the gapanese invasion is nigh!

"pinakamaganda ka nga sa buong kapuluan, pero latina na naman ang magwawagi ng korona at sash sa miss world! racism ba ito? lupasay!"

Sunday, April 19, 2009

of lives and fire: an ethical dilemma

Morality may be approved or condemned depending on the motives or action as motivated. Benevolent acts create moral approval, since these acts have the best consequences. Basically, benevolent acts must be approved universally, and this motive has the greatest happiness for the greatest number—the morally best act is one which fulfills this utilitarianism—as goal. Morality, then, focuses on virtue and vice fundamentally, and acts derivatively. As it is, neither actions not consequences in themselves have merits, only motive or intentional trait of character has, the acts to which it leads become meritorious only depending on the virtuous intention causing such acts. In short, virtuous benevolence may be approved of even if the acts it generates do not have the best consequences.
In this case, a man whose intention is to save people from the fire but ended up killing five as a consequence of acting upon his good intention is a good one. Taking into account his principle of action, he realizes his goodness by pursuing a moral motive. His virtue of saving life is foremost to him and his act of saving is good in relation to his virtuous motive, which upon contemplation is approvable universally. The motive of saving lives is virtuous because this generates approbation upon reflection, without any consideration of the consequence.
Meanwhile, the merit of the act of a burglar is bad in relation to his motive, independent of the consequence of saving five people as a result of his looting. Condemnable morality is attached to an evil motive and character, and burglary or looting is an act motivated by immoral intention. It is bad because upon contemplation, it does not intrinsically produce approbation. We cannot judge the looter’s action without considering whether his motive is morally condemning or approving. He immoral quality of his act is not completely independent of the distinctive moral goodness that only the motives of a moral person can possess.
On the other hand, ethics that deal with the rightness or wrongness of the acts is indicated by the nature of the very acts involved, independent of the motive or of consequences. This means certain acts are right and wrong in consideration of their intrinsic nature. The moral quality of an action is assessed whether the action is parallel with moral law, and by whether the action is conducted on behalf of that moral law. Good act is viewed then as an end in itself rather than as merely a means to generating good moral action.
Hence, the person who intended to save people has a good motive that took form in the act of braving the fire. It is only as his motive becomes an act that there is moral action. His act is the embodiment of his motive of doing good for his fellow people. It is independent of the bad consequence that happened as he enacted his intention of saving people from the fire. His action is moral since intrinsically, his motive is moral.
Meanwhile, the act of looting is the execution of the immoral action of the burglar. It completes his motive by acting upon it. His immoral act embodies his evil motive and in the action of looting, he actualizes his immoral action. Goodness is not simply a form of pleasure or the satisfaction of desire but is the full realization of humankind’s moral capacity. In the case of the looter who receives an accidental pleasure of saving people, his goodness is questionable owing to the wrongness in realizing this through immoral action.
Ultimately, consequentialist ethics claims that the rightness of the acts is indicated by the goodness of their outcomes. Meanwhile, deontological ethics claims that the rightness or wrongness of acts depends on the situation: an act can be right even when the result comes out bad, and an act can be wrong even when the result comes out good. The standard determining an act’s rightness is the long-time happiness it will produce. No action can be appraised of its morality completely independent f its consequences.
In the case of the well-meaning person who accidentally killed five people in the fire, his motive did not harmonize with the consequence of his motivated action by virtue of the resulting death. The quality of his action produced pain instead of the intended pleasure, hence his action has an immoral quality due to the negative consequence. The outworking of his act had a disastrous impact in other lives, causing these very lives’ end.
In the case of the ill-meaning person who accidentally saved five people from the fire, the consequence may not have harmonized with his intention but it yielded a good result in effect. His action is moral if only to judge his action which produced pleasure. The good consequence of his action and not his evil motive determines the moral quality of his action.
In general, moral actions can never happen in a vacuum. Motive works in both the act and the consequence. Therefore, all three ethical factors in moral action must be appraised together. The act must be grounded on its motive and on its consequence. The motive must be assessed in consideration of the act itself, and back of that through its motive. No one of the three stands independently, for each contributes to the whole moral action. All of them make the entire moral action good or bad, so moral action is impossible when it lacks all three factors.

No comments:

Post a Comment