Prankster's ethics

Philosophical Perspectives 18 (1):45–52 (2004)
Abstract
Diversity is a good thing. Some of its value is instrumental. Having people around with diverse beliefs, or customs, or tastes, can expand our horizons and potentially raise to salience some potential true beliefs, useful customs or apt tastes. Even diversity of error can be useful. Seeing other people fall away from the true and the useful in distinctive ways can immunise us against similar errors. And there are a variety of pleasant interactions, not least philosophical exchange, that wouldn’t be possible unless some kinds of diversity existed. Diversity may also have intrinsic value. It may be that a society with diverse views, customs and tastes is simply thereby a better society. But we will mostly focus on diversity’s instrumental value here. We think that what is true of these common types of diversity is also true of moral diversity. By moral diversity we mean not only diversity of moral views, though that is no doubt valuable, but diversity of moral behaviour. In a morally diverse society, at least some people will not conform as tightly to moral norms as others. In short, there will be some wrongdoers. To be sure, moral diversity has some costs, and too much of it is undoubtedly a bad thing. Having rapists and murderers adds to moral diversity (assuming, as we do, that most people are basically moral) but not in a way that is particularly valuable. Still, smaller amounts of moral diversity may be valuable, all things considered. It seems particularly clear that moral diversity within a subgroup has value, but sometimes society as a whole is better off for being morally diverse. Let us consider some examples. Many violations of etiquette are not moral transgressions. Eating asparagus spears with one’s fork is not sinful, just poor form. But more extreme violations may be sinful. Hurtful use of racial epithets, for example, is clearly immoral as well as a breach of etiquette. Even use of language that causes not hurt, but strong discomfort, may be morally wrong..
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