Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Can morality be based...

...on how much you know? Or in the case of my conclusion to the Ethics exam essay, what you don't know? In Kant's writings he speaks of a moral law that we should all uphold, and within that there are moral absolutes that we are all confined to. He says that you should never treat a human as a means, always as an end unto themselves. Therefore, stealing is wrong because you are using the owner of the item(s) as a means to get what you want. The question however, is whether or not these absolutes will stand up under any circumstances (if they're truly absolutes, then yes, they should). What about if you were one of the people that hid Jews in your house during the war? If a Nazi came knocking on your door and asked "Hey pal, do you have Jews in your house?", what would you do? If you are a firm believer in Kant then you could not lie. You could try doing a bunch of other stuff (distraction maybe), but certainly not lie. But how could you possibly stand there and convince yourself that you've done your moral duty by not lying and now it's in God's hands as to whether or not the innocent people in your attic die a horrible death? Korsgaard formulated a respose to this problem, and it works pretty well...except for a couple little holes. I'm not going to go into that here, because there's not enough space, but if you're looking for an interesting read sometime, might I suggest Korsgaard's response to the Rigorism Objection. That is where the opening line to this entry comes from. If you whole heartedly buy Korsgaard's solution then you raise the question of whether the morality of lying depends on the fact that you're lying, or the fact that the other person is unaware that you are a liar.
And children, the moral of the story is to never, ever take a philosophy class unless you are willing to dig deep into you very heart for answers, that may not come easily or at all, to questions that have stumped great thinkers for hundreds of years. And also keep in mind that once you take one, you might be hooked. ;)

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