Is Pokémon Go immoral?

Ben brought back an English newspaper from Russia. He thought I might be interested because there’s an article about Pokémon Go in it. Here’s an excerpt:

Nintendo refuses to reveal when the game will be released in Russia. But Russia’s traditional values crusaders are already worried nonetheless. “It feels like the devil arrived through [Pokémon] and is trying to tear our morality apart from the inside,” said Frants Klintsevich, a senator of the Federation Council, Russia’s upper chamber of parliament. Klintsevich has called for a list of “restricting measures” to help gamers avoid falling under Pokémon’s corrupting influence.

Is Pokémon Go immoral? If we say yes we have to give a reason. But Klintsevich doesn’t say why Pokémon is a “corrupting influence” or how it will “tear our morality apart”. It’s not enough to say it’s immoral because a politician said so or because our mothers said so or because some man who lived two thousand years ago said so.

Some people think moral judgements are subjective but I disagree. The philosopher, Derek Parfit, argues for the existence of objective ethics in his book, On What Matters. I tried reading it but it’s rather long and a bit over my head. However when someone says “Pokémon is immoral” or “Homosexuality is immoral” or “Women who don’t cover their heads with a burqa are immoral”, it’s worth asking them why?

If an individual’s actions do not cause harm or suffering to themselves or to anyone else then it’s hard to see how the action could be immoral. Indeed when we prevent homosexuals from marrying each other (I’m looking at you Australia) we cause them harm and suffering and you could say it is we who are being immoral rather than them. This is because we exercise power over them against their will, as John Stuart Mill famously said,

…the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant….Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

The same is true when we force women to cover their faces in public: we are taking away their liberty for no good reason. I don’t think I can make the same argument for Pokémon Go because my kids wouldn’t suffer if I stopped them from playing it but equally they do not cause any harm and suffering to anyone else when they do. Put simply, it’s not a moral issue at all and neither is homosexuality or revealing our faces in public.

What does matter? According to Derek Parfit “What now matters most is that we rich people give up some of our luxuries, ceasing to overheat the Earth’s atmosphere, and taking care of this planet in other ways, so that it continues to support intelligent life.”