Are You A Good Person?

Posted July 7, 2014

Did your parents raise you right? Deep in your heart—are you a good person? There’s only one way to know: Take the quiz, tally up your karma points, and see how much of a saint you really are!

  1. 1. You come across a wallet lying on the street. You:

    +0 karma points! 

    You turned it in! By doing so, you made a calculated trade-off between the more concrete short-term benefits of immediate gain and the more diffuse (but in the long run, arguably no less valuable to you) benefits of honoring the social contract. Was your action “right” or “moral” per se? Answering this depends, in an irreducible way, on your private system of values!

    +0 karma points!

    You kept 20 dollars! By doing so, you made a calculated trade-off between the more concrete short-term benefits of immediate gain and the more diffuse (but in the long run, arguably no less valuable to you) benefits of honoring the social contract. Was your action “right” or “moral” per se? Answering this depends, in an irreducible way, on your private system of values!

    +0 karma points!

    You left it lying on the street! By doing so, you opted out of a trade-off between the more concrete short-term benefits of immediate gain and the more diffuse (but arguably no less valuable to you) benefits of honoring the social contract. Was your inaction “right” or “moral” per se? Answering this depends, in an irreducible way, on your private system of values!

    +0 karma points!

    You took it all! By doing so, you made a calculated trade-off between the more concrete short-term benefits of immediate gain and the more diffuse (but in the long run, arguably no less valuable to you) benefits of honoring the social contract. Was your action “right” or “moral” per se? Answering this depends, in an irreducible way, on your private system of values!

  2. 2. You’re headed to an important meeting when you see a nearsighted old lady struggling to cross the street. Do you stop and help, even though it might make you late?

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    You helped the lady, but at what cost to yourself, to your colleagues, and to anyone else who would have benefited from your presence at the meeting? Yes, the meeting was “important,” but here its importance was underspecified. In the face of situational variability, can one develop a comprehensive and universal moral code, invariant to circumstance? Numerous thinkers throughout history have attempted to answer this question—some arguably succeeding more than others—but space does not permit us to explore them here. For a more comprehensive review, interested users are encouraged to consult previous work [1] on the subject.

    +0 karma points!

    You strode right on by! Was this moral, considering the good it did for you and your colleagues at the meeting? It is impossible to tell, since the meeting’s importance was underspecified. In the face of situational variability, can one develop a comprehensive and universal moral code, invariant to circumstance? Numerous thinkers throughout history have attempted to answer this question—some arguably succeeding more than others—but space does not permit us to explore them here. For a more comprehensive review, interested users are encouraged to consult previous work [1] on the subject.

  3. 3. Consider a runaway trolley containing five passengers, careening out of control down a hill. You are standing by a switch that, if activated, would redirect the trolley along another track into a sand pit, saving the five passengers. However, on this other track is an innocent bystander who would surely be killed (you have no time to warn him). What do you do?

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    You flipped the switch! You acted as a consequentialist would, letting the outcome dictate your decision, regardless of what your motives were. Yet it’s a reasonable question: To what extent should one allow motive to influence—or moreover, actively determine—the praiseworthiness or reprehensibility of a given action? This is a matter of ongoing debate in philosophical and legal spheres. 

    +0 karma points!

    You flipped the switch! Faced with an instance of what Thomas Aquinas would call “double effect,” you operated according to the (traditionally Christian) principle that intending a good action may justify a resultant bad action and, indeed, that the intent itself makes such an action moral. But one may ask: To what extent should one allow motive to influence—or moreover, actively determine—the praiseworthiness or reprehensibility of a given action? This is a matter of ongoing debate in philosophical and legal spheres. 

    +0 karma points!

    You justified your inaction with a reluctance to commit murder! And yet, a consequentialist would argue, of what significance are private justifications in the face of material results? Indeed, one may ask: To what extent should one allow motive to influence —or moreover, actively determine—the praiseworthiness or reprehensibility of a given action? This is a matter of ongoing debate in philosophical and legal spheres. 

    +0 karma points!

    You justified your inaction with a reluctance to interfere with fate! If you subscribe to determinism, this question—and indeed this entire quiz—is moot, since such a philosophy precludes the possibility of free will. If, on the other hand, you allow for free will, then a consequentialist would inquire: Of what significance are private justifications in the face of material results? Indeed, one may ask: To what extent should one allow motive to influence —or moreover, actively determine—the praiseworthiness or reprehensibility of a given action? This is a matter of ongoing debate in philosophical and legal spheres. 

  4. 4. You’re about to get your 8-year-old daughter the toy chemistry set she’s wanted for weeks, but at the store, she suddenly decides she wants a big stuffed bear instead. What do you get her?

    +0 karma points!

    A Hegelian analysis may prove illuminating here:

    “What the English call ‘comfort’ is something inexhaustible and illimitable. Others can reveal to you that what you take to be comfort at any stage is discomfort, and these discoveries never come to an end. Hence the need for comfort does not arise within you directly; it is suggested to you by those who hope to make a profit from its creation.” [2]

    Writing in 1821, Hegel presciently anticipates the oppressive consumer culture that was to arise over the next century and a half. His insight—that vendors and advertisers can artificially create a need or desire in consumers—speaks to the broader Hegelian notion (also advanced by F.H. Bradley) that a community may limit individual freedom by means of the preferences and customs it instills in its citizens. A free man bound by custom, for Hegel, remains bound. By questioning the pursuit of preferences as a way to freedom, Hegel tears down one morality system—but with what would he replace it? When, if ever, is one truly free? Hegel’s (perhaps problematic) response to this question is nuanced and draws significantly on Kant’s [3] understanding of “duty” within the framework of his famous “categorical imperative.” Consequently, a satisfactory presentation of Hegel’s argument is beyond the scope of this quiz.

    +0 karma points!

    A Hegelian analysis may prove illuminating here:

    “What the English call ‘comfort’ is something inexhaustible and illimitable. Others can reveal to you that what you take to be comfort at any stage is discomfort, and these discoveries never come to an end. Hence the need for comfort does not arise within you directly; it is suggested to you by those who hope to make a profit from its creation.” [2]

    Writing in 1821, Hegel presciently anticipates the oppressive consumer culture that was to arise over the next century and a half. His insight—that vendors and advertisers can artificially create a need or desire in consumers—speaks to the broader Hegelian notion (also advanced by F.H. Bradley) that a community may limit individual freedom by means of the preferences and customs it instills in its citizens. A free man bound by custom, for Hegel, remains bound. By questioning the pursuit of preferences as a way to freedom, Hegel tears down one morality system—but with what would he replace it? When, if ever, is one truly free? Hegel’s (perhaps problematic) response to this question is nuanced and draws significantly on Kant’s [3] understanding of “duty” within the framework of his famous “categorical imperative.” Consequently, a satisfactory presentation of Hegel’s argument is beyond the scope of this quiz.

    +0 karma points!

    A Hegelian analysis may prove illuminating here:

    “What the English call ‘comfort’ is something inexhaustible and illimitable. Others can reveal to you that what you take to be comfort at any stage is discomfort, and these discoveries never come to an end. Hence the need for comfort does not arise within you directly; it is suggested to you by those who hope to make a profit from its creation.” [2]

    Writing in 1821, Hegel presciently anticipates the oppressive consumer culture that was to arise over the next century and a half. His insight—that vendors and advertisers can artificially create a need or desire in consumers—speaks to the broader Hegelian notion (also advanced by F.H. Bradley) that a community may limit individual freedom by means of the preferences and customs it instills in its citizens. A free man bound by custom, for Hegel, remains bound. By questioning the pursuit of preferences as a way to freedom, Hegel tears down one morality system—but with what would he replace it? When, if ever, is one truly free? Hegel’s (perhaps problematic) response to this question is nuanced and draws significantly on Kant’s [3] understanding of “duty” within the framework of his famous “categorical imperative.” Consequently, a satisfactory presentation of Hegel’s argument is beyond the scope of this quiz.

    +0 karma points!

    A Hegelian analysis may prove illuminating here:

    “What the English call ‘comfort’ is something inexhaustible and illimitable. Others can reveal to you that what you take to be comfort at any stage is discomfort, and these discoveries never come to an end. Hence the need for comfort does not arise within you directly; it is suggested to you by those who hope to make a profit from its creation.” [2]

    Writing in 1821, Hegel presciently anticipates the oppressive consumer culture that was to arise over the next century and a half. His insight—that vendors and advertisers can artificially create a need or desire in consumers—speaks to the broader Hegelian notion (also advanced by F.H. Bradley) that a community may limit individual freedom by means of the preferences and customs it instills in its citizens. A free man bound by custom, for Hegel, remains bound.By questioning the pursuit of preferences as a way to freedom, Hegel tears down one morality system—but with what would he replace it? When, if ever, is one truly free? Hegel’s (perhaps problematic) response to this question is nuanced and draws significantly on Kant’s [3] understanding of ‘duty’ within the framework of his famous ‘categorical imperative.’ Consequently, a satisfactory presentation of Hegel’s argument is beyond the scope of this quiz.

  • Results for Are You A Good Person?

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    What result do you want?

    Okay, tally up those karma points! But before you do, ask yourself: what reward are you hoping for as you stumble through your brief existence, day after day? Salvation? The approval of some God? Perhaps more simply, the approval of your own conscience? Moreover, might we not view these as one and the same, with God, the devil, and indeed all of human morality—in its highest perfection and lowest depravity—nothing but mere projections of human nature onto external canvases?

    WORKS CITED
    1. “Which Ethical System Are You?” ClickHole, 2014. Web. 13 June 2014.
    2. Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. Elements of the Philosophy of Right. Ed. Allen W. Wood. Trans. H. B. Nisbet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
    3. Timmermann, J. “The Unity of Reason: Kantian Perspectives.” Spheres of Reason. Ed. Simon Robertson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. pp. 183-198.