Morality for the masses
Posted on May 19, 2011
Last week, Freakonomics author Steven Levitt fired up controversy on his blog by outlining what he called “The Daughter Test” of morality and law:
… the primary determinant of where I stand with respect to government interference in activities comes down to the answer to a simple question: How would I feel if my daughter were engaged in that activity?
Kevin Drum, writing on Mother Jones, correctly noted that Levitt’s argument doesn’t hold much weight:
This is, logically, pretty lame. If I had a daughter, I probably wouldn’t want her to get a tattoo, play videogames all day, or pursue a career in the WWF. But neither I nor Levitt would think even for a moment that tattooing, videogame playing, or WWF wrestling should be outlawed.
But while Drum argued that Levitt’s rule does not and should not decide which moral values are encoded into law, he also posited that Levitt’s approach reflects the manner in which most people reason about morality.
Chattering class types tend to intellectualize morality, but the vast majority of people view it through a lens much closer to Levitt’s “would I mind if my daughter did it?” heuristic.
What do you think? Do the masses reason about morality in a categorically different manner than “philosophical elites”? Or Drum’s argument “logically, pretty lame”?