Friday, December 4, 2009

Kant's Rigid Moral Frame in Practice

In comments on my last post, everyone's favorite hater of atheists, Zdenny, was kind enough to express his distaste for non-rigid moral framing. He expressed the opinion that the reason atheists would not care for Kant's model for morality, was because we want to be able to do whatever we please. Aside from showing an abysmal ignorance - to be clear, a willful abysmal ignorance about athiests, it also shows a rather abysmal ignorance of Kant's model for morality. Unless of course he really does agree with Kant, in which case he follows a dogmatic form of Christianity that is patently unfamiliar to me.

Kant believed that any use of another person, was inherently immoral. One of the universal axioms he believed is absolute, is lying. No matter what the circumstances lying is inherently immoral and unacceptable. The facts of a given scenario are irrelevant, one should never lie.

An example that was discussed by Kant, was a scenario in which a friend is being sought by someone who wants to kill them. Said friend flees into a house to hide, while you are in front of the house. The person who wants to kill them comes and asks you if they are in the house. According to Kant, you cannot reasonably lie to that person. Because you cannot know for sure that the friend has stayed in the house to hide, you cannot say "no, s/he is not in the house," because that may well put the would be killer to searching outside where he may find the friend. The only reasonable response, not knowing for sure what the friend has actually done is to tell the would be killer you do not know.

So lets translate Kant's response to real historical situations. Situations in which Christians were quite thankfully not inclined to follow Kant's model for morality.

Some abolitionists of the nineteenth century created underground railroads to help escaped slaves find their way to safety, in territories where they would be welcomed to freedom. At many points these underground railroads were located in places where law enforcement was very keen on returning escaped slaves to the south, often to brutal beatings and sometimes hanging. Even in places that had a more neutral attitude, there were bands of bounty hunters who were often times rather brutal in their attempts to infiltrate underground railroads and cut off these pipelines. A great many of the abolitionists involved in these efforts were Christians who believed it was their God-given duty to lie and misdirect slavers and slave bounty hunters. No few of them were inclined to lie about their abolitionist beliefs, to draw attention away from their roles in the railroad. In a few recorded cases, people involved with the railroad actually infiltrated bands of bounty hunters seeking escaped slaves, so as to more effectively misdirect.

In Nazi Germany, when people had become more fully aware of what the Nazi's were doing to the Jews, a lot of people became involved in trying to get the Jews out of Germany safely. Like the underground slave railroad, they were hidden in houses and moved in secrecy, until they were safely out of Nazi controlled territories. And like the slave railroad, there were many times when people hiding and moving the Jews were questioned about it and many times they told lies to misdirect the Nazis. A great many of the people involved in this effort, like those involved with the slave railroad, were Christians. No few of them became rather vocal and ardent supporters of the pogrom, so that like the abolitionists, they could direct attention away from their attempts to save the lives of as many Jews as possible.

In both of these cases, not only were Christians involved in lying outright to misdirect, something that Kant would consider immoral in itself, there were a great many Christians who would live a lie in public, to draw attention away from themselves and their activities. And the interesting thing about this is, they have biblical examples from which to justify their actions. Early Christians were not very well accepted. Being a Christian meant risking imprisonment and even death. Early Christian leaders had to sneak about, to visit many of the cities they visited to minister to the local, hidden Christian populations. I daresay there were a great many hosts of Christian leaders who had to outright lie to guards, when they came to the door looking for said leaders. And while the early Christians may not have been terribly inclined to live an outright lie, they were certainly very keen on not admitting to their beliefs.

I could go on and on with this. There are numerous examples throughout history, of Christians lying to protect people. There were Christians who did so during the rise of Protestantism. There were Christians who did so when Martin Luther was calling for the slaughter of Jews. There were Christians who did so when churches schismed and violence was to follow. There were even Protestant Christians who lied to protect Catholic Christians and Catholic Christians who like to protect Protestant Christians in Ireland, in particular and a lot of other places where violence between the two groups was rife.

So ZDenny, while I am not a believer in universal moral axioms, not buying into Kant's model for morality, or that of the utilitarians, does not equal not buying into universal moral axioms. The moral framework of Christianity has traditionally understood that there are times when the consequences outweigh the intent. That the moral thing to do is to do what it takes to save lives and show others what Christian charity and love is really all about. When you support the rigidity of Kant, you are denigrating the memories of Christians from the time of Jesus to the present. You are denigrating the memories of Christians who risked and in innumerable cases sacrificed their lives for what they believed was the right way for Christians to live and to be a living witness for Christ.

When you support the rigidity of Kant, you are no different than the Sadducees and Pharisees who put their religion before their god.

5 comments:

ZDENNY said...

You don't seem to understand the difference between practical reason and pure reason for Kant.

In a perfect world, right and wrong are clearly determined by reason simply by using the categorical imperative; however, practically, we live in a fallen world.

As a result, on a practical level we have to live by the law of love which can only be known through Jesus Christ. I am a hierarchalist in ethics as a result.

In other words, we know what is right and wrong prior to experience; however, due to our corrupted experience, we have to live as Christians according to the law of love which is the greatest virtue and a reality you come to know through Jesus Christ.

DuWayne Brayton said...

Bullshit Denny. Pure and simple bullshit. Kant was pretty fucking clear about his position on morality. Consequences were absolutely irrelevant - no exceptions.

In a perfect world, right and wrong are clearly determined by reason simply by using the categorical imperative; however, practically, we live in a fallen world.

Kant said nothing of the sort. The phrase itself should make it very clear to you his position. It wasn't a categorical - only in a perfect world - imperative. It was simply the categorical imperative. And this is born out not only in Kant's writing and his lectures. He believed absolutely that the only way we might ever come to have a perfect world, was if we all lived by the categorical imperative.

As a result, on a practical level we have to live by the law of love which can only be known through Jesus Christ. I am a hierarchalist in ethics as a result.

Which is nothing more than a fancy way of admitting you are a moral relativist.

In other words, we know what is right and wrong prior to experience; however, due to our corrupted experience, we have to live as Christians according to the law of love which is the greatest virtue and a reality you come to know through Jesus Christ.

Yup, that would be moral relativism. You either know right and wrong prior to experience, or you don't. The only way that one could possibly be anything but a moral relativist on some level or another, is if they viewed the world in black and white - making choices based on moral absolutes that are unwavering.

ZDENNY said...

As an atheist, you would have to argue that the law of love is moral relativism because you only believe that love is a feeling in your body. Your begging the question.

Kant clearly said that people are an end and not a means to an end. Kant emphasized the law of love which he believed was the universal good which is higher than all goods.

In your post, you present what are called double wrong choices.

The wrong choice is pretty simple.

A Christian promises to protect and keep safe someone from an immoral government.

A Christian when asked by the government if they are hiding someone is presented with only two wrongs.

He is forced to lie to either the person who is hiding or the government.

The situation presented here becomes subject to the law of love because you only have two wrong choices. The law of love is higher than any good that exists.

The power of Christianity can be seen in how Christ's love can cover your sin. The Bible says, "Love covers a multitude of sins.

The only reason that we have two wrong choices is because our world is not perfect. We live in a fallen world.

Kant argued that people are an end and not a means to an end. As a result, Kant was arguing for the law of love.

The fact that you don't understand Kant simply tells us about your educational level on Kant. In fact, most atheist fail to understand him because of the presupposition that love does not exist and is only a feeling in the body (this leads to moral relativisim).

God Bless..

DuWayne Brayton said...

As an atheist, you would have to argue that the law of love is moral relativism because you only believe that love is a feeling in your body. Your begging the question.

Bullshit. There is no law of love and there are no moral absolutes except that most people have a moral frame of some sort or another.

There is no begging the question. If you are going to use such terms, either learn what it actually means by looking at the links I posted on elementary logic, or I will delete posts. I am tired of your insistence on using language you obviously don't understand.

Kant clearly said that people are an end and not a means to an end. Kant emphasized the law of love which he believed was the universal good which is higher than all goods.

Yes, Kant was very clear that people are an end and not a means. I have said as much. But the notion that Kant emphasized some kind of "law of love" is patently absurd and betrays a profound ignorance of Kant on your part. Kant was extremely clear on the points that I raised - one has a moral duty to ignore the facts of a given situation and to refuse to commit an immoral act. In the case of lying to someone who is looking for a friend, to protect such a friend, his response was clear - lying would be using that other person and it unacceptable.

He is forced to lie to either the person who is hiding or the government.

No, that is not the choice. The choice is either to lie to the government or endanger the person. There is a significant difference there.

The fact that you don't understand Kant simply tells us about your educational level on Kant. In fact, most atheist fail to understand him because of the presupposition that love does not exist and is only a feeling in the body (this leads to moral relativisim).

You are exposing your ignorance about atheists again. If love exists as a feeling in the body, then we are accepting that love exists - as indeed we do. For fucks sake Denny, please read the links on elementary logic or fuck off. I really don't have patience for your bullshit.

And I hate to break it to you, but we are, all of us, moral relativists. Morality is relative to time, space, culture and the individual. Click my "morality" tag for an explanation - I wrote two rather exhaustive posts and a third will be coming along relatively soon.

Even what you are claiming is morality is relative to all of those things. The dogma you base your moral frame on, is not the same dogma that John Wesley, Martin Luther, Augustine or most any other historical religious figure more than a couple hundred years gone. For that matter, there were a lot of differences even a hundred years ago.

And different Christians interpret that dogma differently. The nuts and bolts of morality are not the same.

If you would like to continue commenting here, you need to learn something of elementary logic. If you want to discuss morality, you need to read my posts on teh topic - I am not going to waste time reinventing the wheel, when I took the time to write what I already have on the topic. Otherwise I will be deleting your comments out of hand.

And I am not Jason - I am more than happy to delete your comments outright and not bring them back.

DuWayne Brayton said...

Like I said, learn what the fuck you are talking about or fuck off...