Friday, June 04, 2021

Intimations of Morality


This week in the LRB Thomas Nagel offers a fascinating, if complex primer here on the nature of our moral intuitions. 

I suppose my own leanings are basically deontological, in spite of the fact that I have never really accepted that the universe could have been created in order to lay down a fixed set of rules. 

That individual rights should be considered inviolable, no matter what context the collective has come up with, seems almost essential to me. 

My appreciation of history has perhaps led me to be more inherently wary of judging actions by outcomes. Individually and collectively, we are often poor at determining the greater good, even in the short-term. 

Here in Guatemala I have all too frequently come across a particular moral intuition which also strikes me as highly dubious, especially when voiced by lawyers — essentially the old 'it's OK to steal from a thief' canard. 

In a country such as this, not much good at all can come from that sort of 'reflective equilibrium'. 

So, in Nagel's opening anecdote, Stuart Hampshire might have felt morally free to provide the bogus guarantee to the captive collaborator, as the latter was somehow un-deserving of the Brit's better instincts.

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