May 2, 2011
I don’t believe what I’m about to say in the following thought example, but suppose that news of bin Laden’s death restores the economy to as good a state as it’s ever been in. Then suppose that his “death” was actually a lie concocted by economists and politicians because they knew–with reasonable certainty based on seemingly airtight calculations–that this lie would spur economic growth. Now, if there was an instance where desirism’s broad “people generally” statement can be made confidently, this is it. Certainly, “people generally” have reason to promote that which spurs economic growth, right?
If morality can reduce to desires fulfilled and thwarted, then should we praise or condemn the “beneficial lie?”
One might respond by pointing to a higher-order prohibition on lying in general. Yes, “people generally” also have reason to promote honesty–I do not deny that–although, why? Why do people have reason to promote honesty under desirism? Is it not in order to procure desire fulfillment? If I understand it right, there are no categorical imperatives in desirism, that is, no absolute, unconditional requirements. “Dishonesty is always wrong” seems to be an example of categorical imperative, so it seems fair to say that desirists ought to reject “Dishonesty is always wrong” in favor of something more like, “Dishonesty that thwarts more than fulfills desires is always wrong.” Remember, the economists and politicians knew with reasonable certainty based on seemingly airtight calculations that this lie would spur economic growth. So then, if they fulfill many desires and thwart few or none, should we praise or condemn the “beneficial lie?”