International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture » Ethics and Aesthetics of Architecture and the Environment
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
COPPEDGE’S CRUX (A MORAL QUANDARY AND THE SOLUTIONS)
Numerous themes have plagued morality, not least of which is the philosophical problem of evil: ‘Why does it exist?’ ‘Would an omni-benevolent God permit evil at all?’ and ‘How does a good person separate himself from all of the evil that takes place in the world?’ ‘Why is the war burden of statehood not commutative with citizenship?’ At the crux of the morality is a crux I will call Coppedge’s Crux, because I think I invented it: which is that, if we cannot be compelled to resist sheerly arbitrary evil, then where is the standard for resisting all other types of evil? If evil is not arbitrary, does this mean it has a rational significance? But if it is arbitrarily defined, then where is our means to defend against it? Apparently, if evil is either arbitrary or non-arbitrary, either evil must be pre-determined or in other-wise determined, or else it must have no definite meaning! Solving this problem, as the name suggests, might be at the crux of ethics. And, one solution is that everything good must be in some way meaningful, and, in a slightly Utilitarian way, what is bad must in some way amount to the most-meaningless-events-for-the-most-people. If this is the case, then many forms of negative behavior must be frowned on. But, what defines that something meaningful for one person must be preferred, if it is meaningless for other people? This leads to what has been called ‘the subjective problem of Hitler’ which is also at the crux of ethics. Apparently, if one person actually IS more meaningful than a lot of other people, even for very absurd reasons, then that person could gain more influence. The answer may be to define meaning in absolute terms, so that the POTENTIAL meanings incorporated in other lives are not lost or compromised. We cannot sacrifice potential meanings for any form of actual meaning. In that case, there is a principle of goodwill to tread lightly on others’ sense of significance, and it is only through overblown polemicism that this 'treading lightly’ is not itself conducive to significance. If, in an exceptional case, 'overblown polemicism’ becomes highly significant (say, post-modernism as opposed to Fascism), then this should be viewed with the eye of a doctor to eliminate the new, perhaps universalized constraints being placed on human creativity. Beyond that, there is also something to be said for practicality and cultured wisdom. But the crux of Coppedge appears to be resolved (1) by the insistence on human significance, and (2) not sacrificing potential meanings for actual meanings. Ironically, in this case, it appears that moral ambiguity should not be replaced with immoral ambiguity, but with creative arbitration in which each person holds an independent and autonomous authority.