Thursday, August 8, 2013

Consequentialism: It's the new black

A guy walks into a bar. He sees a beautiful woman chatting with her friends and decides to put the moves on her. He confidently approaches her and opens with, "Hey. Would you sleep with me for a million dollars?"

The woman appears shocked at first. She hesitates. Bites her lip. Finally she says, "If you're serious... for a million dollars... yeah, I probably would."

The guy says, "How about for ten bucks?"

Furious, the woman snaps, "What is wrong with you?! What do you think this is?!"

The guy replies, "We've already established what this is. Now we're just haggling."

The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was wrong, period, case closed. When this is pointed out, we frequently hear in response, "What would you have had Truman do instead?" In our own day, when we point out that abortion is evil we are usually asked, "What would you have a poor unwed teenage girl do instead?"

These supposedly devastating responses are trick questions, though I doubt they are intended to be that way. They are interesting questions to be sure, but they have no bearing whatsoever on the statements to which they are putative responses. They presuppose consequentialism and our opponents expect us to haggle over which is the lesser evil. This is at the root of accusations that pro-lifers "don't care" about the plight of women with crisis pregnancies, even though pro-lifers do more than anyone else to help women with unexpected pregnancies.

The heathens are half-right. We don't care - that is we assign zero moral relevance to -  about the consequences of not doing something intrinsically evil. The consequences of avoiding evil must always be accepted, period, case closed. That doesn't mean we don't sympathize with Truman or the pregnant woman. But only when intrinsically evil courses have been absolutely and categorically ruled out can we have a discussion about what to do.

h/t: Zippy

No comments:

Post a Comment