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

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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