• Fuzzball Baggins
    13
    Let's say you get a lot of books for Christmas.
    You also have a long list of books that you would like to read, but you didn't get any of those for Christmas.
    Should you always read the books you already have before getting new ones? Even if they're not as interesting? How would you justify buying new books when you already have unread ones? What if a friend or family member asks whether you've read the book they got you and are sad when you say no?

    The same discussion can apply to any kind of gift - is it wrong to look up a recipe for a favourite dish when your mother is concerned that you don't like (because you've never used) the cook book she got you, or is it wrong to never wear the jacket you got for Christmas and buy a new one instead?
  • BrianW
    493


    Are these people giving you gifts trying to control your life or express their affection? If they cared about giving something you appreciated the most, they should have made sure to be appropriately informed. Why should you carry other people's burdens? What have other people's expectations to do with you?
  • Bitter Crank
    6.8k
    Gifts are unbidden. You didn't ask for them. If you had asked for them, they would not be a gift. We give gifts for various reasons: love, sense of obligation, reciprocity rules, it makes us feel good, etc. A gift might be "loaded with a trap" -- like a trojan horse. Maybe someone gave you the cookbook because they thought you were a bad cook; or they liked the food in the cookbook and they want you to prepare food for them. Maybe the jacket is a test. Yada yada yada.

    If you like the gift, use it. If you don't like it, don't use it. (Except, of course, if you feel obligated to show that it is being used, else you would be tortured by guilt feelings... That's not good either. Try to get over that problem.)

    When you give someone a gift, it becomes their property. You relinquish control over it. Don't inquire after it, once given, unless you wish to change the gift to their liking. That's my advice.

    In gratitude for this gift of invaluable sound advice, you can give me a gift of large amounts of cash.
  • Nils Loc
    364
    It is morally wrong to give gifts that no one wants. It represents extra carbon in the atmosphere no one wants.
  • Athena
    121
    Okay for the sake of argument I will take the opposing side and say using the gift should be a high priority. Sure it can be a pain in the neck to do something just to please someone else, but it is good for the relationship and it may be good for you too.

    I have zero desire to buy a 7 year old great grandson a gift. Last year I spent a lot of money on his gift that I gave him because he is artistically talented and his mother said he would like the gift. He rejected it and I went through a lot of trouble and more money to return that gift and get him another one, and they got rid of that one too. This year I am giving the mothers money and they can do with it what they want, but I am not buying gifts for those who do not appreciate them, I am not catering to a child's bad judgment by buying some stupid toy just because it is popular this year.

    It really hurts when our gifts and all the thought and heartfelt feelings that goes into selecting a gift, are not appreciated, so my home is cluttered with children's art work and gifts given to me, not because this is what I want, but it makes others feel good when we value what they do. And maybe the gift is more valuable than you realize. Calling the heartfelt intention a trap is a negative way of thinking about someone's'e concern for you. I didn't give the child something to help him develop his art talent because that thing had value. The value of that thing, was what he could make of it, and what he could make of his life if he developed that talent. I don't blame the child for not knowing this, but it is really sad his mother doesn't know that either. It hurts a lot because I am afraid the child will not have the good life he could have. It isn't just about things you know?

    I think the advice that it is okay not to behave as though we appreciate what we are given is poor advice. How do you feel when you make a special effort to please someone by doing what you think will please or will benefit them, and your effort is not appreciated? However, we can say ahead of time, don't give me any socks, books, etc. this year because I have all I can handle. We can tell people what we really want. The year I said I wanted socks, I got enough socks to last a long time. :lol: But I didn't get things I don't want. :grin:
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    I don't see this as a moral issue at all. Maybe it's an etiquette issue for some people, but there isn't much etiquette that I care about.

    Just read what you want to read, buy what you want to buy, etc., and don't worry about that in relation to gifts.

    If people are giving you gifts you're not that interested in, I'd suggest bringing up to them a different procedure for handling gifts. Maybe exchange wish lists with the understanding that people will primarily be buying others items from their wish lists.
  • Athena
    121


    If a moral is a matter of cause and effect, we can know the effect of not appreciating what we are given or at least assuring the gift giver that we appreciate his/her effort, will have a bad result, unless the other person is equally as careless. :lol: You may get a book you don't want because the someone gave it to the gift giver and s/he didn't want it either so it was passed on to you. You may want to know something about how much the gift giver cares and perhaps even what that person cares about?

    If the gift giver cares a lot about you, being careless about how the giver feels, will surely have a bad result. You may not be aware of the negative effect but there will be a negative effect. Sometimes the result is a divorce after many years of being careless about someone else's feelings, or it can lead to heart attack and death of an elderly person. Our sense of feeling loved and valued is that important.

    On the other hand, appreciating what we are given and the giver can have many benefits. That person will thrive and do well and want to reciprocate.

    It is not just about things. It is about feelings and relationships and even our health.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    If the gift giver cares a lot about you, being careless about how the giver feels, will surely have a bad result. You may not be aware of the negative effect but there will be a negative effect. Sometimes the result is a divorce after many years of being careless about someone else feelsings, or it can lead to heart attack and death of an elderly person. Our sense of feeling loved and valued is that important.Athena

    People who would get divorced or have a heart attack <supposedly> just because of issues with gift-giving have far more serious mental and physical issues that they should be addressing.

    One of my pet projects is to encourage people to stop what-I-consider overreacting to things so sensationally. And if people need assistance in learning how to not overreact, I encourage them to get assistance. The idea of divorces and heart attacks in response to gift-giving issues definitely qualifies.
  • Athena
    121
    Science tells us, people with bad hearts who feel loved live longer than people with bad hearts who don't feel valued and I don't think that consideration is an overreaction. It is science. There is a real connection between our emotions and our health. And about those divorces, today it is women who are the most likely to file for divorces and they are divorcing men who think nothing is wrong with the marriage.

    I think it is important to respect another person's point of view, don't you? However, I also know the urge to correct people who we think are wrong. :nerd:
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    Science tells us, people with bad hearts who feel loved live longer than people with bad hearts who don't feel valued and I don't think that consideration is an overreaction.Athena

    Basing that on expectations re gift-giving is what's an overreaction.
  • Tim3003
    10
    I don't think these are issues of morality, but simply of tactful behaviour with regard to personal relationships. The answers one comes to will depend on the individual personalities of those concerned - what causes offence to one relative might be of no matter to another. We have free will to choose our own priorities in these situations, and hence to teach those to our children. To ask for some ethical guide to make such decisions seems an abnegation of responsibility as an adult.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.7k
    Let's say you get a lot of books for Christmas.
    You also have a long list of books that you would like to read, but you didn't get any of those for Christmas.
    Should you always read the books you already have before getting new ones? Even if they're not as interesting? How would you justify buying new books when you already have unread ones? What if a friend or family member asks whether you've read the book they got you and are sad when you say no?
    Fuzzball Baggins

    If, having unread books lying around is a problem for you, making you feel guilty for not reading them, re-gift them. Then they're not wasted. If the person who gave it to you asks, you can think of many lies, it got lost, it got stolen, etc.. If lying is not your thing, then when they ask if you've read the book, just say no, not yet. They'll only ask once or twice. You could always tell them you were too busy reading other books, and it's on your list. It really doesn't matter if you use a person's gift or not, we all know that, so we don't get offended. It's the thought that counts, and we rarely know what another will use.
  • TWI
    136
    I read a book if I'm interested in it, not because someone thinks I will be. If they are mistaken it's because they've failed to understand me. If they are offended that is their decision.
  • Dagny
    15


    I like that. If you get a gift, you decide what to do with it.
  • Jamesk
    180
    Kant says that we have an imperfect duty to ourselves (a duty that we should do when we can) to develop our gifts and talents as much as possible. It is not mandatory duty but it is something Kant believed to be of moral worth.
  • Dan84
    40


    I recently presented my parents with the question of morally “Do I owe you anything”

    We couldn’t agree, lol, but if someone spits on me should I thank them?

    Tricky question.

    I believe that we owe nothing to anything. We are objectively nothing and even though we may experience emotions and desires and ideas we owe them nothing.

    If a person saves my life. I owe them nothing. This is my current thinking, naive and open to change.

    I don’t like huge open forums and much prefer one 2 one discussion. Much easier to keep track. Happy to discuss further with you.
  • Dan84
    40


    Is the real question what the individual owes morally to society?
  • Dan84
    40


    I think you altered the OP a little ( or I’m dumb, happy to accept either ) but interesting post and I agree. I really need to read Kant.
  • Jamesk
    180
    I think you altered the OP a little ( or I’m dumb, happy to accept either ) but interesting post and I agree. I really need to read Kant.Dan84

    Mae culpa :) Wrong context of gift. However there is some Kant in the question what do you say to mother when she asks you about the gift. You must not lie, Kant's perfect duty to others, a mandatory must do without exception for moral worthiness however the guidelines of honesty are a little blurry.

    In short white lies can be permissible, such as 'it is a very interesting book' 'I can't wait for an opportunity to wear it' etc so it is morally permissible to fib a bit in order not to hurt someones feelings.

    But no it is not morally wrong.
  • Dan84
    40


    Oh for sure. I only mentioned the OP thing just to narrow my own answer.

    So for my education.

    Kants perfect duty to others - We owe the truth in order to be moral?

    Sorry I’m a little simple and find things tricky to follow unless I can clarify in my own terms.

    Now my question to you is,

    Are you declaring Kant as a source of potential truth or a source of definite truth?
  • Dan84
    40


    Sorry to pester- want does Kant say about strong lies in order to protect others emotions?

    Where would that leave me?

    i.e gift of love.

    Mum I love you ( I don’t ) - ( obviously I do really. Out of necessity lol, difficult childhood) :) :)

    Thank you son, that makes me happy.

    My instincts
    In the cold world of philosophy I’m immoral for the lie
    In the dull world of experience I’m moral.
  • Jamesk
    180
    There are no circumstances that justify making a lying promise or not answering truthfully to a definite yes or no question that can claim moral worth, none what so ever.

    Mum I hugely appreciate all that you have done for me. Mum I don't know how you managed all of these years. etc are surely possible to say without lying?

    You need to think Bill Clinton, 'I did not have sexual relations with that women'.

    Morality in individual personal cases is very much up to the person most of the time, you can't attach that much to it, especially in family matters.

    I am not declaring Kant as a source of truth just as the source of a particular moral theory that can apply to the question. Utilitarianism would be equally useless in this case in my opinion.
  • Dan84
    40


    Ok could go further but thanks. You have helped me.

    irellevant question.

    Is Kant the most important philosopher of the enlightenment era?

    In terms of what his thinking did for thinking, not for world events.
  • Jamesk
    180
    Some people believe he was right about morals and some think that he was wrong. His metaphysics are unique and incredibly complicated and are based in idealism. As for philosophy he is one of the best, even when he gets it wrong (if truth values can even apply) it is still clear why he is such an important philosopher.
  • Athena
    121


    I do not understand? You seem to be saying my thinking is, but I think it may be your thinking that is wrong. When someone gives you a gift what is important about that gift? Is just a thing or something more?
  • Athena
    121


    I very much like the notion that it is our duty to develop our talents. That works well with the idealism of democracy, as a social, economic and political organization that enables the most people to make their best contribution.

    The democratic model for industry is about developing the talent and skills of each employee with ongoing education and opportunity to contribute to the company.

    I like to think, the gifts I give are about helping a child develop. I want more for my money than the child having 10 minutes of fun with a new toy, that is trash the next week.
  • tim wood
    1.3k
    Everyone is thinking of the wrong kind of gift. Consider personal gifts, of intelligence or beauty or wisdom or any skill. Example: a man who makes a lot of money from his work. He wishes to protest something (nuclear arms - this is a real example). He decides the best way to protest is to stand silent vigil with a sign on a busy corner. Is that the best use of his gifts - his ability to make more money than most people? Would not his protest be "better" if he used his time to make money he could donate, likely realizing efficiencies and accomplishing things that his silent and anonymous body cannot?

    My argument here is that the ethical stand (moral=ethical) requires more than gesture, that it requires substantive commitment. If the best a person can do is stand, then it's an ethical stand to stand. If a man through the use of his gifts can do better, then it's a waste of his time and an insult to his cause and to others just to stand.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    I do not understand? You seem to be saying my thinking is, but I think it may be your thinking that is wrong. When someone gives you a gift what is important about that gift? Is just a thing or something more?Athena

    "Basing that on expectations re gift-giving is what's an overreaction."

    "That" = Basing whether you're loved or not valued.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    When someone gives you a gift what is important about that gift?Athena

    Importance is subjective, which is one reason why it's a good idea not to put too much weight on gift-giving either way.
  • RosettaStoned
    11
    Let's cook up a situation where the gift given to me was something out of love/compassion, but it was something I legitimately had no use for and would be better off in someone ele's hands. Should I give it to the person, enabling them to use the gift and improving their life, ensuring the gift does not go to waste, or should I keep the gift as an expression of gratitude, not for the gift, but for the person's caring, thus also making them happy?
  • Athena
    121


    It is not a matter of the gift giver being loved. It is a matter of the person who receives the gift getting the benefit of the gift or not. If the receiver is not getting the benefit of the gift, then it was a waste of money to buy the gift.
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