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Re: (OT) Morality (was: Re: aesthetic evaluation (was: RE: (OT) Music)

From:Andy Canivet <cathode_ray00@...>
Date:Saturday, June 15, 2002, 22:14
>From: Jesse Bangs <jaspax@...> > >Quite true. This is why I find most "scientific" attempts at moral >theory risible--they pretend that they are objective and have no >preconceptions, and attempt to maintain this fiction as they wade through >the subjective morass of human experience. When we are discussing >morality, spirituality, or aesthetics I don't think science helps us >much, and we might as well embrace our subjectivity and forge ahead.
Yes, I agree - one of the greatest laughs I ever had was when I read Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein (quite a good book by the way - the movie might as well be a different story)... but in Rico's moral history class (I think), the teacher said something like "...but that was back in the twentieth century, before they had a scientific theory of morality..." I found myself wondering if Heinlein made the joke on purpose since he his otherwise a pretty insightful fellow most of the time. I do, however, think that the sciences do have a role to play in these matters as long as a leash is kept on them... They should be kept in the service of human living, not the other way around. Psychology can give us a much better understanding of why moral experience is so much more important than moral concepts (eg. learning theory), for why attention is central to creativity, empathy, & moral judgement, for why fear and anger often control us, and so forth. Anthropology is also useful because it gives us a wide range of possibilities to consider - we can look at how other groups do things and see what really works to accomplish particular social goals... Getting your society to agree on those goals is the hard part, LOL... but its been done.
> >All of these three are saying essentially the same thing, which I think >is a deep and essential truth, recognized by nearly all traditions. >Axiomatic, declarative moral statements exist in every tradition--the >Bible is famously full of them, but the first page of the Tao Te Ching >that I opened to also contained a half-dozen. (I'm using these as >examples of two apparently opposite poles, since they're the two I'm >familiar with. I'd be curious if anyone else could bring in a third >pole.)
Mevlevi Sufism & Theravada Buddhism seem to say essentially the same thing...
>Yet all traditions recognize that the declarative descriptions of >morality do not actually bring about moral behavior. Thus, in >Christianity salvation and righteousness are not acheived the law but >through the transformative experience of faith, and in Taoism >enlightenment does not come through study and knowledge, but through an >equally mystical realization. In Pauline theology the purpose of the Law >(i.e. the moral axiomsof the Old Testament) is almost entirely >negative--it simply shows us how much we *lack* morality; in Taoism the >purpose of verbal revelation is merely to "point to" or "suggest" the >Tao, which cannot be directly described at all.
Yeah - I remember hearing a joke in my Taoist philosophy class - if Taoism is all about wordless teaching, why did they need to write the book of a thousand words (the Tao Te Ching)? Obviously the axioms are necessary, but only the doorway to experience...
>These are quite similar ideas in completely disconnected traditions, which >suggests something universal at work.
Yes; I think psychology is the key to this. The human brain & mind are extremely flexible, but there are certain universals to how we are able and likely to process information.
>This is as individuals, of course. As a society I don't think we can >ever make more than cursory movement towards mass awareness of (A)-->which >is ultimately just one Principle, the Tao or God IMHO. The best >we can do >is to make our laws and institutions, which are expressions >of (B), as simple, non-contradictory, and right as possible, while seeking >personal holiness/enlightenment/whatever.
Actually there are lots of examples of societies which have done just that. Many of them even maintain the deliberateness and the reasoning behind their spiritual philosophy even after tens of thousands of years. Unfortunately for us, colonialization (and it's child, globalization) has pretty much destroyed most of such societies, or is eroding what survives. Most of these societies are indigenous, and subsistence level - you may be right in that a large state level, hierarchical society is unable to undertake a collective understanding of morality (except for laws). However, this itself says something about the underpinning philosophy - somewhere along the line some groups decided that control over the material world was more important, and other groups decided that social relations should come first. (ironcially, this reminds me of the enneagram - power vs. harmony, economy vs. kinship... hmmm...) What would be really interesting is if a huge state level, hierarchical, materially focused culture like our own could actually learn to move toward the opposite philosophy and meet it in the middle -thus maintaining all the wonderful things we've learned from science, but at the same time existing for the sake of balance and good relations. I believe it's possible - but I'm not holding my breath. Then again - just watching the philosophy and religion sections in the bookstores grow over the last few years suggests that there may be an emerging trend going on... I guess only time will tell. Andy _________________________________________________________________ Chat with friends online, try MSN Messenger:


John Cowan <jcowan@...>(OT) Morality (was: Re: aesthetic evaluation (was: RE: (OT)