Moral Principles Are Abstracted from Moral Experience

In Two Cheers for Anarchism, James C. Scott tells the story of a community of French farmers who had, when asked in the abstract, refused to help Jewish refuges from the Nazis. But when faced with actual Jews, they hid and fed them. He concludes:
Once the individual villagers had made such a gesture, they typically became committed to helping the refuges for the duration. They were, in other words, able to draw the conclusions of their own practical gesture of solidarity -- their actual line of conduct -- and see it as the ethical thing to do. They did not enunciate a principle and then act on it. Rather, they acted, and then drew out the logic of their act. Abstract principle was the child of practical action, not its parent. -- p. 131


  1. Or they were succumbing to the need to feel consistent, regardless of induced cognitive dissonance.

  2. This is one of the reasons why I hate and mock all that bogus 'survey science' about throwing fat men in front of trains.


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