Political Sins

June 25, 2004 | 25 comments
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In the comments on a recent thread, Russell suggested that he could be morally culpable because at the time of the invasion of Iraq, he believed that the United States was justified in doing so. He now thinks otherwise. He suggests that his previous beliefs may well have made him complicit in some moral evil. To put words in Russell’s mouth (one of my favorite pass times), he thinks that he was sinning a couple of months ago because of what he was thinking. It is an interesting question.

People, as Jim observed, tend to get really worked up about politics. Many people believe that their political convictions are very important. They think that one’s stance on this or that issue is of deep moral concern. Some believe, as Russell obliquely suggests, that one can sin in one’s political beliefs. I want to suggest that this is more than a little odd.

Despite what we were told in civics class, we don’t have very much power and our vote has very little impact on the outcome of anything. Even in razor tight elections such as that in Florida in 2000, the margin is still in the quadruple digit range. We did recently have a primary in a local sherriff’s election here in Arkansas (where the counties are roughly the size of large yards in Sandy, Utah) in which the outcome turned on a single vote. This situation, however, is so vanishingly rare that I don’t think one should really base one’s understanding of the importance of voting. Also, people tend to think that local sheriff’s elections are less morally important than national elections, not more. Hence, the importance of one’s political convictions cannot be based on the impact of one’s vote. The same can be said of our political arguments. Articulate as he is, I doubt that Russell’s opinions reached and persuaded enough people to have any appreciable impact on events or outcomes.

Hence, I would suggest that with a few rare exceptions, the moral importance of our political views cannot be founded on the real world impact of those views. A better line of reasoning is to suggest that political views are somehow constitutive. They define who we are in some morally significant way. Certainly, their is much in Christ’s ethical teachings that suggests the primacy of motive and intention over efficacy and impact. (Think the story of the Widow’s Mite.) In other words, there may be something about political beliefs that changes the soul in significant ways. One interesting implication of this approach, however, is that the general sorts of moral arguments that we employ about politics — e.g. it is moral to go to war to liberate oppressed nations — is not what accounts for the moral significance of our political beliefs. Hence, Russell’s immorality in holding his earlier pro-war beliefs flows not from the war itself and its consequences, but rather from the impact of the beliefs on Russell himself. For example, his soul may have been twisted by the Wilsonian thirst for blood. This is quite different than his stated reason for moral culpability, which is that the real world implimentation of the war in Iraq is the basis on which it should be judged and that by that criteria the war is immoral, even if Wilsonian wars are not in themselves immoral. Indeed, Russell’s moral concern seems to flow from a kind of born-again global consequentialism. Yet this is the least plausible basis for the importance of Russell’s personal beliefs.

Finally, I suppose that there is some lingering force in the idea of orthodoxy. By orthodoxy, I mean “right beliefs.” In other words, perhaps there is a special class of mental sins. We are immoral for holding particular political beliefs precisely because the beliefs themselves are mistaken. However, I take it that we are mistaken about any number of things. Do those false beliefs also constitute some mental immorality for which we should repent?

Just to be clear: I am not advocating political apathy per se, although I am skeptical that political activism is particularlly virtuous. Nor am I suggesting that political issues in and of themselves do not present important moral questions. The question of whether this or that war is sinful or not is clearly of great inherent moral importance. What I am puzzled by is the notion that our beliefs about these moral questions are of great moral importance.

I have had any number of shifting opinions and thoughts about the war in Iraq. It is a moral puzzle that concerns me, and which I think is important. However, in my mind it is the puzzle itself that is important. I am not convinced that my beliefs themselves are particularlly important at all, either for the world or for my soul. Of course I could be wrong. If I am sinning here, by all means, please call me to repentence.

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25 Responses to Political Sins

  1. Angela Wentz Faulconer on June 25, 2004 at 1:33 pm

    We have an obligation to be good citizens. Being a good citizen in a liberal democracy means informing oneself on the important issues of the day and it often means taking a position on these issues. Good citizenship doesn’t require that we inform ourselves and adopt positions because our lone voice or lone vote is likely to make much of a difference, but rather because the sum of our voices and votes will make a difference. Without millions of citizens who are willing to inform themselves and act on their beliefs (despite the fact that their actions taken alone would make no difference), there is no liberal democracy.

    As to sinning in one’s political beliefs, I think the only opportunity for sin here is in belief formation. One might fail in giving an issue due diligence, which if the issue is important enough would be to fail to be a good citizen. Because the prophet has asked us to be good citizens, I guess that this is by extension a moral failing.

    Another way of sinning would be to allow oneself to be bought off. For example, I might favor some porkbarrel policy because it benefits me. Rather than carefully weighing whether this policy is right for the nation as a whole, I might be blinded by my own interests.

    I think there is a lot of room for making honest mistakes on political positions. If I supported the war in Iraq because I believed that President Bush had access to intelligence that I just didn’t have, I might now regret my support and my naivete, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I sinned in my original beliefs on the matter. Also, if I originally felt the war on Iraq was justified in order to protect my home and family, and have since reflected that I didn’t give enough attention to scriptural provisions not to be the first to strike, I didn’t necessarily sin in this, although I did make a different kind of mistake.

  2. Adam Greenwood on June 25, 2004 at 1:33 pm

    I don’t see why the lack of effect makes much difference. Br’er Fox is by his lights convinced that he actively worked towards a wrong end. It’s much more than mere belief. He worked towards something that he now thinks is wrong. And if he were to vote based on his wrongful convictions, he would have engaged in a ritual act to identify himself with them, just as belief plus baptism is something much more than belief, though baptism doesn’t *do* anything.

    Granted, this is what you call constitutive, but you too blithely separate the constitutive effects from the underlying moral question. Seeking bad ends is likely to lead to bad motives and vice versa.

    On the other hand, living in a fallen world means that even repentance has an opportunity cost. Very likely Br’er Fox would be better off repenting of something else than of his slight and impersonal infringments of the proper warmaking doctrine.

  3. Geoff B on June 25, 2004 at 1:41 pm

    I have absolutely no moral compunctions about supporting the war in Iraq. Saddam Hussein was one of the most ruthless dictators since Hitler, and the world is a better place without him in power. Many people have been fooled by the mainstream media campaign against the president into losing moral clarity on this issue. For me, my own moral position was sealed even further when the prophet on Wednesday said the Medal of Freedom which he had received “really belongs to those men and women who are engaged in the battle for freedom in other parts of the world.” The prophet has once again brought moral clarity to this issue by pointing out that the war in Iraq is part of the effort of bringing freedom to the world. The United States has liberated literally billions of people from various dictatorships over the years, and Iraq is part of that effort.

    Having said all that, the Book of Mormon warns us that there is a time when Church members should stop supporting military efforts, just as Mormon did. When our side becomes just as ruthless and cruel as our opponents, then it is time for Church members to withdraw their support. The prison scandal is a worrisome sign of moral decay among our troops, but the fact that it is being handled forthrightly — the press seems to forget that it was the Pentagon that announced it was going after the wrongdoers lost before the media latched onto the story — is a sign that we need to continue to support our military effort. At least for now.

  4. lyle on June 25, 2004 at 1:57 pm

    Geoff: very thoughtful. Perhaps we should articulate some events/conditions, etc. that would trigger vacating LDS approval for the Iraqi Liberation. What would these look like? BoM clones? i.e. we wait until U.S. troops are raping Iraqi’ or eating their flesh? Or…modern analogs? Of which what has happened to date is not even close, despite its distasteful & abhorent nature.

  5. Ryan Bell on June 25, 2004 at 1:59 pm

    Nate’s argument:

    1. Our votes are an amazingly tiny percentage of the overall votes cast
    2. Election/Choices never turn on one, or even one hundred votes
    3. Therefore, we are not morally responsible for either the outcomes of the elections/choices we voted in, or the positions we took or votes we made in those elections.

    Nate, I think your conclusion is incorrect. Instead of concluding that we are not responsible, we should conclude that we are responsible in a very, very limited way.

    Someone is responsible for America’s acts, wrong or right. Who is that someone? Let’s say President Bush, for simplicity. He used several criteria in making his decision. One of those criteria would have been poll results. (if you quibble with my use of poll results, do the same analysis using our votes that put him in office, perhaps making five supreme court justices culpable for the Iraq war, instead of us?) Again, while you’re right that any individual is incapable of effecting those poll numbers, collectively, we all did just that. Therefore, collectively, we bear some responsibility. How can our collective guilt be broken down? You seem to think that the guilt disappears at any level more specific than the collective. I think the collective is made up of individuals, who must be held accountable for the part they played in the collective. Whether by polls or votes or other methods of aggregating our opinions, we cannot say that the collective outcome is in no way related to individual morality.

  6. Adam Greenwood on June 25, 2004 at 2:01 pm

    While I largely agree with your sentiments, Geoff B., I wonder if we really want this discussion to devolve into a debate over the merits of the war in Iraq. There’s another active debate going on already just a few posts down.

  7. Kaimi on June 25, 2004 at 2:02 pm

    But, Angela, what if it were more clear that Russell’s act was truly sinful?

    For example, you can read about Jewish leaders who were unaware of the real nature of the Holocaust. They were told by Nazi authorities that the Jews were being deported to work camps, and that if everyone cooperated, no one would be hurt. These Jewish leaders in many cases believed this and encouraged cooperation with the Nazis. In some cases, they worked hand-in-hand with Nazi leaders to ferret out “troublemakers” who were telling horrible stories about the “work camps.”

    When such a person learns about the horrible reality, what is he to think? Was he sinning in past thoughts (and sometimes acts) that people should go along cooperatively to the work camps?

  8. Adam Greenwood on June 25, 2004 at 2:07 pm

    I meant to link to the ongoing discussion. Here it is.

  9. Adam Greenwood on June 25, 2004 at 2:09 pm

    Also, I think our scripture requires us to hold out hope that even by small and simple means are great things brought to pass. In other words, we have to remain alive to the possibility that our role in great and seemingly impersonal movements may prove decisive.

  10. Clark Goble on June 25, 2004 at 2:22 pm

    I fully agree with Kaimi’s example and I think it fits the Iraq situation very well. I’ve been critical of how Bush has handled things, but I truly think that the attacks on the decision the past two months have ignored whether one ought to have known differently given the information then had. I think there is a lot of hindsight going on that is only possible because of what we learned after the invasion.

    But it seems unfair to hold someone responsible to knowledge they didn’t have. Certainly we are responsible in the sense we contributed to the acts. But we aren’t responsible in the sense that I think we acted according to our rational duty. The one place I’d make an exception is that given the more limited data that the administration had (as opposed to how they portrayed it to the public) that the inspections should have continued.

    But I fully think Kaimi put his finger on the issue by raising the epistemological concerns.

  11. Angela W. F. on June 25, 2004 at 2:43 pm

    Kaimi,

    I think it is reasonable for the Jewish leaders in the situation you describe to feel terrible. However, assuming that they had no reason for believing that encouraging people to cooperate was the same as encouraging people to go to their deaths, their encouragement certainly wasn’t a sin. It was a mistake, but not a sin. So, I think in the case of both beliefs and the actions based on beliefs, the morality of the belief depends upon one’s basis for belief (or the process by which he came to entertain it), not what is the case (or seems to be the case given the passage of time).

  12. Angela W. F. on June 25, 2004 at 2:50 pm

    Adam,

    I think you’re right. Even though it may seem unlikely, we need to hold on to the hope that our lone voice or lone vote will influence others. Although in general one person’s voice or vote doesn’t make a difference, there are enough cases the other way to hold on to hope. If the issue is important, we have an obligation to try to influence others/alter the outcome even if we are swimming against the tide.

  13. Nate Oman on June 25, 2004 at 3:08 pm

    Ryan: I agree with your analysis, and I think that you restate my argument a little too uncharitably. I was not arguing that our votes have no impact. My only point is that people tend to regard the morality of their political beliefs as being more significant than the impact of their beliefs will justify, Adam’s suggestion about small and simple things notwithstanding.

    Angela: Why do we have the obligation in a liberal democracy to think and be informed? The argument you suggested is vaguely Kantian. You seem to think that I should guide my own choices by imagining that the norms I adopt are universal norms that everyone follows and then judging the norms according to that standard. Fair enough. I would just make two points:]

    1. This line of reasoning clearly rests on a fiction. My actions are not the actions of everyone, and there is something a little morally self-indulgent about talking as though they were.

    2. I can’t help but thinking that beating my son is a much greater sin that having an incorrect belief about Iraq. Within the semi-Kantian frame work you seem to adopt, ie act as though the norm you are following is a universal rule, I realize that beating my son would also be condemned. However, I find this account of the moral difference implausible. I can’t help but thinking that beating my son is bad because he has a huge negative impact on my son’s life, and that my opinion on the war in Iraq is not particularlly significant.

    Note: While I used the war in Iraq as an example, it is just that. I am not really interested in discussing the merits of the war. I am more interested in trying to understand the structure of thoguht that makes us believe that our beliefs about such things are morally important.

  14. Bob Caswell on June 25, 2004 at 3:19 pm

    “…the structure of thought that makes us believe that our beliefs about such things are morally important.”

    What about the T&S classic issues of abortion and homosexuality? I, for one, rarely blog about them myself just because many would feel shocked by fence-sitting status. Am I doing something morally wrong? Do I have to pick a side on every issue?

  15. Ryan Bell on June 25, 2004 at 3:22 pm

    Nate, so sorry to exaggerate your points. I also agree that we think our political positions are more important than they usually are.

    However, I took you to be saying that there is no moral content or consequence to these opinions. Perhaps that’s not what you meant. Either way, I think it’s important that we believe that inasmuch as I and my positions made even a tiny contribution to the actions of the nation, I ought to take them seriously as definitive of my character as well as holding an infinitesimal place in the causal chain.

  16. Kingsley on June 25, 2004 at 3:24 pm

    “I think you’re right. Even though it may seem unlikely, we need to hold on to the hope that our lone voice or lone vote will influence others. Although in general one person’s voice or vote doesn’t make a difference, there are enough cases the other way to hold on to hope. If the issue is important, we have an obligation to try to influence others/alter the outcome even if we are swimming against the tide.”

    So it is the voting itself that is moral, & not what the vote’s in favor or disfavor of. If x goes to the polls & votes for (e.g.) SSM, & y goes to the polls & votes against SSM, they are both trying to “make a difference” & therefore are not morally responsible if their vote tips the scales either way.

  17. Nate Oman on June 25, 2004 at 3:30 pm

    A Catholic friend of mine at work read this and made a couple of interesting remarks.

    First, he suggested that one may be heretical, whereby I take it he means sinful by virtue of beliefs, but only if one subscribes to incorrect positions with regard to abstract moral laws. Hence, one could be heretical for believing that racism is good or that rape is good. One cannot be heretical for believing that the war in Iraq is justified, because the abstract moral law does not pertain to particulars.

    Second, he suggested that one could be venially sinful through sloth in coming to one’s beliefs about the war. The point seems to be procedural. One must honestly look to one’s conscience and work out one’s beliefs in good faith. He insists that the mere reasonableness of ones beliefs is not enough. One must be politically and morally honest in how one reaches them.

    What is interesting to me is that both of these notions of political sin rest on a sort of mental hygeine. One is sinful if one either (1) holds certain false beliefs as a sufficiently high level of abstraction; or, (2) arrives at less abstract beliefs by dishonest means.

    I wonder to what extent this framework will function for Mormons. I think that he is on to something when he talks about how holding certain sorts of beliefs can be sinful because the beliefs are substantively wrong. The problem is that in order for this position to not slide into one in which all mistaken beliefs are sinful, one needs some concept of abstract moral law. Have we got it?

    Second, the procedural point suggests that the morality of our substantive beliefs is only secondarily important when assessing their sinfulness. It seems to me that this should change the tone of debate. The morality or immorality of a given position is an abstract question that only implicates our virtue secondarily.

    A final point, this approach doesn’t seem to answer Bob’s question about the necessity of opinions or explain Angela’s statement that we have an affirmative obligation to be informed citizens of a liberal democracy. Without some account of where the duty comes from, appealing to it as a justification becomes rather circular.

  18. Davis Bell on June 25, 2004 at 3:33 pm

    It seems there are two questions:

    1. To what extent, if any, do one’s political opinions, and the expression of those opinions (voting, writing an op-ed, aruging on the bus) influence the actions of one’s country? In the event they do influence them, how much?

    2. Assuming the answer to the first question is none whatever, the second question is whether or not the morality of an act (i.e the war in Iraq) has any bearing on the morality of a person who endorses that act (be it through a voting, writing an op-ed, arguing on the bus, etc.), given that the endorsement is impotent to influence the act. Is one’s moral culpability for an action proportionate to one’s influence on that action?

  19. Angela W. F. on June 25, 2004 at 4:52 pm

    Nate,

    I don’t see the moral indulgence.

    Good citizenship in a liberal democracy means informing oneself about important issues because liberal democratic government requires citizens who inform themselves and then act (vote and/or attempt to persuade others) accordingly. If only those who were themselves interested in political office or those manipulated by interest groups voted we would not long have a democracy.

    I don’t inform myself because I think this will become a norm for others, I inform myself because it is what good citizenship requires.

    A sound way of determining what citizenship requires is to employ a thought experiment regarding what would happen if citizens did or didn’t engage in the type of behavior under consideration (in this case informing oneself). I think that such an experiment reveals that liberal democracy is a very demanding form of government.

    The representative nature of our government complicates the picture a little. I don’t need to be nearly as informed as I would have to be if we had a direct democracy. But I do need to be informed enough to make my own decisions on referenda and to identify the best candidates for office.

    Perhaps I’m missing the point of your question though. Is your question why we should be
    good citizens? I have two reasons for desiring to be a good citizen. 1) The Church asks it of me. 2) Liberal democracy is the best form of government currently available.

    Kingsley,

    Simply trying to make a difference is not sufficient. One must attempt to hold the right views. This means researching the issues and not allowing oneself to be blinded (by greed, for example). However, sometimes even when we do our very best to hold the right views, we end up being mistaken. This is reason to feel badly, perhaps _very_ badly, but it is not necessarily a sin. If a police officer shoots someone because he has good reason to believe that person is an immediate threat to others safety, and it turns out that he was wrong, he will feel terrible. He should feel terrible. But he isn’t a murderer.

  20. Angela W. F. on June 25, 2004 at 4:59 pm

    Nate,

    I don’t see the moral indulgence.

    Good citizenship in a liberal democracy means informing oneself about important issues because liberal democratic government requires citizens who inform themselves and then act (vote and/or attempt to persuade others) accordingly. If only those who were themselves interested in political office or those manipulated by interest groups voted we would not long have a democracy.

    I don’t inform myself because I think this will become a norm for others, I inform myself because it is what good citizenship requires.

    A sound way of determining what citizenship requires is to employ a thought experiment regarding what would happen if citizens did or didn’t engage in the type of behavior under consideration (in this case, informing oneself). I think that such an experiment reveals that liberal democracy is a very demanding form of government.

    The representative nature of our government complicates the picture a little. I don’t need to be nearly as informed as I would have to be if we had a direct democracy. But I do need to be informed enough to make my own decisions on referenda and to identify the best candidates for office.

    Perhaps I’m missing the point of your question though. Is your question why we should be
    good citizens? I have two reasons for desiring to be a good citizen. 1) The Church asks it of me. 2) Liberal democracy is the best form of government currently available.

    Kingsley,

    Simply trying to make a difference is not sufficient. One must attempt to hold the right views. This means researching the issues and not allowing oneself to be blinded (by greed, for example). However, sometimes even when we do our very best to hold the right views, we end up being mistaken. This is reason to feel badly, perhaps _very_ badly, but it is not necessarily a sin. If a police officer shoots someone because he has good reason to believe that person is an immediate threat to others safety, and it turns out that he was wrong, he will feel terrible. He should feel terrible. But he isn’t a murderer.

    I think if I do my very best to figure out who to vote for and vote accordingly, I have not sinned in my vote, even if were I smarter of if I knew more I would have voted differently. I don’t think God will fault us for decisions based on incorrect views of the facts or faulty reasoning, assuming that we have done our all to come to the best conclusion.

  21. Nate Oman on June 25, 2004 at 4:59 pm

    “Perhaps I’m missing the point of your question though. Is your question why we should be
    good citizens? I have two reasons for desiring to be a good citizen. 1) The Church asks it of me. 2) Liberal democracy is the best form of government currently available. ”

    To a certain extent that is the question that I am asking. The real question is what extent it is possible to be immoral for holding mistaken political beliefs. You seem to suggest that any potential immorality flows not from being substantively mistaken in my beliefs, but from failure to fufill one’s duties in a liberal democracy. If this is our answer, then I think that we DO need to think about the nature of those duties.

    I suggested earlier some difficulties that I have with your thought experiment approach, although it may be the best that we can do. As for your other reasons, I have some questions:

    1. Why do the leaders of the Church tell us to be involved? What is the reason for the requirement?

    2. If liberal democracy is the best system, how much does this impact the morality of my own behavior, because as I pointed out, my behavior is unlikely to have a big impact on liberal democracy as an institution.

    I would suggest that 1 and 2 throw us back toward something like your thought experiment, which I don’t find entirely satisfying for the reasons I have already stated.

  22. Angela W. F. on June 25, 2004 at 5:21 pm

    Another reason that mistaken political beliefs can be wrong is because we allow some unacceptable reason to influence our views. For example, ethnic hatred might lead us to a different conclusion that we would otherwise reach, and allowing that to happen would be immoral.

    I think the civic disobedience thread from the other day (sorry, I don’t know how to link) touched on some of the reasons that the Church asks us to be good citizens. I think another reason is that citizen involvement sometimes means power. If more believing Latter-day Saints were senators (or if more Senators saw these issues the way believing Saints do) that got to vote on Supreme Court Justice nominations, that could be a very good thing. On a more local level, a city councilperson may vote on whether liquor licenses will be granted to restaurants within the city limits.

    I do not assume that all believing Latter-day Saints would have the same view of any given Supreme Court nomination or of the liquor license question, but I think these examples are still helpful in understanding why the Church might want its members involved. The issue might be whether the Church can get a building permit for its next temple.

    To be honest, I still don’t fully grasp the source of your dissatisfaction with the thought experiment so I can’t respond to that.

  23. XON on June 26, 2004 at 12:52 am

    I love this place!

    I have often noted what, to me, seems like a duality in our natures as it refers to God. On the one hand, the scriptures make it quite clear that we are morally accountable for our actions on a decidedly individual basis. We also seem to be judged by God, especially while in this mortality, on a collective level, as in when entire cities and peoples are destroyed explicitly as judgement for the sins of ‘the people’. While I’m aware of the incidents where the judgement was postponed for a search for even one righteous individual, this doesn’t seem to be the general case, and indeed, a few times, obviously righteous individuals suffered catastrophically for the sins of their societies (either writ large, or locally).

    A second point has also been alluded to here. That is that history seems to be enacted by relatively few actors. If we are to maintain our deference to the scriptures, it would seem that God ordains certain people to those positions, else our canon, and our history would be millions of ‘The book of Steve’. Such is obviously not the case, and the, apparently, important things that have been done have been done by individuals, with fairly significant, direct input from Heaven.

    So, might Nate be correct in both cases here? That while our individual morality is of utmost importance, that our civic obligations are really fairly minimal, and that’s as it should be? Or perhaps to modify, that our civic obligation is only to be prepared to become one of those historical actors, only if the ‘call’ should come to us?

  24. Russell Arben Fox on June 26, 2004 at 11:21 am

    I love the fact that I can make a single off-hand, reflective comment (“perhaps immoral”), and it can impel Nate to launch another one of his wonderfully thoughtful philosophical investigations. It gives me a feeling of power. (POWER!)

    For what it’s worth, I think Angela comes closest to what I was thinking about when I wrote what I did, though I don’t therefore assume that Angela shares my rather expansive definition of “sin.” But basically, yes, I think sinfulness is (or can be) attached to failing to think fully or responsibly about political matters, especially when the particular political matter under consideration is a war, the most wicked of all political conditions or actions in this fallen world.

    By the way Nate, I think you misunderstood my mea culpa(s), at least insofar as I understand what you mean by “born-again global consequentialism.” I thought I was arguing against in those posts was the willingness of many (including myself) to ideologically justify a policy of war on the basis of some presumed, long-term, hypothetical consequence of it, rather than by way of attending to the actual circumstances of such. But then, it really wasn’t a very good piece of writing.

  25. Nate Oman on June 26, 2004 at 5:04 pm

    ” I thought I was arguing against in those posts was the willingness of many (including myself) to ideologically justify a policy of war on the basis of some presumed, long-term, hypothetical consequence of it, rather than by way of attending to the actual circumstances of such. But then, it really wasn’t a very good piece of writing.”

    Russell, this is actually the text book definitiono of “born again global consequentialism.” Look in the text book?

    If you subscribe to Angela’s view, then I am curious as to what you see as the basis for the duty. Where does it come from if it doesn’t come from harm that would result in my failure to fufill the duty?

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