Monday, February 11, 2013

Philosophy and the Right Thing to Do

Susan Wolf has suggested, in a recent book and elsewhere, that what we have most reason to do, and the morally right thing to do, come apart. That is, just because something is the morally right thing to do might not give us decisive reason to do it.

It's important to understand this view properly, because it might be easy to mischaracterize. I don't think Wolf wants to suggest that we could adequately justify moral atrocities with appeals to personal reasons. But I do think she is wrong, I think that moral permissibility completely tracks what we have most reason to do. And I think one of the problems with the world is that people don't critically examine what the right thing to do is, and they don't consciously let morality play a big role in their lives.

For example, I'm very interested in philosophy, and get a lot of pleasure out of studying it. It's not clear to me that this is the best use of my time, but it does seem like a worthy pursuit for a few reasons. Most obviously, it helps me, with any luck, to better understand my moral obligations. Also, I develop my skills at philosophy and communication, which increases my ability to convince others on matters I think are important. And these skills can be usefully applied to any number of worthwhile tasks. Given my interest, it seems like a useful place to focus my energies.

Perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps I ought to do something else with my free time, and I've just convinced myself otherwise. But one of the bonuses about being interested in philosophy is that there's probably no better tool to use to discover whether or not I'm wrong.

No comments:

Post a Comment