Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Us" and "Them"

Today is Tuesday, 15 June 2010.

An incident today reminded me of one of the longer-running problems in philosophy. Is the scope of just behaviour, that is, how one should rightly treat people, unitary or bifurcated?

There are those who posit two spheres: morality and ethics. In this construction, morality deals with how one acts toward those near at hand, and ethics with how one acts toward those outside the charmed circle.

Morality always begins with “blood”, which is to say, the family. Most contemporary Americans would consider “family” to mean parents and their children. However, throughout most recorded history the meaning has been more expansive. In any case, the defining element or core of the family is “blood”, either through physical inheritance or relation through co-optation (e.g., marriage or adoption).

Morality holds that one has unique obligations to this group which are both more extensive than the obligations to those outside, and which transcend in decisional importance those outside. This holds true even if “blood” is given a more extensive definition, such as clan, county, state, nation, “race”, or whatever.

For example, (and to take the narrowest membership definition, the nuclear family), parents have an absolute obligation never to murder their own children. Children outside the family … well, depending on factors such as their physical or social distance from one’s own family, the benefits one might derive for one’s own family, etc., there is a diminishing-to-no obligation not to murder the children of others.

Using this standard, if one’s family is not Jewish, for example, it would under certain circumstances be perfectly moral to attempt to murder all Jewish children, if one believed that same would bring benefit to one’s own family. While such an example might have once seemed extreme, we know it’s not. And when Americans who supported the Vietnam War watched, eagerly and approvingly, on their televisions, during meals, the murders of hundreds of thousands of Indochinese children, it was the result of precisely such a calculation and morality, in which “blood” was defined as “American”.

Any decent set of human values must absolutely reject such values. Just behaviour admits of no “Us and Them”.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ernesto “Che” Guevara WAS A MURDERING BASTARD!

7:56 AM  
Anonymous Singing Along said...

Sing with me,

"We are familiy, I got all my sisters with me..."

"We are the world, we are the children..."

HH - I am surprised you didn't dredge up YouTube videos for these songs.

12:55 PM  

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