What is [interpersonal] moral legitimacy, and do we need it?
August 21, 2018 at 3:52 am #11020
The Categorical Imperative assumes three things: 1) you are a rational and logical being, 2) you are a dutiful person (if you conclude you should do something, you will have to do it), and 3) you have a pre-existing morality. Eliminate any one of these and it falls on its face.
Like the Golden Rule (which it is, basically, reworded somewhat), it depends upon the notion that “people are the same wherever you go,” that all people want or value the same things. Problem: That’s factually not true. So, assumption 3) goes out the window. While it may help one person make a decision, it lacks universalizability.
The Categorical Imperative simply doesn’t work.
The classic objection involves a case where you may save some innocent person’s life by telling a white lie. One can’t generalize that white lies are always to be permitted, though, can one?
One can solve that problem (some might say) by introducing a caveat involving people in sufficiently similar circumstances. In other words, while one can’t generalize lying, even white lying, if saving an innocent person’s life is involved, then it’s not just okay, it may even rise to the level of a duty.
But how about this example: “I want to start a beef cattle ranch.” All of a sudden severely disparate values get involved. Cattle ranches use up vast tracts of land. Cattle contribute to global warming. And all that’s before we even get into the vegetarian/vegan vs. meat eater thing. There is a limit to the number of additional cattle ranches in the world. We can’t all have a cattle ranch, and yet can we say that no one should have one (leaving vegetarians and vegans out of the picture, for a moment)?
How would you analyze that? or putting yourself in Kant’s shoes, how would he analyze it?August 21, 2018 at 7:10 am #11025
@davis – “hierarchies”
– what I mean is, we can compare any two crimes and usually, one will be worse than another.August 21, 2018 at 10:55 am #11027
– what I mean is, we can compare any two crimes and usually, one will be worse than another.
Of course you can. That’s the basis of any legal system. The result will be a subjective, non universal conclusion. Sorry, but there is no ultimate law maker or judge. Objective methods don’t work. We are great apes trying to get along enough to survive. We are still evolving. Kant was dead wrong. If global warming overcomes us and it becomes 8 billion individual survival situations, you will see a whole new definition of right and wrong.August 21, 2018 at 5:51 pm #11028
Reg: The Nazi party lost and are now all dead. If only there was some word, maybe a German one, to describe how that makes me feel.
Freude? Pleasure. (from my compact Eng/Ger dictionary)August 21, 2018 at 6:07 pm #11029
Davis: It’s partly the reason why I am really hesistant to take some moral systems seriously.
I too will always act unpredictably. Don’t hold your breath until I explain.August 21, 2018 at 6:26 pm #11030
I do have a black sense of humor at times. The word I had in mind was Schadenfreude 🙂August 21, 2018 at 6:26 pm #11031
Gee, if only you guys and MANY thousands more who share your ideas would run for and get elected to legislatures.
August 21, 2018 at 6:31 pm #11033
- This reply was modified 6 months ago by tom sarbeck. Reason: ro add ‘many’
Would Kant have had much to say on the “duty” of humans who send killer robots to war if they were programed never to kill civilians…..i.e. robots acting with “good intentions”?August 21, 2018 at 8:16 pm #11034
Quixotic, eh? – If we had candidates who did not have us tilting at windmills then they would merit a vote 🙂
August 21, 2018 at 9:06 pm #11035August 21, 2018 at 9:12 pm #11036
robots acting with “good intentions”?
It does remind me of “Data” in Star Trek, who seems the only character that follows the rules to its most difficult rendering (often in danger to him) and his final sacrafice. The few times he breaks those rules (like rescuing the little girl on a Vulcanic planet) he does it by humanity. It’s a cheesy cliché line to tell but it is true. Data is exceptional in his sense of duty…and he is also virtually human the few times he breaks his and other’s own rules. It’s utterly impossible to be both human and never break rules.August 21, 2018 at 9:18 pm #11037
Objective methods don’t work.
@robert. Indeed. One thing I very much like about deontological moral systems, is that you become the law maker. No one needs to dictate laws to you. The only challenge is how seriously you take your own moral rules. Under some versions of deontological morality, there is no better or worse crime (in theory), only breaking your rules. It doesn’t necessarily work that way in practice (likely impossible in many cases). But in any case, there’s a great amount of freedom as well as constantly challenging yourself. As I’ve said before, it’s not for most people and I never found success trying to sell the moral system to others, instead just explaining my own. But in any case, if you challenge to the extremities of your moral laws, it can be very informative and intellectually fruitful and entertaining.August 21, 2018 at 9:23 pm #11038
Thanks Davis. I have committed just about everything on your list at least one time except for waterboarding of course. The last one was my favorite. I needed stuff for the confessional you know.
You haven’t lived until you extract unreliable information from a perhaps innocent person through torture you could claim isn’t really torture!!! Come back to me once you’ve waterboarded someone!!!August 22, 2018 at 9:10 am #11039
@davis – can you give an example of where the Categorical Imperative is used in real life?August 22, 2018 at 9:25 am #11040
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