Necessity is a Mother

May 28, 2008 § 3 Comments

Necessity is the mother of moral heresy, to be more specific.

Some arguments I don’t like to see:

Torture is immoral because it isn’t necessary: it doesn’t actually work.

Abortion is immoral because it isn’t necessary: adoption is always an option.

Atomic bombings of civilian cities are immoral because they aren’t necessary: the Allies needn’t have insisted on unconditional surrender.

Suppose, though, that in a particular case one of the acts in question really is necessary: suppose that life on Earth as we know it will be utterly destroyed if we don’t undertake the act.

It doesn’t matter. It is still wrong to do it.

These moral arguments from (non) necessity are essentially a way of marketing an idea which is unpalatable to a particular audience by hiding the essence of the idea. More bluntly, they are a lie; a subterfuge. They hide the fact that morality is the Cross. That is why I don’t like to see them.


§ 3 Responses to Necessity is a Mother

  • JohnMcG says:

    Embryonic research isn’t necceary because adult stem cell research is so promising.—I think it’s tempting to reach for these arguments in order to demonstrate that just because I oppose a particular means doesn’t mean I’m opposed to the ends. I want to beat the terrorists; I wan t to cure Parkinson’s. But the means proposed are still immoral/

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    In the case of the stem cell research thing, I think there needs to be a way to point out that the advocates of ESCR are hyping–putting it less nicely, outright lying–about the connection between ESCR and medical research and cures. In fact, so twisted are the supporters that they have tried repeatedly to squelch adult cell research even when it is more promising. Now, these are facts, and they are facts worth telling, if only because a) they show that ESCR proponents really are advancing their agenda very nearly for the sake of embryo destruction itself, which is creepy and bizarre, and b) because it might be good if some people could be cured by adult stem cell research.But it can be difficult to find a way to get such facts across without conveying exactly the sort of confusion Zippy is concerned about.Something similar is true re. abortion. It’s important to help young women think about adoption. Very, very important IMO. (I think it would be better for the children in many cases if they were placed for adoption rather, even, than being kept and raised by their unwed mothers.) And crisis pregnancy center workers have to find a way to convey that option to them. But how do they do so without conveying that they “understand” why the women want to abort, as if abortion were an explicable act under the circumstances or might somehow be necessary? I have no idea. It’s one reason I’ve always shied away from trying myself to do crisis pregnancy center work. I would doubtless come across in a way that would put the women off.

  • William Luse says:

    “Necessity is the mother of moral heresy”, which is another way of saying that it’s the mother of invention.

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