Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Moral fallacies?

That's the best name I can come up with so far. Maybe there's a better one, I don't know.

Anyway, I found a site called Muslim Village. The forums section has a post arguing that Sheik Al-Hilali has done nothing wrong and that it's a deliberate plot by Islam-haters to attack a good man:
It is well known that for the past few years there has been a concentrated effort to oust the Sheikh by some groups. To his credit and many of his supporters they have stood their ground. We, the rest of the community should support them and help them to make one more stand at this most vital time.

For if the events of last week are any indication the opposition is nothing but a self serving group of egomaniacs who have only their own interest at heart...

...in that group there was someone who recorded that conversation. Took the tape home laughing all the way back home trying to figure out how to best exploit their latest find. How best to damage the Sheikh? In the process completely ignoring the pain it will cause the community.

This is where you see how selfish these people were, for they have no interest in the Muslim community.

This is a moral fallacy I see a lot in several contexts: the writer appears to believe that an action is either a good action performed with good intentions, or a harmful act performed with evil intentions. There is no concept that the harm the writer of this piece feels at the attack on Hilali could have been unintentional, done with good intentions even, or that the person who provided the tape to the media might believe that the writer's feeing of hurt is unjustified and no actual harm has been done at all: it MUST be due to "a shadowy group who we know nothing about, who are driven by self interest" that want to promote evil, and there is no question that the accusations levelled against Al-Hilali MUST be false.

Why does the writer believe that the accusations must be false? Their reasoning shows another moral fallacy: judging the morality of an action not by the action, but by the identity of the person performing it. The core of the writer's claim that the content of the speech was wrong skips the actual content of the speech in question completely, favoring instead a moral calculus in which a person who does previously done many good works is immediately placed in the "good" camp, and nothing they then do removes them from it.
The issue is not that what the Sheikh said was right or wrong. After all he is only human, and has never claimed to be perfect so to err is only human. But his long track record of good work in the community with the youth and others surely far outweigh his one mistake.

Personally I've never subscribed to a school of morality which implies that a person who saves thousands of lives can be forgiven a murder or two (the "Faith the Vampire Slayer" school of morality).

Who's to blame for Pastor Haggard's fall from grace? His fat, lazy wife: an Evangelical implies that one of the things that might lead a married man into soliciting male prostitutes for sex is a wife who doesn't stay sexy:
Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors' wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband's sin, but she may not be helping him either.

The moral fallacy here is a common one to men: the belief that it is the responsibility of women to account for and work around the male sex drive. This far too prevalent belief is counter to the very concept of personal responsibility. Yes, the male sex drive is strong - I'm male, I know this - but it's not uncontrollable. Saying that a man's sexual motivations are the responsibility of women in any way is a shirking of the responsibility that a man has to learn self-discipline as far as I'm concerned.

And here's one where I don't know where the moral fallacy may lie: in the wake of an Evangelical preacher who was accused of maintaining a relationship with a gay prostitute and of routinely using crystal meth, right-wing commentator David Frum claims that a man who marries and has children while having gay sex and abusing drugs is morally superior to one who does so openly:
Consider the hypothetical case of two men. Both are inclined toward homosexuality. Both from time to time hire the services of male prostitutes. Both have occasionally succumbed to drug abuse.

One of them marries, raises a family, preaches Christian principles, and tries generally to encourage people to lead stable lives.

The other publicly reveals his homosexuality, vilifies traditional moral principles, and urges the legalization of drugs and prostitution.

Which man is leading the more moral life? It seems to me that the answer is the first one.

I'm so flabbergasted that someone could see it like that that I don't think I can locate the moral fallacy at all. The whole "lying" aspect of Haggard's situation seems to simply not register here. I think it has something to do with group loyalty over-riding objective assessment of the situation, but I really don't know for sure.

No comments: