Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Secular Sources of Morality



There are two “secular” sources for a moral life. One is our natural sympathy for others, and the other is social usefulness of much moral behavior. But I am not sure these motivations cover all the cases of morality.

2 comments:

Edward T. Babinski said...

People are continually making judgments, judgment calls, comparing things and people they like or dislike, sometimes making explicit lists of such things, as well as continually befriending some people, staying away from, or shunning, others.

When humans lived in smaller groups/tribes where everyone knew everyone by sight, the tribe's judgment call (or the judgment of its chief) was the law, and a person could expect to be found out and shunned, so people rarely risked behavior that might lead to shunning or worse disciplining.

When people gathered together into larger tribes and cities, everyone did not know everyone else, but we knew something had to be done to people who performed certain actions we did not like. So lists were created of things one should not do, and those were called laws.

Extremely few people like having their lives, or belongings taken from them at another person's whim. Hence laws against such behaviors.

Also, the ancient mind interpreted natural events as being the blessings or curses of human-like gods, so it was necessary to appease the gods in some way, via praises or pleading (prayers, holy songs and rituals), or gifts (animal sacrifices), and palaces were built for the gods (temples) because kings also had palaces, and people were chosen to run such temples (priests), all in order to keep the nation as a whole from being endangered by the whims of gods whom they believed directed nature (and directed rival nations) personally.

Beliefs about such gods and how to appease them became part of the lists of things that had to be done, part of the king's laws. It also added to the prestige of the list of laws if one added that such laws were also what the gods had in mind, what pleased them--see the connections made in The Egyptian Book of the Dead, or the Hammurabi stele where the King receives his laws direct from a major god, or see the story of Moses (which came later).


Gordon said...

So objective moral qualities, e.g. the intrinsic goodness of pleasure or friendship, don't have much to do with morality? Why be a noncognitivist about secular objective morality and not a noncom. about morality grounded in the being of God--or perhaps you have a divine command theory, otherwise falling on reductio by your own petard.n