Sunday, March 04, 2007

A brief commentary about ethics

Sam Harris' book The End of Faith raised an interesting dilemma. The age-old question of whether morals are absolute truths or relative truths.

I tend to disagree with the Moral absolutism theory, I personally think that it's arrogant to think that one culture has a monopoly on the truth. It's so easy to see an error in somebody else's way of thinking and to proclaim yourself as morally superior. Not only that, but, how do you know that you are not wrong? How can you check and test your theory? In other words, how do you know you are right?

However, I have a big problem with moral relativism, the thought that there are not absolute truths, that it is all relative to the culture in question. Take for example the practice of honor killing in the Middle East. Out there it is considered a norm for family members to kill women in their families that have been raped, in order to preserve the "honor" of the family. This practice, has got to be wrong, it violates human rights, and yet, under the theory of moral relativism, the wrongdoers are acting in a moral way. I find that unacceptable.

Sam Harris suggests that there are universal truths about morality but we cannot understand their source at this time. It appears that we are naturally "wired" to be this way. (an in depth explanation is in the book, I just don't want to get into it for briefness sake)

Can there be universal rules of morality? I don't have a strong argument against it. I just think that societies dictate who gets to be wrong or who gets to be right. In this society it seems perfectly normal to believe there is a God out there who reads our thoughts and hates homosexuals and blasphemers, but if a person claims that God sends them messages in Morse code trough the rain, they are considered crazy. The same group of people who have no problem believing that The Red Sea was split in half, or that God sent 10 plagues to Egypt to make a statement. So what does that say? There is safety in numbers. If you believe what everyone believes you are ok, if you happen to think different, prepared to be challenged. That's just how it is.

But I am not messing with religion today. I am just wondering about the right way to think about what is it that we ought to do? If there are rules that apply to all humans, who has the authority to say what they are?


I want to see the documentary on Jesus's Tomb, I want to see what the fuzz is all about. For a non-religious person, I seem to pay a lot of attention to these things.


1 comment:

Froyd said...

an interesting way to approach the problem is in regards to ETHICS and/or MORALITY, and see where the definitions of either get you.