Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Deontology or Utilitarian: Same Difference?

Over at Foreign Dispatches the philosophical implications of gun-owner ship are considered. Apparently, an economic or utilitarian argument can be made for more gun-ownership, since it would reduce the frequency of “deadly, criminal incidences”; though, it hasn’t been determined whether the severity of these “deadly, criminal incidences” would increase, thus nullifying for now—and until substantial empirical evidence is shown—the utility of comprehensive public gun-ownership. A deontological argument concerning the social obligations we have to the public safety of society can, likewise, be made with the same force.

Public safety is the concern.

Surely I'm not the first to posit this-- actually I think I've read this argument somewhere else-- but either method, Utilitarian or Deontological, is, by whatever means, arriving at the same ends. Whether it be breaking a few eggs to make an omelet, restricting and closely controlling gun-ownership-- the deontological argument-- or stepping on fewer toes, though with quite possibly a greater level of damage, permissive gun ownership-- the Utilitarian argument—the structure is akin, and the economic and social analysis that is brought to bear in justify and implementing such methods is catholic.

Certainly the sensibilities of such positions differ, though the aim is chiefly identical: the greatest good. One speaks of the same thing when a deontological appraisal couches itself in the dry language of economic Utilitarianism. Utilitarian logic isn’t of a different kind than Deontological logic or even, as I would say, a different degree—rather it is of a different intonation.(maybe I’m babbling) Utilitarian arguments speak of the “fairness” of the collective good, just as Deontological arguments speak of the moral obligations of the “good”, or fairness.

The confusion arises when the action that should be taken conflicts with the proposed methods—the ends are the same: Public Safety. Moreover, empirical evidence to prove either positively or negatively the efficacy of a proposal remains elusive; at least from a generational perspective.

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