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4-6-13 questions and discussion

From: Jon A.
Sent on: Thursday, April 18, 2013 10:15 AM
4/16/13 questions and discussion

1-Is voluntary military service truly voluntary and is it in our Nation’s best interest?9
2-why was individualism invented?3
3-How will less expensive weaponry change the ethics of war?8
4-how can one be held morally responsible for things beyond their control?11
5-can our country survive the tendency for voters to vote mostly for things that are only good for them, not necessarily the greater good?10
6-does thought shape language or does language shape thought?10


how can one be held morally responsible for things beyond their control?

David the Younger: we hear so often of people being held responsible for things they've done when it's not necessarily clear that they had control over the outcome.

Steve: if one's distracted while driving, aren't you more responsible for allowing yourself to become distracted?

Mitch: when I was a bartender I was responsible for who I served and how much. If something they did thereafter did harm to themselves or others I could be held accountable for serving them too much alcohol. I think that's wrong. I have no control over how alcohol affects those I serve it to. I have no control over what someone does after they leave my bar (say they drink more in their car after leaving me. No one sees them consuming extra and so all the potential blame for alcohol served could rest on me!)

Steve: could that just be badly designed law?

Mitch: maybe.

Jim: how do we distinguish between killing a kid and *could* have killed a kid if a kid had been there?

David: that makes me mention unequal punishments for the same/similar crime.

Steve: there is a question in here I like but I haven't heard it yet. It's not a probability thing. 

Meg: what about having no control over where one is born? Born to wealth/poverty, functional/dysfuncti­onal, etc.?

Steve: I'm not getting it yet.

Vivian: as a retired nurse this is common. One co-worker was turning a large person over in bed who then fell. She was fired/put out of school. Another similar event occurred yet the nurse was not punished as severely because the patient's family included a medical doctor who understood how it could happen, how it actually affects patients, and how common such events are.

Steve: the morality angle isn't about whether or not one is caught doing something.

Ken: is everything beyond one's control?

Kevin: how about a victim's responsibility -- can consciously bad decisions made by a victim prior to harm be considered immoral?

Jon: as a bus driver I was found guilty of using my cell phone while driving. Yet the reason I was found out came by accident because my management was watching the bus' video tape for an entirely different reason. A co-worker hit a pedestrian two winters ago during a severe storm. He didn't see the pedestrian, his passengers didn't either. Neither he nor his passengers felt the bus run over the person. It was hours later that the driver was notified of what happened. He was fired for something completely beyond his control, the weather.

Alex: that's not about morality.

Mitch: but the company is thinking of morality. It doesn't want to be thought of as a company that retains drivers who've run a person over. 

Jim: is there any such thing as "moral responsibility"? If I do something I know is immoral but am not caught, does it become moral -- or at least amoral -- without repercussion?

Alex: if we know it's immoral, it's immoral no matter what.

Jim: can an act be immoral if no one's harmed?

Mitch: morality as a concept is ambiguous.

Jeff: Is moral culpability the same if one reckless driver kills someone and a separate but identically behaving driver doesn't?

Steve: no. It's recklessness/immoral­ with or without the result.

Dick: I received a DUI a year and a half ago. I had in fact not driven my car in any kind of dangerous way, but someone else called in to complain about my driving style and when I was stopped for that I failed the breath test.

Gina: what if you had done something and didn't know it? Would then that complaining person have done you a favor?

Dick: maybe. There are degrees of moral violation.

Mitch: is there an example without legal reference?

David the Elder: the Nazis. Let's say you were a terrible Nazi during WWII but since that time up until now you have had an uneventful or even exemplary life?

Mitch: not every Nazi hated Jews. All were born in Germany and couldn't escape the influences around them

Steve: Schindler -- the man who saved the lives of a thousand or so Jew during WWII -- was a Nazi and used the access it gave him to accomplish the good!

Jim: here's what has to be part of moral accountability: choice. The German population didn't have a choice, in order to survive they had to at least turn a blind eye.

David the Elder: when a bartender is charged for serving, is there a moral difference? 

Dick: [to David the Elder] you saw soldiers do things' in Vietnam that might address this question, yes?

David the Elder: a soldier does not have to obey an illegal order. If one kills the innocent during war, it can be because our emotions carry us to crazy places. In war, having seen your friends killed, it's an understandable albeit unacceptable  behavior.

Ken: would it be more important to discuss "after the fact" moral responsibility? If one "comes clean" after not getting caught doing something immoral, does that change our understanding of the original immorality?

Jeff: two points: Steve makes a good point; the difference is in moral equivalency or its lack therein.

David the Elder: or intent?

Jeff: second I just read a brain scientist discussing how our decisions and behavior can be controlled by our brains. There is the real event of a man who suddenly became obsessed with killing his wife. He'd been to doctors (psych and med) who found nothing wrong with him. He finally did kill his wife and died in a shootout with police. He left a note behind that said essentially "after you kill me for killing my wife, please examine my brain. A tumor was found there that had not been detected by medical examinations. Brain. One cannot be held responsible for how their brain is constructed.

Jim: morality means nothing if we insist on "my brain made me do it" arguments.

Mitch: what about less dramatic examples? We can fight our instincts. We have free will.

Meg: I keep thinking about how we start to get into making excuses for our decisions. There are no promises, we know we have no control over our birthplace, our parents/family, etc. Using those things as excuses is very problematic. 

Alex: so running a red light is wrong always. Here's what utilitarianism might offer: if I run a red light -- because I need to get to work to feed my family -- and then kill someone, my reasoning for running the light is sound from a utilitarian standpoint.
Utilitarians would say one is not morally responsible for results related to their actions affected by things beyond their control.

Ken: is there anything not in our control? Every action causes a reaction.

Steve: which man is morally reprehensible: a soldier in war misses his enemy target,  killing an unarmed woman, or the man who is driving to work one morning and someone jumps off the overpass ahead of you, landing on your car and killed there?

Jon: there's this thought project: you are at a trolly platform standing next to a very heavy set person. to your right you see five men doing repair work on the track. To your left you become aware of a trolly rolling out of control down the track. Do you push the big man onto the track to save the five workers? I utilitarian might likely say "yes."

Ken: I would want to push the fat guy but doubt I could.

DAvidII: we're hearing more and more about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The people with it are considered unable to control what this mental state causes and it sometimes results in serious harm being done to themselves and/or others.

Eric: scenario: say there is a pharmacist who is against abortion but who must obey the laws which require him to provide "morning after" pills. Acting on his sense of morality he refuses to do it. Setting aside the law, is that pharmacist then morally responsible for babies born as the result of his refusing to provide that medication?

Mitch: how about the girl who killed herself after her rape was posted as video online? Are those who posted the video morally responsible for her death? I think they are.

Jim: When one does something wherefore one can reasonably expect suicide as a consequence, that may not work in a court of law, but it remains moral responsibility.

[post note: I wonder if "The Court of Public Opinion" is how we decide this question. Gossip maintains and develops or modifies our collective morality. With every new event we collectively decide whether someone is or is not morally responsible for results that come after the effects of the uncontrollable are included in causation. Could it be that moral responsibility's definition needs a village?]

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