Tag Archives: law

Ethics 101 and The Right to Self Preservation

19 Jun

It is my contention that the right to self preservation is an atheist right. I will show this through a classic conundrum: supposing there are two men on a raft in the middle of the ocean, but the raft can only hold one, what do you do?

Rose and The Guy from Titanic

“Clever” ethics professors pose the “two men alone on a raft” question. This pseudo-conundrum is not so difficult. The answer is as follows:

(a) You are an atheist, or someone whose god(s) does not punish or think people are wicked/sinners. The answer is simple: you can ask yourself questions about “How much you care about the other person?”, “How willing you are to kill them?”, etc. and if you find that your desire for preservation outweighs the other life *sploosh!* off the raft they go! It’s a simply matter of calculating your self-interest correctly.

(b) You’re not an atheist. You must take into account who owes more to whom (between the two of you) and who is more beneficial to the Whole/God/the City. Questions like: “Who is younger?” “Who is a father?” “Who is a better person?” = “Who has the more important life?” Whoever comes out the best in this line of questioning gets to stay on the raft.

A not-so-clever professor responds: “I’ve got you! What if all that comes out even! You’re in a pickle there!” Actually no. It should just be clear that neither party can do anything to the other. Instead they can draw straws, cast lots, open up a fish and read the entrails, wait for an omen/sign or something like that. The bottom line is neither one has the right to choose because both are equally deserving.

A more clever professor responds: “What if the two men, neither atheist, have different moral standards? You were assuming they could agree on whose life is more important. What nonsense!” Of course it is a possibility that they have different standards. However, (excuse the coming switch to first-person) I must decide in light of the law-standard I abide by. If I decide that the law requires me to sacrifice myself for whatever reason, I must do whatever I can to bring about that end (including stopping the other guy from disobeying the law by sacrificing himself.)¬† If the law tells me that I am the deserving one and he refuses to die, I may consider him the aggressor and (if my law allows) attack him or (if my law does not allow me to attack) die condemning him.

So you see, the “right to self preservation” is atheist in origin and this conundrum isn’t so difficult (for anyone) after all. Hurray!




Why I Am Not A Libertarian – The Myth of Neutrality

3 Jan

It is shortsighted or dishonest to think that the legalization of hitherto illegal activities can ever be value-neutral. Another way of putting it: it is shortsighted or dishonest to think you do not have a way of life and that this way of life does not necessarily conflict with other ways of life.

The libertarian thinks: “You do not have to smoke Marijuana. Keeping it illegal is an oppressive wish to enforce your views on other people.” He has the corresponding thought: “I do not force my views on others because I want to legalize it. My views aren’t oppressing others because I am giving them the choice to smoke or not.”

First, I will make a simple plea to honesty. And then, I will give a possible example that refutes the libertarian claim to neutrality. In this post I am trying to convince the libertarian that “You too want the law to mirror your opinions of right and wrong.”559532_124365704380703_469266583_n-600x350

(1) Be honest libertarian-liberal friends, you have a “value system” just as much as anyone else. When you succeed in legalizing something hitherto illegal, your values have beaten somebody else’s values. It is not morally neutral to say it is OK to use marijuana, but a moral position just like any other moral position. The only difference is that it is a more permissive position, insofar as it permits human beings the choice of smoking. It appears to be the less oppressive option because it offers this choice, whereas the person who wishes to keep marijuana illegal appears to be more oppressive because he is willing to limit what others are legally allowed.

However, what if I find it oppressive to live in a world where nobody shares my way of life? A people are free when they are free to live their way of life. This requires two things: (1) that your political community shares your way of life, and (2) that your political community isn’t the slave of another political community. If your way of life is to smoke pot and eat McDonald’s, then you are free so long as your community says these are good things to do and another community hasn’t come by and enslaved you.

(2) Example: Pretend I am a political leader that works very hard to keep the people of my city moderate and strong. I know that it takes a great deal of work to do this, because human passions are hard things to compete against. They persuade most people. Nevertheless, I love the freedoms my people have earned through our courage, moderation and ability to wage war against our enemies and so I work very hard to persuade my people that listening to their base pleasures is bad. Suppose a libertarian swaggers into my city and says, “Don’t you all know you should be allowed to eat as much McDonald’s as you like and smoke marijuana as well!” What am I to think of this character? My first thought will be that he is trying to enslave me and my people. His people must have been exhausted by our strength and this is their insidious plot to weaken us. But what happens when I find out this little talking-box is sincere? What a wonder! Of course, his sincerity only makes him more of a threat. That is, his ideas will weaken my people whether he is sincere or not, but it will be harder to convince my people that he is evil if he is indeed sincere and not at all malicious. His sincerity has a better shot of winning my people over to the bad thing because he is sincere, and so he turns out to be a graver enemy for his sincerity. Now, say the libertarian, over many years, convinced my people to eat McDonald’s and smoke pot. Who will have conquered whom?

In the end it is not about any given choice, but about ways of life made up by many choices. There are very few ways of life that are not based in a political community. When someone wants to change the laws of a community that person wants to change the ways of that community. This is a zero-sum game. It is time we were all a little more honest with ourselves about politics.

Post Script: I am fully aware this honesty can be dangerous, but it seems that the present dishonesty is the real threat at the moment¬†a la Tocqueville’s soft-despotism. We are striking down anti-polygamy laws for goodness sake! “Nothing is dangerous.” A dangerous (and boring) way of thinking.