Rationalization #58: The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do”



I am embarrassed to admit that I missed this one, which is common and sinister. When I get around to re-numbering the list, it will be grouped with #13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause,” and #14. Self-validating Virtue.

The rationalization eluded me because it seems like it could often be a fair statement of fact rather than a rationalization, a lie or logical fallacy that is used to justify conduct but does not. “It’s the right thing to do” is routinely used to end a debate, however, when it is only a proposition that must be supported with facts and ethical reasoning. Simply saying “I did it/support it/ believe in it because it’s the right thing to do” aims at ending opposition by asserting virtue and wisdom that may not exist.  The question that has to be answered is why “it’s the right thing to do,” and “Because it’s just right, that’s all,” “Everybody knows it’s right,” “My parents taught me so,” “That’s what God tells us in the Bible,” and many other non-answers do not justify the assertion.

Maybe it’s the right thing, and maybe not. Just saying it conduct is right without doing the hard work of ethical analysis is bluffing and deflection. “It’s the right thing to do” you say?

Prove it.

24 thoughts on “Rationalization #58: The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do”

  1. Or the “Jack Ryan” after the Boy Scout-ish hero of Tom Clancy’s Cold War novels, who sometimes did things for that very reason, even if they might not have been politic.

  2. It’s one of the better rationales to undermine freedom. There’s always a specific good that can be obtained, that’s always gouged out of a general mass of undefined freedom that has no particlular constituency.

  3. A derivative of it is “because it’s been decided” which is what SecNav was just saying in a speech about women in combat. The decision has been made, now we have to move on. Nothing about whether it was a good decision, nothing as to whether time will or won’t prove it out, just that it’s been made and can’t be revisited, same as every. damn. decision a liberal administration makes.

    • I call it the “one-way trap door” for fulfilling the political Left’s agenda. “Change is good” – but ONLY the change the Left wants.

  4. I think we have a religious disagreement here.
    Yes, this reason can be misused. It may even be so susceptible to being misused that it should be considered guilty until proven innocent.
    I believe though that in some cases, it can be proven innocent.

    I call it a “religious” disagreement, because there is a subset of ideological belief that believes in Good, though not in gods. Proponents, like myself, admit that they have no reason to believe in Good as a concept, that it is and has to be axiomatic, a “truth that cannot be proven”. Rather than being cooly rational, it is a matter of Faith.

    While one can use the Kantian Categorical Imperative, it still must be based on this axiom, or something that can be mapped to it. While one can use games theory and the Prisoners Dillemma to show that altruism improves chance of survival, it’s still arguable as to whether survival is good. the argument that if you don’t survive, you lose freedom of action is just a variant of “might makes right” or “history is written by the winners”.

    Assuming a Deity with the usual “it says so on the label” characteristics, omniscience, omnipotence and according to Him, omnibenevolence too (and he’ll torture for eternity anyone who says different).

    #Deity# tells you to slaughter children who are left-handed, and do it in as excruciating a manner as possible, performing a rite that will send them to Hell.

    Obey, or #Deity# will do the same thing anyway, and send you to Hell too.

    I would tell #Deity# to go piss up a rope. Because it’s the right thing to do. To co-operate would be unethical, but that’s an axiom with no logical structure to bolster it. The kids are going to Hell anyway, no matter what you do. The only person whose destiny can be changed is you yourself, so by Utilitarian principles, you should obey. The Categorical Imperative is silent here.

    I assert no great wisdom or virtue here, and could not reasonably blame another for coming to a different conclusion. But not me.

    • Most fallacies have enough truth on their face to let them hold up to light scrutiny. It’s what makes them fallacies, as opposed to falsisms. The doctrine of relative filth, for instance (#22 here) or “They’re just as bad.”… They very well might be just as bad, you might even be better by comparison… But that doesn’t make you good. There are absolutely good reasons to do things, but those things should be able to be explained.

    • However, Kant would argue that you are using the left-handed children as a means to your own end, and this would not be acceptable under any categorical imperative. And, you are wise and virtuous to not come to any other conclusion than to tell the deity, “Go piss up a rope.” (I’m guessing that’s simply Aussie slang I’ve not heard until now.) Fortunately, it’s safe to abandon Kant’s deontological paradigm and enter the teleological world of reason.

  5. I am much more comfortable with calling out this as a potential unethical rationalization than I am with #57.

    To me, there is inseparable and necessary linkage between what is OK with someone, and evolving refinement of the Golden Rule. I don’t know if I could argue that you can’t have one without the other. But I do think the perfection of the practice of one (the Golden Rule) depends on a person’s pondering of, and judgment (right or wrong) about the other.

  6. Would this rationalization possibly have been guiding the mind of the person who put “All Lives Matter” on the professor’s door? Perhaps it was on the mind of the bitch at Starbucks who racketeered revenue away from Starbucks by heckling Gov. Scott till he departed without a purchase.

  7. Jack, please put it on the list. Cutting a conversation short by simply stating, “It’s the right thing to do” is indicative of an argument that has run its course and has nothing more compelling to offer.

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