Thursday, August 06, 2020

It's Not Hard to Be Morally Excellent; You Just Choose Not To Be So

In my chat last week with Ray Briggs and Joshua Landy at Philosophy Talk (on the "ethical jerk"), I mentioned in passing that I think it isn't hard to be morally excellent, if we want to be.  Most of us simply choose not to be.  I've said this in passing in blog posts and published works (e.g., in my article "Aiming for Moral Mediocrity"), but I don't think I've ever made it the central topic of a post.

In this line of thinking, I have been influenced by ancient Chinese Confucianism.

Is goodness really so far away?  If I simply desire goodness, I will find that it is already here (Kongzi, Analects, 7.30, Slingerland, trans., capitalization revised).

"Pick up Mount Tai and leap over the North Sea."  If you say, "I cannot," this is truly not being able.  "Massage the stiff joints of an elderly person."  If you say, "I cannot," this is not acting; it is not a case of not being able.  So Your Majesty's not being a [good] king is not in the category of picking up Mount Tai and leaping over the North Sea.  Your Majesty's not being a [good] king is in the category of massaging the stiff joints of an elderly person." (Mengzi, 1A7, Van Norden, trans., brackets added).

I find it surprising that so many people seem to disagree.  Maybe we're primed to disagree because it's a convenient excuse for our moral mediocrity.  "Gosh," you say, "I do sure wish I could be morally excellent.  But it's so hard!  So see, I'm not really to blame for being morally so-so."

I think most of us can agree that giving time or money to a worthy cause would be morally good.  And most of you, my readers, I assume, are affluent by global standards in the sense that you can afford luxuries like paying $8 for a lunch or subscribing to multiple video or music streaming services.  Even if you really don't have a few spare dollars for a good cause -- or even if you are (conveniently!) suspicious about finding any worthy charities -- unless you are on the very precipice of ruin or spread very thin with caretaking duties, you could probably find some ways to be more helpful to others.  Surely there is some person or organization you know that could really benefit from your help, or from some small or large kindness.

You want to be morally better?  Easy!  Donate some money, skipping a luxury or two if necessary.  Or find a little time to help someone who needs it.  And that's the just the start -- two easy things right off the top of my head that almost anyone can do.  With a little thought, I'm sure you could think of lots of morally good things to do that you aren't doing.

Instead, if you're like most of us, you choose to do other things.  You watch videos or play computer games or scroll through Twitter.  You spend some extra time and money having yourself a delicious instead of a simple lunch.  You save your money for some luxury you want -- a beautiful shirt, a hardback novel, or just the pleasure and security of having a large bank account.  You flake, you run late, you disappoint someone, you don't quite carry your load in something today, because it's not convenient.  You buy products from companies with bad practices, supporting those practices, simply because you like the products better or they're a little less expensive.

What's actually hard?  Well, many people find advanced calculus hard.  They try and try, but they just can't get the knack.  Also, many people find it hard to climb steep boulder faces.  They can't stretch their toes to the right spots, keep their finger grip on the little ridges, and pull themselves up.  I will never scale El Capitan, and no doggedness of will is going to change that.

Morality isn't hard like calculus and rock climbing are hard.  In fact, it's almost the opposite.  Just trying to do it typically gets you at least halfway there!  ("Is goodness really so far away?")  You might try and fail to be helpful; but even if you try, that's already (usually) morally better than not trying at all.  You might try to give money to a good cause and get scammed instead, doing more harm that good -- but that's not so common, I think, and again even the trying is admirable.  It's not that we try and fail to be morally excellent.  Not usually.  It's that we don't try.

Many people find dieting hard.  Dieting is hard in a somewhat different way than rock climbing and advanced calculus.  If you really try not to eat that chocolate bar, it's not going to jump into your mouth.  Gravity won't pull it into you the same way gravity will pull you off the face of El Capitan.  Still, there's something painful about resisting that chocolate bar, as it's calling to you.  And more generally there's something painful about the slow, steady hunger of dieting.  For most of us (not all of us), although we could lose a few pounds if we set to it, in a way that we could not climb El Capitan, there nonetheless a sense in which dieting is difficult.

But morality isn't even hard like dieting is hard -- not usually.  If you're a real miser or if you are genuinely impoverished, donating $25 to save the sight of someone with trachoma might feel as emotionally painful as resisting your favorite dish when you are acutely hungry.  Or if you're bursting with anger at someone, it might be emotionally hard to swallow that anger and act kindly.  But moderate moral improvement doesn't typically require such uncomfortable choices.  Unless your situation is unusual, it wouldn't ache your gut to be more helpful to your elderly parents, or to pause to express appreciation to a secretary, or to drive a somewhat less expensive car and give the money to your favorite good cause.  It might even feel good.

Not being morally excellent is more like choosing not to walk ten miles down the road to the next town (if you are someone with typical walking ability and decent shoes).  You could walk that ten miles.  It would take a few hours, but it wouldn't be difficult.  It's just that you don't want to do it, because you have other priorities for your time and resources.

To be clear: When I say it's not hard to be morally excellent, I'm not thinking of extreme of self-sacrificial sainthood.  Just consider a few of the morally best people you personally know, people you admire for their integrity, their generosity, their kindness.  Just ordinary people, though ones you recognize to be somewhat morally better than you are -- not unreachable saints.  My father-in-law is one such person.  (Or are you already the morally best person you know?)

You could be like those morally excellent ordinary people if you wanted to be, just like you could walk ten miles to the next town a few times a week if you wanted to.  You just choose not to be as morally good as that, because you prefer other things.

You might still want to be morally excellent in the following thin sense.  You'd like to be morally excellent if you could be morally excellent without paying the costs of moral excellence.  This is the same sense of wanting in which the lackadaisical student might want an A, if she could have one with no effort.  Of course all students want As in that sense!  Such half-hearted wanting is cheap.  There's little moral worth in the desiring of free goods and virtues for yourself.  "I'd love to be honest, if I could be so without losing the benefits that come with lying."  Sure, same for all of us.  That's not seriously wanting something.  Serious wanting involves willingness to prioritize that thing over other things you also care about.

It is not hard to be morally excellent.  It's as simple and easy as massaging an elder's joints.  You simply prefer not to.

23 comments:

Unknown said...

Couldn't you have picked two miles? Come on!

Anonymous said...

Not at all convinced.

Here is a fact that I think is universally accepted: The world is morally horrible.

If that is right, anyone who is morally excellent is going to have to dedicate their lives to improving it, e.g. by an earn-to-give career or a life in charity or politics. This is because being morally excellent conceptually has to entail trying to ameliorate moral horrors insofar as they exist, or else it is far too weak a concept to plausibly be called "excellence." You don't call someone excellent unless they are very good, and in this world, being very good is going to have to involve ameliorating moral horror.

However, even then a morally excellent person would probably not be fully perfect because there is still so much suffering and so many violations in the world that they in one way or another will contribute to. Almost everything is morally tainted, but moral excellence plausibly requires that your actions in general lack moral taint. But that, too, seems very hard to avoid.

Ameliorating moral horror and avoiding moral taint are therefore nothing at all like losing weight. Insofar as you strive for excellence, morality seems more like a bottomless pit of failure.

Brandon said...

Morality isn't hard like calculus and rock climbing are hard. In fact, it's almost the opposite. Just trying to do it typically gets you at least halfway there! ("Is goodness really so far away?") You might try and fail to be helpful; but even if you try, that's already (usually) morally better than not trying at all.

This particular argument seems a very bad one for your purposes, since this is not a point at which there is any opposition: trying and failing to do something already (usually) gets you closer to doing almost anything well than not trying at all. There are very few calculus teachers who will respond to a struggling student by saying, "You'll be better at calculus if you stop trying," and more than a few who would say that, however difficult calculus might be, if you keep trying that you are 'already halfway there'. That trying gets you halfway there, that well begun is half done, is a common expression used in teaching (and doing) almost everything that's very difficult; all it means is that, while not easy (hence the 'halfway'), it is not impossible. That there are many people who try and try but never get advanced calculus is debatable -- while there's no doubt a lot of trying involved, I don't think it's the general experience of calculus teachers that students who genuinely try and try never get it -- but even if you failed completely, you almost certainly get closer by trying than you ever would by not trying.

There's a kind of weird slip all the way through your argument. You start out claiming that it is easy to be morally excellent, but what you then go on to argue is that it is easy to do certain specific morally good things, then that these specific morally good things will make you morally better, then that it is easy to get halfway to morally good, then that it is easy to do some common moral things if your situation isn't unusual, then you end by saying it is easy to be morally excellent if you really want it so badly that you endure all the difficulties. None of these are equivalent to each other. What you argue in the middle of your post is not that it is easy to be morally excellent but that some things that you might do if you were trying to be at least halfway morally good are easy, which is an extremely weak claim. (It is also, I think, not controversial, since it is a recurring finding in psychology that most people, regardless of how they live their lives, think they are already at least halfway morally good.) What you need to establish to get your original claim is that everything you need to do to be morally excellent is easy.

Howie said...

It is easy to chose to do goof things, but to dedicate your life to goodness is another. I think that's the crux of the present controversy.
A Rabbi might say it takes studying the Torah all day and to long for God- to switch to Jesus, he was superlatively overflowing with robes of goodness- I think people coming from a Christian culture might be hearing when you say 'good' 'not be s sinner."

Arnold said...

...cognitive dissonance (theory) compared with self-perfection theory...

https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/.../self-perception-theory...

..my view...this may produce neutrality...for self observation...

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks for the comments, folks!

Brandon: Thanks for the helpful pushback against the structure of the argument. On the halfway point, maybe I should have aimed for more precision -- though in another sense, these aren't ideas that easily lend themselves to mathematical precision. Trying to climb El Capitan will not get me even close to halfway up. A weak student trying to solve a difficult triple integral will not likely get halfway toward a solution. Even repeated trying probably won't help that much. Trying to help someone, in contrast, usually gets you well over halfway toward being as morally good as successfully helping -- basically all the way there, minus caveats about moral luck. So I still think there's a substantial contrast, even if my language was vague.

On moral improvement vs moral excellence: You are right that the examples really concern moral improvement, and I don't clarify what exactly is required for moral excellence. The implicit premise is that a moderate number of such improving moral choices or actions will be sufficient for moral excellence in most cases. This is perhaps implicit in my comparison to walking 10 miles a few times a week. The amount of effort and sacrifice involved in adding that to one's life is probably, for most people, sufficient (I suspect more than sufficient) for moral excellence by father-in-law as oppose to saint standards.

Howie said...

You treat the moral life as an accumulation of discrete behaviors and you further downplay how such behavior isn't always rewarded- if you treat morality as specific behaviors you ignore the fact that in all the situations of our lives only certain behaviors are possible- the example that comes to mind is that I can support a charity for starving people in less fortunate countries (and I say that in part ironically) but I can't change the way of the world by means of the discrete behavior allowable by the way the world is given to me- we can think of other examples- moreover as immoral states of affairs are protected by vested interests of powerful people, it would be severely punished- if we took morality that seriously wouldn't we would face existential choices at every juncture. I mean people do a few nice things everyday and they feel nice about themselves- I do that too, but do we do anything other than make ourselves feel good?
Why are you so bullish or even Polyannish about this?
Sometimes I agree with you but reality isn't always in our corner, though yes, we must fight

Anonymous said...

Speaking from my own experience, I find the point made in this post pretty convincing. It pains me to admit this but yeah, I am fully aware that I am spending 50 bucks for a new video game that I might not even play for more than 20 hours, when I can donate that money to fix the roof of some people whose house was devastated by the explosion in Beirut. I choose not to do that, no one compels me and I am not suffering from some kind of ignorance or mental problem which compromises my ability of making a voluntary decision. It is possible that my experience is not representative at all of the general population, but I doubt that this the case.

But I am also surprised to see that there are some substantial push backs on this point. Few of us today believe in Plato's story of how justice is the best for you; and in that case, why should we expect human beings in general value being morally good more than they value, say, their own comfort and welfare? But then, if the opposite is the case, then it is only natural that we find people in general choose not to be morally excellent. And this seems like a better explanation of people's behavior than the "too hard to be moral" theory.

Callan said...

Hello Eric,

I think most people would say 'it's too hard' as a way of avoiding cutting to the nub of it and saying 'Ok, that's your idea of good. I don't actually have to live up to your idea to be good at all'.

Self care is good (one kind of good). It is looking after at least one person. What we have in society is a sort of boundary crossing culture treats how it thinks as how the other person must, but is failing to live up to 'how they think'.

Something being not hard is not somehow a reason to do something - that is instead the boundary crossing culture saying 'Do the thing I want you to do, because I feel you aught to already because I very much feel it'.

Many people just haven't developed a compass on what is good, so they sort of meander and indulge themselves. But is it good to rush in and try and insist on ones own moral compass as being the one they might begin to right themselves to? Perhaps they could develop their own moral compass. Perhaps it could even be a better moral compass than your own?

'You just choose not to be so' gets to be like 'when did you stop beating your wife?' - it's forces a particular answer, by forcing a baseline into the other persons mouth as if it must be the case. Doesn't sound good to me!

NChen said...

Perhaps those who think it is very hard mean that it is hard to have the first order desire (want) to be morally excellent while the secondary meta desire is there?

My initial thought is that it would be easier, much easier to self cultivate (or just naturally develop) a primary first order desire in people if the culture they live in values moral excellence. So in a sense Confucius was right. But if the culture doesn't value it much relative to other things e.g., then it is very hard for people to want to be good on a palpable level. They will merely have an abstract, secondary desire to be good and this would make being good very hard. So in this sense they are correct.

Chris McVey said...

I am terribly torn about this post. On one hand, I very much agree with you! I am often blown away by the rationalizations people make for not being morally better and often think to myself "no, don't give me that! You just don't want to!" when confronted with people's excuses. For instance, I can't tell you the number of times I have had people tell me they can't be vegan because they "could never give up X". Sure you could, you just don't want to. Which is totally fine with me, by the way, but the odd rationalization of being "unable to" has always struck me as odd.

On the other hand, I think you may be vastly overestimating the amount of control the average person has over their own actions. For example, to piggy back on NChen's comment, it is insanely difficult for many people to go against social norms. If there isn't a culture of giving in a person's immediate social space, then not only might it not even occur to that person to give, but the suggestion might strike them as odd. Why would they give? That would be weird! They don't want to be weird. It can be difficult for many to bring themselves to do something outside of what they perceive the social norm to be.

Independent of social norms, though, our behavior is governed by all sorts of other factors that often make it difficult to do something we aren't disposed to do (for whatever reason). In this way, I think being moral is exactly like dieting. In the sense of knowing what you have to do, losing weight is very, very easy. You simply eat fewer calories than you bring in. So, you eat less and move more. Easy. But the knowing what to do isn't what people are referring to when they say dieting is hard. They are referring to the doing. Similarly, I don't think that many people who say that being moral is hard are referring to the "knowing what to do" portion of the equation. They more or less know what they have to (give more, be less selfish, help people, etc.). It is the doing part they are referring to, just like with dieting.

So, there is disconnect that I feel is happening in this post. At times I feel like the "difficulty" you refer to is the knowing portion of the equation and at other times you slide over to the "doing" portion of the equation. The choosing to do it just IS the hard part of being moral. And that is, for many people, ACTUALLY hard to do. To point out that it's actually easy by pointing to the "knowing" how to be moral is to miss the point entirely, I think. In the same way that to say to the person struggling to lose weight "Losing weight is so easy, just eat less!" is really missing the point as well.

ALL that being said, I do still get upset when people tell me they can't be vegan because they could never give up cheese...

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks for the continuing comments, folks!

Howie: I think you might be thinking of something closer to saintlike morality rather than ordinary moral excellence of the "father-in-law" type, so to speak. Powerful interests don't crush the ordinary morally excellent people in our lives (usually).

Callan: I mean by one's own standards, not my standards -- assuming that we're talking about authentic standards rather than toxic rationalizations. (This connects with another substantive, Mengzian commitment of mine, which is that basically every adult raised in a moderately normal, healthy environment has a basic and approximately shared sense of what's good and bad, right and wrong.)

NChen: It's an interesting -- and different -- question whether it's hard to *want* to be good. I'm not sure our usual thoughts about difficulty vs ease apply in a straightforward way to the case of changing desires, except perhaps in cases of addiction and biological drives and desires that have that type of force behind them. I would suggest this: If we *wanted* to want to be moral, then we could try to do the kinds of things that we do when we aim to change our desires -- reminding ourselves of the value of it, putting ourselves on the hook with specific plans, setting up social situations of a certain sort, etc. But how many people do this, in any serious way? If we try that in a serious way and then fail -- like we sometimes do with dieting or shaking addictions, then I'm ready to concede that the project is difficult. (Ah, but you say, we don't engage in such a project because it's hard to want to want to be moral?)

Chris: I agree it's about the doing, not the knowing. I hope I'm not sliding between the two. That the knowing is easy is meant to be more or less a background assumption of the post. Although saintlike morality might require violating social norms, I'm not convinced that "father-in-law" type morality does. Privately donating money, being kind, being generous with your time -- this doesn't make one stand out at strange. Even vegetarianism is increasingly not seen as socially strange (at least in many circles). I would agree that morality is hard in the way the dieting is hard if it were acutely painful or unpleasant to do things like donate money, spend time helping your elderly parents, or fulfill your obligations in team tasks. *Sometimes* it is, for some people! Hence the example of the miser and the angry person not wanting to be kind. But for the most part, I doubt that the kinds of actions necessary for father-in-law level moral excellent do involve dieting-like discomfort.

Howie said...

Fair enough
Off the top of my head, I'd observe that every now and then moral heroism if not saintliness is required and we may be in such a moment
Secondly, the moral excellence you here advocate might have more in common with making the honor society in high school than an Aristotelian kind of excellence
Thirdly, how is moral excellence related to overall thriving and excellence and finally, for now, your version of moral excellence seems to involve going a little above the give and take of everyday life in a world based on exchange, rather than advocating for if not saintly then heroic achievements.
The Milgram experiments show the limitations of everyday moral excellence when confronted with radical evil and every day authority gone stray

Autumnal Harvest said...

The analogy to dieting is useful, but I think your examples show that being morally excellent is difficult in a similar way to dieting. I agree it's not hard to give $25 to a trachoma charity, but contrary to what you say, I don't think it's usually particularly difficult to forego eating a single candy bar. What's difficult is to make the choice, day after day, to not eat candy bars. Similarly, I think most people would be surprised if you said "Bob is morally excellent, because a few years ago, he gave $25 to a trachoma charity." I think most people would say that for Bob to be "morally excellent" he needs to have a commitment to perform acts like that on a regular basis, just like for me to be "dieting," I need to have a commitment to regularly pass up candy bars.

Similarly, when I think of "a few of the morally best people [I] personally know," it's true that I can do what they do. These morally good people might regularly take time out of busy and stressful days to help a friend. But not only can I do that, I have done that. It's not like I'm a monster who can't think of specific instances where I've been busy and stressed, yet took time to help a friend. What separates me from these morally best people, is that they're able/willing to do it on a regular basis, and I'm not.

You say that you're not talking "extreme ... self-sacrificial sainthood," but once we acknowledge that we need to think about regular behavior, and not just specific acts, then we see that what you're saying does lead to a slippery slope of sainthood. It's not hard to massage an elder's joints. But when you're done, surely it's not hard after that to give $25 to a trachoma charity. And then after that to spend an hour volunteering at a local charity. And then after that to give $50 to a refugee charity, etc... Each of those acts is easy, but cumulatively, they lead to sainthood. Better to nip th slippery slope to sainthood in the bud, and not help anyone at all!

NChen said...

There's another point/assumption I don't fully agree with. I don't think the things you've listed (donating to worthy charities, etc) are sufficient to be a good person especially in these modern times. Just as important if not more so I believe epistemic virtues are also necessary to be a good person. But in this case, it really is hard to be good. Two epistemic virtues are withholding judgment till evidence is presented and changing one's views when contrary evidence is presented. These require a level of emotion regulation, I think.

But people often experience contrary or just surprising new evidence as mental pain, discomfort, or anguish. Overcoming that takes character that most do not currently posses. Critical thinking skills can also take a while to develop and may require lots of effort and skills that are difficult for many (it would help to have a capacious memory, natural logical thinking skills, etc) as well as personality certain traits many do not possess and would require a change in sensibilities. I'm thinking of a skeptical attitude, self esteem, and curiosity.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

NChen: Interesting thought. I'm not sure how hard it is to be moderately open-minded or epistemically cautious if one wants to be (with some exceptions where feelings run high). Maybe it is. I would find it more convincing if it seemed like people with the vices of rashness or close-mindedness were taking steps to avoid those vices but failing, as one might with dieting. Of course, having the self-knowledge to be aware that one has those vices is itself a challenge of a different sort.

The Related Public said...

Hi Prof. Schwitzgebel,

Thanks for the post. I'm not sure I'm convinced that being morally excellent is easy once you recognize a distinction between what we can call normative etiquette vs. morality.

It is good manners for me to take off my shoes when I walk into someone's home, perhaps, but its not a moral issue. It would at most be rude not to take off my shoes, but not wrong. Surely it would be weird if someone expressed *resentment* toward me for leaving my shoes on.

Similarly, things like donating to charity strike me as good etiquette as a "priviledged person." It doesn't take much -- like etiquette -- and you'd just be considered kind of an asshole for not doing it.

Morality, on the other hand, is much more difficult, and these sorts of decisions come up in cases like the obedience to authority experiments of Milgram (shock studies), Darley and Batson (good samaritan), and Zimbardo (stanford prison).

These were cases where everyone -- prior to experimentation -- thought that subjects would certainly do the right thing. Yet, most people obeyed authority and either were willing to cause harm to another person or fail to relieve a person. Failing in the way they did brought them great distress and shame (unlike what happens when people fail to give to charity).

So there is a sense in which it was easy to do the right thing -- all one need do is walk out of the experiment! But there is another sense in which it clearly *wasn't* easy to do the right thing -- statistics show that most people didn't, in fact, make the right choice!

I'm worried that once one recognizes normative etiquette vs morality your cases of being better about etiquette just actually don't make you a better person, morally, they just mean you have good manners, and are improving on them.

Howie said...

Dear Eric:

Might our apparent disagreement boil down to a definition of moral excellence?
By some valid measures sure, moral excellence is achievable. Let's say moral excellence means living in harmony or being mindful of others- a view derived I think from eastern traditions- it amounts to seeing things differently and upbringing and awareness- other traditions, I can think of the Rabbinic, view being just as requiring a god like understanding of life and a constant struggle. I would guess that some kinds of moral excellence require painstaking struggle. There are more ways to define our moral excellence than Plato had to define justice. There's a tradition that worthwhile things require effort and that there are always things that come up as obstacles to our well intended projects and plans.
Compare moral excellence with artistic excellence and you see my point

Callan said...

Hello Eric,

"I mean by one's own standards, not my standards -- assuming that we're talking about authentic standards rather than toxic rationalizations."

Yes, but who is raising the question of whether the person is using authentic standards or rationalizations - yourself or the person?

If it's the person who judges it and they are actually using toxic rationalizations, they'll say they are using authentic standards. So where does the argument of 'You don't want to' go then?

And for people who will actually consider 'You don't want to?', what if in general they are only considering that because they avoid toxic rationalisations and thus they are for the most part using authentic standards? So they are meeting their standards already. Does the argument only challenge those who don't need to be challenged?

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks for the continuing comments, folks!

Related Public: I'm not sure I'd draw the line between morality and etiquette that you are drawing, and to the extent I did draw it, I wouldn't consider giving time and resources to be on the etiquette side -- so I think we might be starting in pretty different places. The Milgram experiment is an interesting example, though! You are surely right that it is in a sense easy but in another sense difficult to do the right thing in that experiment. There are surely many moral cases like that. But it's a further argument that Milgram easy/hard is the *typical* case of moral failure and that moral excellence requires doing Milgram-difficult things. I don't think, for example, that my father in law does a lot that is unconventional or defiant of authority. On the contrary, he is very much a good citizen in line with the norms and expectations of his community, who seems to get along well with everyone.

Howie: Yes, maybe that's the source of our disagreement. I have a lower bar than that for moral excellence.

Callan: I agree that what counts as "one's own standards" gets tricky in cases of toxic rationalization if we want to think of toxic rationalization as a type of violation of one's own standards. I do think that we can start to get at it with hypotheticals, though, at least imperfectly: What would the person's standards be if they saw *someone else* doing the thing that they so happily excuse in themselves?

Callan said...

Eric, how does it tie into the title of your post if their genuine answer is 'I'm fine with someone else doing the same thing I did'? Are they then choosing not to be morally excellent, or are they fine with what they do and are choosing to not call it morally excellent?

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Callan: Maybe both! One can choose to be mediocre in something and be okay with mediocrity in that domain, and also okay with others being similarly mediocre. The universalizability test might be more plausible as a test for decency than excellence.

Callan said...

Eric,I'm not sure it must then be a choice to be morally mediocre.