Are There Absolute Moral Rules?
9.1. Harry Truman and Elizabeth Anscombe
- Truman was the man who decided to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima
- President Roosevelt sent messages to the governments of France, Germany,
Italy, Poland and Great Britain denouncing the bombardment of cities calling
it “inhuman barbarism”
- Winston Churchill “The decision whether or not to use the atomic bomb to
compel the surrender of Japan was never seen an issue. There was a
unanimous, automatic, unquestioned agreement around our table”
- After signing the final order, Truman said he “slept like a baby”
- Elizabeth Anscombe believed Britain should not go to war because countries
at war inevitably end up fighting by unjust means.
- Miss Anscombe: married 59 years, 7 children, and one of the 20 centuries
most distinguished philosophers and the greatest woman philosopher In
- Anscombe – “for men to choose to kill the innocent as a means to their end, is
always a murderer”
- Anscombe’s point: some things may not be done, no matter what
- Treachery: obtaining a mans confidence in a grave matter by promises of
trustworthy friendship and then betraying him to his enemies
9.2. The Categorical Imperative
- Immanuel Kant argued that lying is wrong under any circumstances.
- He did not appeal to theological considerations
- “Hypothetical imperatives” they tell us what to do provided that we have
- Moral obligations: you should help someone no matter what your desires are
- Categorical ought’s: they take the form of “you ought to do such and such
- Kant= hypothetical ought’s are possible because we have desires, categorical
ought’s are possible because we have reason.
- Kant + The categorical imperative: act only according to that maximum by
which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.
9.3. Kant’s Arguments on Lying
- Believes our behaviors should be guided by universal laws, which are moral
rules that hold true in all circumstances
- Had strong feelings toward the rule against lying - He said lying under any circumstances is “the obliteration of one’s dignity as
a human being”
- Offered to arguments for an absolute rule against lying:
- Argument #1:
- We could not will a universal law that allows us to lie; such a law would be
- People would stop believing each other, lying would have no point, and in a