virtue ethics

If Anyone Can See The Morally Unthinkable Online, What Then?

28 May, 2020

Discussions of ethics tend to focus on matters of conscious choice: which moral rules to follow, or advice on how to approach moral dilemmas. But a hugely significant part of ethics concerns what is unthinkable. You might, for example, be strapped for cash, but robbing the neighbours is unlikely to be an option for you. That’s because, whenever you deliberate, you have already ruled out all kinds of unthinkable possibilities. It isn’t that you consider robbery only to dismiss it: the idea never even crosses your mind.

There are at least two senses of ‘morally unthinkable’. The first, that of something of which you have no inkling, is perhaps the purest form of moral innocence. Not only can you not contemplate doing X: you don’t even know what X is.

Then there is the worry that if something becomes thinkable in the imaginative sense, then it might eventually become thinkable in the practical sense too. If virtue depends in part on actions being unthinkable, then the internet doubtless has a tendency to make unvirtuous actions all too thinkable.

In this article Daniel Callcut explores the basic tension between virtues that by their nature restrict thought and imagination, and the prevailing spirit of the internet that encourages the idea that everything should be viewable and thinkable.

Read the full article here.

via Aeon Media, 17 May 2019