Yesterday’s post “Is an action moral only when the motive is pure?” opened the door to discuss whether or not there is a hierarchy of morals. In the comments some began to address the following scenario (surely, one you’ve heard already):
If you lived in Nazi Germany during WWII and you had some Jews hiding in your home you would be obligated to tell the truth to some soldiers who came to your door asking if there were Jews in your home?
This question causes us to think about our views of morals. Some Christians struggle with this because it is assumed all morality comes from God. If we lie we are immoral, but it seems worse to expose someone who know will be killed unjustly. For some this will not be a problem, but can you explain why?
If you lie this is your action. If the Nazi soldiers kill the Jews it is their action. Are you vindicated or did you participate indirectly?
This is another serious matter to consider. If we say indirect participation in the immoral acts of others is still an immoral act on our part how far can we take this? If Apple or Nike abuse human rights in their factories in China and I purchase their products (this sustaining the company) do I indirectly participate in their immoral actions?
If you lie because you affirm a hierarchy of morality how did you determine that hierarchy? What makes one immoral action worse than another? If there is a hierarchy do we describe it by means of “the lesser evil” admitting we did “evil” (e.g. lying) or “the greater good” meaning that the act of exposing someone to their unjust fate causes the lie to become “good” because we did the greater action of saving a life?
So let’s address these questions:
(1) Do you affirm a hierarchy of morals or do you find all morals to have equal weight?
(2) Based on your answer how you would respond to the above hypothetical situation?
(3) If you affirm a hierarchy how to you determine what is the “lesser evil”?