Do Body Counts Determine Morality?

Orli writes on Facebook: Sanders may be a decent man, but psychological research in moral development shows us that using only a body count to determine morality, reeks of moral confusion at best, and is immoral at worst. Decades of research in the hierarchy of moral judgments show us that most children before the age of six are not able to include intention in their moral judgments. It is only as brain development proceeds, that children are able to. Even outside the field of psychology, moral systems across the world view the concept of intentionality as so fundamental that nearly all legal systems in the world may reduce, or completely excuse, punishment for harm that was unintentional. This is not a minor point; it is fundamental.
Hamas officials have admitted to using their citizens as human shields, and they have admitted to purposefully targeting Israeli civilians when they fire missiles into Israel. On the other hand, a report submitted to the UN by a multi-national group of former generals and chief of staffs found that “Israel not only met a reasonable international standard of observance of the laws of armed conflict, but in many cases significantly exceeded that standard.”They wrote that “in some cases Israel’s scrupulous adherence to the laws of war cost Israeli soldiers’ and civilians’ lives.” (The UN Human Rights Council, led by Saudi Arabia and containing some of the world’s most egregious human rights violators, necessarily ignores these reports and continues to blame Israel.) So if one wants to use a standard of moral judgment devoid of intentionality, a standard that children less than six years of age primarily use, Israel is to blame for it’s citizens lower body count.
Furthermore, if we are going to regress to measures of moral judgment that are used by children less than six, then we must acknowledge two things. First, in this crude measure, countries will be judged as more moral if they allow an increase in killings of their own citizens. If Israel did not spend millions of dollars in bomb shelters and let their citizens be killed by the tens of thousands of rockets fired upon them, then Israel would be more moral. Second, if we are to regress to these low levels of moral judgment, we must also reassess our history and proclaim that we were more immoral than the Nazis in any battle where we killed more Germans than they killed Americans, and we must now cease from buying and designing any shields that protect our citizens, so that we can go to our graves insuring we had the higher moral ground.
If we apply a kindergarten level of moral judgments, an assessment that only looks at body count and not intention, we will collapse as a civilization. That’s where the moral judgments of five year olds will take us.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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