Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Is consent the sole criterion of the good?

A popular subject these days. I don't have the skill, learning, or currently the inspiration to add an exhaustive treatise to the blogosphere's corpus of moral philosophy, so I will attempt to be pithy.

Consent is not the sole criterion of the good, because one can consent to things that are manifestly bad.

I don't mean just being willing to participate in something while invincibly ignorant of negative consequences, or acquiescing under pressure to something you don't have a good feeling about, although it's still a part of those things.

I mean being presented the chance to do something positively harmful to yourself or others, with a guaranteed result or proportionately probable outcome that is harmful, that by your own moral calculus brings less good than evil; and then doing it, knowing better.

In most real situations there are mitigating circumstances, but I live a pretty safe life, so when I end up in a bad place, I know it's largely because I've said to myself "I damn well am going to do this, anyway." Most of the factors that would overwhelm the remnants of my consent only had the power over me that I chose not to oppose.

If things can be bad despite my willingness, then I can't a priori assume on the other hand that things might be good despite my resistance.

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