Moral systems always say you must never do evil that good may come of it.  Utilitarianism may say that what matters is the greatest happiness of the greatest number which seems to say it is okay to execute kidnappers to keep the population happy.  That is not saying that you may do evil.  It is saying the killing is not intentionally evil then.  It admits that it is harmful but does not concede that it is evil.  Christianity would say that regardless of what anybody says, this is indeed doing evil for good to come.

The argument is that you must never INTENTIONALLY do evil for the sake of good. The fact is, if the good is seen as so much bigger than the evil, people will not find this argument very relevant or clear in any given situation. They will say that even if you are being immoral then you are not very immoral. Your culpability is mitigated by the circumstances and the results.

People in general, not just the Church, hide an orientation to care only about the goal regardless of the methods to obtain it.   Your neighbour will fear you if you make it clear they may be seen as collateral damage for your goal. If you are not being mercenary you cannot expect people, and they all know why you will hide it, to be very convinced.  It is no wonder the principle is unpopular and off-putting.  All admit that it is not very common but nobody admits that it might be virtually non-existent.

The hiding is relatively easy and it gets easier still if you say God is working in you and you are praying and that is making you a person for others.  It is exactly what you would want to hear from a person who is embarrassed about the pretending.

We are only a few paragraphs into the discussion and already we have learned that we cannot really see any examples to inspire us.  Examples are everything.  A morality that is too hard will do nothing but damage. 

Morals involve intentions and therefore goals.  Setting a goal does not make it the best goal or the achievable goal or the only goal.  Every goal is a collective, a set of goals.  People know good and bad will happen no matter what they do and it will be hard to see exactly what arose from their deed.  Results and consequences are not always linear.  There is a risk of you knowing that your deed will do both good and harm while you claim to aim for the latter.  Maybe you do but it may not be all you aim for.  And people know you are more likely to hide this than admit it.   

Those who worry that we we always manage to sneak in objective evils tell us that every objective evil is only a quick way of describing a collection of evils.  Nothing is ever bad in one way.  Even if you could narrow any of the evils down to one it may not be what and where you think it is.  It may not do what you think it is going to do.

Diagnosis then is a problem.  We make it a problem.  And because the evil cannot be clearly spotted it cannot be properly removed.  A clever tumour makes sure you miss the cells that allow it to grow back.  And if we think the evil is there and it is not then it has to affect us so the evil then is in us for we see it when it is absent.

An intention-like morality is grey.  In other words, reducing morality too much to noble intention is too shadowy.  

You cannot look at the bad side of doing what you intend and pretend it has nothing to do with you.  You are directly intending to reach for a good goal but you know there is a cost to yourself and people, a cost of real harm.  You know it is part of the deal.  So you do not directly intend it but you indirectly intend it.  When you want your train set posted to your house you indirectly ask for the packaging.  And direct and indirect can be of equal importance and the indirect can matter more than the direct.  There is the pot of gold you reach for by both hands.  There is the pot of gold you have to make fall into your hands indirectly.  The direct and indirect does not matter one bit here. There is no room for feeling less responsible for something just because it is not as direct as the alternative. And indirect is only a lesser or more awkward direct.  If a person feels okay about shooting you from miles away instead of face to face then a delusion and a placebo is at work. This trait is there even if we do not show it.  That alone shows what is behind how we feel about our best intentions.  It makes us suspect.

We know that we are not keen on admitting even to ourselves that something horrible we did was really inexcusable.  Because only I ultimately can judge my motives and intentions with high enough accuracy, I can easily convince myself that a dubious intention was in fact a better one.  It is remarkable and not natural that we let others show us that our motive was dark.  It is in spite of the fact that nobody else can get in to see.

The fact of the matter is there are no real good intentions.  You intend a good goal but that intention to an extent has, "The end justifies the means," in it.

You have a grey intention that hopes for the good side of the outcome.  That's it. 

Intentions themselves are a problem for you feel nice about having nice intentions.  There is a self-reward here.  That gets addictive and leads eventually to people not caring how much harm results from acting with good or nice intentions. 

What if there is a trolley coming that will kill a hundred people in its path unless you pull a lever to redirect it the only other way it can go? This time one person standing in the way will die. You will be told that you are not intentionally doing evil. You are trying to save the one hundred people and it is not your fault the other person is positioned there.  But the point is that you know the person is there not that you put them there.

If you have to grab a fat malevolent man and push him in front of it to derail it and save the hundred you will be accused of intentionally doing evil. That does not convince those who say your intention is not to kill him either but to keep an evil situation from being a worse one. And they say it is odd that it would be considered okay if you threw yourself on the track so this is not about respect for life at all but about moralistic nonsense.

Jesus said there is no merit in serving those who love you.  So what would he say then if you had to hypothetically drive over some stranger to get your dying child to hospital for every second counts?

Some say that if you look the other way when children are kidnapped and then later on the children are discovered by the police and rescued just because the kidnapper was spotted driving dangerously then you must think about if

-your intervention would have been better than this,

-as good as it,

-or even worse.  Perhaps if you tried and failed the kidnappers would have fled by a better route and the child would never be found again.

You will never know.  If you believe in a God who uses coincidences like that to do the best then it follows that it did not matter if you intervened or not. Your standing back was part of the reason God was able to set the coincidence up.   God belief wrecks concern for others. 

What if soldiers are about to shoot dead a group of one hundred children unless you shoot John yourself as part of the bargain? This is a clear example of how moral rules always meet a scenario where they are impotent.  Christianity says you must not shoot John for the soldiers are the ones who are about to shoot the group not you.  It is up to them not to do it.

The best answer to the trolley dilemma is that we are told that if we push a man on a track to save even thousands we are saying we can use violence to help others.  But we say that already.  Isn't what what wars are for?  And we are told that we set society on a slippery slope and soon we will wreck its future. It will not be able to function. This is not true either for we still have societies despite the harm done by slippery slopes.  And the slippery slope has to do with psychology.  Logically it does not follow that if you allow some euthanasia that soon everybody over 40 will be pressured to undergo it.  Psychologically this might happen.

There are versions of the trolley argument where you can act without anyone knowing.  To say it puts society on a bad path can only work if you are open about what you have done and it is unable to be kept discreet.

Christianity has Jesus saying that tomorrow is with God and will take care of itself and that we need to live as if he can return to earth any moment to end the world.  So the slippery slope though a pivot of Christian morality is not really Christian at all.  Also if Jesus cared about the slippery slope he would not have demonised the demons as fathers of lies and totally evil for surely demonising any being that we think is watching us soon makes us demonise our neighbours too.  In reality, a demon would have to tell the truth most of the time.  All monstrous liars cannot lie all the time.  You need to squeeze the lie into the middle of a heap of truths for it to have any effect.

The problem with that is it presumes libertarian free will.  We feel that if we could go back in time we could choose differently but that is only a feeling and we cannot test it. And nobody believes they have the free will to blow the world up even if the button was put in their hands.  We think our choices are programmed.  I deny that is real free will but they want to think it is free will enough.  It also presumes that God as master of death has not given them the authority to do what they are doing.  If he can take life he can delegate that right.  If you really believe in God you have to take what comes with it whether it scares you or not.

The Christian teaching is hopelessly unhelpful here.  Think of the argument again and this time have self-programming robots, so no human manufacturer is to blame, instead of the soldiers!

The answer that this never happens is not the point.  If a morality works, it will work if this happens.  The answer is in fact dismissive and evil and all about pretending one knows what is right and wrong.  Morality is not then really about opposing evil and trying to defeat it but about trying to incorporate it in a limited way.  It thinks evil is going to happen anyway so as long as you can make something look more harmless than harmful that is fine.

To give useless reasons for not harming makes you as much to blame as if you ordered it.  You may as well order it.

If something is an evil abomination worthy only of being hated and vomited on it may be put in the past by forgiveness.  It still happened.  So what does moving on mean then?  Does it mean that the evil is not evil to us any more for we have to put it behind us?  Does it mean we look at the person having repented it and changed and not look at the terrible thing they created?

Plus even religion says God forgives forgotten sins even if you don't say sorry.  So in time you see the terrible thing you did as something more excusable and better.  The forgetting process is the real "forgiver" of sin not God in most cases.  Catholics say that some sin puts God out of the soul.  Other sin does not.  But surely when forgetting creeps in this exclusion is going to diminish?  Surely it becomes a smaller sin in time?

We are not against evil. We are only against it when we fear it might spiral out of control completely. We don’t see most evil as capable of going too far. We are only against evil that can touch us or affect us. Otherwise we want others to be evil for us. Or to do the evil we would to do instead of us. So we are only against evil when we don’t like it and when it does not suit us. We want it to be contained in some way. This is not about the principle or morality but what we prefer.


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