Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Fundamental Question of Morality

The more I think about my last post, the more I think that "What should we do?" is the most fundamental question of morality. Should you kill one person to save five? Should you ever lie under any circumstance? It seems all moral dilemmas boil down to questions of action and decision.

But this alone doesn't really clarify matters much. It just pushes the ambiguity onto the word "should". What does it mean to say that you "should" do something?

Well, I came up with a partial answer here. As far as I can tell, for a "should" question to make sense, a goal is required. And I think in practice, whenever you make a decision, you do so for reasons, which can be described as goals.

But morality isn't just about how to achieve your goals. I think most people would say it's immoral for a sociopath to kill, even if that's his goal. In fact, I think most people would say it's immoral for someone to have such a goal.

So, maybe the most fundamental question of morality isn't "What should we do?" but rather, "What goals should we have?". But I just said "should" requires goals. How can you say what goals you should have without referring to goals? Is it even possible? If not, how can you answer the question?

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