Originally posted by twhitehead
Yes that was a good thread. However I am not asking whether such beliefs are moral. I am asking if they are less valid than other beliefs. Can someone who believes in guardian angels claim his belief system is more reasonable than someone who believes that he must kill an innocent child?
That depends on what you mean by 'reasonable'. [and 'valid']
If you are sticking with binaries then beliefs are either formed in a rationally valid way that
can be supported with logic, reason, and evidence. Or they are not formed in a rationally
valid way and are thus unreasonable.
However, beliefs are almost never entirely irrational [just as they are seldom entirely rational]
and thus I think you can have a scale of reasonableness.
Also, beliefs can be more or less harmful to society, which is a major criteria for determining
The belief in guardian angels, while wrong and harmful, is decidedly less harmful than a belief
system that allows killing innocent children.
So society will typically be a lot more tolerant of beliefs in guardian angels and a lot less tolerant
of people who believe that they can go around killing innocent children.
To BDP's point... It's possible to find a set of circumstances to justify almost anything.
However such situations are typically so rare [or practically impossible] that they can
typically be ignored for the purposes of general discussions of morality and ethics.
I usually like to reference Ian M. Banks 'Culture' novels at this point...
His fictional utopian civilisation "The Culture" has a subgroup that represent the military
[in times of war] called "Contact" which deal with the civilisations contact with other
civilisations, as well as doing the space exploration and science [with overlapping 'civilian groups']
for The Culture.
There is a much smaller Sub-Group of Contact called 'SC' or Special Circumstances.
They function as the spies and intelligence wing during wartime, and generally deal with the
exceptions to the rules, the moral grey areas, the things on the edge.
Because I don't think it's possible, or practically possible, to morally legislate every possibility...
It makes more sense [to me] to come up with general moral rules and positions based on commonly
encountered reasonable scenarios***. And then have an 'SC' caveat, that in the extremes, the rules might
not apply, and that those cases need to be sorted out individually on their merits at the time.
Given that caveat, I'm perfectly happy calling "killing an innocent child" morally wrong, because circumstances
in reality in which it isn't morally wrong are so artificial or rare that you will almost certainly never encounter
EDIT: as a clarification... *** Where I said "commonly encountered reasonable scenarios" I meant commonly
encountered by society, not individuals in society. There are all kinds of scenarios which it's highly unlikely
that you personally will encounter, but which occur often enough that society as a whole needs to have
worked out the answer.