Addendum to my moral metric

2011-12-28 (Wednesday) § 1 Comment

In a Facebook discussion about my previous post, a friend pointed out the issue of consent in suffering.  I neglected to build that in, but I meant to exclude consensual suffering from the metric.  My next task will be to define consent.  In the meantime, I’m changing the name to the even-catchier Worst Individual Non-Consensual Suffering.

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§ One Response to Addendum to my moral metric

  • jasonburbage says:

    There is another area of ambiguity remaining, which is intent.

    Is it immoral to cause suffering unintentionally?

    Related to that, is it immoral to do something which only might cause suffering, or which increases its probability?

    For one example, is it immoral for a doctor to prescribe drugs that might cause a severe allergic reaction, regardless of how much it helps those that have no reaction? Assume that the suffering caused by the reaction is greater than the suffering relieved by the medication. Obviously the doctor doesn’t intend to cause suffering, but just as obviously, he is aware of the possibility.

    Is it immoral to drink and drive? If I drive drunk, I’m not doing it with intent to harm somebody. It’s certainly possible that I might drive drunk and harm nobody. In fact, it’s probably the most likely outcome. However, I know that if I do drive drunk, I am more likely to cause harm to somebody than if I took a taxi or waited until the next morning. Does that make driving drunk as immoral as the worst harm I might possibly cause, or is it only immoral if harm actually comes to somebody?

    That raises another question: if driving drunk is immoral because of the worst suffering it *might* cause, then driving sober must also be immoral, since the worst individual suffering it might cause is the same as drunk driving. Do you agree?

    In the above, by “immoral”, I mean, “equivalent to intentionally causing the suffering that results.” If the answer is that it’s less immoral if it’s caused unintentionally, I’m curious how you would quantifiably compare intentional suffering to non-intentional suffering

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