poniedziałek, 31 maja 2010

Who's a real extremist, anyway?

I'm a journalist whose magazine has just got a new editor in chief. It's nothing personal but, sadly, after reading his first article I know that he belongs to the category of people who do not fully understand ethical statements they make. He wrote his aim was to make our magazine open to any view but without going into any extreme. It seems to me that the preassumption here is: "The truth lies somewhere in between". But let's get this straight: there's only few people who understand what it means. Partly, because they don't know that this ethical opinion came from... Aristotle.

The simplified aristotelian ethics is the source of the popular conviction that in any argument the truth is not present on only one side of the argument. Why? Because it would be extreme - it's believed. Nevertheless what Aristotle wanted to say was: the truth in ethic lays between lack and excess. This is the framework in which we can use The Golden Rule. So for example - bravery is somewhere between insolence and cowardice. This is true aristotelian ethics. Nowhere we meet the statement that we can find a golden rule in murder, theft or in lie. Some things are just bad or good without any in between. And this is a matter of formal logic and meaning of specific words not of so called "point of view". That implies one strict consequence:

- some people who claim that every moral situation should not be judged in a radical, say, binary (good/bad; true/false) way and that there are ALWAYS some exceptions are simply wrong.

Example: Assume that someone (person A) holds the view that abortion is wrong because every life is equal per se but at the same time he/she holds the view that there is no point in be persistent about that because there can be situations in which the life of a fetus is less/more important than the life of a mother. If we look at this from the logical point of view we see that person A believes that p (every life is equal) and not p (not every life is equal, which follows from: there are situatins in which lives are not equal). That means A believes two contradictory statements. Funny thing is that when somebody tries to make a clear statement about abortion (pro or contra) is very often called an extremist which I consider quite riduculous. Think about that! We have a logical person called and extremist (obviously negative word) and an illogical inconsitent person called reasonable one. We observe this while talking about capital punishment, taxes, euthanasia, homosexual people, etc.

I got I suggestion: let's change the popular meaning of the word 'extremist'. I guess that it is an adequate name for all the people calling themselves "centrists" or 'reasonable'. Why should we offend logically thinking people by calling them names and why should we respect people who have never done a proper course in formal logic and ethics?

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