Martha Nussbaum wrote this book. I haven’t read it yet, but it is on my list.
I watched her in a YouTube video talking about some of her ideas. I couldn’t help but feel that she is on to something. I also could not help but feel isolated in even caring about this. I don’t meet people who regularly seek these types of ideas out. I think people should, but I think should is a loaded term.
She has the starting point of Greek tragedies, and she looks to the Greeks because it appeared that there was a public dialogue on morality that was much more open than our society (which is the west?). A Greek tragedy, the type of story they would tell, its true, we don’t see that in our popular media.
Why I think we don’t see this in our media: self-selection. Morality is not a pleasant topic, if you really try to defend any position, it’s impossible to find a rule by which you should live your life. Knowing this, people rationally conclude that following whatever norm already in place is less work, and holds fewer risks. You can’t be wrong if everyone else is doing the same thing. Hopefully there is a story or narrative already packaged for the average Joe, and in most day to day life, we have these stories.
This is where my should comes in. The moral dilemmas we have in the modern world lack stories. We have all sorts of data, and we are able to uncover all sorts of tragedies, and there is no story to help us.
Here is an example: Any time there is concentrated gains and distributed costs from a conflict. We do not have a calculus of values for this.
Take global warming…there is a collectivist desire to tackle the problem, but it is impossible to orchestrate individuals in a way that is beneficial to all of those individuals. Those with power, those who impose costs on others…well they are the bad guys. But in this story, the bad guys happen to be every single one of us. You don’t have the information about costs and benefits every time you fire up your car or your furnace. The market price of fuel doesn’t have anything to do with the distributed cost (other than some tax for road improvements…not in any way related to global warming). How to be an optimist? People will band together and solve this one right? We’ll invent an air purifier, and not have to worry about the moral problem.
So is ignorance or non-participation (a neutral position) a morally okay position? I think the default in these areas is to think: yes. A non-position is morally ok. You can be a good person and not give a fuck about the problems of the world.
To the point where bringing it up in public is bad manners.