Monday 25 May 2020

The inadequacy of consequentialist ethics - from commenter Ingemar

Imagine went back in time two years ago and told you that the government, media and bystanders forbade close human proximity, most types of business, worship and a wide number of outdoor activities. 

What would past-you think think of such an arrangement? 

My guess is that absent of any context, he would be horrified at such an arrangement. He would say "What gives those people the right to enforce such arbitrary rules?" 

But say that I did provide a context--a killer disease is on the loose. Would he change his mind? 

Sadly, I think that's the case. Such is the error of consequentialism. This is one of the prevailing errors of our times, the idea that human action has no intrinsic moral value, the result of which is that any action can be justified so long as a promised good is attained or a promise evil is avoided.

Thus Ingemar, in an e-mail that I publish with permission.

My comment:

By 'consequentialism' I understand him to mean an ethical system based on maximising the predicted consequences of current actions; these consequences being implicity defined in 'utilitarian' terms of optimising human gratification and minimising human suffering (sometimes, not always, including death).

As such, this is incoherent at many levels; but nonetheless is the dominant ethical system in modernity. Once consequentialism is accepted, everything hinges upon the predicted consequences of present actions - and these futuristic speculations are now defined as a reality by an Establishment consensus.

There are also all kinds of hidden assumptions about whose happiness/lack-of-suffering matters most, and whose does not matter at all. For example, the sufferings of those people who regard churches as an essential part of life count for absolute zero.  

But consequentialism is pretty much inevitable if God and the spiritual realm are denied. Such denial reduces all of life to materialism, and all of ethics to psychology - what is even worse, to predicted psychology, and to inferred psychology (since nobody knows for sure what is going on in the minds of others); and what is even worse to the predicted, inferred psychology of large groupings of people such as 'The Public'.

In sum, consequentialism is public policy is in the first place intrinsically tyrannical - since it is defned by the Establishment; and also necessarily meaningless - since its bottom line is the nonsense of 'predicted, inferred, group psychology'.

In other words, we must have an ethic about the good and evil of actual decisions and actions (regardless of supposed consequences); and this means - to be better than the incoherent totalitarianism we have now - we must have, at least, a God; and must acknowledge that there is more to this world than the material.

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