Monday, August 9, 2010

Moral Urgency

Encountering moral problems is an inherent facet of living in a society of more than two people. People will do things that other people will think are bad. It doesn't seem likely that there is a chance of this ever changing, though certainly the things people do to each other will change. For example, while there are certainly still many modern and horrifying instances of slavery, our civilization has decided in the mainstream that slavery is an unambiguous wrong (though the definition of slavery hasn't really been agreed upon)*. That means that for our enlightened selves, leveling judgment upon slavers is easy; they're wrong and they can't be allowed to do it. If someone started rounding up black people and put them to work without pay and with threat of pain and death for leaving their post, we'd send the police around to arrest the slaver. The question of what we should do in the face of such moral evil doesn't seem hard to answer at all: it must be stopped. But what happens if the societal agreement is not nearly so cohesive as the one we now have against slavery?