Thursday, November 24, 2005

It's Under This One

Morality is a shell game. Now you see it, now you don't.

6 comments:

Gopher said...

I thought morality was perspective. Explain the shell PoV for me.

Realm Knight said...

I agree... needs more explanation. Morality is either here or not it is not "sometimes" here and sometimes not here hidden beneath moving shells.

brainmarket said...

We excuse (or maybe disguise)our moral caprice with terms like "evolving standards of decency."

Nature's Rebel said...

I have been reading a lot about the evolved nature of human behavior. I am looking for where morality fits into that paradigm. If you read the literature carefully, you find something of a spectrum. At one end is the assertion that the human species has no purpose beyond the demands of reproducing its genetic material. But then the discussion slips almost imperceptibly into the idea that "we" don't have to accept who "we" are, an obvious logical problem, at least to me, since it suggests that we have two distinct natures. Then along comes our evolved "moral" sense, which in some contexts we must follow, but in other contexts we must be suspcious of. There are appeals to reason and to recent political and ideological developments. A few days ago, as I was reading this, I said to myself, "This is a shell game."

As I thought about it, I followed the analogy into a more generalilzed context. I have noticed that people use the word "morality" with great confidence, but I would doubt that we could reach any consensus of what it was. Is it possible just to come up with a working definition of it, without even worrying about whether or not it exists? I do think that morality is sometimes here and sometimes not here, or at least that what passed as morality in the past no longer passes now, or what passes for morality with one group does not pass for it in another, or with one person and another. The only agreement appears to be that everybody thinks he knows what he is talking about when he uses the word "morality."

I happen to feel that it does exist, but that it has been lost beneath the shells ever since Plato put it there (I'm stretching the analogy to equate the realm of the forms with the shells), and for that reason it doesn't exist. Until we can truly define it, most discussions of it will seem useless and even irritating to me, be they from a creationist or an evolutionary perspective.

That's the background to the post, although more background can be found all over my blog. It's obviously a difficult topic, not least because people have extremely strong opinions about it.

Thanks for the comments.

Realm Knight said...

Thank you for your background on an insightful post. Now that I know the background behind it, I do tend to agree with you somewhat. Morality can not be defined in any strict sense of the word that everyone can agree upon. I also agree that it may differ between cultures or even small groups of people and it may also differ across time. I have been working with some friends of mine on trying to define morality from a perspective that is absent from religion. So far we have been unsuccessful in coming to a definition that we all can agree on. Good luck with your pursuit of the topic! And thanks again for the posts

Tertium Quid said...

The Romans concluded that some human moral behavior was universal, and they called it "natural law."

The Greeks considered "natural law" to be the survival of the fittest, but the Romans conquered everything from Hadrian's Wall to the Euphrates and concluded that some human behavior standards were general and natural.

C.S. Lewis calls this natural law "The Tao," and he discusses it extensively in The Abolition of Man.