If anything is morally wrong without qualification, it is genocide. I think the same about torture and abuse of children. Can I imagine being raised in a culture in which ‘I’ would think otherwise? Well, I suppose we can imagine many things. But I don’t know what the implications for ethics are.
“Philosophy as a preparation for death?” “Philosophy as the study of death?” Why should we accept such characterizations of philosophy? Maybe I’m being disrespectful to Plato, and his version of the great Socrates, when I say “thanks, but no thanks!”
Not too long ago, one of my philosophical correspondents (“Pablo”) took up the question of justice (What is its source?) and utilitarianism. The ensuing discussion brought out some utilitarian claims on this issue and conceptual problems with the Utilitarian solution.
Sam Harris, one of the “new atheistic” writers, apparently has a new book coming, The Moral Landscape: Thinking about human values in universal terms. Someone sent me a text of a recent interview in which he answers a few questions about the way in which science provides answers to moral questions. I found his his replies are as perplexing as they are problematic. He seems to discount the really hard questions of moral situations. To anyone (like myself) who holds out hope that the work of the sciences is relevant to moral philosophy, Harris’s perspective on these issues does not offer any help at all.
A misconception arises: for the view of a value-laden fetus is not based (as it should be) on recognition of the potential of the fetus, but is based on the erroneous belief that, in some sense, the fetus already possesses that future personhood.
The claim that there has been moral progress in history, stated as a movement toward a transcendent moral truth, raises a number of critical questions: First, we can ask what is meant by “moral progress” and “moral truth.”
The supernaturalist imagines that he possesses those absolutes which allows for genuine categorical imperatives. But these ‘absolutes’ ultimately turn out to be very human in origin, based (as they are for naturalists) on experience, conditioning, and specific theological interpretations by humans of codes attributed to supernatural authority, but which can be traced to some human or group of humans. Ultimately, the ‘absolutes’ of the religious authoritarian are in the same category with the ‘absolutes’ of any human-based morality.
But, of course, all of this deception by the Bush administration is history now; and we should move on to current challenges and problems instead of dredging up the past. GW Bush is gone. Forget about him! Right?
Vincent Bugliosi does not agree. He reminded me of these shameful acts (call them fallacies if you like) by the GW Bush administration, and reminded me also about the shameful capitulation by Congress, the news media, and citizens in general. He reminded me of the extent to which we became “sheep-like” in our readiness to be misled by propaganda and lies generated by Bush, Cheney, Rice and the rest of that gang.
Unless our talk in moral philosophy is empty, we must allow that moral beliefs and moral judgments that we attribute to people are translatable into action. Hence, if we say that the non-theist is compelled to a position of extreme moral relativism, it must be the case that the non-theist in a significant way acts as an extreme moral relativist. * Moreover, if we say that the theist (the moral authoritarian) makes good distinctions between right and wrong and holds correct (true) moral beliefs, then this too should translate into action.
There probably is no guarantee that we can completely avoid the abuse of language in politics and ideological debate or the sophistry of certain philosophical styles. But, we can heed Mr. Orwell’s advice and hopefully not fall too often into those ‘muddy, stagnant waters,’ which can choke off any meaningful dialogue.