?

Log in

No account? Create an account
A comment on morality - Phil's Rambling Rants
August 24th, 2004
04:06 pm

[Link]

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
A comment on morality
Earlier today the local public radio talk show had a guest who was discussing the subject of self-destructive behavior. The guest presented an argument from Kant. I haven't read Kant, so all I'm reacting to is what I caught of what the guest presented, which may not reflect on what Kant actually said. But the argument went something like this:

Because we as humans have the unique ability to reason, that makes us special. Because we're something special, we have an obligation to each other to be respectful of what we are; so when a person does something bad, even if they do it in private, they are shaming not only themselves but everyone.

I think the starting point is is a valid one. Our ability to reason makes us special, and we should hold onto that distinction. When one person does something shameful, it does diminish all of us. But what are the actions that bring shame on everyone? I think the shameful act is not the private sin that harms no one else, but rather denying another person the freedom to do the thing he wants to do only because it offends someone else's morals.

Tags: ,

(5 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
[User Picture]
From:catalana
Date:August 24th, 2004 03:22 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I think the starting point is is a valid one. Our ability to reason makes us special, and we should hold onto that distinction. When one person does something shameful, it does diminish all of us. But what are the actions that bring shame on everyone? I think the shameful act is not the private sin that harms no one else, but rather denying another person the freedom to do the thing he wants to do only because it offends someone else's morals.

I'm not really going to get into this argument, since I'm not a Kant scholar (actually, I avoid Kant as much as possible) but I did want to point out that if you're trying to argue against him, you're committing a fallacy. You claim that a shameful act "is not the private sin that harms no one else." However, that biases the case against Kant, since he is claiming that all shameful acts, even committed in private, diminish everyone. Hence, for Kant, there are no such private sins that harm no one else; the very nature of a shameful act ensures that it harms humanity as a whole.

You may or may not agree with this, but you can't argue against him simply by assuming that his outlook is wrong! *grin*
[User Picture]
From:tigertoy
Date:August 24th, 2004 03:34 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I don't claim to be arguing against Kant; I don't claim to know what he said. I'm only making my own comment about what the guy on the radio said.

I stand by my point, which is that private acts which don't affect others don't diminish us all, but repressing individuals by not allowing them their private acts does.
[User Picture]
From:catalana
Date:August 24th, 2004 10:05 pm (UTC)
(Link)
That's fine. I wasn't arguing against you, just pointing out that you had a problem if you were trying to argue against Kant. Since you aren't, there isn't a problem; Kant would simply disagree with you.
[User Picture]
From:singlemaltsilk
Date:August 24th, 2004 03:27 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I'm not sure I believe that there is such a thing as a 'private sin that harms no one else'. I do believe that how we conduct ourselves when no one else is watching is more important than how we behave when under scrutiny.
[User Picture]
From:tigertoy
Date:August 24th, 2004 04:00 pm (UTC)
(Link)
How we conduct ourselves when no one is watching is certainly an important test of character. Even when -- especially when -- no one will be able to call us to account, we must avoid doing things that do harm to others. But acts which do not harm anyone, or acts that arguably harm the people doing them, but don't harm anyone else, should only be limited by the choice of the individual.

Whether the act is done in private is only relevant to the extent that it can be argued that someone else could be harmed by seeing the act. I should never have used the word 'sin'; it only obscures my point.
Powered by LiveJournal.com