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Source: (consider it) Thread: And there's another gay bakery case
Jane R
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Croesus said:
quote:
Just start changing "hearts and minds" (in some vague and unspecified way) and all the rest will fall in to place...
Changing hearts and minds happens when bigots meet the Other and find that they're just people. Not scary monsters Out There... not supervillains who want to take over the world. Just people.

Equal marriage didn't just happen over here in the UK, you know. It happened because of the Civil Partnership Act. Because for nine years beforehand, LGBTQ couples had been able to register their partnerships legally and live openly as couples, and the sky had not fallen in.

So, in Russ's hypothetical Bigotsville, changing hearts and minds will happen when some bakery owner who cares more about justice than his or her bottom line (or who doesn't have any other applicants) hires a black worker, and the bakery's customers learn from experience that there is no logical reason why black people shouldn't work in bakeries.

[ 13. February 2017, 08:15: Message edited by: Jane R ]

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Jane R:
So, in Russ's hypothetical Bigotsville, changing hearts and minds will happen when some bakery owner who cares more about justice than his or her bottom line (or who doesn't have any other applicants) hires a black worker, and the bakery's customers learn from experience that there is no logical reason why black people shouldn't work in bakeries.

Of course it helps if the bakery owner who cares more about justice than the bottom line knows that all the other bakery owners have to obey the law and do the same thing and therefore won't be able to corner the bigot trade.
In fact, once such a law is passed it has been known to turn out that they all mysteriously wanted to do the right thing all along.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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Jane R
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Dafyd:
quote:
Of course it helps if the bakery owner who cares more about justice than the bottom line knows that all the other bakery owners have to obey the law and do the same thing and therefore won't be able to corner the bigot trade.

Well, yeah. I'm not arguing against anti-discrimination legislation (far from it). I think what I was trying to say was that *experience* changes people's minds... the parts of the UK that are most anti-immigration are (generally speaking) the ones with the fewest immigrants.

quote:
In fact, once such a law is passed it has been known to turn out that they all mysteriously wanted to do the right thing all along.
Judging by the number of employers who find other excuses not to employ women/black people/wheelchair users/old people, this does not always follow.
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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Jane R:
Croesus said:
quote:
Just start changing "hearts and minds" (in some vague and unspecified way) and all the rest will fall in to place...
Changing hearts and minds happens when bigots meet the Other and find that they're just people. Not scary monsters Out There... not supervillains who want to take over the world. Just people.
And yet that tactic failed in the segregated South. Despite its name, Segregation did not involve a complete separation of white and black Americans. The rule of Segregation was that black and white Americans could mingle freely if they were engaged in a hierarchical task (e.g. a black woman cleaning the house of a white family) but were kept strictly separate when engaged in tasks that put them on equal footing (e.g. school children memorizing the multiplication tables). So despite daily contact between white and black Americans, a state of viciously enforced bigotry persisted.

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Humani nil a me alienum puto

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Soror Magna
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
quote:
Originally posted by Soror Magna:
go to the library and see if big-nosed people have ever been mass-murdered or correctively raped or ethnically cleansed or had their homes and businesses and language and culture destroyed and their children taken away from them.

And the relevance of this history is ?

Are you asserting that a wrongful act (such as stealing) is worse if the victim has the same colour skin as people to whom historically these bad things happened ? ...

No. I'm asserting that there is no need for the law to prohibit things that don't happen. That's not special pleading, it's common sense. Your big-nosed friends don't need protection from discrimination any more than you need anti-leprechaun bylaws or a license for your selkie. I'm also disgusted and appalled that you consider genocide to be a "bad thing(s)" that "happened". No wonder you haven't visited your Hell thread.

OTOH, "And the relevance of this history is ?" may be the fucking funniest-stupidest thing I see today*. Yeah, history. Irrelevant. Nothing to see, move along. My boss is a history professor currently on sabbatical; should I tell him "don't bother coming back, it's all irrelevant"? Are you sure you're Irish?


*Haven't watched the news yet, so Donald Trump could still win the day.

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"You come with me to room 1013 over at the hospital, I'll show you America. Terminal, crazy and mean." -- Tony Kushner, "Angels in America"

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Soror Magna:
Are you sure you're Irish?

Actually, I've wondered that myself. Not that I doubt he lives there, but not all groups in Ireland have the same history.
But then, Ben Carson, so...

--------------------
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If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

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Russ
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quote:
Originally posted by Soror Magna:
I'm asserting that there is no need for the law to prohibit things that don't happen. That's not special pleading, it's common sense. Your big-nosed friends don't need protection from discrimination any more than you need anti-leprechaun bylaws

You're certain that in the entire history of humanity not one person has been treated less well than others because of their big nose ?

Omniscience must be easier to come by than I thought...

But I'm not really asking about how many people need to be suffering before something comes to the attention of the lawmakers. I'm asking for a clear statement of moral philosophy regarding discrimination. And how the history you refer to changes in any way what the right thing to do is.

Seems like I ask or assert something about what's moral and get back a reply about what's legal. Which I guess is what you'd expect from those advocating a bad law...

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:

Omniscience must be easier to come by than I thought...

You arguments do not give proof of any understanding at all, so I do hope we can be forgiven for not knowing everything.

--------------------
So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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Russ
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quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
you've rather backed up orfeo's case that a principle such as "you may discriminate against behaviour but not against innate characteristics" fails to do the work, by agreeing that holding hands is a behaviour

That's an interesting phrase - "fails to do the work".

I thought that the distinction between behaviour and characteristics arose because orfeo and others felt that:
- it is unjust to force a shopkeeper to serve those who behave badly in his shop
but at the same time
- the action of saying to someone "we don't serve your kind in here" (and acting accordingly) is going to cause greater pain to the victim than it provides satisfaction to the merchant, so that a utilitarian-minded person can consider prohibiting this to be a good thing.

So that if you agree on those two moral intuitions, then the principle "does the work" of distinguishing the type of prejudiced behaviour which is normally meant by "discrimination" from the shopkeeper's right to insist on standards of behaviour in his shop.

You may not like his standards (or his dress code)...

You're (correctly, ISTM) saying that it doesn't "do the work" of bringing about your idea of an equal society (Because it doesn't force on him a view of the equivalence of hetero and homo behaviour).

Which supports my contention that this is an essentially political conviction that orfeo and others are trying to pass off as a moral belief...

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Soror Magna
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
quote:
Originally posted by Soror Magna:
I'm asserting that there is no need for the law to prohibit things that don't happen. That's not special pleading, it's common sense. Your big-nosed friends don't need protection from discrimination any more than you need anti-leprechaun bylaws

...
Seems like I ask or assert something about what's moral and get back a reply about what's legal. Which I guess is what you'd expect from those advocating a bad law...

And here I thought I was talking about reality. Whatever. You're still arguing that if society won't stop A from stealing hubcaps, it's immoral to make it illegal for B to rob banks.

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"You come with me to room 1013 over at the hospital, I'll show you America. Terminal, crazy and mean." -- Tony Kushner, "Angels in America"

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
I thought that the distinction between behaviour and characteristics arose because orfeo and others felt that:
- it is unjust to force a shopkeeper to serve those who behave badly in his shop
but at the same time
- the action of saying to someone "we don't serve your kind in here" (and acting accordingly) is going to cause greater pain to the victim than it provides satisfaction to the merchant, so that a utilitarian-minded person can consider prohibiting this to be a good thing.

This bit of point missing and unexamined privilege is par for the course in these kinds of discussions. Laws aren't passed to prevent invidious discrimination because of "pain" or hurt feelings or some other emotional distress, it's because such discrimination prevents those discriminated against from fully participating in society. You can't take a long drive to another city because you don't know if "your kind" can get a hotel room there, or if there's a bathroom on the way that "your kind" is allowed to use. You can't just decide to go out for a meal without carefully checking around to find somewhere that will serve "your kind". You can't buy a home because no banks will lend to "your kind". And reducing this kind of thing to "pain" or "satisfaction" is the kind of minimization done by someone who's dead certain they'll never be on the receiving end of anything like it themselves.

quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
You're (correctly, ISTM) saying that it doesn't "do the work" of bringing about your idea of an equal society (Because it doesn't force on him a view of the equivalence of hetero and homo behaviour).

I think this (inadvertently) gets to the heart of the matter. No one cares what your view is of relative merits of "hetero and homo behaviour", least of all the gay couple you're dealing with. They just want to buy some pastry, not submit their marriage to your approval/disapproval.

No one cares whether you consider Judaism a legitimate religion or not. Mr. Rabinowitz just wants to secure a bank loan, not have to justify his religion to the lending agent.

No one cares about your belief in the superiority of the Aryan race. That black mother is just looking for a restroom with a changing station for her baby.

And that's what really seems to pissing off people like Russ, the fact that they're no longer regarded as moral arbiters who have to be appeased. It's not just that they now have to conduct business with people they obviously consider moral inferiors, it's that no one is taking them seriously about who the moral inferiors are any more.

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Leorning Cniht
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
I'm asking for a clear statement of moral philosophy regarding discrimination. And how the history you refer to changes in any way what the right thing to do is.

Seems like I ask or assert something about what's moral and get back a reply about what's legal. Which I guess is what you'd expect from those advocating a bad law...

Well, as a statement of moral philosophy, it is wrong to refuse service to big-nosed customers.

It is, however, not necessary to have a law addressing big-nose discrimination, because it doesn't happen. Society doesn't have a problem with people discriminating against the massively-conked. And the thing about the law is that it's a pretty blunt instrument. If you don't need laws interfering in a particular arena, you do better to keep the legal system's size 13s firmly out of the way.

We have laws against particular kinds of discrimination because they are pervasive problems that need fixing. Show us a systematic practice of humongous hooter hate, and we can start to address rhinophobia.

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
you've rather backed up orfeo's case that a principle such as "you may discriminate against behaviour but not against innate characteristics" fails to do the work, by agreeing that holding hands is a behaviour

That's an interesting phrase - "fails to do the work".

I thought that the distinction between behaviour and characteristics arose because orfeo and others felt that:
- it is unjust to force a shopkeeper to serve those who behave badly in his shop
but at the same time
- the action of saying to someone "we don't serve your kind in here" (and acting accordingly) is going to cause greater pain to the victim than it provides satisfaction to the merchant, so that a utilitarian-minded person can consider prohibiting this to be a good thing.

So that if you agree on those two moral intuitions, then the principle "does the work" of distinguishing the type of prejudiced behaviour which is normally meant by "discrimination" from the shopkeeper's right to insist on standards of behaviour in his shop.

Refusing to serve two men because they have been holding hands is discrimination. Refusing to serve a woman because she has an ash cross for Ash Wednesday on her forehead is discrimination. But both are behaviour.

The ideal you say you support is a society in which people of differing convictions can live together on equal terms without either imposing their beliefs upon the other.
If one refuses to live together on equal terms one discriminates.

A pluralistic society cannot accept for public or legal purposes that one class of people be treated as of lesser status. Whatever views private individuals hold, living together on equal terms without imposing one's beliefs upon each other requires that homosexual marriage and heterosexual marriage are treated as equivalent for public purposes - that is, in spaces and for purposes where individuals of different convictions mix. Two people in public space trying to get served are trying to live their life. Someone imposing restrictions on how they behave in public space - and shops open to the public count as public space - is trying to impose their values on other people's lives.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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Erroneous Monk
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
There's no problem with you. You are being a good employee, making hiring decisions in the best interests of the business as you perceive them to be. You do not deserve to be punished for your actions. No black would-be-baker has a moral claim against you. You have never pretended to he doing anything other than hiring the person who it will be most economically advantageous for the business to have on the payroll.


This no-problem-with-you analysis would apply equally well to the priest and the Levite in the parable of the good Samaritan. Yet Jesus is clearly pointing out that those characters, the ones behaving reasonably, doing no more or less than should be expected of them, are breaking the second most important of commandments. They are not loving their neighbour as they love themselves.

Of course, the baker of Bigotsville may not make any claim to follow Christ. But if he did, he might well think that every black would-be-baker has a great deal more than moral claim on him.

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And I shot a man in Tesco, just to watch him die.

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orfeo

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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
So that if you agree on those two moral intuitions, then the principle "does the work" of distinguishing the type of prejudiced behaviour which is normally meant by "discrimination" from the shopkeeper's right to insist on standards of behaviour in his shop.

But that's doing totally abstract work, Russ. Sure, it demarcates on a theoretical, philosophical level between things that are okay and not okay.

But laws are not philosophical treatises, and one of the biggest problems with this discussion is that you keep treating them as if they should be. Laws aren't designed to sit on the books and be intellectually appealing, they are designed to achieve practical results in the real world.

And yes, a huge part of my job as a legislative drafter is actually to ensure that laws are coherent and logical and don't have internal contradictions. But that is a very different thing from turning the law into some kind of abstract aphorism that everyone can agree with, but no-one knows what it means in practice. Which, I hate to say it, is what you keep advocating.

Your principle doesn't, in my view, do any real "work" at all. It merely provides a theoretical underpinning for some work.

[ 15. February 2017, 11:14: Message edited by: orfeo ]

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Technology has brought us all closer together. Turns out a lot of the people you meet as a result are complete idiots.

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Russ
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quote:
Originally posted by Leorning Cniht:
as a statement of moral philosophy, it is wrong to refuse service to big-nosed customers.

It is, however, not necessary to have a law addressing big-nose discrimination, because it doesn't happen. Society doesn't have a problem with people discriminating against the massively-conked.

And the thing about the law is that it's a pretty blunt instrument. If you don't need laws interfering in a particular arena, you do better to keep the legal system's size 13s firmly out of the way.

I tend to agree that the law isn't the best way to address every problem, and that it is wise to hesitate and consider carefully before bringing the law into new areas. (Thinking for example of children suing their parents for bad parenting...)

But there's a difference between something that never happens - so that a reasonable person can have confidence that it won't happen - and something that happens rarely enough to not be seen as a major social problem.

What you say sounds perfectly reasonable within a paradigm of benevolent managerial government. A social problem is identified (prostitution, drugs, cyber-porn, cyber-bullying, whatever). Working parties and committees are formed, evidence is gathered, the public is consulted, constraints are identified, a strategy is developed, and measures are taken, which may or may not include changes to the law.

Is there a need to go through all that on the issue of the nasally-challenged? No.

But what you say sounds less reasonable within a paradigm of wrongdoing. If someone hits you over the head with a Bible and you report it to the police, you don't expect to be told "that doesn't happen often enough to make it worth having a law against it. Guns, knives, 2x4s, baseball bats, tyre irons and handbags, yes assault with these is a social problem. Bibles, no".

Of course not. The law prohibits the morally-wrong public action regardless of the details.

So if you want to say that discrimination against a particular group is a universally-accepted social problem that we should try to first understand and then alleviate, without blaming or punishing anyone, for the common good, then go ahead and do your research and consultation etc etc. But don't get self-righteous about it.

Or conversely, if you want it that discrimination is a moral crime - an act that deserves punishment - then that wrongful act needs to be impartially and coherently defined, as part of convincing us all of what acts it is our moral duty to perform or avoid.

Or is it a third paradigm, a political paradigm, that applies ? Is it a case of "get on-message, Russ, or we'll think you're one of Them rather than one of Us" ?

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
Of course not. The law prohibits the morally-wrong public action regardless of the details.

The feature that here makes it possible to do so is that Bibles can be classified succinctly with other blunt and heavy objects that might be used as weapons. We don't think it's relevant what the weapon is.

On the other hand, when it comes to behaviour the dividing line between reasonable grounds for refusal to serve and unreasonable grounds for refusal to serve is fine. There's no reason to expect the law to be able to exactly track what is moral or reasonable in all possible cases (especially where those moral judgements might vary from person to person).
The law is not required to have a fully worked out theory as to how to resolve all possible trolley problem before it decides that pushing fat people into the paths of speeding railway trolleys ought to be illegal.

quote:
So if you want to say that discrimination against a particular group is a universally-accepted social problem that we should try to first understand and then alleviate, without blaming or punishing anyone, for the common good, then go ahead and do your research and consultation etc etc. But don't get self-righteous about it.

Or conversely, if you want it that discrimination is a moral crime - an act that deserves punishment - then that wrongful act needs to be impartially and coherently defined, as part of convincing us all of what acts it is our moral duty to perform or avoid.

That's a peculiar doctrine.

Our moral duty is not impartially and coherently defined. A law that defines a wrongful act will for that reason not precisely track our moral duty.

You are implying that 'do not discriminate on the grounds of race, sexual orientation, or religion (insert other protected characteristics)' is not impartial or clear.

You're implying that the law ought only to forbid moral crime, which you equate with what deserves punishment. But I believe that discrimination of the sort that we are discussing is a civil matter. Now you might think that the law ought not to enforce contracts though I doubt it. If you think the law ought to enforce contracts then you are saying that the law has scope beyond moral crime that deserves punishment.

You may be employing your idiosyncratic definition of morality as being what is accepted by all groups within a society. That definition is incoherent.
For example, suppose one group in the society thinks that under the circumstances that obtain it is permissible to place bombs in public spaces and blow up civilians. By your definition of 'morality' as 'what is agreed between all groups in society' it would follow that 'do not kill civilians using bombs in public spaces' is not part of 'morality' and the law ought not to forbid it.
You could define 'morality' as what is required for people of differing convictions to live peaceably and fairly together. But that raises unnecessary ambiguity given that morality ordinarily means matters running well beyond that. I think the term we are looking for to describe the rights and wrongs of living together in society is 'political'. And the activity of resolving disputes about what that should be is 'politics'.

--------------------
we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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Dafyd
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A point about the claim that forbidding discrimination on grounds of protected characteristics but not on grounds of nose size is unfair to people with big noses.

How do you know it's unfair to people with big noses rather than to people with small noses or people with medium size noses?

It cannot be equally unfair to everyone who has a nose, because 'equally unfair to everyone' just means 'fair to everyone'. But the law forbidding discrimination on grounds of protected characteristics equally fails to mention all sizes of nose. So it is fair to all sizes of nose.

In order to claim that the law is unfair you have to be able to point to, however vaguely, some group of people that it is unfair to. And there isn't one.

(I think this a variant on the point that forbidding discrimination on the grounds of race or sexual orientation is not unfair to straight white people, since being straight is a sexual orientation and being white is a race.)

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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Leorning Cniht
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:

But what you say sounds less reasonable within a paradigm of wrongdoing. If someone hits you over the head with a Bible and you report it to the police, you don't expect to be told "that doesn't happen often enough to make it worth having a law against it. Guns, knives, 2x4s, baseball bats, tyre irons and handbags, yes assault with these is a social problem. Bibles, no".

Well, of course not. If I go around hitting people, the particular object that I choose to do my hitting with is an irrelevant detail.

(But sometimes, we find objects that are used for hitting people, and only hitting people, and we call these objects "weapons" and do tend to pass laws further restricting their use.)

quote:

Of course not. The law prohibits the morally-wrong public action regardless of the details.

No, the law prohibits the harmful public action regardless of the irrevelant details. The law does not prohibit assault because assault is immoral: it prohibits assault because of the harm it causes.

quote:

So if you want to say that discrimination against a particular group is a universally-accepted social problem that we should try to first understand and then alleviate, without blaming or punishing anyone, for the common good, then go ahead and do your research and consultation etc etc. But don't get self-righteous about it.

Nothing is universally-accepted. But you're right in one sense: the purpose of the law is not to punish the naughty bigot for his views - the purpose is to protect the people who would otherwise face routine discrimination. The fact that people who break the law get punished is a byproduct.

quote:

Or conversely, if you want it that discrimination is a moral crime - an act that deserves punishment - then that wrongful act needs to be impartially and coherently defined, as part of convincing us all of what acts it is our moral duty to perform or avoid.

Once again, the law does not deal with morality: it deals with harm. What is moral, and what is (or should be) legal, are different things. The law is not, and should not attempt to be, an arbiter of morality.
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Russ
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Minimising harm is the utilitarian version of morality...

...and what's wrong with utilitarianism is that a utilitarian will punish the innocent for the sake of reducing what they perceive as the total harm in the world.

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
Seems like I ask or assert something about what's moral and get back a reply about what's legal. Which I guess is what you'd expect from those advocating a bad law...

quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
Of course not. The law prohibits the morally-wrong public action regardless of the details.

Wow. That's quite a switch up from 'law and morality are completely separate' to 'law is all about morality' in only 48 hours!

Which is wrong. Law is one of the ways people solve collective action problems. Sometimes this is done with regard to a moral code, but not always. There is no specific moral imperative for motorists to drive on the right-hand side of the road in two-way traffic. (Those left-drivers in the UK are driving immorally!!! [Eek!] ) If patent law protects intellectual property rights for twenty years, that's a pragmatically-derived span of time, not because nineteen years is an immorally short timespan and twenty-one years is an immorally long timespan to protect patent rights.

And like most solutions to collective action problems, law is defined at the level of detail pragmatically determined to be necessary.

quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
If someone hits you over the head with a Bible and you report it to the police, you don't expect to be told "that doesn't happen often enough to make it worth having a law against it. Guns, knives, 2x4s, baseball bats, tyre irons and handbags, yes assault with these is a social problem. Bibles, no".

Of course not. The law prohibits the morally-wrong public action regardless of the details.

In this case rather than a lengthy list of specific objects the law makes a distinction between objects which could be considered a deadly weapon (tyre iron, baseball bat, etc.) and things which are not (Bible, handbag, etc.), because that's the level of detail deemed necessary.

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Humani nil a me alienum puto

Posts: 10484 | From: Sardis, Lydia | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Dafyd
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# 5549

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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
Minimising harm is the utilitarian version of morality...

...and what's wrong with utilitarianism is that a utilitarian will punish the innocent for the sake of reducing what they perceive as the total harm in the world.

That's a terminological inexactitude: the utilitarian will harm, not punish, the innocent for the sake of reducing the total harm in the world.
(You do keep throwing in the phrase 'what you/they perceive as' when describing other people's positions.)

That is so to speak only a symptom of the more fundamental problem with utilitarianism which is that it's radically anti-egalitarian: it thinks that the suffering of the least well-off can be justified by the pleasures of the better off. Any time a libertarian complains that progressives are limiting their sympathies to the least well-off the libertarian is implicitly endorsing utilitarian criteria.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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Leorning Cniht
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# 17564

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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:

...and what's wrong with utilitarianism is that a utilitarian will punish the innocent for the sake of reducing what they perceive as the total harm in the world.

I think you're a bit stuck in axioms. You are trying to assert a small number of axioms, and derive a whole legal environment from them.

That's not an unreasonable exercise, but it has problems, and one of the major problems, which we are encountering in this discussion, is that a small error (even just a shade of meaning) in an axiom can end up being compounded in your conclusions, and so inflicting significant harm on a group of people.

And rather than trying to deal with this problem by re-evaluating the axiom set and tweaking something, a pragmatist will look at the problem, say "this is a problem" and find the minimal reasonably equitable change that will fix it.

I'm not a strict utilitarian, and you'll find me differentiating between active and passive harm, and direct and indirect harm, in ways that a strict utilitarian wouldn't countenance.

But from a pragmatic point of view, 'harm' is a much better metric than 'immorality' as it's much easier to agree on. Two people might have opposite views on whether a loved-up gay couple seeking to celebrate their relationship are acting morally, but they can agree that that couple is harmed with respect to straight couples by being denied service by some vendor or other.

Arguing about the relative harm inflicted on the gay couple and the anti-gay vendor is a much simpler problem, and much more likely to achieve resolution, than arguing about the morality of the couple and the vendor.

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orfeo

Ship's Musical Counterpoint
# 13878

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Russ, as a drafter some of what I'm reading boils down to really dreadful analogies along the lines of "adding this much detail to a law on assault would be bad so adding this much detail to a law about discrimination must be bad".

It's a terrible argument, again reducing things to an abstraction without any context. It's the kind of argument that is tried when someone wants to argue that if we're going to remove specific references to men and women in one place, then we automatically shouldn't refer to "women" when talking about pregnancy, menstruation, breast cancer, domestic violence or anything else where gender has a relevant impact.

There is no universal principle about classification or level of detail that applies across the board. Every situation requires judgement about which elements are going to be important and mentioned.

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Technology has brought us all closer together. Turns out a lot of the people you meet as a result are complete idiots.

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Pigwidgeon

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# 10192

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Washington State Court Rules Florist Broke The Law By Refusing To Serve Gay Couple

[Smile]

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Don't keep calm. Go change the world.

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Russ
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quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
You're implying that the law ought only to forbid moral crime, which you equate with what deserves punishment. But I believe that discrimination of the sort that we are discussing is a civil matter. Now you might think that the law ought not to enforce contracts though I doubt it. If you think the law ought to enforce contracts then you are saying that the law has scope beyond moral crime that deserves punishment.

You don't see promise-keeping as a moral issue ? Promise-breaking as a wrong that deserves recompense to the recipient of the promise ?

quote:
You may be employing your idiosyncratic definition of morality as being what is accepted by all groups within a society.
That's not how I define morality.

I may have said that morality should be accepted by all groups within a society. That my ideal is law respected because it is evidently moral.

I thought I'd said that the paradigm of benevolent managerial government aims at consensus solutions to problems rather than at a tyranny of the majority imposing the values of one group on another.

quote:
You could define 'morality' as what is required for people of differing convictions to live peaceably and fairly together.
I think I'm asserting that it is true but not taking it as a definition of morality. But maybe you're right and it's constructive to look at it that way round.

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Soror Magna
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
Minimising harm is the utilitarian version of morality...

...and what's wrong with utilitarianism is that a utilitarian will punish the innocent for the sake of reducing what they perceive as the total harm in the world.

Have a look at this painting. According to your argument, the people that wrote "N*****" on the wall are innocent and are being punished by that little girl and the utilitarian men escorting her.

And I sure hope you're not suggesting that only a utilitarian would perceive the harm done to that little girl by segregation, because that would be an insult to non-utilitarians.

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"You come with me to room 1013 over at the hospital, I'll show you America. Terminal, crazy and mean." -- Tony Kushner, "Angels in America"

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lilBuddha
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This
quote:
Originally posted by Russ:

I thought I'd said that the paradigm of benevolent managerial government aims at consensus solutions to problems

is the same as this
quote:
rather than at a tyranny of the majority imposing the values of one group on another.

Your argument is an idiot.

--------------------
So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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Dafyd
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# 5549

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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
You're implying that the law ought only to forbid moral crime, which you equate with what deserves punishment. But I believe that discrimination of the sort that we are discussing is a civil matter. Now you might think that the law ought not to enforce contracts though I doubt it. If you think the law ought to enforce contracts then you are saying that the law has scope beyond moral crime that deserves punishment.

You don't see promise-keeping as a moral issue ? Promise-breaking as a wrong that deserves recompense to the recipient of the promise ?
Recompense is not the same as punishment. Terminology matters. Recompense is deserved by the recipient of the promise because they have been harmed.
(On the whole I believe thinking about desert is unhelpful to good thinking about morality. If I'm asking myself what is the right thing to do I should not be thinking about what I would deserve if I did whatever I'm thinking of. And in general it focuses on the comparatively unimportant question of subjective guilt as opposed to the more important questions about fairness, harm, and benefit.)

quote:
I may have said that morality should be accepted by all groups within a society. That my ideal is law respected because it is evidently moral.
That's somewhat like saying that the ideal is promises respected because they are evidently moral. I shouldn't promise to do something that is morally wrong. But there's no need to promise to do something morally obligatory. Something that was morally neutral becomes a moral obligation because I have promised it.
Similarly, something that was previously morally neutral - driving on one side of the road rather than another - becomes morally obligatory once a law has been passed.

quote:
I thought I'd said that the paradigm of benevolent managerial government aims at consensus solutions to problems rather than at a tyranny of the majority imposing the values of one group on another.
I don't think forbidding public bombing is really best described as the tyranny of the majority imposing the values of their group on another group. Nor do I think forbidding discrimination on the grounds of race or sexual orientation is any better described that way. In both cases one group is adopting values that run directly counter to peaceful or consensus coexistence.

quote:
quote:
You could define 'morality' as what is required for people of differing convictions to live peaceably and fairly together.
I think I'm asserting that it is true but not taking it as a definition of morality. But maybe you're right and it's constructive to look at it that way round.
I think I misremembered and that is what you previously wanted to call 'morality'. As I said, the established term is 'politics'. The different convictions about morality are what people bring to the table, and politics is the process of finding a consensus they can all live with.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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Crœsos
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# 238

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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
This
quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
I thought I'd said that the paradigm of benevolent managerial government aims at consensus solutions to problems

is the same as this

quote:
rather than at a tyranny of the majority imposing the values of one group on another.


Not quite. "Consensus" implies unanimity, so under that standard as long as there is any dissent at all the state cannot legitimately act. It's a favored argument of Segregation apologists, as I noted earlier. It's a cheap way of defending the status quo without having to explicitly defend the status quo.

It also undermines the whole idea of "law". If anyone can render a law illegitimate by simply expressing disagreement (i.e. lack of consensus), then there's no such thing as "law", only "guidelines".

quote:
Originally posted by Soror Magna:
And I sure hope you're not suggesting that only a utilitarian would perceive the harm done to that little girl by segregation, because that would be an insult to non-utilitarians.

As I noted before, that's exactly what he's doing. A defense of the status quo without having to explicitly defend the status quo. Since there's no "consensus" on whether Ruby Bridges should be allowed to attend the William Frantz Elementary School, the "moral" position (according to Russ) in inaction and indifference. It's kind of the textbook example of someone "who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom".

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Humani nil a me alienum puto

Posts: 10484 | From: Sardis, Lydia | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Russ
Old salt
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quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
something that was previously morally neutral - driving on one side of the road rather than another - becomes morally obligatory once a law has been passed.

The moral obligation is and always was to drive in a manner that isn't dangerous to other people and their property.

The law neither adds to nor takes away from that.

A large part of safe driving is about signalling clearly to other drivers and fitting in with their expectations. If the consequences of a law include a change to those expectations, then what you have to do in order to meet an unchanged moral imperative may be different.

More generally, the argument I'm hearing is in two parts. The first part says that the law doesn't have to be moral. That it's OK for the law to both permit wrong actions and to prohibit actions that are not wrong.

The second part then says that the prohibited action is wrong because it's against the law.

Together these seem to me to amount to a position that "might is right". That right and wrong have no meaning outside of the will of the group who have the power to make the laws.

quote:

I don't think forbidding public bombing is really best described as the tyranny of the majority imposing the values of their group on another group.

Agreed. Would you agree that forbidding public praying could reasonably be so described ? ( Or forbidding public display of one's unveiled face ? )

The difference between the two being that letting off bombs - devices that kill and main and destroy - is morally wrong.

Some here think that the difference is about harm.

What's the difference between those two ways of expressing or conceptualizing the same pretty obvious insight ?

Maybe "harm" is the narrower framework, effectively reducing morality to utilitarianism ?

Whereas I'm suggesting a moral framework in which people have rights.

That a bookseller has the right to stock book A instead of book B even if someone could demonstrate that the sum total of human satisfaction is reduced thereby. That Mr C and Miss D have the right to seek happiness by marrying each other even if someone could show that objectively overall happiness would be increased if C marries X and D marries Y.

--------------------
Wish everyone well; the enemy is not people, the enemy is wrong ideas

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mousethief

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# 953

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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
something that was previously morally neutral - driving on one side of the road rather than another - becomes morally obligatory once a law has been passed.

The moral obligation is and always was to drive in a manner that isn't dangerous to other people and their property.

The law neither adds to nor takes away from that.

We can redefine ANYTHING to make it fit our theory.

"A man who has bought a theory will fight a furious rear guard action against the facts." - Joseph R. Alsop, Jr.

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“Religion doesn't fuck up people, people fuck up religion.”—lilBuddha

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Dafyd
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# 5549

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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
The moral obligation is and always was to drive in a manner that isn't dangerous to other people and their property.

The law neither adds to nor takes away from that.

A large part of safe driving is about signalling clearly to other drivers and fitting in with their expectations. If the consequences of a law include a change to those expectations, then what you have to do in order to meet an unchanged moral imperative may be different.

It appears that what you're saying is that it is ok to make a law that forbids a morally permissible action as long as that law affects what you have to do to meet an unchanged moral imperative?
That seems rather a tortuous way to try to maintain your basic principle that the law oughtn't to forbid what is morally permissible.

quote:
More generally, the argument I'm hearing is in two parts. The first part says that the law doesn't have to be moral. That it's OK for the law to both permit wrong actions and to prohibit actions that are not wrong.

The second part then says that the prohibited action is wrong because it's against the law.

Together these seem to me to amount to a position that "might is right". That right and wrong have no meaning outside of the will of the group who have the power to make the laws.

I'm surprised to see you implying that the law should forbid actions that are morally wrong. Your whole argument is in support of a claim that liberals thinking an action - discrimination on the grounds of race or sexual orientation - morally wrong is not sufficient reason to make it illegal.
Just because an action is morally wrong is not sufficient reason to ban it legally. Firstly, the effort of prosecution might not be worth it and might have delerious side effects in granting the law the power to investigate: for example, adultery, racist comments in public, etc. Secondly, moral convictions throughout a society may differ, so you're effectively handing the dominant moral ideology the power to determine law.

May the law forbid actions that are not of themselves immoral? Perhaps you can explain away all such cases as special cases of principles such as paying due care and attention to other people in the society, coordinating actions to the common benefit, not free riding, obeying promises, and so on. Any such law needs to be justified in terms of whether the public benefit is greater than the cost; and certainly public benefit and cost are morally relevant concepts. We could argue that but that's irrelevant to the present purposes.

We are arguing about whether the law ought to forbid a shopkeeper from refusing service to people on the grounds of race or sexual orientation. And I certainly believe that a shopkeeper who does so on those grounds (among others, including but not limited to facial features etc) does something morally wrong.

I do think that there is a defeasible moral obligation to obey just laws, just as there is a defeasible moral obligation to adhere to contracts and keep promises. (You can probably view the obligation to adhere to just laws as derived from the obligation to obey promises if you like: by living in a society I implicitly promise to obey the just laws.)

Does that amount to might makes right? There's a large gap there between 'the law ought only to track morality that exists before the law existed' and 'might makes right'.

quote:
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
I don't think forbidding public bombing is really best described as the tyranny of the majority imposing the values of their group on another group.

Agreed. Would you agree that forbidding public praying could reasonably be so described ? ( Or forbidding public display of one's unveiled face ? )

The difference between the two being that letting off bombs - devices that kill and main and destroy - is morally wrong.

What you're saying here is that it's ok for your group to impose your perception of morality on other people who don't share your perception of morality. But not the other way around.

Just because a group thinks they're being moral is not of itself sufficient to justify the imposition of their moral convictions as law.

Law requires a justification in terms of public benefit and personal freedom, which is related to but not identical with morality.

quote:
Some here think that the difference is about harm.

What's the difference between those two ways of expressing or conceptualizing the same pretty obvious insight ?

Maybe "harm" is the narrower framework, effectively reducing morality to utilitarianism ?

Whereas I'm suggesting a moral framework in which people have rights.

I think rights are a legal and political concept rather than a moral concept.

You can talk about moral rights where someone is the beneficiary of a moral duty; but moral duties and virtues are primary and moral rights reducible to duties.

A morality of harm is deontological rather than utilitarian. Utilitarianism is about suffering and pleasure. The difference being that harm is an event, whereas suffering is a consequence or a state of affairs. (Utilitarianism only gives intrinsic moral weight to states of affairs.)

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

Posts: 10411 | From: Edinburgh | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Leaf
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# 14169

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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
More generally, the argument I'm hearing is in two parts. The first part says that the law doesn't have to be moral. That it's OK for the law to both permit wrong actions and to prohibit actions that are not wrong.

The second part then says that the prohibited action is wrong because it's against the law.

You are not hearing correctly, then. What you have described as the argument you're hearing is a strawman. (On a personal note: sometimes I am not sure of, or disagree with the characterization of another's argument as a strawman. In this instance I thank you for creating one the size of Burning Man, to which I can clearly point and say, "That is a strawman.")It is a strawman because you persist in thinking that somehow harm is not about morality, and that morality is some pure clear abstract existing above notions of harm. Perhaps that is true only in your own construct, but it is not universally true.

quote:
The difference between the two being that letting off bombs - devices that kill and main and destroy - is morally wrong.

Some here think that the difference is about harm.

What's the difference between those two ways of expressing or conceptualizing the same pretty obvious insight ?

Maybe "harm" is the narrower framework, effectively reducing morality to utilitarianism ?

Whereas I'm suggesting a moral framework in which people have rights.

You are right about "harm" being the narrower framework. It is the one that works in a pluralistic society. Reasonable people can come to agreement on what constitutes harm, when they cannot come to agreement on many other subjects. Reasonable people can make decisions on the relative weights of harms.

In your driving example: I can drive down the centre of a straight flat gravel road with no other traffic, and not be arrested. I was causing no harm, and the sides of the road may be softer and unstable. I am not an immoral person for doing so. I am an immoral person if I continue to drive in the centre regardless of traffic, on the grounds that it is my historic and traditional right to do so, and plow into an oncoming vehicle. I am also an immoral person if I follow the letter of the law and drive over an injured person lying on my side of the road. Insisting on my pre-existing moral right to drive on my side of the road does not mitigate the harm.

Near as I can tell, you are advancing right-wing libertarianism, possibly anarcho-capitalism, or the "might makes right" inertia which Croesus described. Whatever it is, history demonstrates that ideology imposed without regard for harm results in monstrous systems.

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Crœsos
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# 238

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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
something that was previously morally neutral - driving on one side of the road rather than another - becomes morally obligatory once a law has been passed.

More generally, the argument I'm hearing is in two parts. The first part says that the law doesn't have to be moral. That it's OK for the law to both permit wrong actions and to prohibit actions that are not wrong.
That would seem to be the case. In the absence of side-of-road laws, it's not wrong to drive on either the right-hand or left-hand side of the road. Yet most would agree that prohibiting one of these not-wrong actions is not just "OK", but actually desirable. Could you flesh out your opinion to the contrary?

--------------------
Humani nil a me alienum puto

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Dafyd
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I'm going to try to construct a definite position out of Russ' animadversions. I think it goes like this:

1. Morality is about rights. An action is immoral if and only if it violates someone else's rights.
2. There is no general right to be served in a shop. (There are grounds on which shopkeepers may refuse to serve customers.)
3. There are no non-general rights (i.e. rights not to refused service on the grounds of race).
4. Therefore a shopkeeper who refuses to serve a customer on any grounds doesn't do anything morally wrong.
5. The law ought not to forbid anything that is not morally wrong.
6. Therefore, the law ought not to forbid shopkeepers from refusing to serve customers on any grounds.

I think 6 follows from premises 4 and 5.

Premise 5 is I think false. But I don't think the exceptions apply to this case. (The reasons for forbidding discrimination here follow reasons for thinking discrimination morally wrong.) Though I don't think Russ can reformulate the rule to make allowance for the exceptions without abandoning premise 1.

4 follows from premises 1, 2, and 3.

3 might be plausible if we grant premise 1 on the grounds of epistemology: how would we know what non-general rights there are? But I think that objection works against general rights as well. In any case it's not independent of premise 1.

2 seems true.

1 is false: there is no good reason to believe it.
There are whole families of moral concepts that it can't explain: for example, imperfect duties, virtues that generate imperfect duties such as generosity or compassion, perfect duties that are not direct violations of rights e.g. honesty. Such a radical revision of common-sense ethics needs a lot of justification, and Russ has done nothing to do anything of the sort.

Since the argument depends on 1 being true (and so does premise 3) and 1 doesn't even come close, the argument fails.

[ 18. February 2017, 18:54: Message edited by: Dafyd ]

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

Posts: 10411 | From: Edinburgh | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Russ
Old salt
# 120

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quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
"Consensus" implies unanimity, so under that standard as long as there is any dissent at all the state cannot legitimately act.

I'd say that you can talk about a consensus when there's no serious opposition to a proposal. Which allows for some who don't like it but can't suggest anything better, and some "lunatic fringe" opposition which isn't taken seriously. Which is something a little short of unanimity.

quote:
If anyone can render a law illegitimate by simply expressing disagreement (i.e. lack of consensus), then there's no such thing as "law", only "guidelines".
I'm saying that the law can and should act under a "crime and punishment" paradigm, to protect citizens from wrongful public acts.

And also under a "consensus problem-solving" paradigm.

Just not under a "tyranny of the majority" paradigm...

quote:
[Since there's no "consensus" on whether Ruby Bridges should be allowed to attend the William Frantz Elementary School, the "moral" position (according to Russ) in inaction and indifference.
No, I'm saying that since at that time there was no consensus on school desegregation, the relevant act of government can't be justified on a "we're apolitically solving a social problem" basis but only on a "morally this is the right thing to do" basis.

Forbidding black children of US citizens from going to the best schools just because they're black is the sort of prejudiced action that I'm suggesting is morally wrong.

And if anyone were stupid enough to want to bar children with big noses from a good school then that would be a similar wrong prejudiced action.

--------------------
Wish everyone well; the enemy is not people, the enemy is wrong ideas

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lilBuddha
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# 14333

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The difference between consensus and majority is process more than percentages. It is by consensus that equal marriage has been reached. So what is your problem?

--------------------
So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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Crœsos
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# 238

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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
If anyone can render a law illegitimate by simply expressing disagreement (i.e. lack of consensus), then there's no such thing as "law", only "guidelines".

I'm saying that the law can and should act under a "crime and punishment" paradigm, to protect citizens from wrongful public acts.

And also under a "consensus problem-solving" paradigm.

Just not under a "tyranny of the majority" paradigm...

Hey, weren't you the guy just arguing against "special pleading"? Saying laws you like are "to protect citizens from wrongful public acts" and laws you don't like are "a "tyranny of the majority" paradigm" seems a little . . . special. As near as I can tell that's the only distinguishing feature.

quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
Since there's no "consensus" on whether Ruby Bridges should be allowed to attend the William Frantz Elementary School, the "moral" position (according to Russ) in inaction and indifference.

No, I'm saying that since at that time there was no consensus on school desegregation, the relevant act of government can't be justified on a "we're apolitically solving a social problem" basis but only on a "morally this is the right thing to do" basis.

Forbidding black children of US citizens from going to the best schools just because they're black is the sort of prejudiced action that I'm suggesting is morally wrong.

Since when? A week ago you were all "Eh, what can you do? Gotta change hearts and minds" (rough paraphrase) and all of a sudden you find racial discrimination immoral?

[ 18. February 2017, 22:13: Message edited by: Crœsos ]

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Leorning Cniht
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:

Forbidding black children of US citizens from going to the best schools just because they're black is the sort of prejudiced action that I'm suggesting is morally wrong.

But at the time, a lot of segregationists thought that they were morally right. As did those fighting against miscegenation. And you've spent the last 25 pages telling us that in a morally plural society, we have to let bigots be bigots and not impose our morality on them.

Back in the day there were plenty of people who were horrified - on faith/moral grounds - by the decision in Loving v Virgina. I wouldn't be surprised if they were, by and large, the grandparents of those most horrified by Obergefell.

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Gee D
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Dafyd:
[qb]something that was previously morally neutral - driving on one side of the road rather than another - becomes morally obligatory once a law has been passed.

The moral obligation is and always was to drive in a manner that isn't dangerous to other people and their property.

The law neither adds to nor takes away from that.

A large part of safe driving is about signalling clearly to other drivers and fitting in with their expectations. If the consequences of a law include a change to those expectations, then what you have to do in order to meet an unchanged moral imperative may be different.[QB]{QUOTE}

You have completely missed the point that no morality says which the side of the road is to be the rule

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Gee D
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
something that was previously morally neutral - driving on one side of the road rather than another - becomes morally obligatory once a law has been passed.

The moral obligation is and always was to drive in a manner that isn't dangerous to other people and their property.

The law neither adds to nor takes away from that.

A large part of safe driving is about signalling clearly to other drivers and fitting in with their expectations. If the consequences of a law include a change to those expectations, then what you have to do in order to meet an unchanged moral imperative may be different.

Clicked the Add reply rather than Preview post, then missed the edit time!

What you missed completely is that there is no moral imperative to say which side of the road is to be chosen in the first instance, and if the rule is to be one side throughout the country.

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orfeo

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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
And if anyone were stupid enough to want to bar children with big noses from a good school then that would be a similar wrong prejudiced action.

If. IF.

I don't understand what you're trying to do here. Are you trying to demand that we must have a law for a problem that doesn't exist, just to make sure it doesn't exist in the future?

Are you doing it because you don't like the law that actually IS on the books regarding sexuality, but you don't have the guts to openly say that?

And people wonder why the statute book is so large.

It's a time-honoured tactic, telling people that they're not allowed to address problem X unless they address problem Y as well. But it's a terrible argument at the best of times, and it's particularly terrible when there isn't the slightest evidence that problem Y even exists.

[ 19. February 2017, 02:27: Message edited by: orfeo ]

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
"Consensus" implies unanimity, so under that standard as long as there is any dissent at all the state cannot legitimately act.

I'd say that you can talk about a consensus when there's no serious opposition to a proposal. Which allows for some who don't like it but can't suggest anything better, and some "lunatic fringe" opposition which isn't taken seriously. Which is something a little short of unanimity.
I don't see any hard and fast dividing line here between a majority imposing their will on a minority and a majority imposing their will on a lunatic fringe that isn't taken seriously.

The majority can declare any minority a lunatic fringe that oughtn't to be taken seriously. That seems to me a rather more dangerous thing to happen than just passing the law because they won the vote.

quote:
No, I'm saying that since at that time there was no consensus on school desegregation, the relevant act of government can't be justified on a "we're apolitically solving a social problem" basis but only on a "morally this is the right thing to do" basis.
I doubt the rest of us think the distinction makes sense.
1) 'Morally this is the right thing to do' is a political statement. Pretending otherwise is an irregular verb:
Our program is morally the right thing to do;
Your program is the tyranny of the majority.
2) There's no such thing as apolitically solving a social problem even where there is a consensus that the problem needs to be solved. Pretending otherwise is an irregular verb.
3) Solving a social problem will often be morally the right thing to do.
4) It is not sufficient for a group of people to think that something is morally the right thing to do for their to be a law; there must be a social problem to be solved. What makes an immoral action a potential legal crime is that it is a social problem.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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Russ
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quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
I'm going to try to construct a definite position out of Russ' animadversions.

Thank you - if I've been inconsistent in the various responses above I'd like to know about it so as to repair the inconsistency if possible.

quote:
1. Morality is about rights. An action is immoral if and only if it violates someone else's rights.
Don't think I said "only if". I'm arguing that morality includes the concept of rights.

For example, every time we say "forgive us our trespasses" we are likening wrongdoing to a breach of land rights.

We can talk about moral duties (with rights being the flip side of those duties). But I'm also suggesting that a description of morality should allow for morally good actions which are above and beyond moral duties.

quote:
2. There is no general right to be served in a shop. (There are grounds on which shopkeepers may refuse to serve customers.)
Agreed.

quote:
3. There are no non-general rights (i.e. rights not to refused service on the grounds of race).
Agreed - any rights are universal. The existence of different races within a society does not create any new rights.

quote:
4. Therefore a shopkeeper who refuses to serve a customer on any grounds doesn't do anything morally wrong.
No. Because (it seems to me but you may be able to persuade me otherwise) there is a moral duty to treat people impartially when acting in the public realm. (cf St James "in the assembly")

Not a specific right to be served, not a right to any sort of cross-group equality of outcome, but an individual right to impartial treatment.

Which means, for example, making hiring decisions on the basis of most advantageous outcome to the business rather than indulging any personal animus or prejudice or private conviction or whim that the hiring manager might feel.

Which means, for example, limiting the service offered as the service provider sees fit, allowing their own religious convictions, but then offering that service impartially to everyone.

quote:
5. The law ought not to forbid anything that is not morally wrong.
Yes. Because if breaches aren't punished then it's more of a guideline than a law. And punishing a morally innocent action is morally wrong.

But it's OK for the law to decline to forbid morally wrong actions (e.g. on the grounds that it's a private rather than a public wrong). If it's done impartially.

And it's OK if individuals freely consent, i.e. waive their right to that innocent action.

quote:
6. Therefore, the law ought not to forbid shopkeepers from refusing to serve customers on any grounds.
Follows logically from 4 and 5, but I don't agree with 4, so no.

In summary, I'm arguing that there is a genuine moral wrong which covers many of the actions that you might describe with the word "discrimination" but not all such actions.

And that a just "anti-discrimination" law would "track" that moral wrong.

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Russ
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quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
A morality of harm is deontological rather than utilitarian. Utilitarianism is about suffering and pleasure. The difference being that harm is an event, whereas suffering is a consequence or a state of affairs. (Utilitarianism only gives intrinsic moral weight to states of affairs.)

I've not come across this distinction before. Could you expand on this (perhaps with examples) so I can get my brain around what you mean ? Thanks.

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orfeo

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Russ, what is morally wrong about driving on the right hand side of the road?

Millions of Americans do it.

What is morally wrong about driving without a licence?

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
A morality of harm is deontological rather than utilitarian. Utilitarianism is about suffering and pleasure. The difference being that harm is an event, whereas suffering is a consequence or a state of affairs. (Utilitarianism only gives intrinsic moral weight to states of affairs.)

I've not come across this distinction before. Could you expand on this (perhaps with examples) so I can get my brain around what you mean ? Thanks.
Utilitarianism works on utility: one's utility is one's quantity of pleasure minus one's quantity of pain. Suffering is being in a state of more pain than pleasure.
Harm is a reduction in utility.

Let's assign numerical values. (This is crude, but utilitarianism depends upon it being in principle possible to do so.)
Suffering is having a negative utility value. Harm is subtracting utility value.

Utilitarianism is the theory that it doesn't matter whether you harm anyone or whom you harm: all that matters is whether you end up with a greater total of utility across all people.

One could however have a theory that says that while you should increase overall utility you may not harm anyone in doing so (Pareto utilitarianism); or else that while you should increase overall utility you may only harm someone if they end up better off than someone who benefits from the transaction.

So if: A has U20, B U10, C U5, and D and E U1 each.
Utilitarian says it's good to move to A U35, B U12, C U6, and D and E U -5; or to A with U15, B with U 10 and C, D and E with U 6 each.
The Pareto version says neither is acceptable.
The third version says that the version with A 15 is acceptable but not the version with A 35.

Personally, I don't think utility is a sensible moral measure (I don't think you can quantify suffering or happiness in the way required); and I don't think reduction in pleasure is sufficient to count as harm - I think there is a much wider range of moral considerations.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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Gee D
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
I'm going to try to construct a definite position out of Russ' animadversions.

Thank you - if I've been inconsistent in the various responses above I'd like to know about it so as to repair the inconsistency if possible.

quote:
1. Morality is about rights. An action is immoral if and only if it violates someone else's rights.
Don't think I said "only if". I'm arguing that morality includes the concept of rights.

For example, every time we say "forgive us our trespasses" we are likening wrongdoing to a breach of land rights.

Let's hope that that is a feeble attempt at a joke, as otherwise it shows what a shithouse education you had. Trespass means to do wrong not just stray onto someone else's land, but also such thngs as trespass on someone's hospitality. The most common modern usage of straying onto someone's land was originally a specific example.

On the other hand, it could derive from doing something very like a sparrow, of course.

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:

quote:
3. There are no non-general rights (i.e. rights not to refused service on the grounds of race).
Agreed - any rights are universal. The existence of different races within a society does not create any new rights.
By general I didn't mean universal. A moral right not to be refused service on the grounds of race is universal (everyone has it; in any imaginary society with only one race it would still exist even if not relevant).
What I was trying to capture in your position is that you were apparently thinking that rights can all be stated at a high level of abstraction or derived from high level abstract rights. But I don't see any particularly good reason to think that: I can't see a good way to decide what level of abstraction is valid.

quote:
quote:
4. Therefore a shopkeeper who refuses to serve a customer on any grounds doesn't do anything morally wrong.
Not a specific right to be served, not a right to any sort of cross-group equality of outcome, but an individual right to impartial treatment.

Which means, for example, making hiring decisions on the basis of most advantageous outcome to the business rather than indulging any personal animus or prejudice or private conviction or whim that the hiring manager might feel.

Which means, for example, limiting the service offered as the service provider sees fit, allowing their own religious convictions, but then offering that service impartially to everyone.

This raises two particular questions.
Firstly: may the business owner take into account other people's immoral partial treatment? For example, it follows from the above that it is immoral because partial to refuse to patronise a shop because it serves white people. Is it immoral because partial for the shop keeper to take that into account in determining the most advantageous outcome for the business when deciding whether to serve white people?

Also, what happens if someone's religious convictions require you to treat people partially?

quote:
quote:
5. The law ought not to forbid anything that is not morally wrong.
Yes. Because if breaches aren't punished then it's more of a guideline than a law. And punishing a morally innocent action is morally wrong.
I don't think this is relevant to the present discussion. As it happens, I think that just as promises create moral obligations so can the collective decisions of a society as encoded in law.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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