Abortion and factory farms have been all the rage on this blog lately. Both issues tie into this post. I’m wondering what people think of a certain type of argument. Here is the key premise:
- If (i) S is not extremely justified in believing that doing A is morally permissible, and (ii) there is a significant chance that doing A is a serious moral wrong, and (iii) there is not a significant chance that not doing A is a serious moral wrong, then S should not do A.
The motivation for (1) is that there is a certain moral wager to be had. When there is a significant chance that your action is a serious moral wrong (but not your inaction), then you need extremely good reasons to think that the action is permissible for it to not be the case that you shouldn’t do it.
The argument then gets filled out by claiming that we meet these antecedent conditions with regard to various actions – perhaps having an abortion and eating factory farm meet are plausible examples. Let’s see why.
Regarding (i) there is widespread persistent disagreement about the moral permissibility of abortion and the moral permissibility of eating factory farm meet. There are intelligent, fully informed, open minded thinkers on both sides of these issues who disagree about the permissibility of these actions. Treating this disagreement seriously makes us at least not *extremely* justified in believing that these actions are morally permissible. Someone’s wrong on the matter, and it might be you.
Regarding (ii) those who think that abortion/eating factory farm meet is impermissible think that it is a serious moral wrong to do so, not some minor moral blemish (we can ignore why for now). This makes the possibility that these actions are serious moral wrongs significant. There are senses in which *any* action *could* be a serious moral wrong, but only the actions that are believed by seemingly intelligent people to be a serious moral wrong have a significant chance of being one (at least as I am understanding it).
Regarding (iii) not having an abortion and not eating factory farm meat (at least in typical cases) does not have a significant chance of being a serious moral wrong. Put aside cases where the mother’s life is in danger and cases where someone would starve without eating factory farm meat, and no one thinks that the woman who doesn’t have an abortion or the person who doesn’t eat factory farm meet does something seriously morally wrong – so there is not a significant chance (as I am using the term) that those actions (or omissions) are seriously morally wrong.
So, are (i), (ii), and (iii) met with regard to abortion and eating factory farm meet?
And, of greater interest to me, is (1) true?