Consequentalisim

!heavy topic alert!

Myself and my sister have been having some discussion lately regarding a controversial philosopher, Peter Singer, based at Princeton. She send me this article he wrote about homosexuality in india and i suppose in general.

Interesting article…

It seems that the author subscribes to a human centered consequentialism. In other words, in this philosophers opinion the result of ones action and the good or harm caused to others is the criteria for determining the morality, or ‘goodness’ of the action.

Consequentalisim generally runs into problems when you have to weigh the value of the consequences. To decide the value of a particular consequence, you have to continue asking the question, “is the consequence of this consequence good”, ad-infinite.

Also, in simplistic situations, this theory may be useful but where a decision may affect an entire family or society the consequences are complex and far-reaching. Are the consequences judged on how they affect individuals or society as a whole such as is the argument for “just” wars and the “greater good”? Also, how does the person acting figure into the equation? I would have thought a true consequentialist must put what is judged a greater good before their own personal happiness. Either way the decisions tend to be highly subjective.

I suppose I’m implying that the consequences of homosexuality on an individuals family or the society are difficult to determine. Maybe it is true that a homosexual relationship has neutral consequence on those around, but when that relationship involves family, and particularly children, the consequences become harder to unravel.

One thing I don’t like about the article is the way the author uses ‘weasel words’ and ad-hom arguments to attack the Indian law against homosexuality. Does Vikram Seth, or Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, decide right and wrong or are they more capable in weighing the consequences? Who are the “notable” Indians? It is interesting for those involved to know the opinions of important people but irrelevant to the outcome. I think the author should rely on their (probably quite good) logic rather than name calling. But I’m sure this issue is emotional for all involved and it is easy to do. I do it all the time. =)

My own opinion it is very regrettable that homosexuals in India are marginalised but I don’t think that the harassment of homosexuals or the fact that some countries legalise it is a basis for determining its morality. This is morality by consensus and although may be a way of keeping the peace may only be a way of determining by majority decision the value of a consequence. Should India change its laws depending on what is the most fashionable or is there something deeper?

I suppose you will be disappointed to know that I see my self as an extrinsic teleologist. I mean that you will be disappointed because it seems to be the easy way out. Sort of like those disregarding all science to do with origins with a casual mention of genesis. However i think that some sort of telelogy is the the obvious end of the consequentalist reasoning. The consequentialist must finish by asking the question, ‘what is the goal or purpose of a person?’ (and, maybe, ‘what is the consequence of this being diverted?’.)

So maybe i am also a consequentialist after all. I do believe in weighing the consequences, i think that sometimes I should sacrifice myself for the greater good. But i don’t think I’m a natural or humanistic consequentialist.

The difference is that I would have to admit that I include spiritual consequences in the equation in the attempt to answer that final question regarding the value or purpose of the human life. I also would have to admit that as a judge of what the consequenses of everyday decisions are, i can only go so far. Some actions involve consequenses that are to far into the future to see clearly. (the butterfly effect and all) How can anyone judge these effects even on their own lives? How can someone be so presumptuous as to assume they may judge them for others? So something from the outside is needed… a word from God as it were.

Of course if you chose to answer the whole thing by saying that there is no intrinsic or extrinsic finality then who cares. Anything could go really and people tend to go back to “do to others as you would have them do to you” type stuff.

Check out other articles by this guy here and of course let me know what you think… especially if you disagree =)

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