It’s good! But, maybe it an’t right?
December 2, 2006 11:58pm CST
I suspect that almost all of us would behave uniformly when encountering face-to-face with another person’s misfortune—we would all feel instant sympathy. We are born with ‘sympathetic vibrations’--we often automatically tear-up in all the same situations. However there seems to be two moral concepts that determine many social-political situations. “The two main concepts of ethics are those of the right and the good; the concept of a morally worthy person is, I believe, derived from them.” This quote and any others are from “A Theory of Justice” by John Rawls. It appears that both philosophy and common sense distinguish between the concepts ‘right’ and ‘good’. The interrelationship of these two concepts in many minds will determine what is considered to be ethical/moral behavior. Most citizens in a just society consider that rights “are taken for granted and the rights secured by justice are not subject to political bargaining or to the calculus of social interests.” The Constitution of the United States defines the rights of all citizens, which are considered to be sacrosanct (sacred or holy). Many consider that the “most rational conception of justice is utilitarian…a society is properly arranged when its institutions maximize the net balance of satisfaction…It is natural to think that rationality is maximizing something and that in morals it must be maximizing the good.” Some advocates of utilitarianism believe that rights have a secondary validity from the fact that “under the conditions of civilized society there is a great social utility in following them [rights] for the most part and in permitting violations only under exceptional circumstances.” The good, for society, is the satisfaction of rational desire. The right is that which maximizes the good; some advocates of utilitarianism account for rights as being a socially useful consideration. Captain Dave will under no circumstance torture a prisoner. Captain Jim will torture a prisoner when he considers such action will save the lives of his platoon. Some utilitarians consider the rights enunciated in the constitution are a useful means to fortify the good. Captain Jim, while recognizing the rights in the Constitution, considers these rights are valid and useful but only because they promote the good. The rights defined in the Constitution can be violated but only in the name of the common good. Captain Dave may very well be an advocate of utilitarianism but he considers that right is different in kind from good and right cannot be forfeit to good under any condition. Do you think that most people in your country are like Captain Jim (would torture under certain circumstances) or like Captain Dave (would not torture under any condition)? I think they are more like Jim in the US.