Long ago I came across (I vaguely remember doing, at least) a school of ethics that was somewhat like utilitarianism but instead of favouirng the maximum pleasure it attempted to favour the most just. The reason why I am asking is because I thought up some principles of morality, thought it was cool, then thought it may exist already. It goes like:
I was trying to think of how morality could be objective because moral relativism (or should I say, moral relativists) make me uncomfortable. I know it's wrong that a religion causes people to throw homosexuals from rooftops because they are homosexual, or throw acid in the face of a child for reading a book, and I know how (the pleasure principle) but I can't justify how to give imperatives without being subjective.
Then wondered why objectivity wasn't used in subjective morality anyhow? That is, why don't we use science (as much as we can) to resolve moral issues? I know this has been said before and I do like the work of Sam Harris but I'm not sure if he quite nails this point. We do this every day in courthouses. If someone is suspected of murder they are given a trial where as much evidence is given to help find the truth. And while subjectivity will no doubt creep in, it does replicate somewhat the scientific method; at least they are looking for facts, as much as possible. Why not in ethics?
The reason why I feel uncomfortable with moral relativists is because they generally end up taking one of two stances regarding harm:
- It's all in the eye of the beholder. The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists deserved to die because they offended someones religion
- I believe it's wrong because my society told me so, but they believe it's right because that's what their society told them so, so I can make no objective claims against it.
In Papua New Guinea it is traditional for tribal men to accuse woman of witchcraft if a village member dies prematurely. They then torture the accused with burning irons for days on end. In Islam they kill homosexuals, apostates, and rape non-believers, in Christianity they circumcise, etc. All these actions can be scientifically proven to be incorrect: The PNG person who died prematurely can have an autopsy (this has actually been done, and of course, they find the man died of natural causes), the Islamists act on a subjective source, and is there any evidence circumcision is beneficial?
Now I'm not saying we should go and invade those countries and sort them out, but rather, now moral relativists can have the following attitude towards harmful behaviour:
- I don't believe it's correct and it can be objectively proven by science