Monday, August 5, 2013

A Basic Ethical Disagreement

If we decided that to hate the sin necessarily involved hating the sinner, at least when the sinner held the sin as a good, then what would follow? First, such a position depends on a level of moral relativism if it is to be extended as far as murderers.

Let us suppose that we restrict the position to actions where there are no non-consenting persons directly involved. The idea, then, is that those persons form a closed moral system within which others are not allowed to judge because they are outside that moral system. If it were established that the moral system in question were closed, then this would hold, however the simple fact that the actions in any hypothesized "closed moral system" are to be observed by others "outside it" proves that it is not a closed moral system as those who observe it are affected by it. Thus, let us suppose that the argument is that only those who participate in a moral system can critique those who are part of it. This is effectively a return to moral relativism again, except that there are no non-consenting persons directly involved in what occurs.

Why not allow any action which directly involves only consenting persons? This is the basic issue of ethical philosophy which is being argued over in our culture at the moment. One side says that all actions affect the whole society, while the other side says that what happens between consenting adults stays between consenting adults (until they produce a child, and note that none of us ever consented to be born).

A useful argument here will not take that form "there are no actions which involve only consenting persons in the relevant way," since we disagree about how direct the involvement must be to count. The argument will need to take a different tack on it, not head on, but reaching the point about what actions should be permitted via a route which is not bound by this question.

The problem is with the question: "should actions where consenting people are the only people directly involved by allowed?" The side which has been answering "not necessarily" needs to stick to "not necessarily" and not diverge into "those don't exist" since our taxonomies of action and/or involvement are not such that we can talk at that level. "Not necessarily," here, it seems to me, means "well, it depends on the action. How much who is involved, at least at the human level, is not necessarily relevant."

How much who is involved may be relevant in some cases, but simply that no one else is involved is not necessarily enough reason to say that an act is to be permitted. Even if it were, the problem of saying who is relevantly involved means that an ethical system predicated on that assumption would still be incomplete.

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