Anyone who has seen the House of Cards knows that Frank Underwood is a thoroughly nasty piece of work; he kills people who get in his way; he throws them in front of trains; locks them in gas-filled cars; he lies, cheats and kills his way to the top.
Doubtlessly Frank Underwood is a pretty horrible sort of person. But does Frank Underwood have any reason to be more moral?
One approach is to argue that Frank Underwood has a reason to be moral because being moral is rational. Of any action you should consider whether everyone else in the world could act in this way and if the answer is no, it is irrational to do it. So when he throws Zoe Barnes in front of the train, Frank is being irrational; if he were to think correctly he would realise that he could not condone everyone throwing people in front of trains.
Such a view is Kantian and argues that being moral and being rational are closely related and given that people have a reason to be rational, Frank Underwood certainly has a reason to be moral.
The problem with this view is that it doesn’t seem that Underwood is irrational. One of the most alarming things about Frank Underwood is the calm and rationality that goes into his actions. He is cool, calculated and rational in his horrible actions, and it seems philososlothically heroic to argue that he is being irrational.
Another way of arguing that Frank Underwood has a reason to be moral is to argue that his actions somehow impair him as a human. The fact that it is wrong to kill another person gives Frank Underwood a reason not to push Zoe Barnes in front of the train. He violates his human nature by doing this because it goes against what it is to be a human.
This view seems more promising, however, again, there is a problem: Frank Underwood does very well for himself. He has reached the pinnacle of power, and his evil actions have helped him make it to the very top. It doesn’t seem that damaging his humanity is providing him with any incentive to be more moral.
This comes back to the age old problem: Why do good things happen to bad people? If Frank Underwood was cuddlier and nicer I doubt he would have made it so far. Are we forced to conclude that his nasty actions pay off?
In the last post I presented a view which argues that reasons for action are closely tied to what can motivate a person. A person’s desires, cares, projects and commitments are arguably the only thing that gives him reasons.
But what can we say of Frank Underwood? His desires, cares, projects and commitments certainly do not lead him to moral reasons. But does that mean he has good reason to push Zoe Barnes in front of that train? Or indeed that he has no reason not to kill her, given what he cares about?
This is one of the most interesting areas of moral philosophy and it is the branch the philososloth enjoys sitting on and contemplating the most. What do you think?
Does Frank Underwood have a reason to be moral?
If so, is this a reason that he doesn’t understand?
If he doesn’t understand being moral as a reason, is it a reason for him?
Do let me know your thoughts on the matter: drop me a comment or connect @ThePhilososloth