During our walk on the Heath today I find some truly excellent Fox Poo. It is ripe, and spreads particularly well. I roll in it enthusiastically, encouraging the Owner to do the same. Instead she tempts me, by deception, into a large puddle and proceeds to throw it all over me. This somewhat dilutes the Fox Poo by adding several other interesting scents. It seems to me that it therefore improves the situation from neither of our perspectives.
The Owner sighs as the car fills with the heady scent of Fox Poo mixed with well-matured Hampstead puddle (dog poo, parrot poo, crow poo, rabbit poo and cheese and tomato pizza with just a hint of pepperoni). Why, she asks, did I have to roll in the Fox Poo? Where is the Moral Dog now?
I didn’t have to roll in it, I explain. I chose to. The Fox Poo is enticing. The Moral Dog, having Free Will, makes such choices through Moral Principles, including the knowledge that the Owner will Come Round in the End.
The Owner says she doubts it. She quotes Schopenhauer who says, the Moral Dog can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills. I did not know Schopenhauer was so knowledgeable about Moral Dogs but she says she is paraphrasing.
I say Schopenhauer sounds a bit Determinist to me. I say it is obvious that the Moral Dog had Free Will when he rolled in the Fox Poo since he had the freedom to do otherwise.
Ah, she says, but is that freedom? To have the freedom to DO otherwise is not the same as having the freedom to CHOOSE otherwise. The Moral Dog, she says, may not be as Free as he thinks. What if, in fact, it is the Fox Poo that does the choosing?
I say this makes no sense. Fox Poo, like Squeaky Cat, cannot choose, even though it can seduce, please and comfort. The only person choosing is the Moral Dog. He chooses the Fox Poo because the expression of Liberty is Morally Enhancing and because the Owner will come round to it. These, I say, are Moral Reasons.
The Owner says that the Fox Poo does not have to be able to choose in order to prevent Free Will, only to prevent the Moral Dog from choosing. She says that the Fox Poo creates both a desire to roll in it, setting in progress a chain of events involving recriminations and rose shampoo, and a desire not to roll in it, a chain of events involving the praise, encouragement and cheese that the Owner has at her disposal. The problem is, she says, that the Moral Dog will always choose the option he most desires. He does not choose the action, only decides which desire is stronger. Thus, she says sneakily, the Moral Dog who adores the Owner and the cheese would know what to do.
I observe that Moral Dog is not so easily manipulated. The Moral Dog weighs up all the many options available regarding choices and cheese, and makes the Moral Choice.
The Owner does not give up. She asks if the Moral Dog ever actually chose to be Moral? She says that how one acts is explained by one’s Moral Nature. Yet one is not responsible for one’s Moral Nature unless one chose it Morally. But choosing it Morally would require the Dog doing the choosing to already be a Moral Dog. She says this means to be a Truly Moral Dog either means to accept being Made That Way as predetermined, meaning that his choices are also predetermined, or to rely on an infinite regress of Moral Choices. One does not choose to be Moral without already being Moral.
I say I may have been Born Moral, thanks to my excellent Moral Breeding, but constantly remaining Moral is a Moral Choice. I say that it is possible to both embrace determinism (because the Moral Dog was born Moral) and Free Will (because he can decide not to be Moral at any time).
Such as, she says, deciding not to be Moral where Fox Poo is concerned.
I am wounded to the core. I say that the Moral Dog’s Moral Nature may explain his choice without predetermining it. The Moral Dog can both sense the pull of the Fox Poo and resist it where Morally Necessary.
The Owner says she will concede this point if convinced by an example – for example by the Moral Dog sensing the pull of the Fox Poo but deciding not to roll in it. She says she will be convinced that I am a truly Moral Dog if the next time we visit the glorious fox lavatory that is Hampstead Heath I refrain from rolling and instead, say, fetch the ball.
Well that’s easy, I say. I resolve that the next time we go to the Park I will do exactly that. She’ll see what a Moral Dog is.
Fine, she says.
Fine, I say.
I am so pleased to have won the Philosophical Argument.
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.