My philosophical project is to develop a moral theory in which fundamental moral laws are commands of God. This requires an account of how divine commands are heard or more generally received. I conjectured that I might get insight into how we hear God’s commands by investigating how we deliberately suppress hearing a divine command – deafening ourselves to the voice of God. These would be cases of moral obtuseness. See Pregnancy is Not Sexual
The practice of accepting abortion seems a very widespread practice of moral obtuseness. Millions, perhaps now billions, of otherwise tolerably decent human beings agree that the moral permissibility of abortion is to be determined by utilitarian calculation. And, as the facts show, the way costs and benefits are determined almost all, if not all, are considered morally permissible. They do not recognize abortion as stopping a human life. There is no doubt that some abortions solve very nasty personal and social problems.
I have now, though, come to think that my conjecture on how to develop an account of how we hear divine commands by exploring how people deafen themselves to divine commands is philosophically misleading. It is philosophically misleading because it leads me to complex empirical investigations. How people become insensitive to moral issues are very interesting psychological and sociological questions.
I have speculated why people are insensitive to the immorality of abortion. I was insensitive to its intrinsic evil for a while. One of my speculations is that people regarded pregnancy as somehow a matter of sexual morality. But is that true about people’s thought? Another speculation is that people think of pregnancy as a medical condition; by virtue of being a medical condition it can be dealt with according to utilitarian reasoning. Yet, a third speculation is that being physically connected to the mother’s body leads people to think that the child belongs to the mother to do with it as she sees fit. But the effort to make these speculations precise and then to investigate whether or not they tell the truth about a moral mistake made by a vast number of people is irrelevant to the philosophical task of giving an account of making a moral mistake.
For a divine command moral theory not hearing a divine command and making a moral mistake are the same. I have to give a non-empirical or conceptual account of what a moral mistake is rather than going off on the sociological task of explaining how people actually think when making a moral mistake.
I will start, in my next post, with my personal recognition that it is a mistake to characterize abortion as anything that overrides thinking of it as stopping a human life. Perhaps avoiding a moral mistake is thinking of a situation in anyway which obscures what it truly is. I’ll face the philosophical challenges to holding that recognizing the truth, even the truth of empirical claims, is not an empirical fact.