Future Generations

Kwame Anthony Appiah, philosophy professor at Princeton, wrote an interesting essay in the Sunday 26 Sep 2010 Washington Post: "What will future generations condemn us for?". It's a theme that has been touched upon here occasionally. Appiah looks back at past acceptable behavior:

Once, pretty much everywhere, beating your wife and children was regarded as a father's duty, homosexuality was a hanging offense, and waterboarding was approved — in fact, invented — by the Catholic Church. Through the middle of the 19th century, the United States and other nations in the Americas condoned plantation slavery. Many of our grandparents were born in states where women were forbidden to vote. And well into the 20th century, lynch mobs in this country stripped, tortured, hanged and burned human beings at picnics.

... and then looks forward to see what might seem repugnant in the future. He suggests "... three signs that a particular practice is destined for future condemnation ...":

First, people have already heard the arguments against the practice. ...

Second, defenders of the custom tend not to offer moral counterarguments but instead invoke tradition, human nature or necessity. ...

And third, supporters engage in what one might call strategic ignorance, avoiding truths that might force them to face the evils in which they're complicit. ...

Then Appiah nominates "... four contenders for future moral condemnation ...":

Interesting! And what other candidates come to mind? I speculate that the worst abuses will involve money and power.

(cf. SufferTheAnimals, WhatCounts, OurStonehenge, ...) - ^z - 2011-01-19