I find it a bit weird how if you make a choice, whether ethical or not, there’s an implication that you have to follow Kant’s categorical imperative:
“Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.”
The implication here is that any decision you make should be the decision you think everyone should make. We had it the other day with veganism (though I’m only vegetarian); it happens when I get dirty looks from people who are drinking if I tell them I don’t drink; and now, I’m being accused of wanting to change the world by not wearing shoes.
I admit, this may be paranoia, but I think it’s an odd style of question (and I think it was framed this way only after the questioneer established she wasn’t supposed to ask direct questions about me).
I don’t think I live my life according to the categorical imperative. This is partly because I don’t think I am capable of knowing what should be universal law. To apply something to everyone means to take away everyone’s agency. My decisions don’t represent the best course of action for anyone but me. In fact, they rarely represent the best course of action for me, let alone anyone else.
I’m just not that logical.
Take the shoes thing. At this time of year, I am still wearing sandals. There was one year I found it difficult to motivate myself to buy new shoes, and my old shoes became dangerous. I kept on getting free sandals, so I wore sandals.
Once you’ve got through one winter in sandals, it gets easier. Before long, you develop a sincere hatred of socks and shoes. My feet are slightly the wrong shape. They also smell rapidly. If I put them in shoes, they quickly get uncomfortable, making me want to take them off, but by that point, they smell bad enough that I can’t take them off if I’m in company.
So I don’t wear shoes. It has nothing to do with anyone else, apart from in as much as I don’t want other people to smell me any more than they already can. I think the comfort and habit thing is more important.
Now. I don’t think there’s any social benefit to exposed feet. Although shoes can be expensive. Personally, I wouldn’t mind it if everyone started going actually bare feet, if only because it would make people experience the floor differently, and we might ditch the reliance on concrete and tarmac. We might start bulding the world softer. And hopefully greener.
We might tread a little lighter, and not just literally.
But I don’t even do it myself. It seems the wrong order of things.
People don’t act for rational reasons much. They just do things and come up with reasons later.
This isn’t particularly useful, and should probably be challenged more.
But I don’t think footwear is the best place to start.
Illustration by Helen