The other week I explained the basics of ‘The Moral Landscape’ to my dad, and then made an argument in favour of its premise: morality is borne out of wellbeing. He almost immediately gave me a challenge that stumped me, and a little later I shared that challenge with my brother. My brother almost immediately gave me the exact answer.
My dad’s challenge was this: assume you have the opportunity to successfully save one girl from a Nazi concentration camp. Doesn’t the wellbeing of every Nazi go down? And if so, doesn’t that make saving the girl immoral?
I had no answer to this, not even a clutching-at-straws attempt. But when I shared the same challenge with my brother he answered it instantly:
“Does dad think the Nazis were happy doing what they were doing? Not all the Nazis would know a girl has escaped, but of the ones that do find out, does dad really think that would make them sad? He really thinks that Germany was filled with inhumane people who didn’t hate what they were doing and secretly wanted people to escape. Of course dad doesn’t think that. The girl is happy, the girl’s family is happy, you are happy and every single, poor, humane Nazi only doing their job out of fear is happy.”