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Divine Command Theory ... Starring Mario

Ragnar
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3/1/2015 11:13:07 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
I attend a Catholic university. I wrote this paper last semester for ethics class, and thought I'd share it.
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Mario vs. the Turtle

In the following, I will argue that the plumber Mario's choice to stomp on a turtle is unethical. Both accusations and defense of Mario shall be made using the ethical systems of Divine Command Theory and Virtue Ethics.

To avoid any confusion of terms, I present the following references:
-Mario is a 33 year old plumber (Born in 1981 (Donkey Kong)), of Italian decent.
-Turtles are a type of reptile, noted for their usual slow movement, and tough shell.

There are of course varying degrees of aggression in turtles, but Mario is a tough man, able to break through brick walls by head-butting them (At least while high on mushrooms).

Divine Command Theory:
Mario has claimed to have not been in control of his actions at the time of the incident, rather a giant being was controlling him as if he were a marionette on strings. He not only insists this removes all potential guilt, but it makes his actions righteous, noting the words of the chair of the philosophy department at the University of Wisconcin-Madicon on the matter: "...after all, God is wholly perfect. What better credentials are there [for deciding what is moral]" (Shafer-Landau, The Fundamentals of Ethics 61)? Further, "actions are morally right just because God insists that we perform them. Prior to God's commands, nothing was right or wrong. Morality simply did not exist" (Shafer-Landau, The Fundamentals of Ethics 62). Therefore stomping on the turtle was the only ethical action, whereas no other actions had any ethics at all.

Ignoring any contextual issues involving Shafer-Landau's intent, this still seems to be bit of a Red Herring fallacy to divert attention away from Mario's actual action, to instead evaluate the ethics of an unseen being. Worse a god controlling him would not make his behavior ethical, it would only deny his own autonomy. If he has no control over his own actions, it begs the question if we do as well, and if we don"t have control over our actions there is no reason we should consider not judging him as we might well be commanded to judge him by the very same god which commanded him to stomp on the turtle. Therefore the claimed lack of choice is irrelevant for both parties. Whereas if it is just him and not us being controlled, than attempting to pass all blame for what he did to some great god controlling him from above as if a child playing a video game, would only in the smallest sense excuse his actions, while dooming him for the safety of all. This is much like not blaming a rabid dog, even while it must be put down. From either viewpoint, we should judge Mario, and take measures against him to protect ourselves from him and the next commands he believes a god gives him.

In response Mario reminds us that his actions cannot have been unethical, because obedience to the will of the great controller is the only ethical thing to do; and its will cannot be resisted to allow immoral actions as he is accused. As for claims of safety, if it is not commanded by the controller, there is neither right nor wrong to seeking that, it simply is as it will be.

Virtue Ethics:
Mario of course has a secondary defense. Because he is a moral exemplar, all his actions are therefore righteous. Consider the writing of the previously named philosopher on the matter of what makes such a moral exemplar "someone who sets a fine example and serves as a role model for the rest of us" (Shafer-Landau, The Fundamentals of Ethics 241). Mario has for many years done what's right, earning him the admiration of children and adults alike, they emulate his behavior through video games, figuratively stomping on turtles of their own. Jesus Christ himself introduced in his antithesis, that to even imagine a crime is the same as to do it (Matthew), which means that for Mario to be guilty of wrongdoing so would every fan of his. Further he was vanquishing evil, an action that when done by such an ethical person would be foolish to disagree with. It was revealed to him prior to his first encounter with the turtle that "the kingdom of the peaceful mushroom people was invaded by the Koopa, a tribe of turtles famous for their black magic" (Nintendo). The turtle in question had the Koopa markings, thus was an evil wizard, and Mario was in fact protecting the rest of us from the same terrible fate the turtle and its' ilk inflicted on the peaceful mushroom kingdom. Stomping on turtles, perhaps even jumping up and down on them, is in fact a matter worthy of praise, not scorn.

In disagreeing with his case, first consider that humans are in fact members of a moral community, to which even "wild living things are deserving of the concern and consideration of all moral agents simply in virtue of their being members of the Earth's community of life" (Taylor 326). With this in mind even were the turtle doing black-magic, such would not remove its moral worth, even more so when Mario is an assumed rational agent, and turtles are unquestioningly not. Were they rational agents, the Ad Hominem attack of claiming they are automatically evil would fall away, requiring they be evaluated on a case by case basis.

Mario's claim that to judge him would be to pass the same judgment on to every fan for thought-crime is noted and dismissible as a band wagon appeal. Just because many people enjoy watching A Game of Thrones, does not in itself make the series good, only popular. To actually police thought crime as suggested, would not make Mario ethical, it would merely mark his followers as also immoral. An "I am Spartacus" defense, or "I am Mario" as seems to be suggested, can easily be handled by judging against all who confess.

Finally the idea that an action is right, only because a moral exemplar does it, is the actual flip side to an Ad Hominem attack, using the very same poor excuse for logic. In accusing Mario, nowhere is it said that any of his other actions are bad, such would be fallacious reasoning. By the same standard, were all his other actions good, which would not be enough. Doing so would risk a society where the first time someone makes a mistake or does right; all their future actions are judged by that alone. Aristotle the best known teacher of virtue ethics even rejects this, when he rejected the idea of children ever being able to be more virtuous than learned adults; which is comical when he also notes societies being corrupt setting an upward limit on how ethical someone in it could become (Shafer-Landau, The Fundamentals of Ethics 244).

Mario's response is a reminder that the turtle was an evil wizard, and thus incredibly dangerous if someone did not rise to stop it. Checking any modern map, the kingdom of the peaceful mushroom people can no longer be found! He did as any moral person would do, even if the action was ugly, it was still the right moral thing to do to protect others.

My Opinion:
To me evil is willfully committing any action with a known and greater cost or harm to others, than the benefit received by either oneself and/or others. Evil may be great or small, most worthy of scorn but not retribution. An example of great evil would be manipulating the power grids to shut off power to hospitals as Enron executives ordered. By this standard ...which is admittedly lacking any indicator of how to do right, merely a not do too much ill... If Mario truly believed the turtle was an evil wizard, he is an idiot instead of evil. However it is a turtle, stomping on it the way he does would almost certainly be fatal, costing it the rest of its life, for mere moments of enjoyment for him. Without evidence to suggest turtles are capable of black magic, his actions while not a great evil, it remains evil.
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Ragnar
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3/1/2015 11:17:44 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Conclusion:
I have engaged in a discussion with two ethical standards, proving by both that his action is at least not ethical even if not conclusively immoral. I have then laid out my own standard, which defines such petty actions as his, to being evil.

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Forgot to move a footnote from the My Opinion section. "If Mario truly believed the turtle was an evil wizard, he is an idiot instead of evil." The footnote being "Assuming it actually were an evil wizard, he would still be an idiot for believing such a doubtful thing; even while said action would be secretly valid."

And of course if anyone wants, I can give the works cited page.
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