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It is in the prosecution of some single object, and in striving to reach its accomplishment by the combined application of his moral and physical energies, that the true happiness of man, in his full vigour and development, consists. Possession, it is true, crowns exertion with repose; but it is only in the illusions of fancy that it has power to charm our eyes. If we consider the position of man in the universe,—if we remember the constant tendency of his energies towards some definite activity, and recognize the influence of surrounding nature, which is ever provoking him to exertion, we shall be ready to acknowledge that repose and possession do not indeed exist but in imagination. - Wilhelm von Humboldt, The Sphere and Duties of Government (The Limits of State Action) (1854 ed.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

To the Extreme

It is beyond me how any morality is not based on human consequences but instead on some "objective" right and wrong:
Note also that discrimination is wrong when it demeans whether or not the person affected feels demeaned or stigmatized. In other words, this account of wrongful discrimination is grounded in the wrong that discrimination sometimes is rather than the harm that it may cause. (my emphasis)
So, given that there need not be any negative consequences to any person, even just thinking a discriminating thought is wrong!? Now presumably discrimination is punishable. This means that if you could read people's minds you could/would be able to punish them for their bad thoughts of discrimination.

The problem is not necessarily how silly this is. This is taking to the extreme this type of philosophy (deontology). The problem is the only real objection to consequentialism is of this type.

Generally, objections to consequentialism are framed so as to violate a person's intuitions: Kill an innocent person, take her organs to save 5? How horrible!!

But think about it!! In the extreme which morality far and away violates intuition? So compare for yourself:
  1. Kill innocents to save even more innocents; VS
  2. Punish people for their thoughts.
Seems pretty obvious to me: Even in the extreme, consequentialism is far better.

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