From: Damien Broderick (email@example.com)
Date: Tue Mar 07 2006 - 21:34:53 MST
At 03:19 PM 3/8/2006 +1100, TL wrote:
> > >There should be a Moral Law (karma), or good, or evil.
> > There should? Is that a Moral Law?
>It will be once there is one, I suppose.
Or not, if it's a matter of choice. Vide the novel VALENCIES (1983,
by you-know-who and Rory Barnes):
Issues of metaphysical sturdiness came to her attention,
as they'd been known to do, provisionally penned in the kennels to
which she'd assigned them, whimpering for the final disposition she
was fairly unlikely to make on their behalf.
Morality was one. She was certainly no stranger to the
problems of axiology.
Lovely word, that. Axiology: theory of value. It seemed to
contain its own solutions: axe your way through the Gordian knot,
acts of piety, access to truth.
...It kept coming back to that silly question: "Why should
we be moral?"
A surprisingly large number of people thought that you
should be, and even considered it to be a moral obligation. Ha ha,
boom boom. But suppose you used the word "should" as an evaluative
and motivational expression, instead of a normative one? If you wish
to climb to the top of the mountain, you should walk up rather than down.
Of course last time she'd come along this track she'd
detected a snag with "evaluative", too, but that was on the next
level up and you had to start somewhere.
All right, take Ralfo as your representative simple
unreflecting man. Persuade him of the vileness of imperialism. Crisis
for Ralf. Echoing voids of doubt, disillusion and guilt. Never again,
as the poet said, will he be certain that what he imagines are the
clear dictates of moral reason are not merely the ingrained and
customary beliefs of his time and place...
Okay, so then he might ask himself what he could do in the
future to avoid prejudices and provincial mores, or, more to the
point, almost universally accepted mores--and thus to discover what
he really ought to do.
That was merely another normative enquiry, though; the
tough one was "show me that there is some form of behavior which I am
obliged to endorse. "
Moral constraint seemed to mean either that you should
pursue good ends and eschew bad ones, or that you should be faithful
to one or more correct rules of conduct. Greeks and Taoists versus
Hebrews and Confucians, yeah, yeah.
...Incredible to think that they'd been chewing on this
for upward of four thousand years without coming to a definitive,
intuitively overwhelming conclusion. But then the imperial
ideologists thought they had, didn't they, with their jolly old
stochastic memetic-extrapolatory hedonic calculus or whatever the
fuck they were calling it these days. The least retardation of
optimal development for the greatest number, world without end, or at
least until the trend functions blur out. So they managed to get both
streams of thought into one ethical scholium without solving
anything. After all, why obey a rule like that? And who gets to
define as "good" those magical parameters making up the package
called "optimal development"?
The besieged libertarians on Chomsky, she thought darkly,
might differ from Ralf on the question of the good life.
Anyway, even if we all agreed that certain parameters were
good, why should that oblige us to promote their furtherance? It
might be prudent good sense to do so, and aesthetically pleasing, and
satisfy some itch we all have, and save us from being raped in the
common, but then the sublime constraining force you sort of imagine
the idea of moral obligation having just evaporates into self-serving
Admittedly there was that tricky number of Kant's about us
possessing a rational nature, and being noumena instead of brute
phenomena, and thus not being able to act immorally without
self-contradiction, but any fool could see that that went too far on
the one hand and not far enough on the other, and anyway what was
wrong with a bit of self-contradiction if you stopped when you needed
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