left biblioblography: Is There A Moral To The Story...?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Is There A Moral To The Story...?


Cross-posted at God is for Suckers!

(The title is completely tongue in cheek, as it implies there was an author to our entire story, and that is obviously not true.)

Cartoon courtesy of Jesus and Mo.

As I've stipulated before, I'm not a moral relativist. Also as I've stated before, I think these discussions about morality are pretty much a waste of time. The last time I posted on this, an individual named Beowulf and I had a bit of a soiree about the whole thing (read it here).

So again, despite the protestations of my fellow atheists, I say it again: I reject moral relativism. It isn't (nor does it need to be) the default position for those of us who profess an absence of belief.

I find the system bankrupt, to be blunt.

There is one good reason for doing so.

It has no solid basis for criticizing the actions of others. If there's a genocide being perpetrated in another country, regardless of the rationale behind it (be it race, color, religion, etc.), it blinds the critical eye and softens the hard word to a voiceless whisper.

A moral relativist cannot, for instance, find fault with biblical events, as said events took place in a time and an environment that was exclusively set 'back in the day'. By the epistemology of it, projecting our mindset and cultural values on another culture in another age would be primarily anachronistic.

To verify that we're all on the same page, this is the definition I'm using:

In philosophy, moral relativism is the position that moral or ethical propositions do not reflect absolute and universal moral truths, but instead make claims relative to social, cultural, historical or personal circumstances.

However, to infer that I'm a moral absolutist would be ridiculous as well, since that would involve a false dichotomy (or even a dilemma, to be pedantic and redundant), as there are multiple -isms to choose from.

Most theists I've engaged proclaim themselves to be absolutists (I'd give you an example, but since they're a dime a dozen in the blogosphere, I leave that to the reader to come up with a few), but tend to veer wildly to the relativism aspect when confronted with obvious contradictions in their wholly bibble book (we've probably all heard it on more than one occasion: "Hey, that was then, this is now!" Or some variant thereof. My all time favorite is, "gawd changed his mind!").

Like most people, I tend to borrow a few values here, a few 'don'ts' there, and come up with my own version of ethical stew.

So mix in six parts value pluralism, two parts moral naturalist, some secular ethics, a liberal helping of the Moral Razor, a goodly smattering of reciprocal altruism, and voilĂ ! Apostate soup is served! (The 'krystals' are what make it crunchy, hehehehe.)

I've said this before; it is harm inferred and harm incurred. It takes no degree to see, that when we willfully harm another, the ripples that disturb the pool of our existence take on a cumulative effect that can be felt for years, even centuries in some cases, and have an ethical impact akin to the butterfly effect in the world around us.

Any questions?

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beepbeepitsme said...

I think it is natural for human beings to be moral and to develop moral systems and codes of behaviour.

I also think it is natural that human beings through separation of geography and time, have not developed identical moral codes.

What they do have in common is the development of moral systems and codes of behaviour.

The formalized moral systems and codes concern themselves with similar issues such as : - lying, stealing, killing, and who can have sex with whom, when and why.

I would suggest that human beings across the planet and throughout history have developed formalized moral codes about the same and similar issues because human beings no matter where they live and at what time period have had the same or very similar issues to deal with.

What differs primarily are the punishments associated with these "transgressions" and defining when and if a transgression has occurred.

Perhaps we are working with an overall evolutionary effect which occurs on all humans and also a cultural effect which occurs more at the local level.

Krystalline Apostate said...

BBIM - well said.
As a species, we share commonalties that span across cultures.