The Who Versus The What

Once upon a time there was a R&B artiste who boasted of having beaten up her boyfriend. This may be regarded as a touchstone of a gender-neutral ethics, for there are two ways of handling such a situation. We may look at either the act or the person. If consider that ethical judgments pertain to the act, and if we have previously condemned the act of beating up one’s partner – for instance when a man has beaten up a woman – we shall have no grounds for refusing to condemn this act, as being no different from previous acts. If, on the other hand, we wish to root ethical judgments not in the what but in the who, we may find ourselves praising this artiste for being a ‘strong’, ‘feisty’ or ‘kick-ass’ woman.

Much like that of the Randians, such an ethic is essentially aristocratic, holding that persons of a soi-disant superior category may do just precisely as they like. Discourse about the ethics of an act is thus replaced by an enquiry into the identity of the agent, which alone determines the goodness or badness of the act.

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  1. Written by The Ghost in the Machine
    on August 20, 2013 at 12:21

    I believe this line of thinking has some interesting foreign policy ramifications.

    Oh, wait … snap!

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