Philosophy: April 2006 Archives

Some people have suggested (usually to avoid the conclusion of intelligent design arguments) that our universe is just one universe among many, and in fact there's a universe for every possible way things could have gone. Whole TV shows have been based on this claim. Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution discusses the ethical implications of the many-worlds thesis [hat tip: Philosophers' Carnival XXVIII] .

He argues that ethical questions would be irrelevant if this view is correct. No matter what you do, someone else just like you is doing each alternative possibility among the choices that were available to you. So if you can do the good thing or the bad thing, it doesn't matter which you pick, because your picking the bad one ensures that the good one will be done, and your picking the good one ensures that the bad one will be done. Either way the resulting multiverse is no different. Your action is simply irrelevant to what the multiverse will be like after your done. So ethics would be irrelevant. I disagree. This view doesn't have that consequence, and Tyler is just assuming something that I wouldn't grant.

God of the Gaps

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Joe Carter delineates several interpretations of "God of the gaps" and sorts through which one are legitimate interpretations of ID claims, which ones are theologically tolerable for Christian theists, and which ones are scientifically acceptable. It turns out to be more complicated than people usually take it to be. I have nothing to add. This is the kind of post I like to write myself.

Lying Under Duress

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I've been thinking through the ethics of deceit with respect to April Fools jokes and other kinds of false statements that may or may not be considered lying. The Jill Carroll case has raised an important further sort of case that I hadn't been thinking about. What about when someone says something they don't believe to be true under duress? For background on the details of her case and her deliberate statements (under threat) of things she didn't agree with, see the Moderate Voice's excellent roundup. There seem to me to be at least three issues that may have a moral bearing on how we should evaluate such false statements, and I think the end result is much more messy than we would generally like moral issues to be.

So is it lying to pull an April Fools joke? It's clearly deception. If deception is always wrong, then April Fools jokes are wrong. But I don't think deception is always wrong. I don't even think outright lies are always wrong. I'm not sure if deception always counts as a lie either, because deception can be unintentional (though that won't distinguish between April Fools jokes and lies, because April Fools jokes are intentional). It may be that April Fools jokes are deception but not lies. It may be that they're lies but morally ok lies.

So I'm curious what people think about the ethical status of April Fools jokes. If they're not wrong, why? What distinguishes them from lying that is wrong? If you take lying to be generally wrong and accept these as ok, it's good to have some account of why April Fools jokes are ok. If April Fools jokes are wrong, why? If there's a good distinction between April Fools jokes that are ok and ones that are wrong, what is the moral difference?

I have my own thoughts on this, though I wouldn't say that I've got a fully fleshed-out view, but I'm curious what others think, and perhaps I'll have more to say in interaction with comments.



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