why ethics is the only philosophy that matters

I can imagine lots of things. For instance, i can imagine unicorns, or toadstools that taste like blueberries, or planets inhabited by lovable fuzzy creatures that help the Rebellion defeat the dreaded evil Empire, or any odd configurations of fat men in doorways, or unverses where induction is always reliable… I can imagine all sorts of things and questions about life, and the universe, and all who dwell within her. So, why do I bring this up? Because, in the long run, even the most interesting metaphysical or epistemological question solves absolutely nothing. They are mere exercises of the imagination. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling anyone to stop asking or even thinking about metaphysics or epistemology. I only ask that those who do realize that when it comes to the real world ( and please, none of this “real” world versus the REAL world business), when it come to how I live my life and operate amongst the rabble, otherwise known as my fellow imhabitants of earth, ethics is the only philosophy that matters. Here’s how: Let’s say, for the sake of a thought experiment, that I am your friend (if it helps to say this aloud, do so now). I have just come into a large amount of money, which strikes you as more than a little odd, given that I just hit you up for money two days ago. Later, while consuming a large amount of alcohol (which may or may not be morally objectionable itselff), I confess that I not only stole the money, but also took out a little old lady to get it — and I’m not lying. Did I mention that in this thought experiment, you’re an upstanding civic leader, known for your dedication to American, Christian ethics? Anyway, what do you do? Do you ask if my story fits neatly in a coherentist, reliabilist, or whatever system of knowledge concerning whether I’m telling the truth? Do you ask if you’ve been somehow transported to a possible world that, instead of banks, people simple knock off little blue-haired grandmothers to get ready cash? Unless you’re that crazy ( and if those were your thoughts, I’d say that you were), I’d bet that you’d most likely politiely excuse yourself from the conversation (or confession, if you will), and make a mad dash to the nearest phone to turn me in. And why? My confession didn’t strike your epistemic sense or your metaphysical calculus — it hit your moral center. The part of you that told you that stealing money and cold-hearted murder is wrong. But, in the real world, there’s no need to even go that far. I ride the bus ( I have a philosophy degree, of course I don’t have a car). There are people that I’d much rather, well, to put it politely, avoid than talk to. But, I do. Why? Because it’s polite. It’s the right thing to do. It’s what good people do when they’re around other presumably good people. We act civilly, or morally because it enables us to, if not get into heaven, or become a dutiful citizen in the kingdom of ends, or just to avoid getting ourselves beaten to a pulp by anyone that we may offend. We do it beause acting in a moral manner matters. I’m sitting right at this moment in a public library. I smile towards other, I’m quiet, and I’ll hold the door for anyone coming in as I’m going out. And I’ll do it without ever once thinking of the problem of induction. dli

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s