The virtue of excellence
Love both posts. Perhaps I will post on the HC one other time."The first I think just misunderstands how people behave and gives too much credit to critical reasoning and justification. For the most part secularists behave morally for the same reason just about everyone else does, because they would feel bad if they did not.The second I am increasingly tempted to say conflates cultural politics with the ethics-game. If you ask on what grounds do I accuse rapists of having done wrong, then the authentic answer is that a world with rape displeases me and this is a tool I can use to get society to impose sanctions against it.That in my mind is quite different than the ethics-game. The ethics-game is an attempt to answer the question, what moral stance “should” I adopt. It is in the ethics-game that we pay careful attention to metaphysical coherence, consistency and an attempt to tease out what we really believe."I think the problem is that secularists underestimate changes in ethical behaviors in people. Religious people aren't going to wake up the next day and decide rape is good, even if you convince them God is dead. There is a certain moral inertia to society. But as time goes by, I think some of the moral "just so" habits of people degrade unless you provide institutional supports, including a fundamentally sound belief system to tie it all together.In short, I think the "ethics game" seems comfortable so long as it's just a game, but when it becomes real life it ain't so fun.
Someone beat me to it with a better analogy:Douthat’s point is that we are maybe being hasty as a civilization in tossing out what were once held as the bedrock of Western moral values. His point is that maybe this is one of those examples where we will, at some point, look back and realize, “Ah yes, those things were actually quite important.”Here’s my shot at a modified parable: If a house has a brick foundation that the current owners did not build, and if they know nothing of architecture, they may discover a huge trove of bricks in the basement and suggest to rather use them to make a lovely flower bed out front. The bricks don’t seem to be doing anything useful downstairs so why not bring them out in the open? Someone takes out a brick and…nothing happens! Someone else takes another brick or two…still nothing. Many people dive in and soon much of the foundation is removed. There is a vague sense that probably all the bricks shouldn’t be taken out, but no one can really say why and it gets harder and harder to limit the process. Some small cracks in the plaster start to appear, but nobody associates them with the removal of bricks.But maybe someone (like Ross D) thinks this rubs him the wrong way, and in his ruminating he finds an old book about architecture and reads about the importance builders used to place on foundations and maybe he talks to some people who say they knew someone who once knew a guy who passed through town one night and who claimed to have built the house and set the foundations himself and who attested to their importance. So Ross more or less believes the story of that guy and starts chatting people up as they continue to remove bricks and to encourage them to stop, or at least do some more thinking about what they are doing and whether it might do some long-term damage to the house they all live in. But everyone says, “Man, you’re so old fashioned. Everyone nowadays knows that houses were built on foundations just out of a misguided sense of restrictive tradition and blind habit. Plus, there are hundreds of guys who claim to have been builders and they can’t agree and they fight all the time so we’ve decided we’re just done with foundations—problem solved! Get with the times; and see? Now we have a nice flower planter, and the house looks exactly the same.”Now, this goes on for years and even Ross himself begins to wonder if that book was out-of-date and that maybe he was a fool to have believed in the word of a friend of a friend of a friend and that maybe the house really was built in such a way that it has become self-supporting via the new internal cross-bracing that’s been put in place by the new owners. he reflects on the many examples of how it was certainly true that many building features once thought essential were strictly cosmetic after all or built in way that owed more to convention than necessity. But he still falls asleep looking at the cracks in the walls and swears they were not that big just a few months ago and he wonders if he should just move. But maybe there won’t be an earthquake or storm (or maybe storms and earthquakes are just legends anyways) and maybe the house will stand forever and be the envy of its neighbourhood with its striking brick planters and soon no one will have a house with a traditional foundation. And maybe that will be a very good thing.Or maybe not.
Anon,I've been pretty hardcore about philosophy in particular, and ethics is my 2nd favorite area (after epistemology). I've been reading the best answers to these questions over the last 2500 years for well past 20 years now. I was complained about in college for skewing the curve by being an "ethics major" taking ethics classes. Your claim: "it displeases me = wrong" is one of several competing moral (meta-ethical) positions...and one of the least well-believed among folks who've looked closely....ethics game? I think there's been a 2500 year quest in the West to discover what is "really" good and bad. Perhaps I misread you, but I am not convinced the question is that simple, or light-hearted.3. I think the religious overestimate ethical changes in people.
Post a Comment