In an article in yesterday's Washington Post, Kwame Anthony Appiah (currently the Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University) asks which of our current practices will shock future generations the most. He says from looking at how our attitudes have changed to things in the past, that there are three signs that a practice is 'destined for future condemnation.'
- People have already heard the arguments about the practice. For example with slavery, the case against it had been around for a long time before legislation to stop it emerged.
- Defenders of the custom don't offer moral excuses but instead state that 'tradition, human nature of necessity' make it ok. (As in "We've always had slaves, how could we grow cotton without them?")
- Thirdly, supporters of the practice use 'strategic ignorance' avoiding information that might force them to see how cruel things can be, for those things that are so very convenient. Those who wore the cotton slaves grew didn't want to think about how they were treated, so abolitionists constantly drew attention to the conditions of the middle passage, making sure that the horrifying stories of the people's plight can to public attention.
- Our prison system
- Our treatment of animals in food production
- Our isolation of the elderly
- Our treatment of the environment
Well worth a read, the full article is here.