In this post, we continue our comparison of types of morally disengaged reasoning with contrasting examples of morally engaged reasoning, using excerpts from speeches from well-known contemporary politicians.
Moral disengagement: Attribution of blame/Blaming the victim: “There may be somebody with tomatoes in the audience. If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees.”
Moral engagement: Exonerating or pardoning the victim: “A kid gets caught with a few ounces of pot and goes to jail but a big bank launders drug money and no one gets arrested.”
Moral disengagement: Displacement or diffusion of responsibility: “I certainly don’t incite violence.”
Moral engagement: Moral agency/accepting responsibility: “I’m willing to throw my body in front of the bus to stop bad ideas…. We believe that no one should work fulltime and still live in poverty… and we are willing to fight for it. We will fight for it. Let me add to that we believe that fast food workers deserve a livable wage and when they take to picket lines we are proud to fight alongside of them.”
Moral disengagement: Advantageous comparisons: “I would support and endorse the use of enhanced interrogation techniques… The enemy is cutting off the heads of Christians and drowning them in cages, and yet we are too politically correct to respond in kind.”
Moral engagement: Identifying better alternatives: “”We should use our powers not to create conditions of oppression that lead to violence, but conditions of freedom that lead to peace.” (Speaker is quoting late Senator Edward Kennedy).
As you can see, many of the selected examples of morally disengaged reasoning illustrate more than one type of moral disengagement, and indeed they are tightly interrelated—as are the types of morally engaged reasoning. Think of the kinds of emotional and perhaps behavioral responses the two types of argument are likely to provoke in their listeners, particularly listeners dissatisfied with the status quo.
You probably have identified the sources of these examples of morally disengaged and morally engaged arguments—Donald Trump and Elizabeth Warren. Each of them has millions of listeners whose reasoning about issues is consistent with their messages. What are your views as to which type of thinking is more likely to lead to peace and social justice? And if you are not concerned with peace and justice, why not?