I have been reading an exchange of banter between folks I perceive to be supportive of the defense team of Chief Justice (CJ) Corona versus folks I perceive to be supportive of the administrationâ€™s means to pin down the CJ. While I find the sniping of each parties against each other somewhat entertaining, I couldnâ€™t help but observe that the arguments may really be simplified into two philosophical camps. I am not a professional philosopher but going back to my Philosophy 101 days, I seem to recognize folks who are more inclined to embrace deontology on one side and teleology on the other side. Letâ€™s try to see the difference on a lighter and friendlier view for now. (i.e. outside of the heated CJ impeachment debate)
Suppose you’re in a small boat with your best friend and you two are in the middle of a lake. By some unfortunate accident your boat capsizes throwing you and your best friend into the frigid water. You are a good swimmer but unfortunately your friend isn’t. You try to swim to the nearest land tugging your friend along with you. When you and your friend reach the shore, you notice that your friend is extremely exhausted and showing signs of hypothermia. With your friend’s dying breath he requests a favor. Your friend tells you:
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“If I die, I want you to go to the backyard of my house and dig out a bag full of money worth $2 million. I want you to give this money to the manager of the Ginebra San Miguel ball club to give to Michael Jordan as an enticement for him to play for Ginebra”.
Because he is your bestfriend and this is his last wish you agree to do this favor. After a few moments, your friend passes away. You get rescued a few hours later then you go to your friend’s house a few days after your rescue.
Now, as per your friendâ€™s instructions, you dug out a bag in the backyard and sure enough…you find $2 million dollars there! But you know that even if you give this money to the Ginebra San Miguel team, Michael Jordan would still not come out of retirement and play in the PBA; hence, a waste of money. You also know that this $2 million can save the lives of many children with cancer in the hospital where you work (let’s say you work in a hospital) if you purchase a magnetic resonance imaging machine and much more needed hospital equipment. What are you going to do? Okay, let’s just say that these are the only two options and going to Barbados squandering the money is not an option. Anyway, are you going to give this money for Michael Jordan’s enticement or are you going to use it to save the lives of many children with cancer? We are basically dealing with the difference of rightness and goodness here. If you opt to give the money to Ginebra, you are doing the â€œrightâ€ thing because you are (duty) bound by your promise to your bestfriend; besides, the money is not yours to start with anyway, right? But if you choose to use the money for the kids with cancer to save the lives of many children, what you are doing is more like what is â€œgoodâ€.
Okayâ€¦hereâ€™s the deal. If you answered that you would still give the money to the manager of the Ginebra San Miguel because thatâ€™s what your friend wanted, it means that you are probably a â€œdeontologistâ€. What the heck does that mean? That means that you are a person who gives priority to what is right over to what is good. You probably think that the money is not yours to start with anyway and you are (duty) bound by your promise to your friend; for you this is the right thing to do. Anyway, the opposite of deontologists are called â€œteleologistsâ€. They are the ones who give priority to what is good over to what is right. So if your answer was to give the money to the hospital to save the children with cancer, then youâ€™re a teleologist.
Hereâ€™s another interesting thing. This is not a scientifically validated experiment but I just find it interesting. I want you to hold your hands together. Come onâ€¦thatâ€™s itâ€¦just hold them together. You see how your fingers are interlocking? Tell me, which thumb is on top of the other one? Is the left thumb on top of your right thumb or is your right thumb on top of your left thumb?
If you are a right-hand thumb over left-hand thumb person, this suggests that you are a mind-over-heart person. You see, nature played an interesting trick on us. You are familiar with some brain mechanics, right? How the brain is split into 2 hemispheres, the left and the right hemispheres? Basically, there is this cross connection with the body and the mind. Being a right-hand thumb over a left hand thumb person suggests that your left side of the brain is more dominant. The left side of the brain deals with things the way they are-with reality (facts). When left brain people are affected by the environment, they usually adjust to it. Not so with right brain people. They try to change the environment. Left brain people want to know the rules and follow them. In fact, if there are no rules for situations, they will probably make up rules to follow. Anyway having said all these, left brain people would tend to be deontologists. Deontological moral systems are characterized primarily by a focus upon adherence to independent moral rules or duties. Thus, in order to make the correct moral choices, we simply have to understand what our moral duties are and what correct rules exist which regulate those duties. That is where Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative comes in, in essence a standard or criteria is set. Thus, when we follow our moral duty, we are then behaving morally.
Looking at the opposite, for left-hand thumb over right-hand thumb people, this suggests that they are heart-over-mind people. In the right side of the brain, this is where creativity and emotions are processed. Thus, if a person is a left hand thumb-over right hand thumb person, the right side of the brain is more dominant. In such a case, the person probably has a tendency to be emotional and in philosophical terms, most likely a â€œteleologistâ€. Teleological moral systems are characterized primarily by a focus on the consequences which an action might have. Thus, for teleologists, as long as the consequence of an action is favorable or good, then the action can be deemed as morally right. This is demonstrated by how one would support (ethical/situational) relativism or the notion that sometimes “the end can justify the means”.
This is not to say that all of us, whether right hand thumb over left hand thumb (or vice versa) person does not have the characteristics of the other type. The ideal case, of course, would have a balance of the two characteristics. But in most cases, thereâ€™s always a dominant trait that comes out.
Going back to teleology and deontology, to simplify the comparison:
Teleology = What you achieve from your action determines the moral status of an action.
Deontology = What you do in your action, the nature of the action itself, determines the moral status.
Now what does all of these philosophical mumbo-jumbo have to do with the sentiments of the people here debating on whether the underhanded tactics of the anti-CJ forces are justified or not? Well, one can argue that the intent and the act to circumvent rules and engage in deceitful means of presenting evidence may be the â€œgoodâ€ thing to do if it would result in the removal of the CJ who is perceived as a corrupt protector of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA). This seems to be the teleological argument of the pro-administration side. But despite the rationale, I still am not sold to it as I find it absurd to accept an outcome / consequence-based morality hook, line, and sinkers.
Consider this argument I read in some forum a long time agoâ€¦
Let’s say your neighbor won’t return the DVD he borrowed from you and you’re very angry. You decide to kill him. You go to the store and purchase a handgun, wait patiently through whatever background checks and waiting period there might be, and take the gun home. You study your neighbor’s schedule and habits for a couple weeks and determine he’s always at home alone watching the TV at 8 p.m. on Tuesday night because the wife has Tuesdays out with the girls. So this Tuesday night you sneak into his house with your new gun, walk into his living room, blast two shots into his chest, and run back home, after grabbing your DVD, of course.
Someone heard the shots and called the cops. The squad comes within minutes and rushes your neighbor to the hospital, where they do some emergency surgery.
Meanwhile dummy, you dropped your wallet on the floor when you pulled your DVD out of his video cabinet, and the cops have you cuffed and in jail before you can blink your eyes. Tough break!
Under the law, you’ll be at the edge of your seat waiting to hear whether your neighbor lives or dies. Your neighbor’s dumb luck will determine your fate. If he dies, you’ll be convicted of murder and likely serve a life term (or maybe even get the death penalty, if the law allows it). If he lives, you won’t be charged with murder, just attempted murder. You’ll get out of prison eventually.
Now you committed the crime, but your penalty may rest on the surgical skills of some other guy. Does that make sense? Why the hell is the penalty different just because the ambulance is prompt and a good surgeon saves this guy? If intention to kill can be proven, shouldn’t the penalty be the same as for murder? Should a murderous but inept person (e.g. poor aim) receive a lighter sentence?
Now, if we are a â€œNation of Lawsâ€ and there are rules of evidence that must be abided by, why should the evidence presented by the anti-Corona forces be accepted if these were obtained outside of what is permissible by law? Even if all the polls show that the majority of the citizens of the Philippines think that the CJ is guilty and that he is the protector of GMA and therefore must be removed from office, it still does not remove the fact that the manner in which the evidence were gathered and shown are against the rules. Why should the anti-CJ forcesâ€™ intent and actions to circumvent the rules be acceptable just because it could result in the removal of the administrationâ€™s perceived roadblock to the â€œstraight pathâ€? Why bother with rules for everyone if justice is merely defined by the consequences of actions and not by the nature of (and intent for) the action itself?
Calling a spade, a spade…