcome a spirited debate in a moral philosophy discussion.

Photographer's Footnote: I took this photograph last week on a rainy morning in Uptown Charlotte.


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