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Creating Moral Philosophy Ex Nihilo

I’ve got my own moral compass to steer by

A guiding star beats a spirit in the sky

Faithless, Rush

Posts like my recent one that describe the ethics found in a lived Christian culture and natural law, and what is lost (e.g., liberty) when those ethics are lost, bring some really aggressive comments – so aggressive that I do not post these.  They often include a sentiment such as in the lyrics above – I have created my own ethics, and they are good; I don’t need your God to tell me how to live.  This follows with blasphemies that will never see the light of day at this blog.

If you give up Christian faith, you pull the right to Christian morality out from under your feet. This morality is simply not self-evident: one has to bring this point home again and again, despite the English dimwits.

–          Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols (PDF)

I really have to wonder how much Western history such people understand.  I also wonder how they might understand evolutionary realities.  I believe that they are ignorant of both.

But I still cling to hope

And I believe in love

And that’s faith enough for me

Faith, hope and love.  This sounds familiar, but not for any reason an evolutionary biologist could explain.  If our ethics developed according to the demands of evolution, there would be no room for love.

1 Corinthians 13: 13 But now faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Oh, yeah.  That’s where I read it.  But the world until then followed what one could consider a path consistent with evolutionary biology: the strong conquer the weak.  There is no love in this.  The pre-Christian Roman world had a set of ethics, but nothing that would seem ethical to the lyricist of Rush or to the commenters that tell me about how they have created their own “guiding star.”

The point of this first project is to come up with a precise statement of the principle or principles on which all of our ordinary moral judgments are based. The judgments in question are supposed to be those that any normal, sane, adult human being would accept on due rational reflection.

–          Kant’s Moral Philosophy, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Let’s see what every “normal, sane, adult human being would accept on due rational reflection” prior to Christianity:

Babies left at the side of the road or dumped in the sewers; any bodily orifice – male or female (and under Nero, even slave or free) fair game to the male citizen, at any place, public or private, and at any time, day or night; no meaningful concept of mercy, compassion, or forgiveness – in fact, such “virtues” were considered disgraceful; women were, in every way, inferior to men – even subjects; slavery was defended; a virtuous Roman could look at the suffering of others without wincing.

This all accords with what one might consider an ethical standard derived via evolution.  And it was all considered quite ethical in Rome.  One’s “own moral compass,” if living in pre-Christian Europe, would have concluded that such behavior was perfectly ethical.

It was only via Christianity that such practices were changed – sure, not all at once, and not in a linear manner.  Such cultural changes aren’t instantaneous.  But the philosophy offered via all men and women created in God’s image, the teaching and life of Christ, and the letters of the Apostle Paul, did their work.

So, I am left to wonder about those who believe that they have actually created a moral philosophy ex nihilo: why does it look so much like Christian ethics and natural law, and not something more recognizable to an ethical system that would better conform to evolutionary biology – i.e., Rome?

Conclusion

I’ve got my own spirit level for balance

To tell if my choice is leading up or down

Not according to Friedrich Nietzsche.  From “The Parable of the Madman,”:

“Where has God gone?” he cried. “I shall tell you. We have killed him – you and I. We are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not perpetually falling?”

Yes, we are.

“Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left?”

No, there is not.

“Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is it not more and more night coming on all the time?”

Yes, it is.  We return to pre-Christian Rome.

Reprinted with permission from Bionic Mosquito.