Above us, Only Sky

Politics, Philosophy, Science, and Everything Else.

Monday, December 06, 2004

A Moral System, Pt. 2

As I said in my previous post, the degree to which we can predict the results of an action should influence the degree to which we take those results into account. If I can be very certain of a given result, I must take that into account more than I would a similar result that is less certain. So, given the chance to give money to one of two charitable groups, and having the knowledge that group A has a very good track record of using their resources effectively, while having no information about group B, I should give the money to group A, even though for all I know group B is just as efficient.
This creates a moral obligation with regards to knowledge. It goes like this: At the moment when I have to make a decision I may not have all the information that might have been available to me, so the choice I make, while being the most moral given the information I do have, is not as good as the choice I could have made if I had better information. This means that before I make a choice, if there is an opportunity, I should avail myself of as much information as possible. It is very much like the argument against criminal behaviour by people under the influence. While their choice to engage in violent or illegal acts while in an altered mental state might be defensible by the fact that they didn’t know any better, their choice to put themselves into that state was made in a sober state of mind, so they are responsible for their actions as if they had chosen to take them with their full faculties. Likewise, if I make a choice in ignorance of the consequences, after having refused to learn any information about those consequences, I am still responsible for the results.
This means that any deliberate ignorance is effectively immoral. If you do not avail yourself of the available information, you are opening the possibility that you will make moral choices less effectively than if you had that knowledge. If you deliberately spread lies or prevent facts from being disseminated, you are being immoral. Of course there is always a balance, there are many bits of information that would cause more harm if they were known, but all else being equal, the spread of information is a moral obligation. Of course we already knew book burners were bad people, but this also censures the purveyors of religion, since it as a grab bag of half truth and white lies.


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