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Parable of the Good Republican

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Jesus and the Pharisees ordered another round of light beer.

“Jesus,” said one of the Pharisees. “The older I get, the more I realize that my faculties for moral reasoning are flawed – especially since they are the products of the amoral process of evolution. I still have strong moral intuitions, which present themselves as objective. But it seems like there are lots of good people who have drastically different moral intuitions. How can I tell if my moral intuitions are correct?”

Jesus lit a cigarette. “You should try with all your might to be less confident in your moral intuitions if they conflict with those of your epistemic peers,” he said, and coughed.

“Ah,” said the Pharisee. “But who is my epistemic peer?”

“Let me tell you a little story,” said Jesus, who was on his fourth light beer of the night. “I was speaking at a conference last year in support of minimum wage laws. There were two questions at the end of my talk.

“One was from an anti-poverty activist, who congratulated me on supporting the minimum wage, and said that those opposed to the minimum wage were instruments of oppression.

“The other was from a Republican who grew up in the American Midwest. He said that he, too, wanted to help poor people, but had studied the effects of minimum wage laws, and found that these laws actually harm poor people.”

“Now,” said Jesus, pointing dramatically at the Pharisee. “Who has proven himself my epistemic peer?”

Written by Sister Y

January 10, 2011 at 3:44 am

Posted in meta-ethics