What is justice?Posted: September 3, 2011
Please watch this video before you read my post. Or it would not make as much sense.
(I mean, if you’re going to read something as long as this, might as well just spend a little time to understand a little more about morality)
Okay firstly, I have watched the other videos up to episode 3. But for this post, I shall respond directly to this episode 1. My philosophy will still apply to the other videos I’ve watched so far. However, for the sake of simplicity. I will go with the case by case scenario with the video that I’ve posted.
In the first example of 5 workers and 1 worker dilemma, where you had the choice to turn the car or not. Most people would choose to turn, because it is an obvious situation, where the lives of 5 outweighs the lives of 1. The point lies in the fact that you are the one in control, having to make the choice of the better or worse consequences.
“It can’t be right to kill 5 people
when you can only kill 1 person”
However, there are people who say that, murder is still murder, in fact, you are the one who CHOOSE to kill that one person.
The question is, what is right to do? Do you turn or not turn? In utilitarianism, the greater good for the greater amount of people. However, in humanism you focus on the morals of human values and concerns. Where a certain act is considered wrong no matter how “right” you justify it to be.
Well, screw all of that. Here’s what I say. The thing is that, these are two complete different ways of looking at the same problem. It’s like water and fire. One on practicality of the situation, where the other one stresses the virtues of a human being.
Utilitarianism stresses on the greater good, in the sense that, what needs to be done, has to be done. But Humanism stresses on the point that, there are things you shouldn’t do even if it has to be done.
(consequentialist and categorical)
It is still very blurry at the moment. But you’ll get my point in the following examples
In the part about the fat man, if you should push him down or not. Whether it is right or wrong, to push him over, to save the 5 workers. Now, there are two ways to look at this that would not contradict each other.
The paradox is that, if for the greater good, you should push him down to save the 5, but most of us would choose not to do that to him. Why? even though it’s for the greater good?
The first point is that, you are not involved in the accident itself directly. One could argue that, even so, you are the one making the choice to save the 5 workers for the life of 1 or not. But, think about this. In the first scenario, you are the cause of the death. You are the one controlling the so called “death” itself. However, in the second case, the cause of death, is caused by something propelled beyond your control. You are outside of the situation, but with the ability to influence it. But to act upon it, would be to intentionally kill the fat man, to save the others. Yes it is a little contradicting but, try to think about it this way instead.
The fat man is totally not involved in the situation. The car is not controlled by anyone. To kill a healthy person in order to save others is called a forced sacrifice. But to control a car to kill lesser people than it would have other wise, is called reducing the collateral damage.
I do not think that it is considered sacrifice, if you have to choose one or the other to die. But it is sacrifice, to send one person to stop the cause of death.
It is the same as. Instead of a making soldier choosing to shoot 1 person or the other 5. You make the 1 person jump at the soldier, gets killed, and saves the other 5 in some way.
Now, for my theory. It is different as you choose between your own morals or for the greater good. In the end, if you choose the greater good, you lose your morals. If you choose your morals, you’ll lose the greater good. There is no win win situation here. The complicated part is that we always try to think of a way to get out of the situation the “right” way, in a way that would please everyone. There’s no such thing, in this case, it’s a lose lose situation.
As with the doctor case. Where people would choose to save the 5 instead of the 1. That’s because we are so accustomed to the idea of sacrifice. That we need to choose a small sacrifice for the better good. In a clear cut case like this, we see the greater good more easily, we get convinced that our morals can be thrown aside, to allow an immoral act for the sake of the greater good.
Is it right? The question of it being right to do it or not depends greatly on whether you place more values on the outcome, or your moral values.
In the case of the cannibalism, is it right to kill/eat the weaker one, for the sake of the other 3?
Is it just, if there is consent being given, does it make it just to kill him?
Do we have certain fundamental rights? (everyone is equal)
I think that the problem and paradox with all of these questions, is that we mix up morals, justice, and what’s right or wrong. There is no justice in morals. There is no wrongs in morals. There is no morals in what is just. (because what is just can change depending on the situation)
In my opinion, it is morally wrong to do any of the things that were mentioned. MORALLY, it is wrong to kill him, with or without consent. Murder is murder. MORALLY, it is wrong, to eat him. We should respect the dead. MORALLY, their sacrificial idea is screwed, they should try their best to save everyone.
However, practically, we can’t do all of that. To survive, sometimes we have to throw away our morals. To survive, we have to disgrace the dead.
Is it right or wrong to be practical? If you believe in the survival of the fittest, then it’s right to be practical, you have to do what you have to do to win the game of life. But as we receive education, learn to respect others. at the same time, we also learned to categorize people as more or less important, a value is assigned to everyone. The morals only work up till the point of the value of the person to you.
I feel that, morals come about because of the guilt and regret we feel from doing something for the benefit of ourselves. Guilt and regret is also cultivated, I think. All of which probably came from pity that we feel for others, which is soft-wired into us over the time of evolution.
Here’s what I have to say about all of this.
In a situation where you have two choices to make, it is either morals, or utility. You cannot encompass the other one of them in either. It is as clear cut as that. Is it right to be moral, or is it right to maximize utility?
Before I answer this, let me bring up another case from episode 3. (don’t worry I’ll give a brief introduction)
Taxation = taking of earnings.
Taking of earnings = forced labour
Forced labour = Slavery
All of which, violates the principle of self-possession.
The idea of self-possession is that you own who you are. You have the right to do what you want. Exercise free speech. They talked about how liberalism violates self-possession when they place a law on:
Putting a helmet on a bike
Wearing seat belts
Though it’s true that it is for the safety for the driver. By forcing something on a person, it violates a person’s right and self-possession. A person should be able to choose to take the risk or not. Why should they be coerced into wearing a helmet?
Taxing the citizens, is an act of taking the earnings of the citizens, and redistributing it into the welfare of the society. So that we have the services of a hospital, police and fire department. The building of the national infrastructure and so on.
But according to him, isn’t that slavery on all of us?
In the case of Michael Jordan, he is taxed 33% because of his income, and the government wants to help redistribute his wealth for the welfare of the public. However, morally, it is theft by definition. The government is taking something that he had gain through justified means. Why should the government have the power to steal legally from him?
One of the students brought upon a very good point, that we are all citizens of the society. We cannot escape from it. If we choose to be in it, we have to accept some of the rules that has been set.
Now, I shall answer the question I posed myself above.
In a society, we should maximize utility, but at the same time, trying our best not to trample on morality. The act of balancing between those two is what makes a successful society.
You see. what is right or wrong, depends on what the goal is. What is the ultimate situation that you want to create? In a society, the goal is to enable everyone to live as happily as possible, to prosper as much as possible, to have as much safety and security as possible. To enable humans to procreate, and all the good things that comes with it. To enable to growth of the human race.
In such a scenario, the needs of the majority outweighs the minority. Because ultimately, we are trying our best to create a so-called utopia, where material and practical needs are all duly met.
However, if our aim is to create a world that is based on the human values that we have imposed and cultivated upon ourselves. Then almost everything that we’re doing is wrong.
Let’s just take the law of murder as an example.
Morally, we should not kill people. However, we should be able to kill people if we want to. (self-possession), but because we live in a society, we are forced to adhere by the rules and not kill anyone. But using utilitarianism, we weigh the amount of money we get from allowing people to be killed, and the amount of money we get from not allowing people to get killed. If one is higher than the others, that is chosen as the right choice. It seems inhumane, that because it is.
In a world where we are only focused on maximizing our profits and reducing our loss, morality seems arbitrarily out of place.
Okay this is all a little confusing so I’ll try to gather up all my thoughts and sum it up somehow.
“Self-possession tells us what we could do.
But morals bound us by what we should or should not do. Utility is what we would do should morality allow it.”
Truth is, the society is a really really complicated machine that is balanced on the tip of a needle. There are many contradictions to everything that we know and see.
I shall reiterate my point by saying, utility or morality, you have to choose one. You can’t have both. The question of what is right or wrong, I believe, should be judged using morality. In which case, whenever we choose the utility side of things, we are always wrong. But why can’t we get used to the idea of being wrong? We are almost always wrong daily.
But I guess,
facing the idea that what the human race has done over their entire existence is wrong,
is a really frightening idea.
If I were to cite a more everyday example, if you were to reject your friend’s outing in order to stay home to study, you are wrong. Though, your friend is also wrong to invite you out when he knows you are busy, because he forgoes considerations and courtesy in his pursue of pleasure. But, still, when the choice lies in you to go out or not, you are morally wrong because you rejected an invite from a friend and chose to utilize your time to study for the sake of your own benefits.
I think most people should get my point by now. If you have any argument against my idea of the lose-lose situation, that all humans are intrinsically wrong, please post it in the comments below. I would love to open my eyes to new ideas.