on Oct 14, 2012 9:37:15 PM
Listening to an episode today on CBC Radio’s program Tapestry called “The Moral of the Story is…” about the ways that humans construct a sense of moral certainty to guide our actions in the face of difficult or complex situations- http://www.cbc.ca/tapestry/episode/2012/10/12/the-moral-of-the-story-is/
In part, the program focused on atrocities and conflicts that have been perpetrated by people who feel they are morally certain about their actions, based on their beliefs about their cause or the people they have made into “enemies”. Susan Dimock, professor of moral philosophy at York University, Canada was interviewed and made an excellent point that, in order for people to commit atrocities or engage in intense conflict with others, our natural human tendencies toward empathy need to somehow be overcome. This is normally accomplished in one of two ways- people develop strong moral certainty about the value of their cause despite its effects, or they construct a portrayal of those on the other side of a conflict as inhuman and morally corrupt. We see an example of the former in the tragic and misguided moral certainty that many Canadians felt at the time that the forced residential schooling of Aboriginal children was carried out- despite the obvious damage to individuals and the fabric of families and communities. We see examples of the latter played out in recent genocides in Rwanda and Yugoslavia.