In entry-level philosophy class, a professor will often present a scenario that seems to challenge the students’ perspective on morality.
The argument runs something as follows: “The entire nation of France will drop dead tomorrow unless you kill your neighbor who has only one day to live. What do you do?”
Or “You could eliminate cancer by pressing a button that also kills one healthy person. Do you do so?”
Yep, so far, so good. It’s an interesting question about whether an innocent person’s right to life could ever be outweighed by other considerations. Would it be okay to kill an innocent person to avoid a disaster? That seems like something someone should ask. (Perhaps philosophers.)
McElroy disagrees. She says,
In reality, the questions are a sham that cannot be honestly answered. They postulate a parallel world in which the rules of reality, like cause and effect, have been dramatically changed so that pushing a button cures cancer. The postulated world seems to operate more on magic than reality.
Because my moral code is based on the reality of the existing world, I don’t know what I would do if those rules no longer operated. I presume my morality would be different, so my actions would be as well.
McElroy says this, but I doubt she really believes it. Consider:
- Star Wars posits an parallel world in which the rules of reality, like cause and effect, have been dramatically changed. The postulated world operates more on magic than reality.
- Same with Lord of the Rings.
- To some degree, same with Atlas Shrugged, which involves significant science fiction.
- Was it okay for the IF to trick Ender into exterminating an alien race, which the IF justifiedly but incorrectly perceived to be an existential threat?
- Would it be okay to feed your baby to Godzilla for fun?
- Should Boromir have tried to take the ring from Frodo?
- Was it okay for Raistlin Majere to strive to become a god and to overthrow Takhisis?
- Should Magneto try to organize all the mutants against humanity?