December 24, 2008

Valicella on Private and Public Morality

Bill Valicella of The Maverick Philosopher has an interesting discussion on the distinction between private and public morality. Valicella supposes that there is an inherent tension between any Socratic, Platonic, or Christian ethics and the requirements of a stable state. A couple years ago, in my post on rights, obligations, and abortion (which continues to be one of the most popular posts on this blog) I argued that there was no inherent contradiction, or even tension, between the idea that I have a libertarian right to retaliate for an offense against me, but an obligation of private morality not to exercise that right. However, Valicella brings up another point: if everyone always decided not to exercise these rights then there would be no consequences for misbehavior, leading to the breakdown of society.

Of course, if you read the whole Bible, especially the Old Testament, it will become clear that Christianity does not prohibit the use of defensive force in all cases. In fact, there is a case to be made for the claim that the Bible commands the establishment of governments to punish wrongdoers. The difficulty comes in distinguishing which cases are which.

Posted by Kenny at December 24, 2008 8:57 AM
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