Theodicy and the Limiting Case

And, in questions of morality, the limiting case all too often involves Nazis….

From a discussion on dietary ethics which got a little off the rails:

I don’t quite understand what you mean by that. Why would Nazis want people to be accountable for their actions regardless of their motives? That’s what I am advocating for, for constant and universal application of moral standards upon all people, for all time. Men, women, young, old, straight, gay, able or disables, it doesn’t matter. What is evil for a homeless man in the streets of Mumbai is evil for a billionaire in LA; what is evil for an active duty marine in Syria is evil for a housewife in Tennessee. It doesn’t matte if your life is very hard, or very easy, you still have to behave according to the same moral guidelines. Don’t steal, don’t kill, don’t rape, don’t terrorize people, don’t promote addictive substances without informing people what you are selling, etc.

Men like Himmler and Eichmann though that the end justified the means; in their mind, it was OK to kill millions of people to create a Utopian society for the German people.

I’m saying that it isn’t. That the ends do not ever justify the means. No goal is noble enough to warrant doing evil to achieve it.

No, you do what’s right, even if it kills you. There’s never a justification for breaking moral laws, regardless of what economic, medical, social, or political motive you might have for doing so.

Perhaps you misunderstood my comment because I used the word “chafe?” I can see how that might lead you to think I am dismissing it as a hindrance, which was not my intention. Rather, I was just pointing out that I find it to be a rather large obstacle to vegetarianism and other strict codes of moral conduct.

If you promote vegeterianism, aesceticism, celibacy, or other such restrictions, people will throw the problem of evil at you

“Why should I be good if it hurts me? I don’t benefit from being good, but I do from being evil. What gives?”

To which my response would be that what gives, is that the world is a crapsack hellhole, and that you should be good even if it hurts you because righteousness is it’s own reward.

Sorry, I wasn’t being precise enough. I was specifically referencing your statement that:

People should be able to decide what they do based on their own values and conscience, not be put under pressure from outside forces.

…and what the expected outcome is if those “values and conscience” are distorted. So if my own values are taken from Hollywood movies like Hooper and I feel that I ought to be able to drive 95 (miles an hour [US], not kph!) after having five or six beers to loosen up, you’re saying that no “outside forces”…including those with a badge and a gun…should be able to pressure me otherwise?

Ender, unless you want to be dropped into a universe with a single rational inhabitant (yourself), there are always going to be “outside forces”. Now, I think that there are ways to manage the interaction of those outside forces. Once such is Federalism; if everything worked properly we would have fifty functional laboratories of democracy which could attune themselves to the needs and desires of their residents. But the big push in recent decades has been to do away with that and make every initiative…from both the Left and the Right…nationwide. If we were truly following the Constitution, Obamacare wouldn’t even have been an issue….so California wants a cradle to grave welfare state and finds a way to make it work, then let others follow their example. Texas goes full-on laissez-faire capitalism? Let’s see if that works.

I’m coming close to putting words in your mouth and I’m sorry, but forty years ago I realized that I was at about the same point and boiled it down to this basic fact: I want to be my own god. I want to do what I want to do and be told it’s all good, but at the same time I want to tell others that you need to do what I want you to do…or else! Obviously, when you boil it down like that, it’s untenable with two or more gods in the same room. So there has to be an ultimate standard.

If you want to continue this conversation we can go deeper into detail about what we each think that ultimate standard is and should be. While it’s true that mine is based in Christian thought, it’s not taken strictly from the writings of either the Old or the New Testament…it’s rooted in my understanding of the heart of the Living God which was, yes, expressed in those writings but, being alive and ever expanding, knows that the challenges and situations we face these days are not the same as those which faced the ancient Hebrews.

One of the principles which I do believe my God holds to is, “government by consent of the governed.” But I also believe that an election is held every night. So long as you choose to wake up in this world, with all its problems and pains, over one of the alternatives in your dreams, you are consenting to His ultimate Sovereignty. I’m not saying that it makes you in any way, shape or form a Christian, Jew, or anything else…but it means that you are subject to being judged by His standards. Again, of course, In My Opinion.

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