Notes From Babel

Initial Thoughts on the Importance of Moral Philosophy

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One more point about why we need a tenable underlying moral framework.  Start from the example of business transactions.  A businessman engages in several transactions every day, and rarely, if ever, concerns himself with whether the legality of the transaction can be enforced.  He simply assumes there is an underlying legal framework that, when called upon, will be available to translate his transaction into legal terms involving primary rights, primary duties, causes of action, justiciability, and so forth.  From time to time, the capability of that underlying legal framework must be demonstrated to the businessman, whether at such time when he needs resort to it, or when he learns of his colleagues’ and competitors interactions in it.  If the legal system fails to prove to men’s minds that his transactions may be enforced through clearly defined laws objectively and rationally applied, it will be no longer useful.

Something similar may be said about morality.  It is true that one will not often, perhaps ever, happen upon any person who doubts whether, because no transcendent moral order can be empirically established, such thing as a moral evil can ever exist.  But this has more to do with the fact that we happen to be the successors of a long train of adherents to a particular moral code.  However, moral quandaries do still  come up.  When they do, it becomes necessary to resort to more formal systems of moral philosophy that identify the origins of our moral beliefs, and whether they adhere to a rational, orderly, consistent structure.  And, in particular, whether they can end their regression in some non-arbitrary place, or whether it simply winds up positing a moral opinion not unlike the one they started with.

Written by Tim Kowal

November 19, 2009 at 11:12 pm

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