Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Moral Conundrum

The Moral Conundrum
By Kevin Karl Biomech
Recently, I received two responses to a video I put up on youtube asking the question which is an unanswerable moral conundrum if you believe that the State should exist. That question, which above all others led me to anarchy, is simply this: At what point does that which is immoral or impermissable to the individual become moral or permissable to the group.
I actually didn't expect anyone to try and answer that question directly. It's a question who's main purpose is to make the recipient THINK DEEPLY about their convictions of morality.
Proceeding from the concept of Universality, the answer is simply that there can be no such exception. Even situationally, the exceptions are so rare as to not be codifiable. There are the so-called "good samaritan" acts, in which you act to save the life or safety of a stranger, but even here, that's not a real exception. It is not immoral or impermissable for an individual to act in the defense of another, especially one who's incapacitated or in imminent danger.
Yet that's the trap I got drawn into. I was once captain of my school's debate team, and I blew it.
One gentleman had replied that the line is drawn to protect the weak from the strong. This statement, while not in itself wrong, is unrelated to the question. It is both a non sequitur and a strawman. Subtle, though. Here's why it fails.
One, it's a non sequitur in relation to the question asked. Why? Because the question is when does it become permissable or moral for the group to do that which is impermissable or immoral for the individual to do. In no culture that I've ever read of or experienced is it impermissable for the individual to defend the weak against a strong aggressor. Not one.
It is a strawman because it argues a different question. I did not ask if the group could do something that was ALREADY morally permissable to the individual. That is pretty much given in the question itself, as well as general experience of the human race.
It is further a sweeping generalization, because it implicitly states that being strong is Malum in Se, which it is not. Had he said a strong aggressor, or the Evil Strong, then the statement would have been correct within the strawman, but still unrelated in any real sense to the question asked as the topic of debate.
To my knowledge, it has at all times in the history of humanity been considered both a moral and courageous act to defend someone against aggression that they were unable to contain on their own. A rather common example right here in the United States would be the "schoolyard bully" getting his ass kicked by another youngster with a conscience whilst perpetrating his bullying upon someone unable to adequately defend themselves. (The inevitable target of such bullies).
Whether this defense was carried out by one man or a group isn't even part of the equation. It's a just response to an injustice, and therfore morally permissable to both the individual and the group. It does not provide an exception to the immorality of an act at the individual level vs. it's morality at a group level. If anything, it reinforces the basic assumption of the question: Morality is universal or useless.

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