Bartlett's Bizarre Bazaar

Comment, Comics and the Contrary. Contact: aj_bartlett1977*at*yahoo*dot*co*dot*uk
Enter your email address below to subscribe to Bartlett's Bizarre Bazaar!

powered by Bloglet

Sunday, October 31, 2004


It is better so it is good – perverse utilitarianism

Iraq is better than it was under Saddam, so the actions taken by the US and UK governments were good, right? Well, no. Accepting, for the purposes of debate, the first part of that argument, the second only necessarily follows if we adopt a crude utilitarianism as our moral guide.

The following thought experiment might offend. It is designed to ask us to consider the ‘good’ involved in actions so immoral that they whip many reasonable people into apoplectic ‘hanging’s too good for ‘em’ mentalities.

A baby has been abandoned in the forest. It is wintertime, the snow is heavy on the ground and the family does not have enough to eat and cannot support the new arrival. Infanticide by exposure. This is not the moral dilemma of this thought experiment. I will not be asking; what would you do, but rather, how do you understand and judge the events that follow.

Now, living in the forest is a paedophile. In keeping with the Hansel and Gretel scenario, and the hysteria and witch-hunts that define popular discussion of these modern day bogeymen, this paedophile may well live in a gingerbread house deep in the forest. He finds the baby, rescuing it from the snowdrift in which it lies. He feeds, clothes and shelters the baby.

Now, I need not illustrate my point to vividly, and I am sorry that I have asked your imagination to fill in the gaps in my experiment. But the baby is alive. It is fed. It is warm and sheltered. In this thought experiment it will grow into an adult. The baby is in a better position than it would be had it died.

But the actions of the paedophile are not good. They are, as best can be put, wicked. The motivations of actors are important in judging their actions and the resulting consequences. And the defence of only carrying out a lesser crime is not sustainable in situations, as in this one, where the lesser crime was not a necessary condition of preventing the greater crime.

Okay. Some will complain that this is not an accurate depiction of the psychology of child abusers or their victims. Fine, but that is not the point. You could also imagine a vigilante who mugs the people he saves, only he allows them to keep their credit cards whereas the original muggers would have taken the lot. Or a lifeboatman who saves only the women, leaving the men to drown despite having spare capacity in his rescue boat. All these people produce a better result than had they not been in existence. But their actions are still immoral, even wicked.

If Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Blair want to argue that they are good because the consequence of their actions are better than what had gone before, they need to argue that they acted in the interests of human rights, democracy and freedom. These, if they come, are collateral benefits of the War in Iraq, a smokescreen of a defence for men who acted in bad faith, for wicked reasons.

Comparing the President to a child molester? Good job, pal. However, I wonder, as you are apparently a moral relativist, do you believe it is "bad" to be a child molester, and if so, how do you reach that conclusion in your moral vacuum?
I have responded to this post at:
Post a Comment

<< Home


August 2004   September 2004   October 2004   November 2004   December 2004   January 2005   February 2005   March 2005   April 2005   May 2005   June 2005   July 2005   August 2005   September 2005   October 2005   November 2005   December 2005   January 2006   February 2006   March 2006   April 2006   May 2006   June 2006   July 2006   August 2006   September 2006   October 2006   November 2006   December 2006   January 2007   March 2007  

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

«#?» Listed on Blogwise