November 19, 2010

Guilty 'til proven innocent!

I come across a very common and rather instantaneous fallacy whenever someone asks me why I am concerned over one thing or another. Of course, some instances like homosexuality and abortion occur the most often (thank you, public school system!), but it's a common mistake in moral thinking.

Assumption: What I do/want/think/etc. is morally acceptable until proven otherwise.

I can hear the alarm bells going off in your head, already! But go ahead and think for a bit how you may have done this at any time in the recent past. At any given time you ever said, "can you prove me wrong?" or anything similar to that inquiry, you were likely committing this very logical flaw!

Going back to my original example, whenever someone asks me what my issue is with something, I'll normally give some broad, generality, such as, "throwing rotten tomatoes at prisoners is wrong because it wastes perfectly good rotten tomatoes." Irony far, far aside, in virtually any given case I will be immediately met with the response, "so? You still can't prove it wrong!" Now, understand, this is a rather weak example. There is no prerequisite such as presenting an original example on my part or even the institution of a valid topic. For total srs, someone could just approach me and say out of the blue, "what's wrong with giving food to old, starving men?"

So, I'll start at the bare basics of my rebuttal. For starters, moral acceptance can be rated on a scale of good vs. bad. I'll use the assumption that good is a positive existence and bad is the lack thereof. This means that in the original assumption, there is inherently good in whatever action/thought/etc. Now, even though this is not physics, it is quite fair for me to employ the law of conservation of energy: matter cannot be created or destroyed. No, I am not speaking on the constancy of the amount of matter in the observable universe, I am speaking in terms of the assumption of the existence of good in any given action/thought/etc.

What I mean to embellish is that you cannot assume the existence of good because it is not necessarily there. It is an unknown factor in the case of the assumption. Bring about the fact that a scale has "markers" on it. Just as your average metric ruler has centimeter notches in it, so does a moral "ruler" (giving me candy is on the top, fyi). When I introduce the moral acceptance of giving food to old, hungry men I am placing this act somewhere on that ruler when I truly have no knowledge of the scale itself.

Ultimately, my point is that you cannot assume the positive existence of good in an act/thought/etc. because we cannot immediately measure it. Allow me to assume that acts must be compared to one another based upon the known moral value of one.

Also, I have decided the unit of moral value shall be 2/3" washers.

Conclusion: actions/thoughts/etc. are not inherently morally acceptable and their moral acceptance must be proven.

Yes, my roundabout approach is rather sloppy, but I'm not here to connect syllogisms.


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Blogger Ambrose said...

2/3" washers are much to small. You need something larger in order to differentiate more clearly between the different actions.

A little on the absurd side, but a valid argument.

November 23, 2010 11:35 PM  

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