Monday, 17 March 2014

Transcultural Moral Judgments

Poul Anderson, The Corridors Of Time (London, 1968).

Some Wardens hunt and kill human beings. The Lady Yuria argues with Lockridge:

(i) "...his background did not equip him to understand a totally different civilization..." (p. 171);
(ii) he had not seen a fair sample;
(iii) tragedy is necessary for nobility;
(iv) a wiser government will correct abuses.

Her arguments contradict each other, a sure sign that her only concern is to defend Wardenism at all costs, not to give a fair hearing to any criticisms of it. Even an outrage that was not a fair sample would still be an outrage. If the tragedy were indeed necessary, then it would not be an abuse requiring correction. But (iii) is a vile argument. A noble society is indeed one whose members can aesthetically appreciate Greek and Shakespearean dramatic tragedies but not one that condones and even defends sadistic murder.

(iv) is far too weak. It should be more like, "Many of us are campaigning to stop those abuses right now."

"...his background did not equip him..."? While criticizing a different society, it is important to listen to its defenders but the issue in this case is one basic to any human society and nothing that Yuria says shows otherwise.

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