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The following letter is in response to “Removed from responsibility,” by Marye Moran

Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 20:01


Reading Marye Moran's foray into moral psychology, I am disheartened by her argument. It seems that Ms. Moran adopts something of a "first-world fallacy:" since we feel bad about the needy, we should send them money (it doesn't matter exactly to where or to whom), and then feel better about it. On the contrary, money and resources do not replace solidarity. Additionally, the idea that I, the Boston College undergraduate reader, should feel guilty for buying something with "no utility"—like a concert ticket or a poster—is too economically simplistic and vaguely offensive. Many of us, it turns out, are not only sending away money but are also making it our life's work to effect social change, be it in an NGO, the Peace Corps, an entrepreneurial start-up, or in anything from teaching to tax reform.
Ms. Moran states that "we don't see everyone as equally deserving" of basic needs. But it is because we do see people as deserving certain basics that we can feel moral anxiety in the first place, an anxiety leading Ms. Moran to claim that "we're bad people." Here's a bolder generalization: we are good people, but we can do better. Enough with the diffuse pessimism and pseudo-scientific appeals to "biological compulsion" for why we cannot do better. These ‘biological' accounts are exculpations and excuses for our actions, but what we want are reasons for our actions. Promoting a societal ethic in which an individual's concerns encompass a narrow sphere of friends and family doesn't make the world a "better place." It makes it solipsistic, dysfunctional, and boring. Be biology as it may, we are still rational animals, stubbornly entrenched, therefore, in the realm of responsibility.

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