Is Book-Burning Bad?
AT THE INTERFACE/PROBING THE BOUNDARIES; PROCEEDINGS OF THE SECOND ANNUAL CONFERENCE ON EVIL, LAW, AND THE STATE, Inter-Disciplinary Press, Forthcoming
19 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2008
We commonly assert that we should be good and should not be bad. But we also say that we should - respect the rule of law, equality, liberty, democracy, and the like. Ideally, a general theory of normativity would explain all shoulds and shouldn'ts, both moral and political, in common terms. For the most part, however, contemporary ethical theories are more limited in scope. I have previously proposed a theory of normativity founded in cultural evolutionary theory and used it to explain why we are motivated to be "good." In this paper, I apply the same theory to the problem of book-burning - not commonly viewed as a moral issue. The theory predicts that behaviors should be normative if they are nonobviously adaptive. The paper concludes that a diversity of books, including "wrong," disharmonizing, and perhaps even "bad" books, should facilitate rapid adaptive evolutionary change. It should therefore be maladaptive - for nonobvious reasons - for cultures to burn books. In short, book-burning is bad.
Keywords: ethics, deontology, consequentialism, liberty, cultural genocide
JEL Classification: O33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation