As kids, Gladwell and his brother sneaked into a neighbor’s cornfield and built a fort. His father discovered the fort, and was furious. Although they had only done about a dollar’s worth of damage to the cornfield, they had trespassed and defaced another person’s property, and therefore their actions, to their father, were immoral regardless of their consequences. “Wrong” and “harm” are separate concepts, Gladwell says, and “wrongfulness is not contingent on harmfulness.”
Gladwell argues that this is not how we make moral arguments today. Instead, we use harm as the criterion to determine whether an action is wrong.
With this distinction in mind, Gladwell returns to the question of renaming Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. The fact that a premier graduate school is named for an “unrepentant racist,” as Gladwell describes Wilson, is plainly wrong. But, instead of asking the school to acknowledge this, the protesters are attempting to prove that Wilson’s name does them harm. This, Gladwell argues, is a mistake.
- More Here