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by David Hughes Special to The Commercial | September 12, 2023 at 3:30 a.m.

Morality matters

Editor, The Commercial:

Mr. Peter Singer argued that we are all evil in an essay that has been called: "The Most Controversial Ethics Paper Ever Written."

It made a big splash and is still making waves and ripples. Professor Jeffrey Kaplan, (Philosophy, University of South Carolina) recently posted on YouTube, referring to that paper as absolutely revolutionary and a radical moral claim.

It is, of course, no such thing. After all ...

Jeremiah 17:9 - "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." And ...

Ecclesiastes 7:20 - "There is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not."

So what exactly is "revolutionary and radical" about it? Is it merely that he has taken a scientific approach, and constructed a logical argument: premise, premise, and conclusion? Is that all? Seems unnecessarily laborious, simply to demonstrate something we already knew.

When mankind first crawled out of the cave and attempted to organize in social units larger than a single family, he crawled onto the horns of a moral dilemma, where we remain pierced and squirming to this very day. That paradox arises in the practice of law enforcement.

The very first step out of chaos and anarchy, and into what we call civilization, is law enforcement. The first duty of society is public safety, not liberty or justice or human rights, but safety. We cannot be permitted to grievously, wantonly, or repeatedly harm one another. To preserve the public peace we must subdue our malefactors and criminals. Forcing our will on another human being at the point of a spear or a gun is the essence of violence and inherently evil. Still -- we must.

We must protect our women and children. We must separate the dangerous from the innocent. That is the complete justification for our jails and prisons -- to separate the dangerous.

This is the central conundrum of civilization itself. In order to control violence we must do violence. In order to accomplish good we must do evil.

David Hughes,


Print Headline: Morality matters


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