The Seattle Seahawks and the San Fransico 49ers are bitter rivals in the NFC West division. During the regular season they played twice, each winning their game in their home stadium. With the score close and time running out, the 49ers moved to win the game with a touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree. Richard Sherman of the Seahawks narrowly prevents this and Seattle wins the game. After the play, Crabtree and Sherman (who have their own less-than-friendly history) exchanged words and Crabtree gave Sherman a shove to the face. As the game officially ended, reports rushed to Sherman to get his comments. They got more than they bargained for[video]:
Well, I'm the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you gonna get! Don't you EVER talk about me. Crabtree, don't you open your mouth about the best. Or I'm gonna shut it for you real quick.
The internet and social media erupted with much to say about this. Unfortunately, much of it was emotionally charged and less than honorable. In an effort to combat this, I propose a more rational approach. To help us, we'll bring in 18 century German philosopher Immanuel Kant and concept of the categorical imperative.
The categorical imperative states: "Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law."
It's often referred to as the philosophical version of the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do to you). An example that Kant gives in Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Moral:
A person wants to borrow money, but knows he can't repay the money back. However, he can't get the loan unless he promises to do so (a promise he can't keep). So Kant defines the maxim of this behavior as "Whenever I believe myself short of money, I will borrow money and promise to pay it back, though I know that this will never be done." Kant says that this can never be a universal law because it would lead to a complete lack of trust. In fact this could undermine the entire lending system. Therefore, he should not do this.
So what is the maxim that Richard Sherman demonstrates? Let's say the maxim would be "Whenever I feel wronged by another person and presented with the opportunity to be on national television I will choose to voice my displeasure with that person at that time."
Now we ask, "What would happen if everyone acted this way?" I think a world following this maxim would be a worse place to live. Publicly calling out others so frequently would make understanding, reconciliation, and trust much harder to accomplish. So I think Kant would be against Sherman's behavior.
What do you think? Would you apply the categorical imperative differently or use another method like utilitarianism? Whichever method you use, you'll probably benefit from slowing down to think jumping to conclusions. Be civil, that's what this is all about.