Michael Kinsey writes,
“Not every disputed institution or practice is destined to be discredited,” the Princeton philosopher Anthony Appiah wrote a couple of years ago. Looking back, he contrasted abolition (a cause that came “to represent moral common sense”) with Prohibition (a cause eventually seen as “quaint or misguided.”)
Appiah suggested three signs of a practice that seems harmless today but will seem indefensible tomorrow (or, presumably, vice versa). First, “a particular practice is destined for future condemnation” if the argument against it has been building for a while. “The case against slavery didn’t emerge in a blinding moment of moral clarity.” Second, the defenders of current practice “invoke tradition, human nature or necessity” rather than morality. Third, the defenders engage in “strategic ignorance.” We might say they are in denial about “the evils in which they’re complicit.”Sounds about right.