Scoop: an obese man killed by a philosophy teacher!
The previous article drowned you in trolleyology. Philosophers study the moral value of our choices. Utilitarianism appears fundamentally flawed in terms of ethics. It calculates the formula of the maximum number of lives by mocking the destroyed units. It represents the pure D of the human soliDarity imposing itself without nuance on the T of soliTary individuals.
It neglects the difference between wanting and foreseeing, acting or omitting, doing or allowing, between negative and positive duties. The simplistic calculation is enough. A utilitarian philosophy professor could kill by surprise an obese person on a bridge, or a healthy visitor in a hospital, claiming that he has saved lives.
Throwing a scale on the void
By adding rights, duties, and the Doctrine of the Double Effect, philosophers try to revive deontology, which has lost consciousness in the face of the slaughter of the innocent. For it is radically incompatible with utilitarianism. “Thou shalt not kill” does not accept extenuating circumstances. Ethics exacerbate the interest of the T. No compromise possible.
The unfortunate philosopher does not have the easy part. She is an installer of bars where to cling in the irreducible gap that separates the D and the T. By multiplying the situations analyzed, thanks to trolleyology, she builds a scale that saves us from the emptiness of indecision. For there is no conceivable mathematics of ethics. Our brain processes a multitude of parameters for each incident of life, and they are foreign to each other. its software adds apples and oranges by saying ‘fruits’, individuals all unique by saying ‘lives’. In doing so, the sign ‘=’ commonly used by the mind has nothing in common with one that transforms integers into other integers.
An intention that sneaks in
Behind the philosophical investigation, it is ultimately the trial of intent that it is about. How to plot an “advantageous” murder, or only to attend it, and not be responsible? We must start by ridding the actor of any intention. It is said that murder can be legal, provided that it did not have the primary intention. Where does this leave us? I caricature: And if we make it a habit, wouldn’t murder be less serious? We don’t have much power over our habits. They are not voluntary.
A moral validation that is too sketchy thus leads to the banality of evil. It is Arendt’s bitter observation of Eichmann, the planner of the final solution, that finally reveals a personality of a petty official, convinced that he simply “obeyed orders”. No, it is not enough to evacuate the intention for a murder to become acceptable. Passively attending is unethical. We simply changed the bar on the scale of the conflict between utilitarianism and ethics.
An accused in the chain
To say whether a behavior is moral, one must take it in its entirety, not reduce it to one’s conscious intent. Certainly the conscience seems the most lucid, but it only judges the proposals made to it. Behaviour is a chain of responsibility. It is entirely ours, from the genetic data to the final decision. It is not possible to put a single piece of the chain in court.
The trial of intent is the trial of the T by the D. The collective reproaches the individual for his egotism. He should behave like a perfect social atom, a clone of its neighbors. If his cognition produces opposite effects, it is because it has biases.
But the T can also attack the D in court. In Milgram’s experiments, ordinary individuals turn into torturers because they are encouraged to do so by an authority. Their collectivist sheepishness turns them into monsters. Another bias, but social consciousness this time. Bring me the architect who designed such a calamitous construction site under our skulls! What if these biases were only the imbalances between T and D?
Let’s differentiate T<>D conflict from cognitive biases
Milgram’s experiments fall under our T<>D principle. Getting congeners to do unpleasant things is easy by calling on their D. They are enlisted in the need for collective regulations, to punish those who do not respect them. Their T is placed on the back burner. Only the most individualistic guinea pigs end up rebelling.
Cognitive biases are another matter. They reflect the essentially unconscious construction of our moral actions. A locomotor gesture is born in the unconscious clearly before consciousness experiences it. Why would it be any different from a moral action? Consciousness completes an analysis that starts at more elementary levels.
The morgue of the downward look
Calling some of these cogs ‘cognitive biases’… is a downward look bias. It is not the consciousness of the person concerned that puts this pejorative label—he sees his choices as his property and not as biased. They are foreign observers, gathered in a common reflection on the consequences of these choices. Philosophers, sociologists, politicians, point to disadvantages for the collective and try to provide solutions. The unconscious cog is labeled “bias” in the name of a more complex paradigm, completely alien to the one which created this cog in the mind.
Let us avoid this morgue of the downward look, which often falls from too dogmatic heights. It is not a question of bias but of solutions adapted to a more primary context, becoming unsuitable in a more complex society. It is the ordinary job of consciousness to reshape its workings. We are adjusting to a reality that we ourselves have become more complex, not all at the same speed.
The role of the D is to lay down and improve the rules that benefit everyone. Role played by thinkers and researchers. But it is their T that seeks to impose these rules on others, when they call them “bias”, as if the others were defective. It is not their D that they will touch, but a rebellious T that will send them for a walk…
The controversy between Kant and Hume
Kant is a typical example of this, in his controversy with Hume. For Kant, morality must be purely governed by reason. While Hume sees reason as a slave to passions: it is then impossible to emancipate the morality of our present mood. It’s easy to dissolve the controversy, you’re being dragged into it now. Kant uses the downward look, that of the rational observer on instinct, while Hume awakens the upward look, sees the chaos of impulses from which the higher reason emerges.
Anyone who wants to cut the cord between the two does not embrace the mind in its completeness. Kant, an obsessive in everyday life, was hardly agitated by passions. It is easy for him to declare his reason independent. Hume doubts this independence, and he is the most clairvoyant. Let us not forget this essential characteristic of reason: blindness harms it…
T as rowdy
Since morality must be organized with our personal passions, it is not a foreign reason that can instill it, but positive passions towards others, empathetic. Morality is anchored in the D, that part that carries us to the other. Is it awake? should ask the judge, rather than appeal to the accused’s reason.
The first flaw of justice, let us sketch it out here, is that it never sufficiently carries the T<>D conflict in the minds of the accused. It is not biases that sit there, but a too weak D that has deported the balance. But a trial is reduced to a struggle of ego(s), amplified by those of lawyers. The judge already has little time to arbitrate these rowdy T. It is not in his court that the D of human soliDarity will wake up.
The second defect of justice is to have made the D inaccessible, technocratic, impossible to appropriate. While it exists only by its multiplication in people’s minds, its rules have become incomprehensible.
The more you stack the tables of laws in large numbers, the less people know about them. The rules of soliDarity need to be kept to a minimum, while the effort must be on educating to use them. People thus reconstruct similar behaviors from a small number of cardinal values.
But this is not the current orientation of justice, which infantilizes the population with its profusion of framing laws, thus promoting a “kindergarten” society. Another avatar of the morgue of the downward look. Unthinkable that people can properly self-organize from elementary rules! it says. But have they been made sufficiently elementary, precisely?