Philosophical Meta-commentary on the Government Shutdown

Posted on Posted in atheism, Ethics, Humor, Kantian Ethics, liberal/conservative, Politics, Science, the new atheists

I guess I should take the opportunity, before some sort of deal is reached to comment on the current political situation regarding the government shut down. I could comment on how stupid the people who are pushing this insane agenda are however there are lots of people already doing a pretty good job of that.

See the video below for one such example:

So my commentary is going to be bit of meta commentary on the issue. Would you expect less from a philosopher of my caliber? I think not.

So, here goes, but bare with me for a minute while I digress only slightly to make my point.

A while back I read a number of books by the “new atheists” and a number I of responses to those books. One common theme was the atheists blaming the theists for all the bad stuff that persons of various religions have done like the crusades and the inquisitions, etc, and theists blaming atheists for all the bad stuff done  in this century by various secular governments (Stalin, Hitler, Mao, etc.).

A number of these books actually got into arguments over whether Hitler was a Christian, which is of course absurd to even argue about if you know anything about the teaching of Jesus.

I don’t think any of the cases offered up as proof of the moral bankruptcy of the opposing party actually proved anything, much less shed any light on the existence of God.

But what did become clear in thinking about the issue was that the real problem was utilitarianism. Yes folks you heard that right, utilitarianism not atheism or religion is the root of all evil.

I’ve written on a related topic here, which is what the philosopher Allen Wood calls “self-congratulation in future perfect sense.” He says:

A common moral error that sometimes passes for “consequentialism” is one we might call ”self-congratulation in the future perfect tense’. People are sometimes tempted to violate an important moral principle by teh lure of some great good to be gained in the relatively near future (or the prevention of some terrifying evil). For example, people holding great political power use it in ways they know are wrong, but they imagine future generations contemplating with gratitude the bold vision led them to lie, or start an aggressive war, or violate the rights of others, This is the state of mind which, combined with short-sightedness and incompetence that usually attends such enterprises, has led to most of the terrible deeds for which their perpetrators are in fact remembered only with revulsion.

Okay, so I exaggerated a little bit, it is not exactly utilitarianism but a trap that one can easily fall into if one thinks that it is the consequences of one’s actions that make the action right or wrong.

In non-philosophy-speak, i.e. english, this means that most of the really bad shit that people have done to one another has been in the name of some ideology, either social, religious, or political.

And that is exactly what is happening right now in the good ol’ US of A. You have a group of ideologically motivated people committing harm to innocent people in the name of some future good, which is never a good a idea.

The most basic ethical principle is to respect the rights of other persons, or as Kant said to “always treat persons as ends in themselves rather than merely a means to an end.” And, If you do that you avoid things like the crusades, the inquisition, communist revolutions, and a government shutdowns.

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