Moral Rot, part 1

Common sense suggests that as we grow older we grow wiser. As a result of being wise, we should also be more ethical.

But how might we explain this development of conscience or moral awareness?

We will explore this question in an effort to make sense of the counterintuitive experience felt throughout the world today: older people do not seem to be more ethical.

In addressing the contrast of common sense and experience, we will explore the concept of Moral Rot, which has been nodded to by various media and intellectual personalities such as Paul Krugman, S.E Cupp, and Roger Cohen in the NY Times.

Introducing a new idea into the ethical lexicon is difficult as we are attached to our self-image as moral agents and our toolbox for ethical decision making. However, there has been a growing uneasiness with the modernist polemic. The last great attack on traditional ethical theories such as utilitarianism and deontology resulted in the concept and theory of moral luck. Moral luck is the idea that no matter how ethical we try to be, whether or not we act ethically is beyond our control, not only psychologically but metaphysically. Moral rot extends this idea by arguing there is a natural process removing agency from assessments of moral action. The likelihood an agent will encounter a morally murky situation and thus end up committing an unethical act increases over time.

This process from a low likelihood to a high likelihood of moral murkiness can be measured and interventions applied in the same way a bowl of hot soup becomes cold over time and we can microwave it back to a semblance of tastiness.

That is, as all things, our moral agency is subject to the fundamental process of entropy.

Hopefully that‘s enough to titillate the mind. We will be back soon with more!

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