Thursday, August 2, 2012

Anthony Esolen on Expertise and Ethics

Expertise and Ethics

One of the more puzzling things about contemporary arguments regarding what things a good or free society ought to allow and what things it ought to forbid is our turn toward the “expert,” the ethicist, the person who has made a professional career of teasing out deductions from moral premises. But what really qualifies such a person to be regarded as a beacon of wisdom? Aristotle famously said that the best way to learn about justice would be to observe a just man. The dictum is not tautological. In the life of a Mother Teresa, for example, we may learn literally countless—that is, not reducible to numbers—lessons in love and magnanimity, whence we may confirm true principles already held, and reveal others whose existence we had not suspected. We would be confronting the just life not as an academic exercise, but as an intensely personal challenge.
Who are these medical ethicists who recently have concluded, with wonderful logic, that parents have a right to murder their infant children—and who call it, with telling duplicity, “after-birth abortion?”  We would not turn to Larry Flynt or Hugh Hefner for a definition of decency; why should we turn to these people to advise us on which children we may kill and when? Are they crooked? Why should we follow the crooked, when we want to walk straight? 


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