About Me

Phoenix, AZ, United States

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Midnight, Ethics

It's late and I should try to get some sleep, but my mind is racing. I have noticed lately that my mind is a bit foggy... Of course I assumed a part of is was psychosomatic, but I read somewhere today that it does happen to people giving up nicotine. Anyway, I had a moment of clarity tonight and so I thought I might take advantage of it while I can... in hopes of writing a few meaningful words.

I was listening to Ravi Zacharias today, a podcast of a Q & A forum done at Georgia Tech. One of the questions was from a fella who seemed to esteem Immanuel Kant highly... Ravi and this un named person discussed Kantian ethics.
Ravi believes that objective morality is dependent on the existence of an objective moral law giver... namely God... someone absolute. Consequently, he believes if God does not exist, morality is completely subjective... which many atheists, but not all hold to.

There are atheists who believe in objective morality...social contract is a common view...and one that owns many derivatives... unfortunately they cannot qualify this idea of objective morality to have any absolute meaning... beyond what is arbitrarily defined... For instance, one common idea is that objective morals need exist for the sake of community and/or the individual...unfortunately this assumes that the preservation of life is in fact good or right... again this would be arbitrary at best. but i digress...

I've read Kant, who interestingly enough was a theist. Kant spends volumes on attempting to explain the idea that morality can be rationally attained... apart from God... He believed that God had given man something in rationality so that objective morality could be arrived at intellectually.

In the aforementioned discussion, Ravi points out how Kant actually prefaced his second volume (pertaining to the issue of ethical theory) with the admission that Purpose of existence needed first be qualified, then an ethical system (be it arrived by pure rationalism) could result... this was new to me... so I found it quite fascinating.

Of course this discussion could get a whole lot more complicated if you add to it the view that some atheists hold...who proclaim meaning/purpose in life is self defined therefore a purely subjective endeavor.

So why is this all important? Well post modernism has created a culture that doesn't know how to begin to discuss moral theory... We have no real framework to work off of... Ravi says there are three key movements that have resulted: Secularization,
Pluralization, Privatization.

Secularization, meaning religious ideas are no longer viewed as socially relevant.
Pluralization, refers to our cultures view that the plethora of worldviews are equally true and... Privatization- the pursuit of truth being a purely independent venture. It's important to note that the three coexist and overlap...

In my opinion, the general population in America today somehow still seems to feed off of the german culprit born in the 18/1900's: Existentialism. If you truly dissect deep enough I am convinced you will find most people to abide by a system of ethics arrived at and reiterated by feelings. Essentially, people do what feels right...the misfortune comes when we realize that these feelings are deviant and quite often.

This is not to say doing what feels right is necessarily wrong... but it is prone to fallacy... and generally inconsistent. Our emotions are real and have their value...
but we should never have surrendered the ability to rationalize beyond them... And so I think Ravi's points are very well taken. In a secularized, pluralized culture where worldviews have become privatized to an extreme... we have lost the concept of truth...and therefore as a collective have given up the search...for how do you look for something that doesn't exist? More on this later...

Otherwise, I got a new book titled: "The Shape of the Good," by C. Stephen Layman. It is a book on Christian Ethical Theory... I will be interested to see what he says... Strangely enough it was recommended to me by an atheist who thought he presented a fair case of ethical theory...

No comments: