Monday, August 23, 2010

Bad Answers to Broad Questions


This survey result has caused me re-think my eagerness to subject moral questions to a plebiscite -- to be clear, I am now leaning strongly against.Being unclear is morally wrong.

Another moral qualm I have with this result: the questions are so hackneyed and narrow. What about sex between an unmarried man and an animal fur? I stand against, though it does change a little if the animal fur initiates it, and more so if they're the only two present. I also confess to not having entertained a fully-formed articulation of the opposing side, and it's immoral to draw firm conclusions before granting a fair hearing to all the relevant sides.

Though perhaps distanced from our everyday moral quandaries and challenges, my unmarried-man-animal-fur sex questions have the virtue of specificity, whereas the items on this list sorely lack it: e.g., cloning which animals, and to what end? Every time we breed asexually-reproducing creatures, as when we grow cultures of bacteria for various research purposes, we are engaged in a form of cloning. Certainly we are allowing it to go forward without throwing a fit and calling the guys at Gallup.
 
"Gambling"? Who cares? People waste money. People obsessively waste money; people do silly things in the spirit of competitiveness, and often they spice the experience with wagers. People get pulled in to the "rush" (allegedly) of taking a silly risk with stacks of money, or stacks of money they wish they had. It's foolhardy at times; I'm not sure how placing it on the moral-immoral axis adds anything important, or makes it any less boring as a target of public fretting.

"Doctor-assisted suicide" -- just that? No qualifiers as to the nature of the medical exigency, if any? Under what rules, with what safeguards in place? Just what sort of "assist" do we mean here?

"Divorce" -- I am surprised this is considered a live moral question, but indeed there are places in the world where it remains all but impossible, especially if you're the 11-year-old girl in the happy bond. And rest assured that where the law does not provide for an orderly dissolution of the marriage, the result is exactly the intended one -- allegedly: the married couple sort out the difficulty and resume their happy, if not totally placid, monogamy, mutual support, and lives qua couple. There's no abandonment, cruelty, violence, or departures from the vows they exchanged on the wedding day.

And so on. Overbroad answers invite bad answers.

Eli has more on this at Rust Belt Philosophy, and his criticisms are hinged.

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