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Syeda Jakera Phil1104

Syeda Jakera
Paul Bloomfield
Phil 1104-014D
Word Count: 1050
Thinking About One’s Enemies Can Persuade One to Act Morally
The paper explains the arguments given by Butler and Rawls on thinking about one’s
worst enemies in acting morally. Morality has always played an important role in defining
ethical behaviors. Acting in a moral way is crucial in order to construct a fair or an unbiased
judgment under given circumstances or against others. In the concept of acting morally and
ways, people can ensure that they are being fair and just in a given situation, American
philosophers Joseph Butler and John Rawls, have proposed that it is practical to think about
one’s worst enemies. Through their theories of how one should structure themselves and society
both demonstrate that people tend to be more unbiased or open-minded in situations that affect
them in some way. So, in order to get people to think more equitably, it is helpful to get them to
see the situation involving themselves under the light of their worst enemies.
Joseph Butler is a philosopher best known for his criticism of self-deception theories. In
the idea of how people can avoid immorality, Butler dedicated three of his Sermons to explaining
issues concerning self-deception. Butler viewed self-deception as one of the significant moral
issues. This is because self-deception leads people to take part in unjust, unfair judgment or
actions against others. Butler states, people are often self-deceived even when they think they are
doing the right or moral thing, in fact, when people believe they are doing what is morally right,
they are usually always self-deceived and recognize their self-deception following a later
reflection of their actions. Butler argues that people are prone to self-deception and this is mostly
caused by a lack of reflection, absence of mistrust, and due to this people tend to believe that
everything is okay and trust themselves and their choices even when things are not okay. Lastly,
self-deception is caused by self-partiality; treating themselves as an exception. Based on Butler,
there are many ways of detecting self-deception that can prevent people from wrongfully judging
someone or a situation. One-way Butler suggests that can be helpful for people in recognizing
when they are being self-deceived is by thinking of one’s worst enemy. Whose strongest desire is
to ruin one’s life or destroy one’s reputation. In this scenario Butler wants people to think of
things about themselves that they would least want their enemy to know about; something that
genuinely makes one feel guilty, ashamed or embarrassed of themselves. This is what Butler says
is one of the causes of self-deception, if one is guilty of such, in this situation Butler encourages
that in order to be moral one should refrain from continuing to take part in such actions that
make one feel ashamed or guilty. Similar to this, John Rawls also proposes the idea of thinking
about one’s enemies in order to act in a fair or just way in society.
John Rawls is an American philosopher who spoke on being fair and just. Rawls is best
known for his theory of justice as fairness, which strives to explain how society should be
structured in a way that represents justice, which allows for imperfections within the system to
correct themselves. Rawls talks about justice as a virtue of social institutions: governments,
organizations, departments, etc. Rawls theory of justice aims to establish a system that ensures a
fair distribution of social goods. Per Rawls, it is required for this system to initiate an institution
that delivers primary social goods according to the principles of justice. In an argument for the
principles of Justice Rawls suggest that when thinking about how to structure society according
to the principles of justice, one should think about their worst enemy having the most power
within the system. If one believes that their worst enemy would put them in the worst position
possible, how would one want the society to be structured so that it allows them to have the most
opportunities. In thinking this way Rawls believes it will persuade people to see things in a
different light. People are willing to be more open to structuring a more fair and just society if it
involves them in some way.
Given these points, it can be perceived as that, both; John Rawls and Joseph Butler felt
that the best and the most helpful way to get people to act morally is to get them to think about
their worst enemies. Although both arguments were used for different situations such as Rawls
argument was made to help structure a fair and just society and Butler’s argument was made to
recognize self-deception in terms of being moral, they both suggest thinking about one’s worst
enemies can encourage one to act or judge a situation morally. People tend to centralize
themselves and show true concerns for situations that involve them. In those situations that
involves oneself, one tends to have a more unbiased or fair judgment. By suggesting that people
should think about their worst enemies, Rawls and Butler are forcing people to get out of their
heads and stop centralizing themselves, which allows them to judge or react to a given situation
under an equitable or virtuous light.
As a final point, thinking about one’s enemy is helpful in a way that it brings out
concerns and fear in oneself of unfair or unjust acts being done on themselves by their worst
enemies. And not to mention, Butler explains that people always want to see themselves under a
positive light, people tend to act or react in ways that are beneficial to them in some way.
Keeping this in mind, by making people imagine a world where one’s worst enemy has all the
right information to ruin one’s reputation to the power to deprive one of their fair opportunities
in society, which arises concerns within oneself, as a result, Rawls and Butler say that it can
encourage one to behave in a moral way and act equitably when initiating the structure of society
to give one’s enemy the minimum power and a fair opportunity for all. So, in order to get people
to act n a just or fairway, it is helpful to get them to see the situation involving themselves under
the light of their worst enemies.