Moral Evolution


Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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61 Responses

  1. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    It seems like a theist could view moral evolution as providential without too many problems. That might make it easier to swallow. The concern I have with seeing ourselves in this way is that we can just as easily risk becoming ossified as we would with the Eternal Truth school of thought. We could risk saying, “all of these centuries of moral evolution and we’ve finally gotten it right, so nobody touch nothing!”Report

    • Avatar RTod in reply to Rufus F. says:

      I think that we do, in fact, do this… and yet evolution still marches on, for better or worse. My atheist friends seems comfortable that after tens of thousands of years of history they have finally shed themselves of all the shackles of religion and are truly enlightened. My fundamentalist protestant friends look back on all forms of Christianity that came before and shake their heads sadly at how wrong all who came before them were. (Especially the Catholics.)

      And soon life’s observations and the movement of society will cause a shift in their thinking, but their belief in their wisdom will remain intact. And if not, they will soon be replaced by the next generation, who will be content in the knowledge that they – at last! -truly have it all figured out.Report

  2. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    Well, there is truth and non-truth. And, though the piece is well written it’s rather obvious the author is conflating ‘moral evolution’ and moral relativism while portraying his inquiries as some form of dialectical self-revelation.
    The author, a devout modern, seems more dedicated to the proposition that all life is dark and only becomes luminous upon self-discovery.
    Unfortunately, the piece has the unhappy effect of adding to the inherent disorders associated with modernity.

    Sort of a faithless Jacob Boehme on steroids.
    The entire phenomeno is growing more and more fascinating, what with his mysticalReport

    • Avatar RTod in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

      “”Unfortunately, the piece has the unhappy effect of adding to the inherent disorders associated with modernity.”

      Say more?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to RTod says:

        Eh, that’s just Bob’s infantile neurosis speaking.

        See, Bob?Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to RTod says:

        RTod, you are a seeker, and that’s a good thing!
        Stay with me. Modernity has nothing to offer but narcissicism followed by despair, followed by suicide the obligatory suicide of the intellectuals. There is a vile, narcissistic, automous elitist gnosticism that seeks to seduce. Hang in there, dude.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

          I observe when all around, life seems dark and stinky, it’s time to pull my head out of my ass.Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

          It’s too bad, Bob, that you’re so trapped inside your infantile neurosis. The religious world view has nothing to offer but a denial of this life and this world, and a repression of the body, largely in the service of the powerful.

          See, I can play this silly game too: your world view is a pernicious disease, and mine rocks. I don’t even have to back it up. I can cite Freud or Marx or Nietzsche or whomever I please, and leave it at that. I might even use their language to make my point, without showing any real connection to their reasoning. Like someone might do with Voegelin.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Chris says:

            I dunno, Chris. Religion doesn’t have to be a denial of this life or a rejection of the world, though for many it has become exactly that. For some of us, religion ties us ever more firmly to this life, to other sentient human beings, allowing us to see ourselves in the suffering of others. If religion ties me to the past, and it does, I see generation after generation of the faithful obeying the dictates of my faith, led to lives of holiness and selflessness in the emulation of our savior who loved us, an unlovable little hominid species much-given to greed and lying and self-delusion.

            As alchemy gave way to chemistry, as astrology gave way to astronomy, it is a matter of objectives. Religion was never an answer but the first iteration of the questions that have always tormented us: the nature of evil, the nature of man, from whence did we arise and how, love and fate and destiny and what lies beyond the grave. If we ridicule early man who attributed things to the gods and the alchemists who tried to create gold and the astrologers who looked to the stars, modern man’s answers to the Old Questions are even more ridiculous and pathetic, a dismissive hand waving away the Old Questions themselves. Science will not dance at weddings and is cold comfort at funerals.

            The people who left the paintings in the caves of Altamira were not so different from you or me or Bob in all his magnificent truculence. Surely they saw the same stars and planets, felt the same rains, lived and loved and mourned their dead. We dismiss the Ancients and their explanations at the peril of our own souls, for we must answer the Old Questions in our turn and modern man has done a wretched job. For all our connections to each other, we are lonelier and more isolated than at any other period of human history. We not only do not love our neighbors: we barely know their names. If men once built churches and cathedrals and temples to gods of wood and stone, they gathered together in them and cared for each other in ways we find incomprehensible today. If Religion has denied the world: modern man has denied not only the world but his fellow men as well.Report

            • Avatar Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

              Blaise, I was playing the part of Bob’s mirror image: all hat and no cattle, with the hat being a particularly condescending one, but from the nonreligious perspective.

              That said, my own view is that if one has to create another world, another life, on top of this one in order to give this one meaning or to justify it, then one has already denigrated this one far too much.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Chris says:

                The world is too much with us, late and soon, Wordsworth told us. Bob provides us both with a capacious target, admittedly.

                Recently, Mother Theresa’s religious doubts came to light in several letters she wrote. Chris, that’s true of every believer, we all doubt. I doubt. Religion isn’t trying to create another world, it’s attempting to reconcile the transitory and deceptive illusions of reality as we perceive it to some ordered scheme. If you do not like religion’s conclusions, its core questions remain unanswered. If the world is a disordered place replete with evil and selfishness, we have made it so. To conclude otherwise is self-delusion of the worst sort. We have concluded from the evidence that life evolved, well, religion was one such iteration of that evolution: if Darwin and Lyell and Stephen Jay Gould and Watson and Crick gave us a better answer to the evolution of life, religion was man’s first attempt to answer the question of evil, a far more pressing and immediate problem. If we subsequently evolved laws and justice to address the problem, our current solutions have proven entirely inadequate. America now jails more people per thousand than any other nation. Surely law is not the answer: like religion its immediate ancestor, law has become part of the problem. A fundamental rephrasing of the question is in order, more in line with the Buddha’s observations and the sermons of Jesus Christ: evil proceeds from the heart and the mind of man himself. Change is not only necessary, it is possible, and we must strive on with diligence, not for a better future but for a better present.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Religion isn’t trying to create another world; it is creating another world, separate from this one, or at the very least above it, and that’s all that matters, for me. You can see it differently. It is a value judgment, or a meta-value judgment, and one that we can certainly disagree on. For me, the fundamental value, the one on which all others built, is an affirmation of life in and of itself. If I needed something to justify life, it wouldn’t be much of a foundation. Fortunately, I don’t.

                By the way, for Buddhists, evil is inherent in the very nature of life (in the form of suffering). That’s the first tenet of Buddhism. This I find abhorrent, as I’m sure you can imagine, since Buddhism is all about denying life as an illusion that creates suffering through desire. Bleh.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Chris says:

                What leads you to conclude religion is creating another world? If anything, the religious man extrapolates what he knows to be true and good in the world-that-is and derives precepts which guide him to live in accordance with those principles of truth and goodness. If a father loves his children, is it so far-fetched to extrapolate that fathers ought to love their children? Courts will tell you fathers ought to support their children, but the courts cannot make them love them.

                No, religion does not seek to create another world. It seeks to rebuild this ruined world, where fathers do not always love their children. Life does not need affirmation, it springs up everywhere, in the rotten leftovers in the Tupperware of our fridges. Love needs affirmation, not life. Life is transitory, the consequences of our actions will outlive us.

                Your ghastly interpretation of the Buddhist doctrine of suffering is sadly uninformed. The doctrines of Buddhism on dukka are common sense: we suffer because we lack. Naked and screaming we enter the world, we grow hungry and thirsty, our bowels and bladders fill and must be voided, we grow tired and must sleep, we lust and must be given pleasure, we go from need to need, from desire to desire. We grow old and our bones ache, we become angry and resentful, proud and distant, haughty and greedy, slaves to desires, slaves to possessions, ultimately slaves of our own fear. This is the disease of the self.

                There is a cure. We must live simply, in accordance to our true needs, which are few enough when considered properly. We ought to eat when we are hungry and sleep when we are tired. We would enjoy life more and suffer less if we were freed from our addictions to things, eating mindfully, living mindfully. Most people live their lives in pursuit of things that will not give them true pleasure, only more lust for more things. Such tendencies are not only self-destructive but externally destructive, to others as we trample on them in our mad pursuit of selfish pleasure.

                We have been given an improbable gift, sentience, and we have perverted it to our own destruction and the misery of many other sentient beings. No, life is not suffering, we are suffering, and we suffer needlessly, starving in the midst of plenty, filling our bellies while others go hungry, ungrateful for the great gift of sentience which informs us constantly, we fill our veins with drugs and booze in an effort to silence that voice but it will not stop weeping. And others weep around us, constantly, and we will not stop to comfort them, so miserable are we, trapped inside our own Wonderful Selves. It is a trap, a prison we built for ourselves, and we could walk out of it at any moment. The big baby inside all of us needs to grow up, stop crying and learn to live in harmony with the world and it starts with the proposition that we are all in it together. Your suffering is my suffering, your joys my joys.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I suppose, Blaise, if you see heaven, the ideal plane, the spiritual world, the world of the afterlife, the world of angels and possibly demons, the world of God, or whatever combination of these things you want to include in your religion, as not separate from but the best parts of this world, the material world, from which they are usually separated and placed above, that’s fine. I don’t think that’s the way most Christians (to take one religion) see it, nor is it the way it is generally seen by Christian theologians, but you’re free to create your own version. And if you see them all as one and the same, then what I’ve said doesn’t apply to your individual religion.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Well, don’t suppose. Science tells us enough about the nature of reality for any educated person to deduce our own senses are an imperfect guide at best. A good deal of reality can only be detected by specially built devices. The astrophysics guys are currently looking for Weak Energy and Weak Matter and seem to have found a way to find it.

                I’m not particularly interested in eschatology or how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Here and now concern me more, they constantly occupy my time. The discipline of my faith guides me to feed the poor and give money to refugee work.

                God is not far away in some alternate dimension hastily tacked onto the matrix of the cosmos. He is constantly present. The rules of the universe are his rules. If you seek miracles, my changed life is that miracle.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

                The I suppose thing was really more of a shrug of the shoulders than actually supposing. It looks to me like you’re doing precisely what I describe as life-denying, or at least life-debasing, but you see it as life-affirming. That’s wonderful. We have a different starting point, and a different metaphysics. Chacun à son gout.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Ecch, I remember teaching my kids about sex, and I taught them early. Sex, I told them, was the one pleasure in life they’d never tire of throughout their lives. But even sex can be abused as a pleasure, they’d have to learn to derive pleasure from pleasing their partners, or it wouldn’t be a good pleasure. It’s not a skill they’d master all at once and every partner would be different. Good sex is somewhat selfish, their partners would want them to be pleased as well, so go ahead and have plenty of fun. But it’s important to recognize how significant sex is and take precautions, for children come of it and sexually transmitted diseases, too, but that shouldn’t stop them from entering into meaningful relationships when they were ready.

                I believe all life is full of such pleasures and opportunities for joy. I make a lot of money, consulting pays well. I have a great many nice things, I don’t stint on myself or my family. So why shouldn’t I take pleasure in philanthropy? Look at the rich men throughout history, eventually they accumulate enough wealth to the point where they’re doing philanthropy. Gould, Fisk, Rockefeller, Gates, Buffett, they’re all rapacious captains of industry who wouldn’t lose an hour of sleep from destroying their competitors but they’re deriving pleasure from giving their money to worthy causes.

                Life-denying? Puh-leeze. I worked too hard for this money to not derive pleasure from spending it. I just don’t spend much of it on myself. I have what I need.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I honestly have no idea what you’re going on about now.Report

            • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to BlaiseP says:

              No contemporary librul, commie-dem wrote the last paragraph.Report

    • Avatar Scott in reply to Robert Cheeks says:


      I agree Bob. Robert Bork had it right, we are slouching toward Gomorrah under the guise of “moral evolution.”Report

    • Avatar Simon K in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

      Bob – Is there any hypothetical claim that morals have evolved since, say, the fall of Rome that you would accept? What about since 1776? Or 1865?Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

      See Bob, I find this view a helpful corrective to one of the major claims of moral relativism- that moral judgments must be relative since they vary so much according to time and place, and how could we possibly pick one as better than another? This argument seems to me to be saying sure there are differences, but that doesn’t mean that some moral frameworks aren’t more advanced than others, so of course we can prefer one over another, just like we might prefer a cancer center to an Amazon basin healer.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Rufus F. says:

        Perhaps Rufus, but I’m more inclined toward the ever popular ‘moral futurism’ that says something like ‘what will be is right’. Being of the olde school orthodoxy I don’t warmly embrace an idea, scheme, or impulse simply because everyone says it’s so kewl.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

          Orthodoxy was ever the refuge of the bad scholar and weak thinker, a carapace beneath which every bigot hides, the robe that does not make the monk, the whitewashed tomb full of dead men’s bones and their ideas, too.Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to BlaiseP says:

            Thank you for the insight!
            I’ll take that olde coterie of orthodox bishops, the Council of Nicea, and their declaration that, “..there was on Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God, begotten of the Father, only-begotten, that is from the substance of the Father.’
            You may have Spong and the Social Gospel.
            The insight? You’re an elitist.Report

  3. Issues:

    “Importantly, moral principles can change, as they have. For example, there has been an evolution in the conception of justice. In earlier times justice was scarcely distinguishable from revenge. The tit for tat infliction of death and other destruction produced a downward spiral. In addition, guilt and punishment was at the level of the tribe and later of the family rather than the individual. Justice is a limitation of pure revenge. It is also more predictable, less arbitrary and less costly from a social perspective to administer. It has grown in the context of greater awareness of the importance of social cooperation and the need to use justice to further social cooperation rather than to destroy it through some form of “mutually assured destruction.”

    I would cynically and strongly disagree with this (although I realize it’s immaterial to the main point). Have people not been paying attention to U.S. foreign policy for the last ten years? Or world history for the last hundred? I’d say this apparent shift has far more to do with shifting notions of in-groups than shifting conceptions of justice.

    2. “Fundamentally, moral rules and institutions develop from the bottom up. This is a sociological or cultural “fact” which I realize is inconsistent with the idea that they come ready-made and eternal from religion or God. But look at the evidence.”

    I’m not sure this holds anymore. They definitely did at first, but a lot of people (most people?) are just plain “lawful” (as opposed to “moral”). I also don’t see how even if morality is unequivocally proven to have arisen organically this necessarily excludes God as the author.

    That being said, I strongly agree with the author’s point that: “This is an important reason that we do not want to rigidify all moral norms by giving them the force of law. We want to let the waxing and waning of social sanctions to act now as a strong disincentive and then as a weak disincentive to putatively immoral behavior.” – social restraints on undesirable behavior are usually better than legal restraints for a variety of reasons. Except that at present scales of societal organization, we’ve proven ourselves to be poor at cooperating to stop systemic immoral behaviors that negatively affect us in the long run if they help us in the short run. For these externalities we need some kind of artificial catalyst to actualize our collectively-held values.

    Let’s also not forget to not violate the fact/values distinction: just because some moral framework evolved doesn’t make it the superior moral framework.Report

  4. Avatar tom van dyke says:

    Jason, I don’t blame you for declining to add anything to Mario Rizzo’s complete nonsense. You would be obliged to defend it. Cheers.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to tom van dyke says:

      You’ll likely deny that morals have improved — if so, see SimonK, above — but I don’t think you can sensibly deny that morals have evolved.Report

      • Jason, you linked Rizzo’s essay approvingly w/o explanation, I call it nonsense similarly. Including the words “and” and “the.”

        Below, in reply to our universally beloved Mr. Cheeks, a substantive reply on “morality.”Report

  5. Avatar Chris says:

    You know, there’s a growing body of evidence that, at some level, our moral “principles,” or at least the moral “intuitions” that form the basis of moral principles are innate. It’s long been thought that, for example, reciprocity is an innate social principle in humans, but more recently, other moral intuitions have been posited to be part of an innate moral vocabulary, or perhaps grammar (a bunch of researchers have recently become moral Chomskyans). But since whatever it is that is innate has to be filled in with real world content, culture will do most of the work in determining the actual content of moral judgments. And since culture evolves, it’s not surprising that moral judgments evolve (I think this has really been the dominant view in empirical psychology since at least Piaget, though often only tacitly).

    The market analogy is probably only so useful, as are other analogies in this domain, but if it gets people thinking about it, that’s a good thing. As an analogy (and it’s just that), it reminds me a lot of the analogy behind the concept of memes: it’s a nice place to start, but you have to leave it behind pretty quickly to understand the nuances of cultural, and by extension moral, evolution.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Chris says:

      I think a lot of people are going in the same direction with regards to aesthetics. The initial responses are fairly non-cognitive and the explanations for them fill in with cultural content. It makes sense to me and I’d imagine religious people would find the idea compatible with truths being “written on the heart”.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Rufus F. says:

        Yeah, I wrote a bit about Ramachandran and neuroaesthetics a few years ago. I think the moral psychology version of this general idea (it’s broadly Chomskyan ala universal grammar) is further along, empirically, than the aesthetics version, simply because the aesthetics version is really, really hard to test, and so there hasn’t been a lot of research done to date. But there’s almost certainly something to it.Report

        • Avatar dexter in reply to Chris says:

          Could you define “Chomskyan ala universal grammar’ in one hundred words or less?Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to dexter says:

            Sure, it’s the idea that the basic syntax, or rules for the combination of symbols/representations, is innate and universal, and experience fills in the content. This is the basic Chomskyan view of language (or at least language structure, not semantics, or at least not any ordinary version of semantics). It’s an increasingly common view of other things as well, including recent ideas of a universal moral grammar. Is that under 100 words?Report

            • Avatar dexter in reply to Chris says:


            • Avatar dexter in reply to Chris says:

              Is that a high falutin way of saying what is is and interpretion is dependent on my nature and nurture? If that is correct, where does that leave my belief that the only absolute is that there are no absolutes?Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to dexter says:

                It does say, among other things, that language, morality, perhaps aesthetics, and who knows what else, is a product of both nature and nurture, yes.

                As for absolutes, I suppose it depends on what you mean by absolute. If you mean transcendent, then it probably leaves it unaffected.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Rufus F. says:

        that is comment 11!Report

  6. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Do morals evolve? Or is it more a sense of innate outrage at the imbalance of a given situation? We can always turn the tables in our minds’ eye to see ourselves at the short end of any given stick. From cheating at cards to tax evasion, this sense of outrage doesn’t so much evolve as find new outlets with each new stick. If the dealer has declared deuces wild, we who play the game must abide by that stipulation. That’s part of the charm of any such game, our willing participation in such schemes, variously enjoying or bemoaning the luck of the draw.

    Let’s take Hayek’s case for same-sex marriage: which form of marriage are we talking about? The religious ceremony or the civil marriage contract? At some point, society recognizes a common-law marriage and it differs by state, so why shouldn’t a same sex union be similarly recognized?

    The problem arises when societal ethics come into conflict with evolving norms. In KSA, the notion of ahdl , male guardianship of female relatives is perpetuated in law. At this moment, a woman has been living in a shelter for five years. She’s a surgeon. Her father has demanded she marry one of her cousins, men much younger than her and less educated. When she refused, she was beaten with a hose by her fathers and brothers. When she took it to court, she was ordered to see a psychologist and her claims denied. The case is now on appeal: her lawyer is using Islamic law to defend her, for shari’a law observes the rights of women if Saudi societal customs do not.

    We in the West find ahdl repugnant, but it was not always so. Women were married off against their will and denied rights in law for many centuries here in the West. Lovers would run north into the forests to escape the constrictions of the Roman world, which imprisoned married women inside their homes more permanently than ahdl does today.

    Mario Rizzo reduces this to trial and error, applying market principles after a fashion. Rather than contradict him directly, I’d rephrase the problem as Error and Trial. As conditions change, markets adapt, but with societies and morals, law is always behind the curve. An Error is detected, we put it on Trial. The courts of law and public opinion are always weighted to decide based on Precedent. When a case goes against precedent, it gets a fresh chapter in the lawbooks with a SCOTUS citation. When religions change, there’s a chapter in the history books.

    Stephen Jay Gould posits a theory he calls Punctuated Equilibrium. Without delving into all its applications, after a long period of stasis, a given community or species will fan out in a process called cladogenesis: many solutions to many problems. The surviving solutions will stabilize into new forms which enter another period of stasis, followed again by a fanning out. Today’s heresy becomes tomorrow’s dogma: evolution does not happen gradually but in fits and starts, great upheavals which in turn subside into a new normalcy once the dust has settled and the survivors emerge from the rubble.Report

  7. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    What, indeed, are morals? Is there some secualr definition?
    What the fish do you mean by ‘evolution?’Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

      Well sure, Bob. Morals are what I won’t do under any circumstances. Ethics are me telling you not to do something.

      As for Evolution, it is as Pascal concluded about why the chicken crossed the road: the chicken was pressured to do so.Report

    • I avoid the term “moral” whenever possible: I don’t know what it means. What I think is right or wrong? Or is it what society thinks, as in “mores and manners”? You can’t legislate morality? Hell, we do it all the time. You can’t Michael Vick your dogs and you can’t screw on the sidewalk.

      Is all morality conventional, that is, a matter of agreed-upon taboos? Does morality carry any positive duties, like feeding the hungry or providing them with universal health insurance? Saving the environment?

      As for the “evolution” part, is this morality merely the extension of full political rights to all races and sexes? Universal suffrage? Is a society that doesn’t let women vote inherently immoral? Is a monarchy where nobody votes inherently immoral? Is a sharia-based society or government inherently immoral?

      Do Not Murder sounds moral. Do Not Steal sounds moral, but Jean Valjean throws a money wrench into that one.

      I don’t know what “moral” means, mostly. Perhaps it’s just political theory that has evolved. That I might be able to go with.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to tom van dyke says:

        Eh, I think this is mostly a way of avoiding the question by making something that is, admittedly complex and problematic, seem hopelessly vague and perhaps even a bit, dare I say it, relative. It’s not, of course, in keeping with basically everything you’ve ever written about the religious vs. the secular, or the founding, etc., and for that reason it feels a bit disingenuous to me.

        There’s 2400+ years of literature on what morality is, both in the abstract and the particular, and that to me seems like plenty of ground on which to build a discussion. And while I think the post that Jason linked to is pretty devoid of content, it at least has the potential to spark a discussion on what it means for morality, again building on that millenia-old foundation, to evolve. That is, what does it mean for morality in the abstract and the particular?

        In short, if you don’t know what “moral” means, in this context, perhaps it’s better either to consult that 2400 years or just listen to Wittgenstein’s ol’ number 7. However, I’m pretty sure, given your talk of self-evidence and the like in the past, that you have a pretty strong representation of that word, and are just exercising a bit of sophistry to paint the “opposition” as naive or worse.Report

        • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Chris says:

          No, Chris, that’s not what I meant or said, but thx for replying. I have a problem with the term. I submit that what we call morality in this context is political theory. I asked a number of open questions that I tried hard not to beg with the phrasing. Pls reply directly to them or pass.

          But once again we agree, that the post Jason linked is pretty devoid of content. You know how I love it when we agree. I also found your defense of the validity of Pascal’s wager elegant, esp since you are unsympathetic to it. Tip o’the brim.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to tom van dyke says:

        The problems you identify are real, but they are not Mario Rizzo’s. They are tom van dyke’s.

        It’s incumbent on the reader to find the most sensible interpretation even of difficult words like “moral.” In this case, the clear synonyms are customs, manners, mores, and the like. Hayek stuff.

        It is remarkable, however, to see a conservative cut down the likes of Burke and Oakeshott… to get at Mario Rizzo. Mario is a first-rate thinker, but I still think you may have made a bad bargain.Report

  8. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    Nice thread, guys!
    Morals, morality? For the believer is it a way to live grounded on the recv’d/revealed will of God? Meaning, there is a way to live one’s life whose goal is the love of God.
    Morals for the secularist, atheist, agnostic by definition has to be relative simply because there is no universally agreed upon ground, which explains a lot. Unless you wanna ground morals on ethics?
    Combining ‘evoltion’ with ‘moral’ is mental masturbation.
    So, evolution takes one thing, does some physical hocus-pocus, adds a great deal of time and whamo, you got another thing…..dudes!Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

      Interestingly, if there are “secularist, atheist, agnostic” folks, then even for the theist “there is no universally agreed upon ground” either. I think “universally agreed upon ground” is probably not where you want to start.Report

    • Avatar mark boggs in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

      Meaning, there is a way to live one’s life whose goal is the love of God.

      Just one? And you’re sure you’re doin’ it right?Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to mark boggs says:

        Well, Mark, one has to experience the metalepsis, participate in the movement toward God and His love, in freedom, and differentiate, analyize.
        Dude it’s a drama…it’s THE drama!Report

        • Avatar mark boggs in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

          But what does it mean, not just to you, but objectively. How does one experience the metalepsis, participate in the movement toward God and His love, in freedom, and differentiate, analyize.Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to mark boggs says:

            Well Mark, now you’ve gone and asked the ultimate, perhaps penultimate question.
            We must keep in mind it is rather difficult for the modern to turn toward God when the matrix of reality has become so disordered. Voegelin once commented back in the 70’s that “..the universe of rational discourse collapses…when the common ground of existence in reality has disappeared.”
            So you see the challenge. Yet the goal you seek is, among many things, truth in love and freedom. Consequently, the real man-Spoudaios (aner)-takes up the challenge.
            IMO, for what it’s worth, I’d turn toward a study of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I’d seek out a priest, teacher, rabbi, minister willing to answer my inquiries (you’d be surprised how many are willing to do just fact, some say that’s why they do what they do). I’d start with the Gospel of John simply because he is the most spiritual, the great seeker of God, the man in whom the Christ entrusted his mother (work with that for a moment).
            For me, and perhaps I’m wrong, but God in His wisdom has blessed us with life in love and freedom. We chose our course; either to live in the love of God, freely given, or to turn away from God.
            If you are seeking, questing, searching you have begun the process of turning toward (periagoge) the Logos. In this action, assuming your ‘heart’ is ‘open’ and true (only you and God have this gnosis), there exists the possibility of the Divine/human encounter.
            The drama is grounded on the idea, I think, that God/Christ in giving us life, free will, and love in freedom, wants us to acknowledge these precious gifts and by exercising our free will, to offer them back to Him in love and in freedom,…and that this is the ground of our existence as being. Our true nature is to exist in the metalepsis.
            If you are seeking, I will pray for you, if you don’t mind?Report

            • Avatar mark boggs in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

              …and perhaps I’m wrong…

              And that may be the most important thing (certainly the easiest thing to understand of your comment) you wrote there. If we all had the humility to understand that and live with that sort of tolerance, we might make it after all.Report

    • > For the believer is it a way to live grounded on the
      > recv’d/revealed will of God? Meaning, there is a
      > way to live one’s life whose goal is the love of God.

      I think that’s a usable and fair use.

      > Morals for the secularist, atheist, agnostic by definition
      > has to be relative simply because there is no universally
      > agreed upon ground, which explains a lot.

      There’s no universally agreed upon ground for the deist either, Bob. Churches have schisms, right? So all moral codes are relative based upon your framework for assessing moral value.

      Morals are usually declared as axioms. The Judeo-Christian has ten basic ones with an interpretive rider offered by a certain carpenter.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

        Perhaps I’m guilty of over generalizing when I use terms like ‘Christian’ and ‘Judeo-Christian?’
        Perhaps, you’re guilty of over differentiating what may be a rather simple inquiry?
        The term deist, for me, is one who believes in a god of the universe. It’s a term only generally related to the J-C worldview?
        The secularist, in general, has to reject a favorite idea; that the Logos/Word of the Gospel of Jesus Christ “ the same God as the logos spermatikos of philosophy, but at a later state of it’s manifestation in history.”
        Because the Logos is eternal, all men, EV tells us, have the ability to know ‘Reason’ (nous, the moral life/truth) at least in a general sense. The modern has rejected/perverted this primordial opportunity to engage the Nous, when he elevates the Sartean existential ‘moi’ to the position of a god.
        In the end, (again EV) Christianity is the perfect philosophy.Report

  9. Avatar Chris says:

    In the end, (again EV) Christianity is the perfect philosophy.

    I find that endlessly amusing.Report