instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, November 06, 2006

You Kant have it both ways

Kevin Miller stoutly opposes any prudential decision regarding this year's Congressional elections other than voting Republican.

CORRECTION: Kevin corrects, "If Voter X in the 13th Congressional District in the State of Confusion is given a choice between Candidate A, a pro-abort GOPer, and Candidate B, a pro-life [or pro-abort] Dem, then I'm not going to say that X should vote for A."

When, in a comment at Catholic and Enjoying It!, I implied that my single vote does not determine any outcome, he replied with the Kant card:
... I don't think it makes a lot of sense for me to say that such-and-such is the right vote for me without saying also that it's the right vote for all pro-lifers (or at least, all pro-lifers similarly situated - say, voting in the same election).
Well, what happens if we do apply Kant's idea of universalizability -- that what's right for me is right for everyone -- to third-party (or no party) voting?

First, note that what Kant would universalize isn't merely "such-and-such is the right vote for me." That's only the final judgment, the conclusion of a reasoned argument beginning from premises known or judged to be true.

But one of the premises that has led me at times to vote for third-party candidates is essentially this: "Pretty much no one thinks the way I do." In other words, my conclusion that a third-party candidate is the right vote for me is based on the premise of non-universalization. Kant can say what he likes, the fact (in my opinion) remains that everyone won't do what I do.

But suppose they do. What then? Then everyone judges for themselves that everyone else won't do what they do, and we all do the same thing.

And so what if we do? We'd be mistaken in our premise, not immoral in our action. To argue that I ought not do what I judge I ought to do because I might misjudge would be silly (although some degree of risk analysis might be called for in some circumstances).

Kevin, though, believes bad things would happen if everyone did what everyone isn't going to do:
... it's very likely that all [pro-lifers] together, in boycotting both major party candidates, would throw the election to the pro-abort (when there is one).
Well, again, something being very likely to follow from something that won't happen doesn't carry much clout in a prudential decision.

But I think the question is being subtly begged here. By speaking in terms of pro-lifers throwing the election to the pro-abort -- or I'll just say Democrat, since Kevin is explicit in his support for the GOP -- he is suggesting that the normative case is for pro-lifers to vote for the Republican. And whether that's the case is precisely the question. (The question is begged less subtly by others who say, "If you vote third party or not at all, that's as good as voting Democratic.")

It's a question because it's by no means inarguable that the common good is best served by Republican candidates getting every pro-life vote tomorrow. In fact, it's arguable that the common good is harmed by arguing that Republicans should get every pro-life vote tomorrow.