on moral philosophy

My ancestors didn’t leave behind a codified form of moral philosophy that we can quote like those works of individual philosophers like Plato, Aristotle and others I am too lazy to mention. But reading this article, it does seem to me that my ancestors were right. Sometimes I ask how could a few white men colonize my relatives? I think the grand parents owe us an explanation and an apology.

Happy week everyone

This is a case of bad journalism

When these two insist the Country has gone to the dogs because the church, which apparently is the custodian of morality, is sleeping on the job. Can you imagine that! The population census show that the country has a religious population of more than 98%. Are they just nominally religious? I thought it is the people that make the church?

Unbelievable? Chapter 3

On human value.

Justin argues we cannot value human life unless we imagine a god to have gave us life. To this he says the fact that Jesus died for us means our lives are really valuable. There are other several claims on objective morals. Or that atheists have no grounding for their morals or that we are moral because of the Judeo-Christian god or some similar argument. His response to the objection raised in the Euthyphro Dilemma is that god is good, so all its commands are good.

My objections to this chapter.

One, there are societies and have been societies where people have lived moral lives without the Judeo-Christian god. In fact, as I have pointed out in other posts, in most of African societies, morality or right conduct had nothing to do with the gods but how to live together. It is an insult to humanity to claim that a god who showed up somewhere in the middle East not so long ago is the supreme lawgiver.

I am a Jesus skeptic. And vivacious redemption is abhorrent.

Are there universal objective morals? Can they explained by positing our evolutionary past and communal living or do we need to posit an agent elsewhere as the source of our laws?

His objection to the Euthyphro Dilemma is premature. The being of a god is in question. It’s nature is another matter.

Do other species matter? Should they count?

Let us reflect on the thoughts of d’Holdbach when he writes

it is unnecessary to tell me that we degrade man when we compare him with the beasts, deprived of souls and intelligence; this is no leveling doctrine, but one which places him exactly where nature places him, but from which his puerile vanity has unfortunately driven him. All beings are equal; under various and different forms they act differently; they are governed in their appetites and passions by laws which are invariably the same for all of the same species; everything which is composed of parts will be dissolved; every thing which has life must part with it at death; all men are equally compelled to submit to this fate; they are equal at death, although during life their power, their talents and especially their virtues, established a marked difference,  which, though real, is only momentary.

On the possibility of moral progress

Odera Oruka notes

….in matters of morals, man appears to be several centuries behind scientific and technological progress, in spite of the fact that great religions such as Christianity and Islam have existed since antiquity. The lag in moral progress must partly be blamed on these religions. Perhaps if in their place we had had the systems more oriented to earthly and worldly progress right from the beginning, the world would have been more positively different.

Sex, morals and religion- an odyssey

We continue with our summaries of the book by Bethwell A. Ogot, History as destiny and history as knowledge. This is possible, to a great extent, because the chapters stand alone and can be treated individually.

A man revered by Kenyans generally but Catholics specifically, Cardinal Maurice Otunga, in 1998 termed calls for gender equality unchristian, ruled out the ordination of women as priests terming this ungodly and to crown it all, led a group of catholic faithful in burning condoms and books on AIDS prevention, and family life education.

The author tells us, starting with the ancient Chinese civilization, the basic form of marriage was polygamy. A married man, besides his wives, would seek entertainment in the company of ‘singing girls’. The grounds for divorce were; disobedience to parents’ in-law, having no son, adultery, jealousy of the husband’s other wives, leprosy, thieving and talkativeness. However, a wife who had no family to go back to wouldn’t be divorced or if, having married her when he was poor, he had become rich.

Starting in 8th Century BCE India, the gods were no longer important. Hinduism and Buddhism sought new ways to transcend the gods, to go beyond them. The Buddha appearing in 538 BCE taught that the only thing that was important was the good life. To the Indian, platonic love was inconceivable. To them, Bethwell notes, love, if it existed, had to be consummated. Those who renounced love had to do so utterly and completely. He notes the Kama Sutra, a manual of etiquette, dealing entirely with eros still has some application today.

Moving to Japan, the author notes the attitude towards sex, marriage, chastity, adultery is more concerned with etiquette and manners than with religious beliefs or tenets. To them, he writes, sex is considered a minor matter but something good, part of the general human feelings which cannot be evil and subject to moralizing. The real aim of marriage in Japanese society is the procreation of children and thereby to ensure the continuity of family life. He adds any purpose other than this simply serve to pervert the true meaning of marriage.

Turning our gaze to Africa, we find in Egypt, a religion that was a fertility cult, with the earth as the female element and the sun as the male and their union beget life. Monogamy was the general rule. The position of the woman was exalted. Her security guaranteed be legal provision that a father could reclaim his daughter if his son in-law insulted, injured or humiliated her and demand return of the dowry.

Elsewhere in the Tigris and Euphrates Valley, arose the Babylonian civilization. They bequeathed humanity with the Hammurabi code which had a strong and direct influence upon Mosaic law, though it was considered more liberal and humane.

From here, we see the birthing of monotheism in Palestine with their god which they argued transcended gender but would remain essentially male and with it the demotion of the women. In Judaism therefore, women were not required, and therefore not permitted to become rabbis, to study Torah and to pray in the synagogue. To their credit, however, it could be sinful to avoid such pleasures as wine or sex, since they had been provided for man’s enjoyment. We must however note their obsession with female virginity and almost pathological fear that illegitimate children might be smuggled into a family, which saw them promulgate a law

A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the lord.

Christianity through the works of Paul, its architect, Augustine of Hippo, Tertullian and contrary to other religions looked at already, regarded sexual relations outside marriage as a grave sin. Total abstinence was considered a nobler state than marriage. Gregory the great declared it was the lust of our parents’ flesh that was the cause of our being and to this extent, human existence was itself sinful. To Augustine, the originator of the doctrine of original sin, god had condemned humanity to eternal damnation simply because of Adam’s one sin. To Augustine, we owe the heritage of a religion that teaches men and women to regard their humanity as chronically flawed. Augustine writing to a friend wrote

What is the difference, whether it is a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any women?

Augustine was clearly puzzled that god would have made the female sex, after all,

If it was good company and conversation that Adam needed, it would have been much better arranged to have two men together as friends, not a man and woman.

Tertullian, writing before Augustine had already instigated women as evil temptress and eternal danger to mankind. He wrote

Do you not know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of god on this sex of yours lives in this age; the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway, you are the unsealer of that forbidden tree; you are the first deserter of the divine law; you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You so carelessly destroyed man, god’s image. On account of your desert, even the son of god had to die.

In 1059, Pope Leo IX formally insisted on the chastity of all priests. During the reformation and counter reformation, the celibacy question arose. Melanchthon preached against celibacy, Zwingli married at 40 being the first priest of RCC to dare do so in five centuries and Martin Luther married a nun. The Anglican church arising from the King’s lust for a lovely damsel, in this view, was conceived in sin.

Contemporary works on sex can be seen in the works of Kant who argued there is no way in which a human being can be made an object of indulgence of another except through sexual impulse. The conclusions from the work of Paul Fleischmann is that the substitution of sexuality for religious life constitutes one of the most prominent and pervasive elements of cultural pathology. The works of Freud are also important, at least, to the extent that he laid the groundwork for the liberation of the sexual aspirations of women from both an oppressive personal sense of guilt and the shame and humiliation of social stigmatization.

Of most recent publication that has had a great bearing on sex, morality and religion is the Kinsey Report in the late 1940s. Of the many conclusions, two are of interest to us

  1. The complete failure of orthodox morality- in spite of religion, moral philosophy, the influence of schools, church, mosque, temple and social conventions, it is obvious that human beings obey their sexual instincts to a far greater extent than the most pessimistic puritans ever hinted at. They noted that sex could not b sublimated. Fear of punishment or exposure made little difference to a person’s sexual activities.
  2. The rules of self-conduct were invariably influenced by personalities of those who set up the rules. The report shows, indirectly, that practically all the popular conceptions of sex morality are ill founded, hence, moral judgements are dangerous because they are unavoidably personal.

In his conclusion, the author notes contemporary evidence shows a progressive shift in attitudes. In all societies throughout the world, the prize of the virgin in marriage has given way to sexual enjoyment on the part of both sexes before marriage.

His last paragraph, below, is almost a lament. He writes

Where does all this leave us in Africa? We abandoned our Old Testament for other peoples’ Old testament, Torah and Quran. Now that our mentors are abandoning their gods and their rights, we are blindly following them in their wastelands inhabited by hollow men and women. A catalogue of indecencies now stares us in the face, including nudity, transvestitism, prostitution, pre-marital sex, extra marital sex, rape, incest, homosexuality, lesbianism and other emerging unnatural mode of sex.

He finishes by asking a question

How do we obviate this sexual rot that is threatening to deplete the human race? Perhaps Africa need a Kinsey Report to analyse all the popular conceptions of sex, morality and religion, before we can pontificate ala Cardinal Otunga. Perhaps Africa needs its own sex manual, its own Kama Sutra. Perhaps Africa needs its own sex text books, from which ignorant teenagers can acquire basic biological facts.

On morality. Again

SB has a post about conversations but somehow it ended up being about morals.

The visiting fundamentalist asked

If morality is subjective, how do you condemn slavery as immoral?

This question asked by a fellow who believes the bible should be used as a moral code reeks of high irony. Or is it sarcasm. I can’t tell which.

In different ages, society has condemned slavery in many of its myriad forms because of the belief that all human beings deserve equal treatment before the law. In that period of time, who is worthy of the consideration of being human has changed too.

And what does it even mean to say that subjective morality is inconsistent? Maybe the question to ask is what is morality? I think that’s the source of all confusion.

 

Here we go again: Morality

On the stone god’s blog, I ask

Ark, could you ask your Christians whether a thing is good because God commands it or god commands it because it is good?
Could they give an example of an objective moral and with supporting justification.

and then I get

What is the nature of God. God is good. God is love. Love and goodness are the very essence of God.

God is certainly not arbitrary in His moral actions, nor is God subject to some external standard of morality that governs His decisions…God isn’t arbitrarily deciding what is good and what is evil on a whim. Rather, it is God’s nature to do good, and God never acts contrary to His nature.
…the ground of morality is God’s nature and not some external standard to which God must adhere. God’s sovereignty is preserved as well as an objective standard for morality, i.e., God’s nature.

The Scriptures, God’s self-revelation to humanity, illustrates this quite nicely. A sampling of passages that demonstrate that goodness is grounded in God’s nature:

God commands certain actions as good and therefore to be done and forbids certain other actions as evil and therefore not to be done. What is good is not good simply because God commands it. It is good because it is reflective of His divine nature.

My first question is, did he understand my question? My question is about the nature of good. Are things good independent of god or do they get their goodness from god? And if all that is is the handiwork of god, how can anything be bad? IS it conceivable that a good god has through omission let bad exist? Is this fellow willfully ignorant or do we blame it on his upbringing?

The claim god is good is asserted without proof. The author has not demonstrated that god is and that it is good. It is not enough to claim god is good. God’s existence has not been demonstrated. It is quite evident the author of the above comment is ignorant of theologians who have argued god’s nature is unknowable. I propose they settle this small matter first then get back to us.

By saying god doesn’t act contrary to its nature, we must assume the author implies all a god does is good. That must include, in the case of the god of the bible, drowning all that lives, save a few, is good. Cursing the earth is good. Turning out A & E for a minor infraction is good. A further question is how does this fellow know all this about god? And the value judgement of god? Can he tell us what to god is evil? IS it the same with what he considers evil or are they different?

I have deleted the bible references because they are useless in this discussion. So far as I can tell, the theologian has not demonstrated the bible to be the word of a god, any god. On the contrary, most of the bible passages look like the ramblings of a deranged mind. Or maybe, god is deranged and we have been thinking the bible as is, could not come from a god. I think we have been holding god to a high standard without justification.

The god of the bible gave Joshua express orders to kill the Canaanites. The god of the bible is recorded to have drowned the Egyptian army, to have sent bears to kill children. The list of the moral things this god is said to have done have been listed before by others with much patience than yours truly.

It is tiring dealing with people who will not read.

Got a question 

Most animals are not malicious. This does not mean they do not call their mates occasionally. They do. Recently a chimp was killed and eaten by members of his troup or colony?

My question is why are humans capable of expressing the whole range of behaviour from altruism to sheer unbridled malice? What is it about us that makes this possible? 

the moral sense

There are authors who can make you laugh. There are authors who can make you think. Then there are authors that can make you do both. I think Mark Twain is in the last class.

In Mysterious Stranger, he does this so well. The character Satan, ably represented by Philip Traum, cautions against misuse of the word brutal. He insists, and you would agree, that the things treated under this heading no brute has been found guilty. He suggests we respect the higher animals.

The things were classify inhuman too are wrongly classified. Only humans are capable of them. Think rape, slavery, torture, war, exploitation all very human. It is our nature to do these things. We find them abhorrent, that I admit, but it is in our nature to do them. No lion kills another out of malice or kills a zebra because it can. And he says we are capable of these abuse because of the moral sense – the judge of good and bad.

He writes

No brute ever does a cruel thing, that is the monopoly of those with the Moral sense. When a brute inflicts pain he does it innocently; it is not wrong; for him there is no such thing as wrong. And he does not inflict pain for the pleasure of inflicting it, only man does that. Inspired by that mongrel Moral Sense of his! A sense whose function is to distinguish between right and wrong, with liberty to choose which of them he will do. Now what advantage can he get out of that? He is always choosing and in nine cases out of ten, he prefers the wrong.

I think, here

There shouldn’t be any wrong; and without the Moral Sense there couldn’t be any. And yet he is such an unreasoning creature that he is not able to perceive that the Moral Sense degrades him to the bottom layer of the animated beings and is a shameful possession

he took a lot of liberty with facts. Would we be better off without the moral sense? Would we find slavery abhorrent or it would be as natural as marrying off a nine-year old?

Is Mark Twain right [ the Moral Sense again] in defending the brutes? Should we find a word to replace brutal in our description of cruelty to one another. No other animal, I think, treat their fellows as we do. And whatever we describe inhumane, acts very human, can we find a more proper word for them?

This brings to mind the issue of whether human persons are naturally good or bad or whether these traits are learned. Jean Jacques Rousseau, I think, argued that we are naturally good. Another philosopher, I can’t recall claimed we are not good and are in need of salvation but the one I agree with is we are not any of the above. It is our actions that should be judged. If I dispatch the president and his cabinet, do I become a bad person or a person guilty of murder?

And while talking about murder, if in a revolution, we kill the president, his family and cohorts, no one gets arrested, why should I be, if I do it on my own for the public weal?