Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Moral Actions

Disclaimer: I Am Not A Philosopher.

A recent High Road thread, "What's with mock assault rifle sales for kids?", got me thinking about moral actions.

(One more time: IANAP)

Moral actions are those actions that have consequences for the actor. So, I blink, I twitch, I snore--these actions have no discernable consequences for me.

I choose to own and shoot guns. At a very basic level my choices (actions) have consequences. I am constrained by law as to the way in which I may possess them (e.g., access to those guns by others, especially children; transporting them; carrying them concealed).

On another level, the firing has a consequence (*BANG*, recoil, ejection of a fired cartridge, et cetera).

The most important consequence of gun ownership is that I must observe and obey the Four Rules: Treat all guns as if they are loaded, never point the gun at anything you do not intend to destroy, keep your booger-hooker off the bang switch and always know what's behind your target.

So my moral actions lead to behavior which is moral.

The Capital Times (Madison, WI) column mentioned above, "Rob Zaleski: What's with mock assault rifle sales for kids?" purports to find no good reason for children to have airsoft rifles which are patterned after an AR-15 or M16.

His complaints are that such a toy might be dangerous to an (un)intended target ("You could shoot someone in the eye!"), or to its user if the police mistake it for a real rifle and shoot the kid. QED, it's too dangerous and shouldn't oughta be allowed.

Mr. Zaleski is a columnist for a paper that proudly styles itself as "Wisconsin's Progressive Newspaper", so I feel safe in assuming that he is liberal in his views. I wish that I could engage him in dialogue and ask his views on teen driving and teen abortion, but I'll presume that he favors both. I will presume also that he prefer that teenagers go through Drivers' Ed and sex ed.

Driving and sex are moral actions, in that they have (or can have) consequences. Education that teaches the consequences of those actions--therefore, moral education--benefits both individuals and society.

But education is not confined to a specific time and place and subject, it can happen anywhere, at any time, from anyone. Even in play, with toy guns.

The Four Rules of safe gun handling can be learned in play, but more than just those rules is learned playing Cops and Robbers (or what have you). It may have been Kim duToit who wrote about little boys learning about morality through play of just this sort: being the good guys, rounding up the bad guys, and an enactment by the group (society) of enforcement of the rules (laws), accepted by all.

So, moral behavior can be learned and practiced through play. With boys, it'll probably be mock-violent. Eh--what are you going to do?

I do not believe that Mr. Zaleski is evil, nor that his individual actions will have evil consequences for his grandson (mentioned in the column). But I do believe that he does not feel that playing with toy guns can be morally educational.

So he won't be giving his grandson a toy gun, which is to say: "Grandson, I see no purpose in giving you such a toy. I do not feel that you can be trusted with it, and you cannot learn anything from it."

But I feel that such a toy (especially from him, the grandfather), given with the caveats of the Four Rules, could be a powerful moral experience for the child that I could weep for the loss of such an opportunity.

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