Knee Jerk Deontology
Spiritual entities were once said to determine what was right and what was wrong. This force was thought to be God. Atheists and rationalists rejected this saying that the mind is best equipped for this duty. In this view, what is right or wrong is best judged by the smart educated people because they are most capable of being rational. Thus we have philosophers of ethicists and people who cruise the internet who tell us what is right and wrong. If you don’t believe me, just look at how many posts deal with right and wrong.
Ordinary people get by on a blend of consequence and principle in which they feel principled themselves and expect others to be that way too but their own behavior is arrived at situationally by deciding what is best at the moment.
Since deciding what is principled is difficult, only the most qualified, and smartest people can decide in advance what is right and by looking back hundreds of years they can also determinine what the correct things that everyone in the past should have done. Many of these people, since they no longer go to church inhabit certain departments of certain big time colleges, as I understand it.
Yet if deontology requires such great intelligence, why is it that the anointed get so emotional when their principles are violated. Since brainpower and thus philosophical acumen are unequally divided, as readers here should know, why would one be more emotional about a deontological error than if someone forgot a phone number or muffed an arithmetic problem?
The answer comes from neuro-imaging and psychologic studies that seem to show that deontological decisions, despite being based on supposedly intellectual considerations, actually are knee jerk responses that take less mental work than utilitarian decisions. They are feelings individuals invest in. In this way deontology and ideology are similar. The thing that takes more mental work is when you have to weigh and balance the inevitable utilitarian trade offs, having to choose the better of two evils.
How much simpler life was when superstitious primitives only had to ask if God approved of their deeds. If a violation of His will occurred sacrifice or prayer would tend to make things right. No worrying about the morality of racism, patriarchy, homophobia, global warming, and saving the lives of panda cubs. Whereas you used to have to worry about being persecuted for failing to attend church, now you are labeled as immoral if you don’t recycle, or if you drive an SUV, smoke, discipline your children or go fishing. And you wonder why some people are conservatives.