Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: A matter of conscience

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  • Islander, in reply to Tim McKenzie,

    you claim that there is no universal moral standard against which to measure the morals of a particular person or society — if you claim that morals all depend on where and when you live —, then you cannot claim (for example) that there was a moral improvement between pre-abolition acceptance of slavery and post-abolition rejection of it; after all, it was a different time, when there was a different society with different morals, just as valid (or invalid) as your own morals and those of the society you live in.

    Exactly.
    Time, and place, and species make all the difference.
    If humans were a truly sane species, there would be no avoidable suffering.
    But we aint: we are a dominance-driven hierarchical hominid which has no idea of where it'll end it up-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Tim McKenzie, in reply to Islander,

    Exactly.
    Time, and place, and species make all the difference.

    I'm confused. Are you agreeing here that there was no moral improvement from pre-abolition acceptance of slavery to post-abolition rejection of it?

    If humans were a truly sane species, there would be no avoidable suffering.

    And are you implying here that allowing or causing avoidable suffering is morally bad in some absolute sense? (That is, not just in the sense that you would personally prefer there to be no avoidable suffering.)

    Lower Hutt • Since Apr 2007 • 126 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    I say moral issues are the common thread

    Child poverty sure seems like a moral matter. Funny how 'conscience' votes are not about things like that.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Islander,

    it would be my contention that there is no such thing as 'a universal moral standard'

    'Do unto others' seems fairly widespread across cultures and times.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Tim McKenzie,

    a) slavery still exists in many parts of the world
    b)we think we know what we are - free agents not subject to instinctive drives: our actions & behaviours indicate otherwise. I am implying that for a sane thinking species- one that is free from our inherent drives- such allowing/causing avoidable suffering would not happen.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Sacha,

    Um, no...history is a great teacher, especially when you derive from several cultures which were (and to a certain extent, still are ) revenge-driven.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Tim McKenzie, in reply to Islander,

    slavery still exists in many parts of the world

    Okay, then, do you think that there would be no moral improvement if slavery came to a complete end? Do you think that the morals of those individuals and societies that reject slavery are no better than the morals of those individuals and societies that accept it?

    The point is not that every society has exactly the same set of morals; they don't. The point is that (almost) everyone (including, it seems, you) speaks as if they believe that there is a universal moral standard with which the morals of individuals and societies could (in theory, at least) be compared. You may disagree with C. S. Lewis about precisely what the universal moral standard requires, but in the end, you probably agree with him that there is one; from memory, that's all his argument requires.

    Lower Hutt • Since Apr 2007 • 126 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Islander,

    Utu and other reciprocity protocols are still about treating others alike. Even if that involves some unpleasantness.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Sacha,

    Child poverty sure seems like a moral matter

    Not really...sometimes it's the kids' own fault.
    /sarcasm

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Tim McKenzie,

    The point is not that every society has exactly the same set of morals; they don't. The point is that (almost) everyone (including, it seems, you) speaks as if they believe that there is a universal moral standard with which the morals of individuals and societies could (in theory, at least) be compared. You may disagree with C. S. Lewis about precisely what the universal moral standard requires, but in the end, you probably agree with him that there is one; from memory, that's all his argument requires.

    Yes, ethical relativism is a fraught view, has inconsistencies that are hard to reconcile. There are many levels of relativism depending on where you want to draw the boundaries - are they at borders, or in cultures, or subcultures, or even individuals? But all of them are open to the charge Lewis lays, that they can't consistently criticize the morals outside of the boundary they draw. So to remain consistent, they have to remain silent on the morality of those things.

    But Lewis misses a few things too. He doesn't note the position which denies that morality is real at all, perhaps he hadn't even heard of it. And even if there is a universal morality, the link between it and God is extremely tenuous. It's quite possible that one could exist and not the other. Or neither could exist. And even if they both exist, and even if God knows what the universal morality is, and is all for it, that's still no use to humans, who aren't God. Plato settled this point long ago, in Euthyphro, in which Socrates refutes Euthyphro's third attempt to define piety as that which the gods love. He asks "Is it pious because the gods love it, or do the gods love it because it is pious?", to which Euthyphro concedes that it is the latter. Most people would tend to agree with this - they find it inconceivable that God would love immoral things, that he might, for instance, fully endorse sexual violence against children. If he did endorse that, it would not make sexual violence against children right, therefore his endorsement is not the source of the rightness.

    This point is so old and so clear that I'm amazed that intelligent people to this day attempt to say that God or gods are the source of morality. I guess clear thinking about ethics is always going to be a hard ask, because morality is drilled into us as children, as is religious belief. That's why Lewis wrote his transparently religiously preachy Narnia books for children (I still like them, but only because some of them are enjoyable yarns, not because I am a Christian).

    Lastly, even if a god is the source of morality, truth, etc, Lewis still doesn't have any good proof that his particular belief about his particular god is the case.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to BenWilson,

    “Is it pious because the gods love it, or do the gods love it because it is pious?”, to which Euthyphro concedes that it is the latter. Most people would tend to agree with this – they find it inconceivable that God would love immoral things, that he might, for instance, fully endorse sexual violence against children. If he did endorse that, it would not make sexual violence against children right, therefore his endorsement is not the source of the rightness.

    Unfortunately the Old Testament is littered with examples of people doing stuff because God tells them to. Abraham is prepared to kill his son, and he is held up as an example of piety.

    Not to mention the terrible things the OT God does to people.

    Poor old Job, who was tortured in every way possible to test his faith. He endures the gratuitous killing of his wives and children but keeps his relationship with God, which is obviously the most important thing.

    For this any many other reasons, I find the Old Testament scary and horrible and impossible to reconcile with the New Testament.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Tim McKenzie,

    The point is that (almost) everyone (including, it seems, you) speaks as if they believe that there is a universal moral standard with which the morals of individuals and societies could (in theory, at least) be compared.

    I certainly dont agree with that comment of your's - it is in opposition of what I understand to be so-

    maybe go read/research a bit about -o, history/primatology/anthropology? Not to mention the whole sad story of religions? And consider that interesting religious study, theodicy - a whole field devoted to trying reconcile the problem
    of the existence of 'God' and evil...

    It's an old field of thought: one of my phlosophical heroes is Epicurius:

    "Are the gods/is god willing to prevent evil
    but not able?
    Then they/it is not omnipotent.
    Is it able but not willing?
    Then it is malevolent.
    If it is both willing and able?
    Then -whence comes evil?
    If it is neither able nor willing-
    then why call it god?"

    Epicurius b.341 BCE & died 270 before common era (1950.)

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Lilith __,

    sometimes it's the kids' own fault

    stealing pig scraps too. no manners

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Lilith __,

    Abraham is prepared to kill his son, and he is held up as an example of piety.

    Yes, but remember that they were childless until at an impossibly old age they were promised a son whose descendants would be as countless as grains of sand, then, in a moment of weakness, his wife persuaded him to take her maidservant as a concubine and Ishmael was born (who is the one, I believe, who Muslims claim was the son he was ordered to sacrifice), then eventually the promised son was born to Sara, and stopped him and provided an alternative sacrifice just before the knife was plunged in, the whole point being to test Abraham's faith and total obedience. Not saying it's a nice story, but...

    For this any many other reasons, I find the Old Testament scary and horrible and impossible to reconcile with the New Testament.

    Best answer I ever heard to that was the "progressive revelation of God". God reveals himself bit by bit as our understanding evolves. Adam and Eve only knew 'eat all the fruits and seeds you want, just not the fruit of these two trees', and they blew it. Abraham and Job knew only unquestioning faith and total obedience no matter how shite the situation or ridiculous the divine order. Moses was given a more complete, although still Mediaevally harsh law. Jesus fulfilled that. Who knows where we'll be led now that we have science?

    Again, not saying it's nice, or good or even true. Certainly not saying it's rational. That's one thing our species is most certainly not, rational.

    What I find interesting, though, is how Westerners generally approach the a/theism debate from a very Western Judaeochristian point of view, even confirmed atheists. The counterpoint that seems obvious to my sinocentric self, especially when dealing with those naive theists who have honestly never considered the possibility of morality without God, is to bundle up the generally rather atheistic ancient Chinese philosophers and throw them into the mix. [oops, daughter woke up a bit early, better make this quick]. Confucius didn't bother much with God or gods except to say "Follow the rights that the Zhou practiced!". Laozi got a bit metaphysical, but started off his book by stating outright there is no way to define the true Dao. Could think of more examples, but have a baby to take care of...

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Sacha,

    Indeed. Here I am in a properly Third World country wondering just what it is we let go so wrong back home.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Sacha,

    I viscerally hate the idea of hungry kids in our own islands...yes, I do donate to foodbanks - but wtf are the multimillionaires doing?

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Islander,

    Charity is no substitute for proper govt policy and engaged involvement of citizens in keeping our leaders accountable for reflecting our priorities.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Sacha,

    So you let the kids starve in the mean meantime?

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Islander,

    I vote for feed them while demanding government live up to its responsibilities.

    Yeah, like that'll happen with this crowd in power.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Sacha,

    Utu and other reciprocity protocols are still about treating others alike. Even if that involves some unpleasantness.

    That, Sacha, is *emphatically* NOT the case.
    Utu** can mean *expunging* someone/whanau/hapu who was perceived as being at wrong/fault/invasive. It doesnt necessarily mean that the expunged ones were the ones at fault…very frequently, it *didnt* mean that.

    I refer you to the reason for the Kai-huaka feud & the putative reason for Te Rauparaha’s invasion of the South (which was only settled by The Greenstone Door…in the 20th century.)

    **Today, it tends to mean a monetary transaction...

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    I vote for feed them while demanding government live up to its responsibilities.

    +1000 Chris- on all points.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    stopped him and provided an alternative sacrifice just before the knife was plunged in, the whole point being to test Abraham’s faith and total obedience.

    But that's what I find so execrable. Being prepared to kill your child because of anyone's say-so is a vastly immoral position to be in.

    Westerners generally approach the a/theism debate from a very Western Judaeochristian point of view, even confirmed atheists.

    Although my parents were nonconforming in many ways, I was taken to church, sunday school, and later went to a church school. This stuff is part of my culture and still floating around in my head, atheist though I now am.

    And I was replying to Ben's point about how God approves of things because they are right, not the reverse. The Old Testament seems to be full of God approving of things that are indefensibly wrong .

    Could think of more examples, but have a baby to take care of…

    But I know you've got your priorities right! And it's always interesting talking with you. :-)

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Islander,

    No but if we really want to fix the problem, letting the heartless pricks off the hook while we go feed the poor is not a sustainable answer. Band-aids don't stop the bleeding.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Islander,

    Utu** can mean *expunging* someone/whanau/hapu who was perceived as being at wrong/fault/invasive

    do unto others.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Sacha,

    Nope. Go read about the examples I gave you to understand it WASNT 'do unto others'- it was a whole new ballgame (in the South American sense!)

    The phrase is, afterall, "Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself."

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

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