Statesboro, GA, USA
Stephanos: "If we are to really look at things this rigidly, why do our criminal justice systems punish criminals?"
Phaedrus: "Because people do things that are judged to be contrary to the ethical and moral standards set by society."
You are evading the question here. That is my question, after all, stated differently. Why are actions which people do that are "right for them" at the time, judged as unethical or immoral by society? In other words, why should actions which are done out of ignorance, and out of a sincere belief that they are right, be thought of as morally wrong?
Stephanos: "Why do we have a sense of "justice" that seems universal?... (I'm not saying that we all agree on what is just, but that the concept itself is pervasively present)"
Phaedrus: "Because ethics, morality and a “sense of justice” have evolved due to necessity."
First of all, social Darwinism is a theory. If a sense of justice arose merely as an evolutionary trait, then it only describes our biology. We can't say justice is more "right" than injustice, any more than we can say a moth which unexpectedly develped black wings rather than white ones is "better". Do you feel justified in your anger about Hitler, or a child molester, when his actions are merely the result of genetic mutations?
Stephanos: "Why do people get angry at the "unjust" deeds of others, wouldn't it be illogical?"
Phaedrus: "No, I, or society can judge a person’s deeds to be unjust or just regardless of whether it was the right choice for that person at that time."
Yes. But I'm not asking if an individual or society can or cannot do so. Of course they can. I'm asking how doing so can be justified, seeing that all choices to do wrong things are made in sincere ignorance? Why the immense responsibility placed upon those who really, from your standpoint, could do nothing else? It's like asking a leopard to rid himself of spots, and when he can't, killing him for it.
Stephanos: "Why should someone feel anger that his grandmother was gassed to death at Auschwitz?"
Phaedrus: "Because they believe it to be an unjust and heinous crime against humanity in general and their Grandmother in particular and I’d agree with them."
Websters says unjust is "not just; lacking in justice or fairness".
Show me how moral indignation to Hitler can be fair, if he was choosing what was right for him at the time. Did he have a choice to do otherwise? If no, then I don't see how moral indignation can be fair. Please explain this.
Websters says heinous to be "utterly reprehensible or evil; odious; abominable"
You used this word in your description of what Hitler did. But I thought that "evil" is what you didn't really believe in. Why is it so evil, if Hitler was acting uprightly and choosing sincerely the only viable option for him at the time? Is this an odious thing? An abominable thing? You might as well call people odious for having red hair.
"I never said Hitler was doing what was “right”, my point throughout has been that Hitler was making what he believed to be the right choice for him at that time. People do not do things because they believe them to be the “wrong” choice they always do them because they are right for them at that time"
Again, you are denying the possibility of a division in the meaning of "right". Right can be taken to mean, "what I judge to be personally preferrable to me", or "what is morally right to do regardless of my preference or feelings". These two types of right are both a part of consideration. They can and do both exist at the same time. Therefore one can choose to allow one to override the other. If these both exist (as most people will attest that they do... in their conciences), then a person would certainly be able to choose what is "wrong" despite the moral insight offered by his conscience. This would give cogency to the term "unjust". Otherwise our outcries against anything at all are unjust. But then again, we can choose no other way I suppose... Ah, the dilemmas of a naturalistic universe.
"Hitler did not wake up one morning and think, “this is the worst possible thing one human being could do to another – I’ll do it."
I don't deny that the process of self deception in Hitler's heart and mind took years and years to get to the point of being able to commit atrocities without blinking. You can "sear" a conscience much like cauterizing a bleeding vessel. But that doesn't mean you never heard it. That also doesn't mean that you did not choose to do it, consciously and with full responsibility. The murder of concience is an inustice in itself. But it's more like a strangulation. It usually (thank God) won't die easily.
Stephanos: "In other words, "everything just is, everything just happens, period" seems to be where you are heading philosophically."
Then why the debate?
[This message has been edited by Stephanos (11-25-2002 06:00 PM).]