You Shouldn’t Have Messed with a Philosopher, and I’ll Prove It from First Principles

Oh, boy, pal. You just screwed up, and I mean big time. You thought you could mess with me? You thought you could just treat me any old way? Well, you thought wrong. Now, it’s time to teach you a little lesson.

You made a big mistake messing with a philosopher, and I’m about to prove it from first principles.

You didn’t see that coming, did you? You didn’t expect that I’d be a moral philosopher, now did you? When you walked in this train car, swaggering, you didn’t think about how many citations I might have in the Journal of Applied Ethics, huh?

That’s right, I’d be afraid if I were you too. Afraid of having my actions held up to intellectually rigorous ethical scrutiny! Well, bad news, buddy, because that’s just what you’re about to get!

Oh, scared, aren’t you? You know why that is? It’s because of the universal moral and logical intuitions that guide you as they guide all other humans! The light of reason within your mind can’t help but see the moral indefensibility of not merely shoving me, but failing to even murmur “Excuse me!” You’ve already accepted the basic moral postulates of living in the world, and that means you’re helpless before my ability to draw them out to their inevitable conclusions! Now, the very free will which allowed you to push me is pushing you towards being a better person!

You know what Kierkegaard would call that? He’d call that anxiety, buddy! You just walked right into the dizziness of your own freedom! Suck on that!

Lemme tell you something. I’m gonna enjoy this. There’s nothing I love better than teaching punks like you some manners. And you know why? Because every one of us has a fundamental moral duty to contribute towards the freedom of their fellow thinking beings. And what makes us freer than authentic moral agency? And you’d better believe I’m about to hand you a heaping serving of it.

Listen up, chump. Certain actions are morally defensible while others are not. That’s a fact, Jack. You wanna argue with it? Too bad! That’s the kind of thing you know prior to all experience. And you know what else? I’ll tell you what else. The difference isn’t simply ad hoc either! There are coherent moral laws, which can be discovered by reason, and which create a consistent philosophical groundwork for determining the ethical value of an action!

Ohh, I bet that one smarts!

You probably think I’m warming up, but guess what? I’m already done! You’ve already been trapped in the contradictions between your own actions and your fundamental moral intuitions, bucko! Oh, you’re really gonna get it now! You’re gonna get that you’ve been operating under an illogical and contradictory form of morality! Once this logic train gets going, there’s no getting off until the final stop!

You ready for this one? Doesn’t matter, because it’s already logically implied by the postulates you’ve previously accepted! Whatever is moral for one person, according to moral law, must be moral for all people to do! If you can shove me, then anyone who wants to can shove you, a conclusion you can’t accept, and yet must if you want to justify yourself! That’s called a categorical imperative, my guy, and there’s nothing you can do it about it!

That’s right. You just got critiqued! How’s that taste?

So what are you gonna do, now, huh? Are you gonna think about it? Maybe ponder for a bit? Are you gonna struggle with your emotional reactions, but finally realize that it’s better to be consistent with your beliefs, even when it’s difficult? Gonna grow as a person? Gonna get better at treating others as ends rather than means?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Oh, and when you become a better version of yourself and the people around you appreciate you for it? You tell ‘em who sent you!

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