Philosophy Time: Imposed Actions

Philosophy time.

Louis Pojman wrote that anytime an action is imposed on an individual, it can be looked at as an immoral act. Ok, so this means any action that a parent takes to punish their child is immoral. I don’t think it is as cut and dry as Pojman presents it. The parent is punishing the child so they won’t make the same mistake twice, so that is not the same as someone trying to hurt someone intentionally. What makes this different? I think the answer is as simple as intent.

I think Pojman was wrong on this to be honest. It is one thing when someone attacks another human being for no reason and imposes pain and suffering on them. It is another when the imposed action is meant to help someone from making a bad mistake again. What if the pain of a spanking or grounding that a parent imposes on a child is to protect them from making a bad mistake again? Isn’t that action worth doing in order to protect the child? In other words, it is not so cut and dry as Pojman presents.

Yes, unwanted suffering is bad because it robs the individual of their autonomy, but when someone wants to protect the individual’s autonomy that is an entirely different story. The unwanted action may actually do more good than harm in the long run. It all depends on WHY the action is done. If it is done to hurt and humiliate someone, then yes, the action is unwarranted. However, if the intent is to help someone learn from a mistake, then the action is unwarranted, but necessary.

Judging what actions are good and what actions are unwarranted is tougher than it looks. The reality is, it depends on the reason and the intent of why the action was done. If the intent is to teach and help, then the action is justified, if the action is to humiliate and make someone look bad, then yes, the action is bad. So, remember that the next time you see a parent punishing their child, slow down and think why they are doing it. It could mean the difference between a child being safe, or a child being hurt.

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