Its one of those term-of-art things. Falling back on relativity is fine as long as we are discussing relationships between things and their relevance to moral evaluation under universal moral categories. However, when said relativity allows one to erase moral categories altogether, more has been lost than has been gained. There is a real topography to moral analysis. Categories exist that allow us to differentiate between murder and self-defense, or suicide and other-defense. It’s kind of a mind trick.
Yes, I can put on a filter that appears to eliminate the moral categories and sees, hypothetically, only varying physical situations that end up with similar results.
However, even at the physical level, there are patterns that differentiate suicide from self-sacrifice. Consider this: How many actors are necessary for a suicide? One. How many actors are necessary for the grenade-covering scenario? Three; the hero, the villain, and the one the hero is dying for. Saying they all end up with one person dead and therefore they are the same is, if I may be so bold, ludicrous. Persons may also die of disease, or pure accident. Are they also the same, simply because they have a similar physical result? Or is it as a former employer of mine once said: Theyre all the same except for where theyre different.
There comes a point where the identifying the similarity is not as useful as identifying the difference, and, viola, a category is born. Categories are shorthand for the configuration of facts that make events differentiable, whether morally, legally, or otherwise. And the categories have real value. A murder is still a murder, an unjustified killing, even if the murderer sincerely believes the killing was justified. The law recognizes a difference in kind as between using lethal force because one must defend one’s self versus using lethal force against one who is, in objective reality, no threat.
So then,would you erase murder as a category, simply because it can produce a dead body just like self-defense can? Or would you preserve that difference? If you opt to preserve that difference, you are sanctioning the use of moral categories, i.e., differences in kind re moral valuation (and yes, I would always tell one bent on suicide theyre not justified in ending their own life justification is both a moral and a legal category into which self-murder cannot be made to fit, whether by statutory or by natural law (yes, Im one of those pesky natural law guys)).
As an attorney, my legal battles all revolve around discovering how well the facts of the case fit one or another of the legal categories that control the law of the case. Sometimes the relationships are muddy, but mostly they are clear, and my job in court is to make them clear. Categories are my friend.
Hope that helps. Have to get back to work now.
I believe relativity is the basis for moral categories. It doesn’t erase moral categories, it defines them. There are levels in a murder charge aren’t there? There’s mitigating circumstances, manslaughter, homicide. I don’t think it’s a trick, it’s just a way of applying a law to an act, hopefully in a fair manner.
Saying they all end up with one dead, is a fact. They are results of circumstances. Circumstances that are relative to each other, in that the end is the same and in each instance death was the chosen result.
Thanks for your time.