Faith and Human Dignity in V

2 themes in particular jumped out at me as I watched V yesterday:

Faith is a recurring theme in the show V. The show features a priest as one of the main protagonists, so they have all sorts of character developing opportunities to discuss doubt and faith.

Faith appeared in a dialogue between two characters in the episode “Fruition” in a way that sparked some new ideas (for me) about faith. Here’s the dialogue:

Jack: Something’s been off with you ever since Val left.

Ryan: I’m not sure I can do this anymore.

Jack: None of us are, but with faith, we can.

Here, faith is used is used in a self-motivational sense. It is used to assure someone that they are still capable of accomplishing noble deeds despite their doubt about their ability. Faith, in this particular instance, seems to be uncontroversially a virtue, which is interesting because I don’t think I’ve ever noticed a form of faith that seems so purely beneficial. (Notice also that this faith is “faith in”.) Perhaps the categorical denunciation of faith by some epistemologists and atheists needs some qualification.

The second recurring theme is, what I call, human dignity. The characters often face situations and decisions where they must decide to act in accordance with human dignity or to “stoop” to the cold, “ends justify the means”, mentality that is present in the Vs. One decision plays out in a dialogue roughly as follows:

Jack: I thought he was in danger, so I warned him

Hobbes (its interesting, by the way, that this guy’s name is Hobbes since he is super egoistic and seems to have a crappy view of human nature): You brought this [the protagonists were framed as terrorists as a result of Jack’s warning] down upon us for one person’s life.

Jack: I will never forget the value of one human life.

I wondered as I watched the show, “What’s so great about this normative concept of ‘human dignity’?” and “Why do the characters cling to it so tightly?”

Jack, in keeping with his “human dignity”, seems to imply that the value of one human life was worth risking the lives of many. How does this moral calculus play out? How can it be that the life of one can outweigh the life of many? (This moral multiplication of the value of the life of the individual is also an interesting feature of my thesis.)

Perhaps the answer is another consequence of the fact that we are image-bearing and breath-carrying creatures. Indeed, the statement that we are image-bearers seems to mirror, in some sense, the concept of human dignity. There’s something sacred about life. This something is not subject to consequentialist calculations. It seems, however, that the image-bearing concept has a bit more explanatory power it, i.e., it can explain more of why there is this sacred aspect to life. Of course, this explanation requires the positing of a God.

This is the first normative concept that I couldn’t make sense of without positing God (does positing God really provide a better explanation?). This makes me uncomfortable. What makes me even more uncomfortable though is that I’m uncomfortable about this fact in the first place.

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