Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Moral Work

I am responding to a flurry of questions I have received on the moral principles that underlie this blog. In my previous post, I wrote about the difference between desires-as-ends and desires-as-means. Desires-as-ends provide the only reasons for action that exist. Even with respect to desires-as-means, the desire for the end that the "means" will help the agent achieve provide the "reasons for action that exist" to realize those means.

This has important implications for the "teaching" of morality.

If desires-as-ends are not dependent on beliefs, and morality is concerned with promoting good desires-as-ends and inhibiting bad desires-as-ends – this suggests that we do not teach morality by altering a person’s beliefs. It is quite possible for a person to hear a logical syllogism that tells him, "X is wrong", know that the premises are true and that the argument is valid, accept the conclusion as true, and simply shrug his shoulders at the conclusion and do X anyway.

The problem is not that he does not believe that X is wrong. The problem is that he does not care. And caring is in the realm of desires, not beliefs.

This goes against a common claim that "a person who knows the good will do the good." All you have to do is to prove to somebody, through calm reason, that X is the right thing to do, and he will do X.

That common claim is true, to some degree, for people who actually have a desire to do the right thing. If somebody has that desire, and a belief that "X is the right thing to do", then he has a motivating reason to do X. Still, the belief without the desire is insufficient.

Each agent only does what fulfills the most and strongest of his own desires given his beliefs. If he does not have a desire to do the right thing, or some set of desires that he can be convinced will be fulfilled if he does X, then he has no motivating reason to do X, regardless of the moral argument.

This does not imply that there is no role for reason in morality. Reason is what tells us what needs to be done, but it does not actually do the work.

In the past, I have compared the practice of morality to the task of changing a tire. You can reason all you want with the flat tire while you sit on the side of the road. That will not get the tire changed. You have to do the work of getting the jack and the tire-iron out and physically changing the tire.

However, reason still has a role to play. Reason tells you why you should change the tire (in terms of the desires-as-means for changing the tire), and how to do so. However, reason alone will not do the work.

The same is true of morality. I argue that morality is concerned with using social forces such as praise, condemnation, reward, and punishment to promote malleable desires that people generally have reason (desires-as-ends) to promote, and inhibit malleable desires that people have reason (desires-as-ends) to inhibit.

Reason alone does not do the work. You have to have people out there praising, condemning, rewarding, and punishing people in the way that reason recommends to do the moral work.

In the absence of moral work being done in the form of praise, condemnation, reward, and punishment, nothing changes. Nothing gets done. That is the arena in which moral work gets done. If people are not in that arena, then they are not doing the moral work. They are leaving that job to others.

In my next post, I will look at what the moral work consists of, particularly on issues relevant to secularists and atheists.


Chris said...

How do we know the Bible is truly the Word of God?? There are over 25,000 archeological finds that verify the Bible, there has never been one, I repeat there has never been one archeological find that disproves the Bible!! That is a pretty good track record. Many secularist and other non-believers in the Bible will say that the N.T was not complete until the end of the 2nd, the beginning of the 3rd century A.D. This is another lie that the evolutionist and non believers conjure up to discredit what God has said. The fact is, if you go to the writings of the early church leaders (who wrote from 90 to 127 A.D.) you can from their quotes and their sermons compile the N.T. in its entirety!! So that says the N.T. was complete and was in good circulation before the end of the 1st century. Another indisputable proof t the validity of the Word of God.
Yet the strongest argument for the authenticity of the Scriptures is the fact of fulfilled prophecy. This is truly the nail in the coffin when it comes to whether or not the Bible is truly the Word of God. Isaiah 46:9-10 says "I am God and there is no other, I am God and there is noone like Me, I declare the end from the beginning." So God says He declares what is to come, the future. Do we see this in the Bible. Isaiah 45 names King Cyrus by name 200 years before he was even born. The Dead Sea Scrolls prove that Isaiah wrote that before and not after Cyrus came to power. Ezekiel 26 God says that the city of Tyre would never again be rebuilt and the only thing it would be used for is to dry fishing nets, the very purpose it is used today!! Psalm 22 is a Messianic Psalm, it mentions some of the last words Jesus spoke from the cross "My God My God why have Thou forsaken Me?" It says they divide My clothes and cast lots for them, this Psalm says dogs have surrounded Me (speaking of Gentiles), it says they have pierced My hands and My feet. This was written 1100 years before Christ came to this earth. It was written 800 years before crucifixion was even practiced and yet it says they have pierced My hands and My feet. Micah 5:2 says Christ would be born in Bethlehem, Zecheriah 12:10 says they will look on Me whom they have pierced. All written before Christ came into the earth.
Jesus fulfilled hundreds of prophecies when He lived here on the earth. The mathematical odds for Jesus to fulfill 7, (keep in mind He fulfilled 100's) would be the same odds as you someone covering the entire earth in 4x4 white tiles. Hiding a gold star under one of them, and you walking up on the very 1st try and finding that gold star. By the way, you are blindfolded!! This would absolutely be impossible, think about the mathematical odds of Jesus fulfilling all the prophecies that He did!! It would be impossible yet with God all things are possible. Matthew 19:26

Anonymous said...


So many factual errors I won't even bother with them all. Quite a few outright lies/innacuracies. Have you ever bothered to read anything that wasn't pre-authorized by your preacher?