liberal heroics

From: larvatus
Date: December 9th, 2012 12:27 pm (local)
I deny both the premiss, that liberal societies attribute an equal and unexchangeable value to each person, and the conclusion, that the figure of a hero is categorically improper therein. The former is belied by utilitarian reasoning that undergirds every public policy in modern democracies. As to the latter, we live in a country that made a secular saint of MLK after elevating Ike to its highest elected office. More recent examples can be found here.

From: aptsvet
Date: December 9th, 2012 12:43 pm (local)
The problem actually is more complicated than that. One has to defend a deontological position in a world of limited resources. So whether one wishes it or not, one has to recourse to utilitarian methods. Which does not change the validity of the principle. Even morals is not a suicide pact. Perhaps I will make an additional argument in my next essay.
As to the hero worship, examples do not matter, they are simply a way of pandering — could you direct me to a theoretical work? We live in a society subscribing to liberal principles, it does not mean we live in a liberal society.

From: larvatus
Date: December 9th, 2012 04:21 pm (local)
There is no duty to be a deontologist. Aristotelian virtue ethics is but one viable alternative that leaves plenty of room for heroics of all sorts in a society of your choosing. For Hellenic theory of our common ancestry, you might look into the Bernards: Knox and Williams. Likewise religious ethics, both within and without the Abrahamic lineage. On the moral importance of examples, please see Kant’s kasuistische Fragen.

From: aptsvet
Date: December 10th, 2012 07:13 am (local)
Actually, I do feel a duty to be a deontologist, it does not work any other way. At least where interpersonal relations are concerned. And I don’t believe one can treat ethics as a menu: utility today, virtue tomorrow.
Re heroes: personal moral example is something else; traditionally hero is somebody defending strictly parochial values, hardly compatible with the universalist aspirations of ethics.

From: larvatus
Date: December 10th, 2012 07:39 am (local)
I think some positions of social responsibility morally require a shift in deliberative criteria. The interrogator in charge of a “ticking bomb” scenario would fail his fellow citizens if he were to forgo otherwise blameworthy means of extracting information about defusing it from the terrorist in his custody. This is an instance of the common law doctrine of necessity that depending on circumstances can excuse acts both unlawful and immoral under normal conditions.
The notion that “strictly parochial values” are incompatible with the universalist aspirations of ethics highlights the necessity of Kantian casuistry. Thus: “Vedete come muore un italiano!” Generally speaking, a broad range of preferential treatments for members of one’s tribe, family, nation, or confession can readily pass the law of nature criterion. In this context, Bernard Williams took issue with the impersonal nature of moral systems. According to him, the idea of fairness and impartiality must have a limit, and in justifying one’s partiality in terms of impartial principles, one is in a sense removing the justification one already has — ‘she is my wife’. To specify some principle as to why and when is is permissible to show such partiality is to undermine the reality of oneself as a related and so moral being.

From: aptsvet
Date: December 10th, 2012 08:14 am (local)
On the “ticking bomb” issue: I find Nagel’s argument (in Mortal Questions) more convincing. Whoever tortures another human being and for whatever reason, should not pretend that he acts morally — even though the state ordering such a treatment may have used the best utilitarian logic.
On the second issue I would not dispute your point, I simply would like to emphasize again the term “strictly”. “She is my wife” is a passable argument; “she is my wife and perish the world” isn’t. Samson slaughtering the Philistines with an ass’s mandible doesn’t take their interests into account altogether.

From: larvatus
Date: December 10th, 2012 08:46 am (local)
As Saul Kripke might have retorted, whoever tortures another human being for reasons of necessity is acting schmorally. It bears notice that Kant interpreted “fiat iustitia, pereat mundus” as “es herrsche Gerechtigkeit, die Schelme in der Welt mögen auch insgesamt darüber zu Grunde gehen” [let justice reign even if it wipes out all the villains in the world]. Along these lines, slaughtering the Philistines in a just war serves their best legitimate interests in the best possible way.

8 thoughts on “liberal heroics”

  1. “I deny both the premiss, that liberal societies attribute an equal and unexchangeable value to each person,….”

    I agree. Do you believe any society attributes or attributed an equal and unexchaneable value to each person?

    …and do you prefer society attributing an equal and unexchangeable value to each person would be optimal way for a society to function?

    “… and the conclusion, that the figure of a hero is categorically improper therein.”

    I deny the conclusion as well.

    “The former is belied by utilitarian reasoning that undergirds every public policy in modern democracies.”

    I call that vote mongering or the way how dogs behave when they smell the remains of brown stain inside a bum’s underwear.

    “As to the latter, we live in a country that made a secular saint of MLK after elevating Ike to its highest elected office. More recent examples can be found here.”

    Absolutely brilliant! This is one of your finest in retorting the hypocrisy of modern democracy.

    1. “One has to defend a deontological position in a world of limited resources.”

      Why do you think one has to defend a dontological position in a world of limited resources?

      “So whether one wishes it or not, one has to recourse to utilitarian methods. Which does not change the validity of the principle.”

      If the principle were valid, then why would one have to recourse tomethods that invalidates the principle, especially if one did not even wish to resort to the methods that invalidates the principle?

      “Even morals is not a suicide pact.”

      Another word, “For the right price, everyone’s a whore?”

      “As to the hero worship, examples do not matter, they are simply a way of pandering — could you direct me to a theoretical work?”

      Why do you state that examples do not matter?

      You think people should not pander to MLK?

      “We live in a society subscribing to liberal principles, it does not mean we live in a liberal society.”

      I would qualify that by exchanging, ‘does not mean’ with ‘does not necessarily mean’.

  2. “And I don’t believe one can treat ethics as a menu:
    utility today, virtue tomorrow.”

    Can you clarify? I am confused based on your prior statement,
    “So whether one wishes it or not, one has to recourse to utilitarian methods.”

  3. “I think some positions of social responsibility morally

    require a shift in deliberative criteria. The interrogator

    in charge of a “ticking bomb” scenario would fail his

    fellow citizens if he were to forgo otherwise blameworthy

    means of extracting information about defusing it from the

    terrorist in his custody. This is an instance of the common

    law doctrine of necessity that depending on circumstances

    can excuse acts both unlawful and immoral under normal

    conditions.”

    I agree. But what should be the consequence for the

    interrogator and/or person(s) responsible for the ordering

    the arrest and detention of the ‘terrorist’ if the

    ‘terrorist’ were an innocent person framed and/or mistaken

    as terrorist?

    “The notion that “strictly parochial values” are

    incompatible with the universalist aspirations of ethics

    highlights the necessity of Kantian casuistry. Thus:

    “Vedete come muore un italiano!” Generally speaking, a

    broad range of preferential treatments for members of one’s

    tribe, family, nation, or confession can readily pass the

    law of nature criterion.”

    So does this mean you believe that gentiles don’t have to help the Jews if

    the Jews were unjustly persecuted by anti-semites if the anti-semites happend to be of one’s own tribe, family, nation, or confession?

  4. “On the “ticking bomb” issue: I find Nagel’s argument (in
    Mortal Questions) more convincing.” – aptsvet

    Why do you find Nagel’s argument more convincing?

    “Whoever tortures another human being and for whatever
    reason, should not pretend that he acts morally……” – aptsvet

    ….and who decides what is moral for him, and how?

    ““She is my wife” is a passable argument; “she is my wife
    and perish the world” isn’t.” – aptsvet

    Not necessarily. What if your wife is a morally (as defined by you) superior being than the rest of the world?

    Are you implying a morally(as defined by you) superior being should be sacrifised for the sake of morally(as defined by you) inferior beings if morally(as defined by you) inferior beings outnumber morally(as defined by you) superior beings?

    “Samson slaughtering the Philistines with an ass’s mandible
    doesn’t take their interests into account altogether.” – aptsvet

    Why do you imply that Samson should take into account the interests of Philistines?

  5. “As Saul Kripke might have retorted, whoever tortures

    another human being for reasons of necessity is acting

    schmorally.”

    What do you mean, ‘schmorally’?

    “It bears notice that Kant interpreted “fiat iustitia,

    pereat mundus” as “es herrsche Gerechtigkeit, die Schelme

    in der Welt mögen auch insgesamt darüber zu Grunde gehen”

    [let justice reign even if it wipes out all the villains in

    the world].”

    Whose ‘justice’?

    “Along these lines, slaughtering the Philistines in a just

    war serves their best legitimate interests in the best

    possible way.”

    How was it ‘just’ that Samson killed 30 Philistines on random at the beginning of feud for their garments?

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