This was a research paper for a Philosophy module I’d taken in my second semester of university. We were supposed to come up with a procedure that will allow people who are facing Euthyphro type problems to find solutions. But what are Euthyphro type problems? Let me back up a little. Euthyphro was this greek lawyer guy whose dad ended up killing a murderer (the family’s servant killed someone and the dad tied up that servant and left him in a ditch. They sent for the police but we’re talking about old greek times, so by the time the police came, the servant was dead) and Euthyphro has decided to sue his dad. He thinks that’s the right thing to do but his society says it’s not and that God will be angry if he acts in such an unfilial manner. So essentially, the Euthyphro problem is a moral problem. And here’s my solution:
Disclaimer: The names Greg and Stacy…… yes I was thinking about the memes when I came up with it! Oops.
DATED: 28 FEBRUARY 2014
Good guy Greg
We dislike facing philosophical issues in which no matter the decision, someone will get hurt. As such, most attempt to go with the choice that causes the least pain because we assume that the least painful choice is right. But, is it? It doesn’t seem wrong. But is doing what is not wrong, right? Intuitively, no. But intuitively, it doesn’t feel wrong to do something that isn’t wrong. Hence, my main argument would be that doing actions that are not wrong are the solutions to philosophical problems.
It is my assumption that what is ‘not wrong’ encompasses certain characteristics. Hence, let’s identify these characteristics.
Firstly, actions should contain wisdom. Wisdom is to have experience, knowledge and good judgment. We must consider the chain of events that has led to the situation at hand and the effects of possible actions on those involved. Actions done after much contemplation are not wrong.
Secondly, actions should reflect care. We must consider what is necessary for the physical, emotional and psychological health wellbeing of those involved. We should empathize with others’ situations and do actions that improve their situations. Actions done with the intention of promoting the wellbeing of those involved, are not wrong.
Finally, actions should be just. Just actions are rational, fair and morally not wrong. Actions should not be based on intuition or feelings. There should be a rational explanation behind our actions that can be understood by all. All need not necessarily accept the reasons, but those involved should agree that the reasons are logical. We should be able to prove our reasons if questioned on its verifiability. Also, based on our action, those involved should get what they deserve. In addition, given morality is transient, changing according to society and time, an action is morally not wrong when it is acceptable by the society at present. For example, it wasn’t morally wrong to own a slave in Plato’s era, but now, it is a taboo. Actions that encompasses just are not wrong.
Actions incorporating all of the above-mentioned features are not wrong. Let’s look at one common situation to judge an action:
Should 18-year-old, Greg, who has never drunk alcohol before, accompany his friends to a club to celebrate the New Year when his mother, Stacy, tells him not to? (What does one do knowing someone might get hurt by their action?)
With my framework, there are 3 stages:
STAGE 1 – He needs to know:
- Stacy’s reasons for disallowing. (Reasons that cause hurt)
- Reasons to go and reasons not to. (Reasons for one’s actions)
- Reasons for inviting Greg. (Chain of events)
- The consequences of doing either action. (Consequences)
STAGE 2 – Choice of action should reflect care for himself, Stacy and his friends (those involved).
STAGE 3 – Choice of action should be rationally explainable, morally not wrong and those involved must get what they deserve.
Let the scene unfold:
STAGE 1 –
- Stacy fears for Greg’s safety. Let’s assume her only concern is that he could get into a brawl in a drunken stupor.
- He wants to experience the nightlife but he has to book-in to the army the following day.
- His friends want to have fun with Greg and not steal Greg’s kidney.
- If he goes, he could get drunk, be unable to book-in, things could end up how Stacy fears, or he could have a fun night. If he doesn’t go, he may be safe, he may book-in on time or is still late, or he could have missed out on an amazing party.
With the above knowledge, let’s assume, Greg goes.
STAGE 2 – By going, he does not seem to consider Stacy or himself because he could get hurt. His action clearly reflects care for his friends.
STAGE 3 – He can rationally explain his action with its positive consequences. But the negative consequences persist. Hence, the lack of consideration for Stacy and himself remain. Greg needs to prove that wrong. He can explain that if he has never gotten into a fight, it’s unlikely that he will get into one. But who knows what could occur if he gets drunk. So it seems like Going is not ‘not wrong’.
But what if he promises that he would control his drinking and be home early to prepare for his book-in. By elaborating his decision and making promises, he has considered Stacy’s and his own wellbeing. Now, it seems that everyone has a deserving outcome. And given clubs exist; going to a club is morally not wrong in Greg’s society.
In conclusion, going is not wrong as it’s well thought, it considers those involved and it’s just. The framework works.
Or maybe, not.
Extensive knowledge is necessary but realistically speaking, no one knows everything. Stacy could have multiple reasons for disallowing Greg than what Greg knows. Greg may falsely assume that his action is well thought. Actually, everyone makes decisions based on half-baked knowledge. So, we should instead ensure that our knowledge is sufficient. Actions done with insufficient knowledge cannot be categorized as not wrong. In this case, Greg can ask Stacy to list all her concerns and consider them. Greg will realize whether or not his knowledge is sufficient at stage 3 depending on whether Stacy can understand Greg’s choice of action. It doesn’t matter if she agrees to his rationale. How would Greg know whether Stacy understands, if she doesn’t agree? Simple, she would be unable to logically counter Greg’s explanation.
Secondly, to improve others’ wellbeing, a happy ending seems necessary. However, I began by suggesting that someone will get hurt. The situation above seems to have a fairytale ending. Pragmatically, however, Stacy would be downcast at Greg choosing to go. Her concerns would remain despite understanding Greg’s action, as life is full of uncertainties. Should an action, identified by others’ to be not wrong, be done even if others are not supportive? Maybe, maybe not, but the bottom line is, he can do it.
Next, those involved should get what they deserve. Stacy doesn’t deserve to be despondent when she simply cares for Greg. But by Greg rationally explaining his choice, she does get what she deserves, answered concerns. It isn’t Greg’s action per se that gives her dissatisfaction but her inflexibility in admitting that Greg’s action is not wrong. By refusing to support Greg’s decision, Stacy brings misery upon herself.
Fourthly, Greg shows consideration for Stacy by making promises. What if Greg is a liar or if he’s lying unbeknownst to Stacy? Promises still wouldn’t show consideration. With the second scenario, Stacy would believe her worries are considered. No matter if Greg’s intention is to improve her wellbeing by putting her worries to rest by lying or/and he intends to enjoy himself, he has forsaken his own wellbeing. Going, would thus, not be not wrong. It seems crucial to ensure that the method used to show consideration of others’ wellbeing should be reliable.
Next, going to a club may be morally not wrong in Greg’s society, but what if, Stacy believes otherwise? Then, this is one of her concerns. If Greg can change her opinion, going would be not wrong. For convenience sake, let’s assume he can.
So, Greg’s decision of ‘going’ is not wrong, but the biggest problem is that we don’t know if it’s right. If it is, that suggests that ‘not going’ is wrong. But, using the framework, ‘not going’ considers Stacy’s and his welfare, and he can reason with this friends that he may ruin their night given he has never drank before etc. Hence, ‘not going’ is essentially not wrong. Since, we cannot say that ‘not going’ is wrong, we cannot say that ‘going’ is right. Despite not knowing what Greg should do, no matter what he does, he’s not wrong assuming he knows both choices are not wrong.
The final problem arises now when we discover that all possible actions are not wrong, like in Greg’s case. How would we choose what to do?
We can toss a coin, because in the brief moment it’s in the air, we will know what we’re hoping for.