What fundamental value(s) informs progressive politics and ethic?

I would hypothesize that most human beings I interact with on a daily basis, particularly the progressively minded ones, accept certain fundamental values as truisms, i.e. self-evident and obvious truths. One example of these might be the ethic of reciprocity, a.k.a. the “golden rule”. Out for a stroll in the toasty 20 degree weather I was playing a little “Descartes” and thought of this blog. Consequently, I am posting these questions to the blogosphere regarding fundamental values much of progessive ethics and politics seem to be based. I am pretty familiar with the religious answers to these questions, vaguely familiar with the ethicist’s answers, and feel ok about my own but I’d really like to hear all of yours.

1. Is it wrong treat one category of human being as lesser or greater? Why?
2. Is it wrong to kill another human being for any reason? Why?
3. Are the any intrinsic differences between categories of people? Are there any implications of this?
4. Is it possible to use power justly? How is it derived justly? Why?

Anxious to hear from you all.

N

About these ads
This entry was posted in Ethics, Philosophy. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to What fundamental value(s) informs progressive politics and ethic?

  1. cacophonies says:

    1. Is it wrong treat one category of human being as lesser or greater? Why?

    No. I can’t think of any reason why it would be. I thought of criminals or convincted felons, and whether I thought it would be okay to treat them as lesser, but I don’t think so, unless being imprisoned and secluded form the rest of society could be seen as “less than.”

    2. Is it wrong to kill another human being for any reason? Why?

    I think that the only time it would be permissable to end another person’s life is in the case of self-defense. While it could be argued that, say, the death penalty is defense in the sense that innocent citizens are being protected from potential life-threatening crimes, I think the better option is imprisonment and/or rehabilitation.

    3. Are the any intrinsic differences between categories of people? Are there any implications of this?

    Leaving aside scientific proof, because I don’t have any statistics or anything at hand, I do think that there are some intrinsic between men and women. The reason I think that is because of estrogen and testosterone, and how most men have more testosterone, more women, estrogen, and we know that those hormones have different effects on people. The implications of that being the case… well, I’m no scientist, but from my experience and reading I’ve done, the differences affect the ways in which men and women communicate with one another, and obviously physical differences. So, most men would be better suited than most women for physical labor, for example. I don’t think that the intrinsic differences would -or should- play a role in how men and women are viewed in terms of competency. I certainly wouldn’t object if a 250lb man got a construction job over me, for example.

    4. Is it possible to use power justly? How is it derived justly? Why?

    I’ll have to answer this one… after I get home. My break is woefully over.

    • cacophonies says:

      I want to expand on the “intrinsic differences” question; I answered that about males and females, but I also wanted to say that as far as other categories of people are concerned, I’m not sure. I have heard or read various things here and there that point to some difference in some area of the brain with homosexual people, but I don’t remember where or if the source was reputable. Obviously if this is true, I wouldn’t think that means that homosexual people were somehow flawed. More than anything, I would think that it would help GLBT rights. If we were able to scientifically prove what reasonable people already accept as truth — that sexual orientation is a natural inclination and certainly not a choice — then more people might (even grudgingly) change their minds regarding homosexuals and gay marriage, for one.

      Is it possible to use power justly? Well, that’s a good question. Maybe? I can’t say, having never really been in a position of considerable power, with the exception of my brief stint as the assistant manager at Ritz Camera ;)

    • cacophonies says:

      Oh– when I say “criminals” and “felons,” I mean the criminals and felons who have committed violent crimes and are a threat to society.

    • N says:

      Why is it ok to kill in self defense? What are some examples of the uses of power that you might endorse?

    • cacophonies says:

      The instinct of self-preservation is inherent in all of us. While it could be seen as noble to allow oneself to be killed or injured in order to avoid doing harm to another, “noble” is subjective and therefore insufficient as a point of measurement about right or wrong.

    • Daran says:

      The instinct of self-preservation is inherent in all of us.

      So is the instinct to procreate. If the former justifies killing in self-defence, why does the latter not justify rape?

    • cacophonies says:

      The person being raped is not threatening the life of the rapist, nor does the rapist rape the victim in order to avoid being raped him/herself.

    • cacophonies says:

      Uses of power I might endorse.

      This is too broad, I think… first I thought about power = violence, then I realized that power isn’t just physical, and thought about using power to do good, but what does “good” really mean, and is that the question we’re really trying to answer? It sounds like it might be…

    • desipis says:

      I think the right of self-defense is based on a pragmatic anticipation of morality Darwinism. Any moral code that does not permit follows to defend themselves (or form a symbiotic relationship with an moral code that will do the defending) in a hostile world will inevitably be wiped out.

      Also, any moral code that has a basis in freedom must ensure it provides some benefit to its follows otherwise they are likely to exercise their freedom to stop following it. Being prevented from killing in self defense amounts to an expectation of self-sacrifice, not something a free self-interested individual would consider doing as it will obviously negate any advantages of following the moral code.

    • N says:

      Evaluating the American Left by this logic might be an interesting exercise.

    • desipis says:

      The American Left doesn’t support “self defense” as a defense for a murder charge?

    • N says:

      Theoretically perhaps. Though I would suggest on average the American Left places far more value on what it sees benefits society over any particular citizen’s practical ability and right to actually apply lethal force in self defense, e.g. firearm legislation.

      Perhaps that is the right perspective, but my own personal, proverbial jury is still out on that.

      Futhermore, in my own limited experience I would say that large portion of individuals that I have met in Left circles are staunch pacifists and wouldn’t, morally anyway, defend lethal force in self-denfense. Granted my own personal experience is hardly authoritative.

      Edited for typos: 12.12.09

  2. ballgame says:

    Out for a stroll in the toasty 20 degree weather …

    Is that sarcastic 20 degrees Fahrenheit or warm-for-winter 20 degrees Celsius?

    I agree with cacophonies on 1 and 2.

    I don’t know what you mean by “intrinsic” on 3. I think there’s a difference between “intrinsic” and “probabilistic” (which is how I would characterize differences between the genders). If you could give some examples on this, that might clarify things.

    On #4, I would say, “of course” … you have examples almost too numerous to mention … parent/child, teacher/student, doctor/patient*, cop/citizen, judge/citizen, jury/citizen, legislature/citizen, citizen/legislature, lover/lover. In all these cases the former has some kind of power over the latter. In most of these relationships the power is (conceptually, at least) voluntarily surrendered to the person wielding the power, or is assigned by society by dint of dependency on the part of the person not wielding the power.

    Now, my answer would be somewhat different if you were specifically alluding to “power to order another person what to do”, which would present in some of these relationships but not all.

    * I emphatically do not believe that it’s legitimate for a doctor to order a patient to do something, but the doctor does have the power of altering the patient’s reality or violating the patient’s bodily integrity in ways that would obviously be impermissible in other contexts.

    • N says:

      I am about 185 cm tall, but nevertheless am a lazy yankee who after pondering whether or not to specify faranheit assumed no one would possibly be reading his blog from outside the States. You know what they say happens when you assume…

      What I am asking about “intrinsic” characteristics might also be phrased “Are there any catergories of humans that can be defined without exception? Or virtually without exception?” I like your term “probabilistic”, but I’m going to play devil’s advocate here for a moment. If a person is a member of a group because the probability is high that they share a characteristic with other members of a group they have to share some other characteristic to be catergorized by. Trying to simplify here:

      If group A is characterized solely by trait X, then any indiviual that lacks trait X is not part of group A.

      Moving on… Why are those example of power acceptable? What makes the power to compel wrong? What underlying values or reasons inform this? Simply a belief that compulsion is wrong?

    • Daran says:

      …assumed no one would possibly be reading his blog from outside the States…

      Hi, from chilly Scotland.

  3. cacophonies says:

    Jesse just wrote a post that actually answers some of those questions (his perspective, obviously).

  4. Daran says:

    1. Is it wrong treat one category of human being as lesser or greater? Why?

    The question assumes that we agree on what a human being is. Is a foetus a human being? Was Terri Schiavo a human being after her brain-death?

    It’s also not clear what “lesser or greater” means. We view children as different from adults, for example but if that distinction is allowed, anyone, racists for example, could argue that their view of other categories of human is that they are “different” without being “lesser”.

    4. Is it possible to use power justly? How is it derived justly? Why?

    “Power” is even more ill-defined than “human being”.

    • N says:

      Daran,

      I’m looking for people to deconstruct their own vocabulary here and make a case. The ambiguity is deliberate.

      Trying to encourage people to take a little Cartesian journey. You might say I was baiting.

      Cest la vie, still learning to effectively communicate via writing.

      Have a pint of real Guiness for me would you?

      N

  5. innocentsmithjournal says:

    1. Is it wrong treat one category of human being as lesser or greater? Why?

    This question is impossible to answer in the abstract.

    2. Is it wrong to kill another human being for any reason? Why?

    In self-defense, killing may be necessary. That’s not really a reason, however.

    3. Are the any intrinsic differences between categories of people? Are there any implications of this?

    Are there any intrinsic characteristics to begin with? What makes a characteristic intrinsic?

    4. Is it possible to use power justly? How is it derived justly? Why?

    Without power, there can be no justice. Whether or not power is derived justly depends on who you ask. Stated in the abstract, the question is impossible to answer.

  6. Pingback: Mulligan: What fundamental value(s) informs progressive politics and ethic? « ethecofem

Comments are closed.