Sunday, June 11, 2017

Intuitive and counterintuitive moral principles

No one can help being white or being black, and so it seems to follow that it
is wicked, unfair, and unreasonable to disqualify a person from any consideration just because he is white or black.” 

This seems strongly intuitive as an ethical principle. 

But what on earth do we do with this one?

No one can help being a psychopath, and so it seems to follow that it is wicked, unfair, and unreasonable to disqualify a person from any consideration just because he is a psychopath.



5 comments:

John Moore said...

It's only unfair to disqualify a person due to their skin color if the skin color is really irrelevant, as it almost always is. But suppose you're making a film about the Civil War - you should not have a black actor play the role of Robert E. Lee. Just because of his skin color, but it's not really unfair.

So also with the psychopath - you shouldn't disqualify a psychopath from any opportunities for which the psychopathology is irrelevant. For example, I think a psychopath might still be qualified as an organ donor. It would be unfair to discriminate in this case. But it's totally fair to disqualify the psychopath for the job as kindergarten teacher.

Legion of Logic said...

OP: "No one can help being a psychopath, and so it seems to follow that it is wicked, unfair, and unreasonable to disqualify a person from any consideration just because he is a psychopath."

MLK had a dream where a man was judged by the content of his character, and not his skin color. That means behavior should be the criteria for how we judge a person.

Psychopathy most certainly will affect a person's decisions and behavior toward others. Is a similar claim being made of skin color? If so, that's incompatible with MLK's dream. Perhaps his dream did not reflect reality, and there are ingrained behavioral outcomes of being a particular race. Is that the claim being made? Should we look at a list of behaviors and be able to tell the person's skin color based on those "symptoms"? Conversely, should we look at a person's skin color and be able to make broad assumptions on how they will behave?

Or is comparing skin color to a personality disorder not the most productive methodology?

Joe Hinman said...

John Moore said...
It's only unfair to disqualify a person due to their skin color if the skin color is really irrelevant, as it almost always is. But suppose you're making a film about the Civil War - you should not have a black actor play the role of Robert E. Lee. Just because of his skin color, but it's not really unfair.

casting parts for film is not a moral issue. I can't think of any moral issue where skin color is not irrelevant unless we are talking correcting prejudice against it,

So also with the psychopath - you shouldn't disqualify a psychopath from any opportunities for which the psychopathology is irrelevant. For example, I think a psychopath might still be qualified as an organ donor. It would be unfair to discriminate in this case. But it's totally fair to disqualify the psychopath for the job as kindergarten teacher.

If you can prove someone is a psychopath it's almost always after they commit a crime, it's not illegal to be one.



Mortal said...

Interesting that the film industry is so reticent about casting a person of one race/ethnic background in the role of a character with a different one, while opera routinely casts African Americans as Italians, Asians as Germans, and White people as Japanese, and no one bats an eye (as long as they can sing).

oozzielionel said...

The psychopath question may rely on our modern abuse of identity. We mistakenly believe that a person's identity gives them permission to behave in any way that conforms to that. However, behavior can be regulated equally regardless of people's ascribed, adopted, or genetically determined "identity." It also does not matter if one's identity is derived at birth or adopted later. Being born a psychopath does not eliminate the equal responsibility of all to abstain from acting like a psychopath.