On Applying a Metric to Ethical Questions

On Applying a Metric to Ethical Questions

Posted on:Oct 11 2007
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If Philip Quinn’s arguments that Abraham behaved in a rational way are correct, then Kierkegaard’s whole concept of tension and paradox is in jeopardy. Quinn laid out this argument in response to accusations regarding God and worship.

The key piece in Quinn’s argument against Rachel’s is this smaller section regarding Abraham’s rational decision process. He tries to demonstrate that Abraham was neither wicked nor irrational. What’s interesting is that his argument raises a question regarding the definition of rational behavior.

One could use Quinn’s argument to explore the tension between trust and reason. One might argue for a concept of reasonable trust. One might explore the distance between trust and absurdity.

In the case of Abraham, this problem manifests itself in some kind of equivocal scale. On one end of the scale, X equals the quantity of trust. On the other end of the scale, Y equals the absurdity of the command.

It is notable that Kant tackles the issue from a logical standpoint. His scale is different; it would be as follows: X equals your certainty that you have heard God; Y equals your certainty that the command is immoral.

This is a rough, over-simplified representation, but it opens up fascinating questions.

It might be more interesting to write on the notion of metrics in the moral decision. Essentially, we have a Quinn metric, while at the same time we have a Kantian metric.

One might explore the actual methodology of employing metrics to quantify ethical probabilities. The title might be: “Can one use a quantitative metric in the determination of ethical behavior?”

The foundation for Kant’s understanding of rejecting a divine command is rooted in epistemology. Because one cannot know for certain that one has been commanded to sacrifice his son, and because one can know for certain that killing an innocent child is wrong, one may reject all such commands to sacrifice one’s son.

This argument against the divine command position is rooted in a binary equation. X is greater than Y; therefore, 1 plus X equals a sum greater than 1 plus Y. If 1 plus X equals the certainty that killing an innocent child is wrong and 1 plus Y equals the certainty that one has heard God, then the former has the greater degree of certainty.

For Kant’s argument to work, he must prove that his degree of certainty in morality is greater than someone else’s degree of certainty that they have heard God. This is problematic.

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