Ethical Systems or Sin, Evil, Inhumanity
Mark Galli on Being Sick or Dead said...
"The Troubled State of Christian Preaching", ChristianityToday.com (Jan 21, 2013).
In the New Testament era, by contrast, the big problem was the scandal of the Cross. It's not hard to see why. Among the many things the Cross says is this: We're as dead as Jesus. He hangs there as the true human, the sign of all humanity, dead to the world, dead to the future, and especially dead to God, who it seems has forsaken us. The situation is so bad that only the sacrifice of Another—again Jesus, who hangs there as true God — can remedy it. For people like us, who imagine we're not so much dead as suffering a cold, and that if we take our vitamin C and will ourselves out of bed, we can make a go of it — well, this verdict can sound unnerving. Worse, to be told we can do nothing to revive ourselves, that we are left completely at the mercy of this Other—well, this doesn't sit well in any culture, let alone in a culture that prizes individual initiative and heroic effort.
Marlene Winell on Original Sin said...
Leaving the Fold (Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, 1993), p. 1.
In conservative Christianity you are told you are unacceptable. You are judged with regard to your relationship to God. Thus you can only be loved positionally, not essentially. And, contrary to any assumed ideal of Christian love, you cannot love others for their essence either. This is the horrible cost of the doctrine of original sin.
"Letter from a Birmingham Jail", (April 16, 1963).
You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."
Taking Darwin Seriously: A Naturalistic Approach to Philosophy (Prometheus: 1998), p. 253.
The Darwinian argues that morality simply does not work (from a biological perspective), unless we believe that it is objective. Darwinian theory shows that, in fact, morality is a function of (subjective) feelings; but it shows also that we have (and must have) the illusion of objectivity.
"Abortion and Infanticide" in Ethics in Perspective, Kirsten J. Struhl & Paula Rothenberg Struhl, eds. (Random House: 1975) p.245.
Aside from the light it may shed on the abortion question, the issue of infantacide is both interesting and important in its own right. The theoretical interest has been mentioned: it forces one to face up to the question of what makes something a person. The practical imprtance need not be labored. Most people would prefer to raise children who do not suffer from gross deformities or from severe physical, emotional, or intellectual handicaps. If it could be shown that there is no moral objection to infanticide the happiness of society could be significantly and justifably increased. Infanticide is also of interest because of the strong emotions it arouses. The typical reaction to infanticide is like the reaction to incest or cannibalism, or the reaction of previous generations to masturbation or oral sex. The response, rather than appealing to carefully formulated moral principles, is primarily visceral. When philosophers themselves respond in this way, offering no arguments, and dismissing infanticide out of hand, it is reasonable to suspect that one is dealing with a taboo rather than with a rational prohibition.
Tragic Sense of Life, trans. J.E. Crawford Flitch (Dover: 1954), orig. 1921, p. 291.
The fact that society is guilty aggravates the guilt of each one, and he is most guilty who most is sensible of the guilt. Christ, the innocent, since he best knew the intensity of guilt, was in a certain sense the most guilty. In him the culpability, together with the divinity, of humanity arrived at the consciousness of itself. Many are wont to be amused when they read how, because of the most trifling faults, faults at which a man of the world would merely smile, the greatest saints counted themselves the greatest sinners. But the intensity of the fault is not measured by the external act, but by the consciousness of it, and an act for which the conscience of one man suffers acutely makes scarcely any impression on the conscience of another. And in a saint, conscience may be developed so fully and to such a degree of sensitiveness that the slightest sin may cause him more remorse than his crime causes the greatest criminal. And sin rests upon our consciousness of it, it is in him who judges and in so far as he judges. When a man commits a vicious act believing in good faith that he is doing a virtuous action, we cannot hold him morally guilty, while on the other hand that man is guilty who commits an act which he believes to be wrong, even though in itself the act is indifferent or perhaps beneficent. The act passes away, the intention remans, and the evil of the act is that it corrupts the intention, that in knowingly doing wrong a man is predisposed to go on doing it, that it blurs the conscience. And doing evil is not the same being evil. Evil blurs the conscience, and not only the moral conscience, but the general, psychical consciousness. And everything that exalts and expands conscious is good, while that which depresses and diminishes it is evil.
Tragic Sense of Life, trans. J.E. Crawford Flitch (Dover: 1954), orig. 1921, pp. 289-91.
Instead of renouncing the world in order that we may dominate it ... what we ought to do is to dominate the world in order that we may be able to renounce it. Not to seek poverty and submission, but to seek wealth in order that we may use it to increase human consciousness, and to seek power for the same end. ¶ It is curious that monks and anarchists should be at enmity with each other, when fundamentally they both profess the same ethic and are related by close ties of kinship. Anarchism tend to become a kind of atheistic monachism and a religious, rather than an ethical enconomico-social, doctrine. The one party starts from the assumption that man is naturally evil, born in original sin, and that it is through grace that he becomes good, if indeed he ever does become good; and the other from the assumption that man is naturally good and is subsequently perverted by society. And these two theories really amount to the same thing, for in both the individual is opposed to society, as if the individual had preceded society and therefore were destined to survive it. And both ethics are ethics of the cloister.
Mohandas Gandhi on Free Will said...
Gandhi An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth (Navajivan : 1927-1929)
But from the ordinary point of view, a man who is saved from physically committing sin is regarded as saved. And I was saved only in that sense. There are some actions from which an escape is a godsend both for the man who escapes and for those about him. Man, as soon as he gets back his consciousness of right, is thankful to the Divine mercy for the escape. As we know that a man often succumbs to temptation, however much he say resist it, we also know that Providence often intercedes and saves him in spite of himself. How all this happens, how far a man is free and how far a creature of circumstances, how far free-will comes into play and where fate enters on the scene, all this is a mystery and will remain a mystery.
Robert Audi (Oxford University Press: September 1997), 320 pages.
This book offers a unified collection of published and unpublished papers by Robert Audi, a renowned defender of the rationalist position in ethics. Taken together, the essays present a vigorous, broadly-based argument in moral epistemology and a related account of reasons for action and their bearing on moral justification and moral character. Part I details Audi's compelling moral epistemology while Part II offers a unique vision of ethical concepts and an account of moral explanation, as well as a powerful model of moral realism. Part III extends this account of moral explanation to moral responsibility for both actions and character and to the relation between virtue and the actions that express it. Part IV elaborates a theory of reasons for action that locates them in relation to three of their traditionally major sources: desire, moral judgment, and value. Clear and illuminating, Audi's introduction outlines and interconnects the self-contained but cumulatively arranged essays. It also places them in relation to classical and contemporary literature, and directs readers to large segments of thematically connected material spread throughout the book. Audi ends with a powerfully synthetic final essay. ~ Product Description
Barbara Herman (Harvard University Press: September 2008), 352 pages.
A distinguished moral philosopher and a leading interpreter of Kant's ethics, Barbara Herman draws on Kant to address timeless issues in ethical theory as well as ones arising from current moral problems, such as obligations to distant need, the history of slavery as it bears on affirmative action, and the moral costs of reparative justice. Challenging various Kantian orthodoxies, Herman offers a view of moral competency as a complex achievement, governed by rational norms and dependent on supportive social conditions. She argues that the objectivity of duties and obligations does not rule out the possibility of or need for moral invention. Her goal is not to revise Kant but to explore the issues and ask the questions that he did not consider. Some of the essays involve explicit interpretation of Kant, and others are prompted by ground-level questions. For example, how should we think about moral character given what we know about the fault lines in normal development? If ordinary moral life is saturated by the content of local institutions, how should our accounts of moral obligation and judgment accommodate this? ~ Product Description
Marc Hauser (HarperCollins: August 2006), 512 pages.
Marc Hauser's eminently readable and comprehensive book Moral Minds is revolutionary. He argues that humans have evolved a universal moral instinct, unconsciously propelling us to deliver judgments of right and wrong independent of gender, education, and religion. Experience tunes up our moral actions, guiding what we do as opposed to how we deliver our moral verdicts. For hundreds of years, scholars have argued that moral judgments arise from rational and voluntary deliberations about what ought to be. The common belief today is that we reach moral decisions by consciously reasoning from principled explanations of what society determines is right or wrong. This perspective has generated the further belief that our moral psychology is founded entirely on experience and education, developing slowly and subject to considerable variation across cultures. In his groundbreaking book, Hauser shows that this dominant view is illusory. Combining his own cutting-edge research with findings in cognitive psychology, linguistics, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, economics, and anthropology, he examines the implications of his theory for issues of bioethics, religion, law, and our everyday lives. ~ Product Description
David Owen Brink, ed. (Cambridge University Press: Feb 24, 1989), 356 pages.
This is an important book in contemporary meta-ethics since it is the first and only book-length treatise on so-called "Cornell Realism." What is perhaps most distinctive of the Cornell Realists is that they draw on work in recent philosophy of science to argue that we have good reason to believe that moral inquiry is objective in much the same way that scientific inquiry is objective. They also adhere to a battery of views on specific meta-ethical issues, and this helps to distinguish them from other thinkers. At the center of their metaphysics of morality is the view that moral facts and properties are natural, though they cannot be reduced to the properties of physics, biology, chemistry, or any other discipline in the natural sciences. "David Brink's book is the best development, synthesis, and defense now available of a naturalistic moral realism." ~ Ethics
Russ Shafer-Landau (Oxford University Press: July, 2005), 332 pages.
Shafer-Landau defends non-naturalist moral realism. Moral realism is the thesis there are objective moral facts. In other words, it is the thesis that there are moral facts, and they are not constituted by what any actual or possible person (or any actual or possible group of persons) thinks, feels, believes, etc. Shafer-Landau argues that these objective moral facts are non-natural facts. The moral facts are sui generis, and in particular they are not a sort of natural facts. His non-naturalism also includes a thesis about moral language: that it cannot be analyzed into the language of the natural or social sciences. In explaining his position, Shafer-Landau emphasizes that it does not commit him to the existence of strange, inexplicable moral stuff. His position is that the moral facts are wholly constituted by non-moral (probably wholly natural) facts, though they are not identical to any non-moral facts. This rests on a form of property pluralism according to which moral properties, though not identical to non-moral properties, are realized by non-moral properties. Things have moral properties that are not identical to natural properties, and therefore moral facts (i.e. facts about which things have which moral properties) are wholly constituted by natural facts but are not themselves natural facts. ~ ctdreyer at Amazon.com
Paul K. Moser and Thomas L. Carson, eds. (Oxford University Press: August 2000), pages.
Are all moral truths relative or do certain moral truths hold for all cultures and people? In Moral Relativism: A Reader, this and related questions are addressed by twenty-one contemporary moral philosophers and thinkers. This engaging and nontechnical anthology, the only up-to-date collection devoted solely to the topic of moral relativism, is accessible to a wide range of readers including undergraduate students from various disciplines. The selections are organized under six main topics: (1) General Issues; (2) Relativism and Moral Diversity; (3) On the Coherence of Moral Relativism; (4) Defense and Criticism; (5) Relativism, Realism, and Rationality; and (6) Case Study on Relativism. Contributors include Ruth Benedict, Richard Brandt, Thomas L. Carson, Philippa Foot, Gordon Graham, Gilbert Harman, Loretta M. Kopelman, David Lyons, J. L. Mackie, Michele Moody-Adams, Paul K. Moser, Thomas Nagel, Martha Nussbaum, Karl Popper, Betsy Postow, James Rachels, W. D. Ross, T. M. Scanlon, William Graham Sumner, and Carl Wellman. The volume concludes with a case study on female circumcision/genital mutilation that vividly brings into focus the practical aspects and implications of moral relativism. An ideal primary text for courses in moral relativism, Moral Relativism: A Reader can also be used as a supplementary text for introductory courses in ethics and for courses in various disciplines — anthropology, sociology, theology, political science, and cultural studies — that discuss relativism. The volume's pedagogical and research value is enhanced by a topical bibliography on moral relativism and a substantial general introduction that includes explanatory summaries of the twenty selections.
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (Oxford University Press: Jul 2009), 192 pages.
Some argue that atheism must be false, since without God, no values are possible, and thus "everything is permitted." Walter Sinnott-Armstrong argues that God is not only not essential to morality, but that our moral behavior should be utterly independent of religion. He attacks several core ideas: that atheists are inherently immoral people; that any society will sink into chaos if it is becomes too secular; that without morality, we have no reason to be moral; that absolute moral standards require the existence of God; and that without religion, we simply couldn't know what is wrong and what is right. Sinnott-Armstrong brings to bear convincing examples and data, as well as a lucid, elegant, and easy to understand writing style. This book should fit well with the debates raging over issues like evolution and intelligent design, atheism, and religion and public life as an example of a pithy, tightly-constructed argument on an issue of great social importance. ~ Product Description
Basil Mitchell (Oxford University Press: March 1986), 176 pages.
In Morality, Religious and Secular: The Dilemma of the Traditional Conscience, Basil Mitchell wrestles with the relationship between morality and theism. Through a critical examination of three wholly secular moral theories — rational/scientific humanism, romantic humanism and liberal humanism — he concludes that non-religious moralities, though simpler in some ways, fail to meet the demands of the ‘traditional conscience’. He argues that morals are essentially a matter of necessity, a product of human needs, undergirded by accepted conceptions of personhood and relationality. As the Western moral tradition has been most profoundly shaped by the teachings of Christianity, Mitchell questions whether or not this morality can be maintained in a wholly secular climate. ~ Brannon Hancock