Tag Archives: Kantian ethics

Comment Of The Day: “The Most Unethical Sentencing Fallacy Of All: Lavinia Woodward Gets “The King’s Pass”

I am almost caught up on my backlog of Comments of the Day!

This one, by multiple COTDs author Humble Talent, is really two; I’m taking the liberty of combining his later explication with the original comment, as they follow as the night follows day. The topic is bias and double standards in the criminal justice system, and hold on to your hat.

Here is Humble Talent’s 2-for 1 Comment of the Day on the post, “The Most Unethical Sentencing Fallacy Of All: Lavinia Woodward Gets “The King’s Pass”:

You know, every now and again when I’m feeling adventurous, I go to a place I think will have a whole lot of people that don’t think like me and poke at their sacred cows. You meet all kinds of people, and recently, I was given probably one of the better answers to a gender/race issue from the other side yet.

The original fact pattern is that racial activists will cite disparate impact as a problem at every stage of an interaction with the legal system. Black people are more likely to be pulled over, more likely to be arrested, more likely to be charged, more likely to be convicted, and more likely to receive harsher sentences… All for the same stimulus. All of this, by the way, is true. It doesn’t account for the five-fold disparity between the black and white prison population on a per capita basis, but it is a thumb on the scale.

The juxtaposition is that the disparity between men and women in the justice system is about six times that of the racial disparity I just described. Men are more likely to be pulled over, more likely to be arrested, more likely to be charged, more likely to be convicted, and more likely to receive harsher sentences… All for the same stimulus. Sonja Starr wrote extensively on this, and despite some of her methodology being questioned, there’s general consensus that she was on to something.

So the question is that if someone is deeply concerned about inequality, that they are genuinely interested in justice for everyone, why wouldn’t you be just as, if not more concerned with the gender disparity, than the racial one? Continue reading

26 Comments

Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Research and Scholarship, Rights

The Most Unethical Sentencing Fallacy Of All: Lavinia Woodward Gets “The King’s Pass”

Oxford University student Lavinia Woodward, 24,  punched and stabbed her boyfriend in a drunken rage, then hurled a jam jar, a glass and a laptop at him. This, in the U.S., would be called a criminal assault, and maybe even attempted murder.  Ah, but British Judge Ian Pringle knows better. He agrees these acts would normally mean a prison term, but Lavinia is a star student, and wants to be a surgeon. He hinted that he would spare her prison time so that her “extraordinary” talent would not be wasted. As poor Lavinia’s barrister, James Sturman, argued, his client’s dreams of becoming a surgeon would be “almost impossible” if she had to serve time.

Well, we certainly mustn’t jeopardize a violent felon’s dreams.

This kind of reasoning is infused with The King’s Pass, also known as The Star Syndrome, the rationalization making the perverse unethical argument that the more talented, prominent, useful and important to society a miscreant is, the less he or she should be accountable for misconduct that nets lesser lights serious and devastating consequences:

11. The King’s Pass, The Star Syndrome, or “What Will We Do Without Him?”

One will often hear unethical behavior excused because the person involved is so important, so accomplished, and has done such great things for so many people that we should look the other way, just this once. This is a terribly dangerous mindset, because celebrities and powerful public figures come to depend on it. Their achievements, in their own minds and those of their supporters and fans, have earned them a more lenient ethical standard. This pass for bad behavior is as insidious as it is pervasive, and should be recognized and rejected whenever it raises its slimy head.  In fact, the more respectable and accomplished an individual is, the more damage he or she can do through unethical conduct, because such individuals engender great trust. Thus the corrupting influence on the individual of The King’s Pass leads to the corruption of others.

Judge Pringle is taking the King’s Pass/Star Syndrome to a new low: he’s arguing that Lavinia should receive special treatment based on how valuable to society she might be, given enough immunity from the consequences of her own conduct.  Continue reading

49 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Law & Law Enforcement

Health And Survival Rationing Ethics

cointoss

Beginning in 2012, Dr. Lee Daugherty Biddison, a critical care physician at Johns Hopkins and some colleagues have held public forums around Maryland to solicit the public’s opinions about how life-saving medical assistance should be distributed when there are too many desperately ill patients and not enough resources. The exercise was part of the preparation  for Biddenson’s participation in preparing official recommendations for state agencies that  might end up  as national guidelines regarding when doctors should remove one patient from a ventilator to save another who might have a better chance of surviving, or whether the young should have priority over the old.

Ethically, this is pure ends justifying the means stuff. The Golden Rule is useless—How would you like to be treated? I’d want to be left on the ventilator, of course!–and Kantian ethics break down, since Immanuel forbade using human life to achieve even the best objectives…like saving a human life. Such trade-offs of life for life (or lives) is the realm of utilitarianism, and an especially brutal variety….so brutal that I doubt that it is ethics at all.

When Dr. Biddenson justifies his public forums by saying that he wants to include current societal values in his life-for-a-life calculations, she is really seeking current biases, because that’s all they are. On the Titanic, it was women and children first, not because it made societal sense to allow some of the most productive and vibrant minds alive to drown simply because they had a Y chromosome, but because that’s just the way it was. Old women and sick children got on lifeboats;  young men, like emerging mystery writer Jacque Futrelle (and brilliant young artist Leonardo DiCaprio), went down with the ship. That’s not utilitarianism. That’s sentimentalism.

The New York Times article mostly demonstrates that human beings are incapable of making ethical guidelines, because Kant was right: when you start trading one life for another, it’s inherently unethical, even if you have no choice but to do it. Does it make societal sense to take away Stephen Hawking’s ventilator to help a drug-addicted, habitual criminal survive? Well, should violating drug laws sentence a kid to death? TILT! There are no ethical answers, just biased decisions. Continue reading

26 Comments

Filed under Bioethics, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, History, Professions, Rights, U.S. Society

Comment Of The Day #1: “Considering the Retrograde Mississippi Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, This Shouldn’t Be Surprising At All…”

same sex-cake-cutting-

Frequent and thoughtful commenter Inquiring Mind is regularly roiled by efforts to punish members of society and the business community who carry their objection to same sex marriage outside of the home and the church into the workplace and the marketplace. Here is his Comment of the Day, posted a day late, on the post about the Mississippi law the allows certain forms of discrimination against LGBT citizens, Considering the Retrograde Mississippi Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, This Shouldn’t Be Surprising At All…

(I’ll be back for some comments at the end.)

The “free exercise of religion” is also a right. So are freedom of association and freedom of speech, ones expressly spelled out in the plain text of the Constitution. Those who seek to enact the “legal mandates” (or in other words, enacting their legislative agenda) are, in my opinion, trampling on those rights – rights that predate from the rulings where Anthony Kennedy invented a right to same-sex marriage.

The arguments against abortion since Roe v. Wade have included moral arguments (notably from the Catholic Church). A sense of morality is often used to determine what legal mandates should be. The only question here is WHOSE morality gets enacted into legal mandates – the Religious Right’s morality or the “progressive” left’s morality.

Three years ago, you posted a comment of mine as Comment of the Day.  I will refer back to it:

Continue reading

19 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society, Workplace

Considering the Retrograde Mississippi Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, This Shouldn’t Be Surprising At All…

110204_phil_bryant_ap_605

Erica Flores Dunahoo and Stanley Hoskins have complained that the owner of a recreational vehicle park near Tupelo, Mississsippi. refused to rent a space to them earlier this year because of the colors of their skin. They say that Gene Baker accepted a $275 rent check, gave Erica a hug and invited her to church. The next day he called her and said, not quite as friendly, “Hey, you didn’t tell me you was married to no black man!”

Is that a problem, she queried?  “Oh, it’s a big problem with the members of my church, my community and my mother-in-law. They don’t allow that black and white shacking.”

Ah. So you are a moron, then, am I correct, sir? Yet why would Baker not believe this is completely fair and reasonable, since the current culture of his state, recently defined by the freshly signed Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, is that religion allows citizens to behave like bigoted, meddling jackasses as a matter of conscience?

The new law, one of a flurry of such foolish, divisive and destructive measures popping up in states determined to embarrass Republicans and Protestants while causing Founding Fathers to do backflips in their graves, allows those who object to same-sex marriages or an individual claiming to be a gender other than what was “objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at birth” to use “conscience” as justification refuse to provide services.

I call these “right to be an asshole” laws. They are of dubious constitutionality, but their ethical status isn’t dubious at all.  They assert the right to interfere with the autonomy, lives and free choices of other law abiding citizens, denigrating, inconveniencing, stigmatizing  and marginalizing them in the process, because they believe religion justifies their doing so. Continue reading

97 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Love, Race, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

The 61st Rationalization, #52 Tessio’s Excuse (“It’s Just Business”)

Salvatore_Tessio

I realized, in reading the rationalizations being given by defenders of the decision of the New Jersey aunt of recent controversy to sue her young nephew for accidentally injuring her wrist when the boy was eight all boil down to a familiar rationalization repeated often in a classic film and its sequel. Somehow that rationalization missed inclusion on the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations list. (There are 60 rationalizations now, with some labeled as sub-categories.) After today, that will no longer be the case. Presenting…

#52 Tessio’s Excuse, or “It’s Just Business”

Near the end of “The Godfather,” longtime Don Corleone loyalist Sal Tessio (played by the immortal Abe Vigoda) is caught attempting to ally with a rival family in an attempt to kill the new Don, Michael Corleone. As he is taken to the car for his final ride, Tessio turns to consiglieri Tom Hagen and says…

“Tell Mike it was only business. I always liked him.”

Ah. It wasn’t personal, you see, this attempted assassination. That makes it all right.

Continue reading

39 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Religion and Philosophy

#freebree = Lawlessness, Vigilantism And Hypocrisy

"let's run her up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes!"

“Let’s run her up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes!”

Various anti-gay marriage zealots vowing to defy the Supreme Court and the law of the land are un-American and wrong, but a woman who decides to unilaterally make a decision that only the elected representatives of the citizens of South Carolina are authorized to make is a hero. Such is the muddled state of thought, ethics and civics among America’s progressives. Disobey the laws you don’t like, condemn the character of those who disobey the laws you favor. No integrity, no principles, no responsibility, no coherence, just grandstanding and anarchy, aimed at cheering ideologues incapable of proportion or restraint. This is an ethics vacuum masquerading as virtue.

“Bree,” which is what pole-climbing flag-grabber Brittany Ann Byuarim Newsome calls herself, is under arrest, as she should be, charged with defacing a monument and facing a fine. Good. She deserves one, and no accolades whatsoever. The Confederate flag is already under siege and on the verge of a permanent cultural taboo. Her actions would have constituted genuine civil disobedience and courage had it come before the flag was magically assigned blame for the murder of nine Charleston African Americans, to call attention to its symbolic defiance of civil rights. Coming now, Bree’s stunt is just  self-promoting vigilante theater, seeking and receiving support from the likes of Michael Moore.

There was nothing brave, productive or necessary about the flag stunt. The was a lot wrong about its message: don’t wait for the government process to work, don’t allow democracy and civil discourse to prevail, just unilaterally do what you “know” is right, and let the “ends justify the means” embracing mob celebrate. No doubt, this is the anti-Constitutional attitude the President has encouraged, but it recklessly risks fraying the seams of our democratic government, and erodes the rule of law. Continue reading

48 Comments

Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Unethical Tweet