Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Right Side

It will be okay when I do it...
When it comes to crimes like murder, I don't believe that our biggest problem is our willingness to kill. Instead, it's our willingness to tell ourselves that our reasons for killing are the right ones.
[Art] Caplan draws a wise lesson from the Nazi doctors: Beware the human weakness for moral rationalization. But part of that weakness is the illusion in each of us that we have escaped it.
William Saletan. "Natural-Born Killers" Slate Magazine, 4 April, 2005
In the end, our weakness for rationalization doesn't lead many of us to violence - despite the tough talk, I doubt that Mr. Shaw would shoot down an unsuspecting person for the "sin" of hunting for sport. It's, likely just words. Instead, it leads us to look the other way when people we dislike are subject to violence. Or, perhaps worse, engage in character assassination.

There is nothing wrong, as far as I'm concerned, with backing things that suit one's purposes, even if those same actions would otherwise trigger protest. Where we fail is in owning up to our biases. Which gives us the idea that our moral sentiments are objective reflections of reality, and thus superior to those of people who disagree with us. And there is no price to high for others to pay in the pursuit of a higher ideal.

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