I don’t watch TV regularly, but, every now and then, I watch clips of The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. Out of the many hilarious segments this show has to offer, one that caught my attention recently is the Wheel of Impressions. Here is the clip:
I was watching this at work during a break, so I couldn’t laugh out loud (We have an open office space much like Google does) but had a huge grin on my face.
“Wow! That Johnny Carson impression was awesome!” I cheered inside.
The Michael Caine impression was also fun. I thought Kevin Spacey definitely one-upped Jimmy Fallon on this one. Would you agree?
Now, if you responded at all to my question just now, let me ask you another question:
How did you make that judgment?
Whether you think Kevin Spacey did a better job at impersonating Michael Caine or Jimmy Fallon did, you implicitly appealed to some standard outside of both of them, didn’t you? You perhaps had a mental “video clip” of Caine (something like this, perhaps?), with his accent and other idiosyncrasies, and, insofar as the impersonation by one of the two contenders conformed more closely to Caine himself, you considered him “better”. In other words, Michael Caine is the objective standard. In fact, if Caine didn’t exist, how would we go about judging whether Spacey’s impersonation was better or worse than that of Fallon?
It is the same way with morality. When we say helping the poor is good and killing Yazidis is evil, what is the standard by which we make the value judgments?
Whatever it is, you will have to pin morality on something – it has to be grounded. Otherwise, we would be hard pressed to make any sort of moral pronouncements.
In a future post, I will address which of the aforementioned candidates makes best sense of objective morality and why.