As a rule I rarely argue ethics or morality on this blog. It’s not that I don’t believe in them but more that I find it at best unsatisfying and at worst futile. In general the readers of this blog are Americans. My experience has been that most Americans:
- Have very strong feelings on ethics and morality.
- Feel that the wisdom that they learned at their mothers’ knees (or from movies and television) is sufficient to arrive at an understanding of ethical and moral issues.
- Have very little education beyond that in ethics or morals.
- Consistent with the above, reject more formalized notions of ethics and morality as unnecessary (or even immoral)
My experience has been that commenters frequently demand a masters thesis recapitulating the entirety of Western thought on ethics and morals over the last 2,000 years to which they will respond So?, Oh, yeaH?, Who cares about old dead guys?, or words to that effect. I have also had the experience of people immediately resorting to ad hominem arguments, mostly, I I believe, from ignorance rather than malice. Unfortunately, wearing ones ignorance as a badge of honor is a time hallowed American tradition.
In my view rejecting Kantian, utilitarian, Rawlsian or other approaches to systematic ethics out of hand is an error as is relying on personal feelings of what’s good or bad as your sole basis for moral and ethical judgements. I think it’s quite hazardous. Virtually anybody can justify virtually anything on that basis.
And, if those are the views of those with whom you are discussing, on what basis can discourse proceed? For example, I believe that moral ends must be pursued by moral means. If your interlocutors consider ends only, the discussion is over before it’s begun.
This is not to say that I think that people cannot behave ethically or morally without coherent or systematic views. I don’t believe that. However, I also don’t believe that there’s any common ground for discussing that with them.
So, although I’ll occasionally dip my toe in the waters of ethical debate here, I generally dash back to the more welcoming shores of evidence, logic, and pragmatism pretty quickly.