Thursday, October 18, 2012

But I Am Not Hurting Anyone

A common plea in moral defense of some action is that it does not hurt anyone. But we have to ask, what is meant by "hurt"? If we restrict it to physical pain, there are a large number of nasty things you can do to a person that do not involve the infliction of actual physical pain. But once we go beyond physical pain, the whole idea of what hurts another person becomes complicated. Let us say there are a man and a woman who are living together. He feels he no longer loves her and it would hurt him to force himself to stay in a relationship he no longer finds fulfilling. She still loves him and feels hurt by the fact he wants to leave. It is simply not possible to arrange a world that will please everybody. And there is no certain way to measure who will feel the most pain in such circumstances. Also, this can leave people at the mercy of the individual who is easily hurt, overly sensitive, or even just good at acting the part.

A similar justification is that certain actions do not affect me. Now I hate giving any kind of legitimacy to this position because it is rooted in pure selfishness. It is saying I should not care how much harm people do to themselves or others as long as it does not affect me. But even if you grant the premises, it is a total lie. It may be true that what one person does in private has little effect on society has a whole. But if it is considered acceptable for one person, it becomes likely a significant number will become involved in it. And once this happens it will affect what is acceptable in public. I may not have to view an XXX-rated movie or visit clear porn sites. But the fact it is considered acceptable to view such things affects what is acceptable in other movies and internet sites, television, or even billboards and magazine covers. And all this affects public discourse and how people relate to each other. Now it could be that in this case I am the overly sensitive person (I have had serious battles in the past with pornography), but do not claim it does not affect me.

Before you can judge what hurts others you have to have overarching principles of what is truly good for that person. In other words you need morality. Now I am not claiming this proves Christian morality, but I do believe the issue must be discussed on the basic level of what is truly moral. In fact, those who make these kinds of statements are generally assuming their particular view of what is moral and basing their arguments on it. Therefore, we need to go beyond these superficial arguments to wrestle with the real issues. For only then can we find an objective moral standard on which to base our decisions.

No comments:

Post a Comment