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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

Loyola-LA Legal Studies Paper No. 2008-17

19 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2008  

Theodore P. Seto

Loyola Law School Los Angeles

Abstract

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

Seto, Theodore P., 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; Loyola-LA Legal Studies Paper No. 2008-17. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1140302

Theodore P. Seto (Contact Author)

Loyola Law School Los Angeles ( email )

919 Albany Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015-1211
United States
213-736-1154 (Phone)
213-380-3769 (Fax)

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