Thinking about Morality

The truth is, I am writing this when I should be doing something else.  But it is also true that if I don’t write it when I’m thinking it,  it never gets done.

Right now I am thinking about the press to make laws about abortion, marriage, the rights of the sexually deviant, etc.  It occurs to me that while we must legislate morality or descend into anarchy and pandemonium, it can only be a band-aid on a laceration.

Here’s the truth: you can legislate morality but immorality will continue among the immoral.  The only true defense against immorality is a moral mindset and lifestyle.  As Christians, we must be about the business of moral persuasion and modeling morality.  We must change ourselves, our neighborhood, community and nation.  That will not happen in the courts and the halls of legislature.  It will only happen when the teachings of the Master transform us into His likeness.

Advertisements

12 Comments

Filed under Christlikeness, Culture Wars, Jesus Christ, morality, Persuasion, Random Thoughts

12 responses to “Thinking about Morality

  1. Mike Monroe

    Amen, Dwight! And I don’t think anything underscores the truth of your argument than the biblical account of King Josiah’s comprehensive reforms, which vanished immediately upon his death.

  2. Interesting post; however, two thoughts come to mind: Morality is a social construct; antonymous with ethics.

    Secondly, Gandhi said something like this: I have no problems with your Christ; I like your Christ. I just have a problem w/ his Christians; they are so unlike their Christ.

    I believe once the latter is reformed, and the spirit of religiosity is traded for the preservation of humanity, then loving thy neighbor will be understood as a desire and not a benefit.

  3. dwhitsett

    Robert, thanks for the comment. I was wondering if you could enlarge upon your first thought. Secondly, Gandhi and I have the same opinion about so many “Christians.”
    I believe humanity can only be preserved if Christians can finally begin to be like Christ.
    Also, please expand on the phrase, “spirit of religiosity.”

  4. Thanks for the feed back, and its my pleasure to expound on the points given.

    There is a distinct philosophical difference between morals and ethics: Morals are based on systematic laws, employed by societal authority in which the non-compliance of them result in consequence.

    Example: We stop a stop sign not b/c we want to; however, its the consequence of receiving a moving violation if we don’t. We don’t steal; not b/c we think its wrong, but we fear the consequence of being punished by law if we do. We don’t commit infidelity; not b/c it isn’t our hearts desire, but the reverent fear of ones “God” prohibits the act.

    Now ethics results in a more intuitive poise:
    I wont steal; not from the fear legal prosecution, b/c it will do harm to my fellow-man, and bring inconvenience to his life. I will not commit adultery; not b/c the tenets of my faith employ me to do so, but the thought of hurting and disrespecting my woman stops me from doing so. I wont take another life; not b/c of the fear of being judged in the afterlife, but for the fear of dissolution I bring to the loved ones of the victim.

    The spirit of religiosity falls under the same banner; its the fervency to sustain the laws and tenets of ones particular faith through the eyes of consequential fear, and not through the eyes of intuitive compassion for humanity. This also is proclaimed in the N.T when it proclaims that:

    “the law is written on the heart”.

    The summation of this is clear: sure one can obtain the standards of high morals; however, ethically, one can suffer from its lack of bloom.

  5. dwhitsett

    I agree that morals and fervency to sustain religious laws and tenets can be produced from fear. It seems to me, however, that you may have come up with your own definition of morals as opposed to ethics. Ethics arise out of morals. Morals are the basis of ethics. Because I have certain moral standards I have certain expressions of those standards in my ethic.
    Fear may produce an outward adherence to a morality but it seems cynical to limit it this way. Can’t one adhere to a standard of morality out of one’s heart?

  6. You’ve employed an inversion of definitions here–putting the cart before the horse.

    I’ll just pose a question: is it not true that standards (morals) are an amalgam of individualized taste (ethics), professed by people like ourselves? If yes, then morality is a conglomeration of individualized subjectivity, instituted by the oligarchy. If no, the you’ll agree the standard (morality) exists without our existence–albeit, humanity must exist to proliferate mores.

    This becomes a dichotomous fork to say the least.

  7. dwhitsett

    An “inversion of definitions?” I guess you’ll have to convince me of that because I still maintain that my morality informs my ethical expressions.
    I also can’t agree that ethics consist of individualized tastes. If that were true, ethics would be a matter of taste and we could never agree about what right ethics consist of. My morals were not instituted by the oligarchy but by my being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Hence, I do believe morality exists with or without us (therefore is not subjective), but without us what would be the point? Furthermore, I have had enough tickets to convince me the oligarchy will not put up with individualized subjectivity when it comes to either morals or ethics.

  8. The summation of your argument leads into the trenches of the Euthyphro Dilemma—not directly, but the hue is there. Based on the tenets of your faith, I would not expect you to admit the subjectivity of mores and ethics—if you did, the domino effect would occur—albeit, to imply faith is the admission of subjective thinking in itself.

    The fact that you believe mores and ethics exist outside of our own existence poses an existential problem and an anthropomorphic one. According to you, mores and ethics exist, b/c of the eternal existence of Jesus Christ/God I presume—again, this also defines subjective thought b/c it endorses belief—semantically speaking, I am correct. You say:

    …”I do believe morality exists with or without us (therefore is not subjective), but without us what would be the point?”

    This also creates a quagmire effect. The meaning of morals is steeped in the alleviation of human suffering. Mores and ethics are human attributes, designed and promoted by humans. However, these human attributes exist without humans existentially and therefore, are standards for humans to attribute to???

    The anthropomorphism of your belief leads to a classic fallacy of logic: placing non-human attributes on a non-human entity. This can only lead into theological Non-Cognitivism—another quagmire.

    To say that mores and ethics are objective is insinuating that your belief is also objective. Faith or belief is defined by the lack of proof or evidence—however, to believe in the unknown and deposit it as an objective fixture becomes oxymoronic. Wouldn’t the lack of evidence denote a subjective poise? Based on deductive reasoning, the answer is emphatically yes. This also applies to mores and ethics since the correlation of those aspects and your belief in god are intrinsic.

    Based on the myriad of philosophical and theological positions regarding god, mores, and ethics, does this not employ the particularities of your position to be subjective in nature in comparison to others? Honestly.

    I believe in the Tractatus Logico-philosophicus, Wittgenstein, a Christian, summed it up as this:

    all is made up.

  9. dwhitsett

    Wow! You have me at a disadvantage! You have obviously studied a lot of philosophy. I think I can usually figure out what you are saying but keep in mind that I’m just a layman.
    The presuppositions of the Euthyphro Dilemma are just that: presuppositions. What comes first is a dilemma in several “chicken or egg” questions. If God is eternal (existing in a state of “being” with no beginning or end) then the dilemma doesn’t exist. Of course such a position endorses belief. Would you expect a believer to do otherwise?

    You say that moral meaning is “steeped in the alleviation of human suffering.” Really? What is your reasoning here? Morality is actually steeped in all that is good. It orders society. The absence of morality is anarchy and chaos. You say they are designed and promoted by humans and I say that humans simply promote what God set in place and they become the attributes of believers.

    I always thought anthropomorphism was placing human attributes on non-human entities. I don’t believe any theist would call God “human,” but in some way we are made in His image. So there is something of the divine within us. Then there is His incarnation as He became flesh and lived among mankind demonstrating morality and ethical behavior.

    Belief is neither totally objective nor totally subjective. Faith or belief for the theist is to believe in what is not seen on the basis of what is seen, perceived or understood. It is certainly not defined by the lack of proof or evidence. Otherwise it is “blind faith” which is really no faith at all.

    Wittgenstein may have called himself a Christian but if he believed that “All is made up” I wonder what he would do with James 1:17?

  10. Socratically speaking, the very foundation of your source (god) of morals and ethics cannot be considered in propositional logic–in other words, a propositional statement bears a truth value–it is either true or false. The term god is abstract in nature, unless it discloses aspects that are verifiable: god is a tree, rock, wind, mountain, etc…

    Until god can be exemplified objectively based on deductive inference, the matter still remains in the realm of subjectivity–as for mores and ethics.

    Morality and ethics still reside subjectively b/c the foundation of its source remains to be universally objective.

  11. Socratically speaking, the very foundation of your source (god) of morals and ethics cannot be considered in propositional logic–in other words, a propositional statement bears a truth value–it is either true or false. The term god is abstract in nature, unless it discloses aspects that are verifiable: god is a tree, rock, wind, mountain, etc…

    Until god can be exemplified objectively based on deductive inference, the matter still remains in the realm of subjectivity–as for mores and ethics.

    Morality and ethics still reside subjectively b/c the foundation of its source remains to be universally objective.

  12. vonbunge

    Arius,
    I have been following your posts on Dwight’s blog regarding morality. I had a serious intention of joining the conversation earlier, but this will have to serve as the best I can do for now.

    It is clear that your study of philosophy has lead you down an educated path, and I am glad to see you respond with respect and substance in your views, adding also an explanation for the views you hold. I hope to interact enough so that we can achieve meaningful discussion, even though time is never in abundance.

    By no means do I wish to lay a broad stroke over a detailed discussion, but this could get muddy very quickly if I do not at least approach the issue broadly. I hope that this is alright with you. I will start with your most recent post, in which you challenged the propositional logic of positing God as the source for morality. If I understand you correctly, you hold that God is not verifiable, and therefore is not a reasonable source for morality. I would say that God is verifiable, and that to posit Him as the “moral law-giver” would be the only reasonable and logical viewpoint that exists. You said that the term “God” is abstract in nature. That would be true only if one holds the position that He does not exist, something which could become an entirely different discussion (though one I would enjoy engaging). God bears a truth value, in part, because of His creation. I don’t have to say that, “God is that tree” in order to give God a truth value. I can say, “God created that tree”, and then we would have to discuss the existence of God. But to propose that God is an entirely unverifiable idea is to stand against a mountain-range of evidence. To arrive at the conclusion that God created the world is a deductive and reasonable process, one that relies on evidence and truth. So, at least inside of this current discussion, I would hold that positing God as the source of morality is logically permissible, to say the least. I realize that I haven’t even begun to wrestle with the ideas that will quickly arise, but I hope this gives you a viewpoint of where I am coming from.

    I would add also the observation that your argument regarding the subjectivity of morality is ultimately self-defeating. In other words, if morality is nothing more than a social construct, with no relation to transcendent truth, then upon what do you stand to make the statement that moral is nothing more than cultural preference? You have made a transcendent moral statement, in order to explain that all morals are relative. I see that as a logical and philosophical contradiction. Does that seem out of order?

    As the beginning of my joining this discussion, I will confine my other thoughts to later posts. I sincerely hope that we can continue this. Thank you for your points and thoughts, I hope to see a comment from you soon. In all cordiality,

    von Bunge

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s