Criminals Are Moralists (was Re: Responsibility)

Sat Jan 22 15:31:12 PST 2000

As indicated below, Yoshie thinks that belief in moral notions like desert makes you violent and reactionary. She points out that empathy may restrain criminal behavior, and concludes from this that morality destroys empathy, Or maybe she concludes from the fact that some criminals and bad cops moralize that moralism, which I guess is use of moral notions like desert, that moralism destroys empathy. It's hard to tell.

Of course even if that were the case, it would not follow that morality (moral claims like, each should get what she deserves) is false, but at most that we should not believe it. But of course it is not the case. Yoshie does have a valid point buried in this confusion, but it points elsewhere than where she thinks it does. Morality _is_ a substitute for empathy. In a large society where most people are strangers, we cannot empathize with them all. In fact, even in a smaller society, empathy breaks down where there are conflicts of interest. So the social role of morality is to regulate our conduct where empathy cannot make us behave as we (morally) ought--to keep our hands to ourselves, to not take other people's stuff, etc.

I know Yoshie entertains the idea that we can attain a degree of mutual identification that would render this unnecessary. I don't believe it and would regard it with horror if it were possible, but until we do, we are stuck with morality. (And with law, which backs society's dictates about morality with the coercive power of the state when morality, either internalized through conscience--this is called education--or externalized through social pressure, fails.)

I am puzzled on what basis Yoshie condemns rapists, racist thugs, and violent cops, since she rejects morality. What's a matter, she doesn't empathize with them? It's true they don't empathize with others, but she doesn't empathize with them--what makes her any better than they are? As Tom Lehrer once said, Some people are intolerant, AND I HATE PEOPLE LIKE THAT! Me, I do not have this problem. I think the bad people she dispises are bad not because of lack of empahy but because they do immoral things. But what do I knwo. I am just a bourgeois ideologue.


In a message dated 00-01-22 14:49:10 EST, you write:

<< In fact, criminals too are moralists, and they believe in what Justin and

other admirable advocates of morality and personal responsibility believe

in. Further, criminals do not neglect to apply the notion of "desert" in

their moral judgments. "Empathy, or the lack of it, is another...factor

that must be taken into account. Where it exists, empathy with an intended

victim may restrain someone from committing a crime. Moralism tends to inhibit empathy. Moralism tells us, "you get what you deserve." Criminals . . . - are

supreme moralists who volunteer to punish undeserving people. Empathetic

identification with others (who, criminal moralists think, deserve all the

punishments they get) is very much frowned upon nowadays -- it's a PC,

multiculti, sentimental nonsense. The same idea fuels the War on Crime.

Truth is in the face of American moral

philosophers like Justin, but I gather he thinks it best to have more

debates to bury the truth: America is _the_ land of freedom and personal

responsibility, and that is why it is so good at producing criminals and



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