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What does it mean to sanction evil? What kind of actions count as sanction and which don't?

asked Sep 23 '10 at 22:45

Publius's gravatar image

Publius ♦

The definition Objectivists use for sanction is the same as everyone else uses, namely that sanction means to authorize, approve, or allow. It can be explicit, or implicit, and is a corollary of ones judgment.

In relation to moral judgement Ayn Rand said “The moral principle to adopt in this issue, is: “Judge, and be prepared to be judged.””. In as far as all actions either further ones life or are a detriment to it, all actions are either moral (life affirming) or immoral (destructive) in varying degrees and depending on circumstances. This is where sanction becomes a concept of note within Objectivism.

To actively or willingly support in word and/or deed a cause and to willingly and knowingly support an organization is to implicitly sanction their actions and motivations. This sort of sanction needs no clarification and can be either good or bad depending on what one is sanctioning. For purposes of the question, the racist who supports the KKK with his money, his time and his actions is explicitly sanctioning evil and according to Objectivist morality should be judged accordingly.

A second concept of sanction for Objectivists is when a person temporarily abstains from judging a situation, or allows him/herself to tacitly or reluctantly participate in, a situation in which he/she has already at least implicitly recognized -if not completely acknowledged- the wrong being perpetrated. This kind of sanction usually occurs when the person is being pressured by some contradiction within his/her own premises, is acting in an altruistic manner and/or in opposition to his/her own rational self-interest out of fear or some need to conform to established norms.

This sanction is a temporary condition. So long as the person is still trying to resolve the contradiction or conflict, this sort of sanction is merely an error in thinking to be resolved as one acquires more knowledge or works through the contradiction using a rational deductive process. Such a person should be helped to see the contradictions in his/her thinking.

The last concept of sanction of evil occurs when a person has recognized that there is some element of evil at work within a situation or idea but that person refuses to think, or to reason his/her way to a rational, moral, non-contradictory position. The person who refuses to judge has abdicated his moral responsibility to think/act in his own self-interest. This is one of the greatest evils, to refuse to think. With regard to a contradiction involving evil, the person who will not think has committed an evil very nearly as great as the person who explicitly endorses the evil itself.

answered Sep 26 '10 at 12:41

Martin%20Gasser's gravatar image

Martin Gasser ♦

I'd like to add a valuable synonym to "sanction": "condone". To condone something is to permit it, without protest.

In Objectivism, it's a matter of justice to recognize evil as such and treat it appropriately. For a simple example, if you see a good friend starting to develop a heroin habit, it would be immoral not to call him on it, and instead to simply allow him to become a junkie without talking to him about it.

(Oct 08 '10 at 23:42) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

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Asked: Sep 23 '10 at 22:45

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Last updated: Oct 08 '10 at 23:42