Friday, June 3, 2011

Singer “in a state of flux”

The Guardian reports that Peter Singer is having second thoughts about some aspects of his moral philosophy.  In particular, he now has doubts about whether preference utilitarianism provides satisfactory moral advice about climate change.  (As the reporter puts it, “preference utilitarianism can provide good arguments not to worry about climate change, as well as arguments to do so.”)  Singer is also now open to the idea that moral value must be grounded in something objective; and though he is still not inclined to believe in God, he acknowledges that a theologically-oriented ethics has the advantage that it provides the only complete answer to the question why we should act morally.

This is progress, though it seems to me that Singer’s conception of moral objectivity is dubious.  Apparently he would ground our knowledge of objective moral truths in “intuition.”  As I have said before, this is bad methodology, at least from an Aristotelian-Thomistic natural law point of view as I understand it.  Moral intuitions track objective moral truth in only a very rough, general, and mutable way.  Practically they are useful – that is why nature put them into us – and they might provide a useful heuristic when philosophically investigating this or that specific moral question.  But intuition does not ground moral truth, it is not an infallible guide to moral truth, and it should never form the basis of a philosophical argument for a controversial moral position.

One must also be very careful when asserting that religion provides the only complete basis for morality (though in fairness to Singer, the article does not say how he would flesh out his views about religion).  This does not mean – or should not mean – grounding morality in arbitrary divine commands or threats of eternal damnation.   To be sure, in my view there certainly are such things as divine commands and eternal damnation.  But (again, at least from an Aristotelian-Thomistic natural law perspective), the content of the moral law is not determined by some arbitrary decree (it is determined by human nature, which even God cannot change), and the rational motive for acting morally is not fear of punishment (it is rather the motive of fulfilling our nature and thus attaining happiness, toward which end practical reason itself is directed by nature).  Conceiving of God as a kind of cosmic Saddam Hussein and of the universe as a Baathist police state is no way to ground morality, and it is not how a writer like Aquinas does ground morality.  That is the vulgar atheist’s caricature of theological ethics, not the real McCoy.  (For what I take to be the correct understanding of the relationship between ethics and religion, see chapter 5 of Aquinas.  I have also discussed the relationship between morality and divine commands here and here.)

But again, this is progress.  The moral positions Singer is usually associated with are odious, but it takes some courage and intellectual honesty for someone with Singer’s extreme views to admit that Christian morality might have something going for it.

57 comments:

DNW said...

I hate it when this happens.

It reminds me of the modern children of Mead, scrambling to avoid the implications of their own philosophy; as they realize that they have given philosophical permission - by logical implication at least - for anyone who is annoyed with them to give them a good bashing, and then to claim that ultimately nothing but a culturally relative taboo has really been broken.

You would hope that these kinds would have the decency to die by the sword they profess to live by.

Anonymous said...

What? you say I can't shag my dog and rage about climate change at the same time?! THIS IS AN OUTRAGE.

WHERE IS MY IDEOLOGYYYYYYY!?!?!?!?!?!??!!?/

Anonymous said...

the rational motive for acting morally is not fear of punishment (it is rather the motive of fulfilling our nature and thus attaining happiness, toward which end practical reason itself is directed by nature)

At present, I agree with all of this except for the "happiness" bit. For example, how on earth would we go about convincing modern homosexuals to buy into this idea -- people who vociferously insist that refraining from sodomy makes them deeply, deeply unhappy, going against the "core of their being," "depriving them of genuine romantic warmth and companionship," etc.?

Or, more broadly, how will A-T morality satisfy even homosexual individuals that don't indulge in their homosexual inclinations?

It seems to me that, from the standpoint of Christian morality, homosexuality is a sad disorder to live with. During the course of their lives, homosexuals will never be able to express their naturally ingrained sexual urges, whether through action or even by thought, in a way that is in keeping with Christian morality. I mean, just imagine what life would be like for a heterosexual male who was told that he can never make love to a woman nor fantasize about them, lest he violate moral law.

Can't be easy...unless the happiness derived from "doing the right thing" outweighs this sadness.

Anonymous said...

Same could be said of pre-marital sex, extra marital sex, bestiality and pedophilia. There are individuals who, through no obvious fault of their own, are driven to practice these.

Anonymous said...

"Same could be said of pre-marital sex, extra marital sex, bestiality and pedophilia. There are individuals who, through no obvious fault of their own, are driven to practice these."

^^Agreed (though I think the magnitude of the "suffering of abstinence" is different for each case, sometimes vastly so). Nevertheless, I don't accept the idea that adhering to A-T morality invariably makes one happy. The homosexual example was simply meant to illustrate this.

Leo Carton Mollica said...

Anon: I presume that Dr. Feser is referring to the quasi-technical sense of happiness corresponding to eudaimonia or felicitas.

Concerning Dr. Singer, thanks be to God!

The Maestro said...

Anonymouses(mice): There is such a thing as false happiness, and it is confused with true happiness all the time.

Anonymous said...

Hey guys, happiness and satisfaction aren't the same thing.

Just sayin'.

Keith said...

A classic view of happiness was linked to a concept of total human well-being and purpose, which only makes sense in a theistic WV. Perhaps Singer is finding his WV unliveable and is wanting some ground for his personal worth which his WV denies him.

BeingItself said...

"Conceiving of God as a kind of cosmic Saddam Hussein and of the universe as a Baathist police state is no way to ground morality, and it is not how a writer like Aquinas does ground morality. That is the vulgar atheist’s caricature of theological ethics, not the real McCoy."

That is exactly how William Lane Craig "grounds" morality. It is not a caricature.

Anonymous said...

That is exactly how William Lane Craig "grounds" morality. It is not a caricature.

Untrue: It is a caricature, even of Craig. And even the caricature is far more sensible than materialist replies, if they even bother to try grounding morality to begin with.

Anonymous said...

Get out, J.

Anonymous said...

Morality is grounded in people and we should do good for the sake of doing good, as Lenin/Stalin did.

BeingItself said...

William Lane Craig says:

"According to the version of divine command ethics which I’ve defended, our moral duties are constituted by the commands of a holy and loving God. Since God doesn’t issue commands to Himself, He has no moral duties to fulfill. He is certainly not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are. For example, I have no right to take an innocent life. For me to do so would be murder. But God has no such prohibition. He can give and take life as He chooses."

Craig goes on to say that if this god of his commands you to kill a child, then you are morally obligated to kill the child.

Sorry boys, but facts are facts. I realize you spend a great deal of your lives ignoring the obvious facts.

Eric said...

"That is exactly how William Lane Craig "grounds" morality. It is not a caricature."

Beingitself, I notice that you conveniently focused (in your subsequent post) on Craig's explication of how he thinks *moral duties* are grounded (i.e. in God's commands) while ignoring how he claims *moral values* are grounded. Craig argues that moral values are determined by God's nature, which is *essentially* good, and that his commands, which at least in part constitute our moral duties, *follow from* God's nature. I also note that you conveniently ignored the following from Professor Feser's post:

"This does not mean – or should not mean – grounding morality in arbitrary divine commands or threats of eternal damnation."

The key word there (as far as your remarks are concerned) is "arbitrary."

Since Craig thinks that God's commands follow from God's essential nature, it cannot be the case that he would defend the notion that God can 'arbitrarily' command such and such.

So, rather than provide a counterexample to Professor Feser's claims about how poorly too many atheists typically understand theological ethics/divine command theory, I'd say you've exemplified it! (I take it you're an atheist/skeptic given your parting shot, viz. "I realize you spend a great deal of your lives ignoring the obvious facts.")

BeingItself said...

Eric,

God's nature is to command folks to bash babies heads on rocks, according to the bible.

And you and Craig label this nature "good".

Eric said...

"God's nature is to command folks to bash babies heads on rocks, according to the bible."

Scratch a philosophical atheist -- at least on the internet -- and you're almost certain to find a biblical literalist. Now that's a paradox worthy of Chesterton!

BeingItself said...

Eric,

I'm just giving you Craig's explicit beliefs.

As uncomfortable as it might make you, many Christians do actually believe what the bibles says.

BenYachov said...

So God can take the lives of babies & put them in a nice afterlife?

Big deal!

Come back and bitch when He takes the lives of Babies and sends them to eternal suffering in Hell(as opposed to either Limbo or Heaven where they will be happy).

Besides fanatical Pro-Abortion Atheists who sacrifice the lives of unborn babies so they can F*** and indulge their lust without responsibility are a bit more morally sicking.

According to Pro-life Atheists Abortions is a worst crime in a godless universe since you deny a person their one shot at existence.

Odds are our resident Internet Atheist Troll is fanatically supportive of "Choice".

What a hypocrite!

BeingItself said...

Ben,

"Come back and bitch when He takes the lives of Babies and sends them to eternal suffering in Hell"

According to many Christians, that is exactly what God does.

So, I have overwhelming evidence that many Christians worship and admire a God that behaves exactly like Saddam Hussein.

Thomas Aquinas said...

Beingitself:

A cop may behave exactly like a vigilante, but it does not follow the cop is wrong.

In the same way, God has the authority to do things that his creatures do not have the authority to do (unless they are his instruments).

I don't see what's difficult about that. If God kills a person, then he must have a good reason for it, since he is the Good and the Logos.

Why would you want to worship a God that you can fully understand?

Eric said...

"Eric,
I'm just giving you Craig's explicit beliefs."

No, you clearly misunderstood them, as I made clear.

"As uncomfortable as it might make you, many Christians do actually believe what the bibles says."

That's not the issue. I sincerely doubt that a single Christian takes each and every word of the Bible literally. As I heard it put once, when Jesus says that he's the lamb, no Christian visualizes him as a woolly quadruped. When Jesus tells a parable, no Christian says, "What evidence is there that the Good Samaritan ever existed?" Or, to put it another way, I've also heard it put this way: To ask of the Bible, "Is it literally true?" is like asking of a library, which contains sections of history, literature, myth, poetry, etc., "Is it literally true?" It's a nonsense question, and it evinces an utter inability to read texts in context, with careful consideration of genre, historical and linguistic conventions, etc. In other words, the atheist bemoans the ignorance of the Christian for taking every word in the Bible literally, and then chides him for being duplicitous, inconsistent, etc. when he informs the atheist that he does no such thing. You guys can't have it both ways. (To be clear, I'm referring to village atheists like Beingitself, and not to the many philosophically, theologically and biblically informed atheists I've had the pleasure of meeting.)

Eric said...

"Why would you want to worship a God that you can fully understand?"

Great point! Paul Moser points out that 'being worthy of worship' is central to the very concept of God. I think many (village) atheist errors could be cleared up if they reflected seriously on this notion for a bit.

BenYachov said...

>So, I have overwhelming evidence that many Christians worship and admire a God that behaves exactly like Saddam Hussein.

So Saddam Hussein created us from nothing, sustains our existence moment to moment, is Being Itself and the Source of Goodness and Perfection, His Existence is identical with His Essence orders us toward our Final End in the Beatific Vision of Himself which He unselfishly grants us?

Seriously?

OTOH I thought Saddam Hussein was just a creature like the rest of us and our metaphysical and moral equal?

Unlike God who is neither.

Besides pro-abortion Atheists like yourself still have no problem sacrificing an unborn baby's life their one and only chance at existence just for the sake of F***ing without responsibility.

That is such a lofty goal let me tell ya!

Domini Canes said...

So, Ed puts up a post about some genuinely wonderful news, and the best anyone can do is hurl insults and catch-phrases at the other guy? That's pathetic, and rather sad, since I used to rather enjoy the discussions on this blog.

Anonymous said...

The discussions are still enjoyable, its just that there are a few more trolls. Just need to step over them carefully.

Brian said...

What is (Dr.?) Feser's moral philosophy? And where can I find it and read about it?

What is the Catholic view?

BenYachov said...

One would think it's the Moral & Natural Law?

Anonymous said...

Brian,

Natural Law, in the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition. Check out Chapter 5 of his book Aquinas for a quick review.

Theophilus said...

Brian,

I also found his section on ethics in The Last Superstition helpful. I do wish he would write a book just on ethics, though---especially concerning sexual ethics. It's a huge issue that few people in the A-T tradition address with the sort of accessibility Dr. Feser's writing has---at least in my experience. I'm often searching all around for an analysis of a particular issue related to sexual morality and spend a lot of time filling in the gaps myself. If you're reading this, Dr. Feser, do think about it.

All the best.

Joe said...

@BeingItself

Bash babies' head on the rock? Which books? which phrases? What is the context? Is it a parable? A history? Or even the telling of what people in the past do?

And in your view, why is this wrong? I do not feel I do something morally wrong bashing rock which is composed of atoms on another rock, why should I do with another slightly more organized group of atoms?

Perhaps we can invent a story on how just like false religion exists because it is evolutionary advantageous in the past, same thing happen for the sense of moral wrongness of bashing babies in the head. But perhaps, we have evolved over that. We do not bash them, we vacuum them, are not we B.I.? We are enlightened after all.

dan said...

So far as I see Singer's philosophy, it's somewhat idiotic. Just my opinion.

However, the Guardian article rivals Singer for its sheer inanity. "Christian ethics"? WTF is that? That's like "Jewish shoe size" or "Muslim haircut". And, frankly, if anyone is most blame-worthy for our civilization's continued foot-dragging on climatology issues it's the conservative Xians. So the Guardian should chill just a bit.

Kyle said...

@BeingItself
Of course, anyone who has actually read Psalm 137 knows that God never commands anyone to do anything in the Psalm...much less to bash babies heads against the rocks.

The psalm describes the anguish of those in exile. The psalmist tells of their disillusionment between what they believed to be promises concerning faithfulness to the Lord, and their current state as an oppressed people in a foreign land.

The psalm ends with two phrases about vengeance. It says (my translation) "Happy is he who repays you for what you did to us (or happy is he who repays you in kind). Happy is he who seizes your children and smashes them against the rock (or cliff)."

Now, the context of the psalm makes clear that this very thing had happened to the children of the exiles, and here the psalmist expresses his emotion that such a thing would happen to his enemies children. Furthermore, the context (the rivers of Babylon) makes it clear that the psalmist is being figurative because there was nowhere in the area where such a thing could happen. The Babylonian region is flat...very, very flat. The nearest cliffs would be a good two hundred miles to the north.

So the passage says nothing even remotely similar to your claim "God's nature is to command folks to bash babies heads on rocks, according to the bible." Of course, internet atheists rarely read their sources, much less put effort into studying them, so I'm not surprised.

DNW said...

Joe said,
"And in your view, why is this wrong? I do not feel I do something morally wrong bashing rock which is composed of atoms on another rock, why should I do with another slightly more organized group of atoms?"


One can see how some Singerite might argue that doing so was inconsistent with some program or another he advanced based on what he wanted, but as far as being intrinsically "wrong", or "evil" in some metaphysical sense, any objection would fail.

Those indicting the Christian God, usually do so by adopting the values of Christianity and then arguing that they have discovered brutal inconsistencies.

dan said,
"Christian ethics"? WTF is that? That's like "Jewish shoe size" or "Muslim haircut"."

Only if you imagine as djindra apparently does, that ethical sensibilities are solely the result of a kind of programmed evolutionary behavior and that that behavior is universal.

To speak of a business ethic, or a community ethic, or a stoic ethics, or of a Christian ethics, seems to make sense enough.

dan said...

To speak of a business ethic, or a community ethic, or a stoic ethics, or of a Christian ethics, seems to make sense enough.

No, it does not. There are several billion Christians in the world today, several billion more dead. Are you saying they all have/had the same ethic? Or even approximately the same? Or even remotely the same? So your ethic, and that of Torquemada are identical?

And yes, ethics do come from evolution.

DNW said...

" 'To speak of a business ethic, or a community ethic, or a stoic ethics, or of a Christian ethics, seems to make sense enough.'

No, it does not. There are several billion Christians in the world today, several billion more dead. Are you saying they all have/had the same ethic? Or even approximately the same? Or even remotely the same? So your ethic, and that of Torquemada are identical?

And yes, ethics do come from evolution.

June 7, 2011 9:00 AM"



I really don't know how to respond to your attempts to slant what I have written by implying I have said things I have neither said nor implied.

What I said is that it makes verbal sense to speak of community ethics.

It is done all of the time, and people know exactly what is meant.

Sometimes the recognized rules for the behavior of a particular group are more severe than on average for non-members, sometimes, more lax.

There are poker playing ethics, and Masonic Order ethics and probably even Society of Jesus ethics which are particular to that order.

In fact the term ethics is often used to differentiate just this sense from a sometimes seemingly more vague or even universal term, such as "morality".

Now of course, a quick look at the etymological history and meaning of the term moral, does itself reveal that those who first used it seemed to think in terms of customs.

Latin jurists eventually did seek a ius gentium, and saw it as common to all humanity, but their idea of the root of it all was somewhat different from yours no doubt.

What is interesting about your comments is the implication of your own argument. For in suggesting via a rhetorical question that I do not share Torquemada's practical ethics, you imply not only that I do not share them on the basis of a common religious faith or social training, but that I do not share them on any other, including what you claim is the basis of ethics, namely, evolution.

And of course if ethical sensibilities are evolutionary in basis, then they are in principle subject to evolutionary divergence, and even social incompatibility.

Your lack of a lactase persistence gene is then your tough luck, when things get tight.

After all, if evolution can make things the same it can make them different and incompatible too.

dan said...

DNW -- would you mind explaining to me, and the good people on this board, why on Earth you are blathering about things like "community ethics" (or, for that matter, the lactase gene)? I have, heretofore, said less than nothing on the subject. As near as I can tell, there are 3 possibilities

a) You sincerely believe that Christianity is a "community"; in which case you seem beyond help altogether

b) You're jonezin' for a fight, any fight, and this is simply your clumsy attempt at achieving that end; in which case I'm sorry, but I'm not biting

c) Your reading comprehension skills need some very serious fine-tuning, if not a total overhaul; in which case I'm probably not the man for the job

Whichever of the cases is correct, including options I have not yet considered, until you actually address what I said rather than going on irrelevant, albeit elaborate demonstrations of your typing skills I don't have a whole lot to add.

Mark Duch said...

dan,

I'm afraid you are the one not making sense to me. There are different "canons" (if you will) of ethics that apply to different groups of people. For example, as an attorney I have a specific set of rules of ethics that applies to me, that would be inapplicable to society at large. For one thing, I must be zealously partial to my client. This means, among other things, that I can't go informing the police of his crimes, whereas another might be ethically obligated to do so. I must put aside fairness and represent a one-sided view so that the judge can be the arbiter of fairness. So yes, it does make sense to talk about Legal Ethics, Christian Ethics, and so on. An example for Christians is clerical confidence or "the seal of the confessional" whereby a cleric is bound not to reveal anything said in the confessional. And although not all Christians believe in auricular confession, and thus do not deal with situations involving the seal of the confessional, that is more a question of what constitutes real Christianity (and thus when Christian Ethics apply) and not a question of whether Christian Ethics exists or whether it is a sensical notion. Ecumenical sensibilities would be a reason why one might be more specific and refer to Catholic Ethics (instead of the more general canon of Christian Ethics) when one is talking about the seal of the confessional. One can always be more specific without denigrating the more general. But to say that there are no two people who share the same ethics is simply false. There are many people who agree to be bound by the ethics contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (myself included) as well as their specific state's Rules of Professional Responsibility (myself included). The fact that each individual may fall short of them is another matter entirely. And the fact that a specific person may dissent from one or more of the expressed principles does not entail that it makes no sense to talk of the principles as existing in the first place. If they were not held by a discernable group of people, then you'd have a point. But homogeneity in ethics among various groups of people does exist.

DNW said...

Dan said,

"Whichever of the cases is correct, including options I have not yet considered ..."


Regarding "ethics": The option you should consider dan, involves availing yourself of the services of a good dictionary before you engage in these baseless but very theatrical displays of pique.

Daniel Smith said...

dan: "There are several billion Christians in the world today... Are you saying they all have/had the same ethic? ... And yes, ethics do come from evolution."

If ethics are the result of evolution then, of course, so is a propensity for religion.

The attraction to Christianity is then an evolutionary trait as well.

So why does it seem so inconceivable to you that a group with one like evolutionary trait (Christianity) would tend to also display another (similar ethics)?

Domini Canes said...

Wait, dan, are you the same commenter as the dan of Throne and Altar?

In any event, guys, feed ye not the trolls.

Rupert said...

Am I to understand that the position Dr Feser takes is that the best way for my cousin to achieve eudaimonia would be for her to refrain from homosexual behaviour? How exactly would this be substantiated, and why should she want to achieve eudaimonia so construed?

Anonymous said...

Well well, Singer looks like he wants a new tune and Dawkins is a teleologist. Interesting times.
http://telicthoughts.com/richard-dawkins-darwins-natural-selection-teleologist/

Anonymous said...

Well well, Singer looks like he wants a new tune and Dawkins is a teleologist. Interesting times.
http://telicthoughts.com/richard-dawkins-darwins-natural-selection-teleologist/


Oh, mang. What is this I don't even?

Atheism: First as tragedy, then as farce.

Pattsce said...

Rupert,

It can be sustained. People do it all the time. It is incorrect thinking that sexual fulfillment can Only be achieved through sexual intercourse. And yes, it is greater flourishing to use one's parts (and self) while respecting their inherent purposes.

And in answer to your last question, which is the question philosophers have been messing around with a lot, she can't not, much like you, choose the good. She can't not want good. Eudaimonia is just an shorthand for what that good is that she could achieve. That is, she can't not want eudaimonia. She just has the wrong (as defined by those purposes) definition of it. This definition doesn't come from any particular preference of any person but by the nature of those things---the nature of her as a human female.

Her desire to be sexually fulfilled and to love/be loved in general are clearly good. They definitely fulfill her purpose as a human being. She is just thwarting the purposes of her body, it would go, by performing homosexual activities. Dealing with all of that, though, is so unbearably challenging. Especially today. It's "born this way!" on one side and "just stop doing that" on the other.

Pattsce said...

Rupert,

And to be fair, I don't think Feser is necessarily a hardcore eudaimonia guy. From what I can tell, if he he is so, it's mostly because he's coming from the Aristotelean tradition. It seems, though, that he is much more likely to begin with natural law before he seriously talks about eudaimonia. I could be wrong about that, and I don't know that the two can really be separated. It's just the way you framed your question just pushes the answer in that direction.

I do find the nature of eudaimonia more useful for ethical discussion, though. Everyone, I think, naturally believes in virtue in some capacity. "It is just not a good character trait to be so dependent on sexual fulfillment," etc. seems to be pretty natural for most people. While I'm not sure everyone naturally believes in natural law (naturally...). Or natural law, at least, takes a lot more reasoning and philosophizing.

Rupert said...

You tell me she wants eudaimonia but has defined it incorrectly. Let me be sure I understand. Is the claim that in some sense she wants not to perform homosexual activities? Or have I got that wrong?

Anonymous said...

Peter Singer's consequentialism, particularly concerning infanticide, has gotten my mind stuck on a rather revolting question that's giving me cognitive dissonance (as a Christian, I'm sort of frustrated by my intellectual inability to answer the depraved questions I pose for myself):

On the issue of having children, why bring someone into existence who has a (from a theological perspective) a real possibility - perhaps even a probability - of choosing to reject God, and thereby ending up in eternal damnation (and if not that person, then certainly that person's descendants somewhere down the line)?

Eternal, excruciating torment is too high of a cost to flirt/gamble with.

Would it not be better then for any given couple to refrain from having children altogether, and thus allow the human race to die out, thereby ensuring that not another human soul will suffer Hell? Could it be ethical - an act of love even - to painlessly kill children who haven't yet reached the age of accountability so that they will be spared the risk of going to Hell - a gamble that, given the stakes, can never be worth taking?




I have a few rough rejoinders to this series of questions in mind ("God is Goodness Itself and the right course of action will therefore always be to do what He wills (procreation, refraining from killing little innocents, etc.)," "love is worth the risk," "freedom is a good,"), but they are exactly that: rough.

Pattsce said...

Rupert,

You are wrong about that, yes. That is not what I meant; sorry for the confusion. She, like all of us, desires good. That is, we can't make decisions that don't seek what we believe to be good. If we are using reason (which is what humans do), we choose what we think will be the best option---what we believe is good. Defining good is a matter of objective reasoning, though---not a matter of subjective preference. The good of something (humans in the case of ethics) is determined by its metaphysical nature and, specifically, its final cause (or teleology). Something's metaphysical nature is a much larger topic, but that is the basic premise.

In some ways, I'm sure your sister does desire not to be a homosexual---though this has no effect on the moral arguments above. I would wager that most homosexuals, at least for some portion of their lives, do wish that they were not same-sex attracted. It is a horribly difficult thing to deal with, and it comes with so many problems. A single human's personal desire concerning an action doesn't affect the goodness of badness of that action, though---as stated above. Its metaphysical nature does that.

There are numerous relevant examples of humans not desiring the objective good, of course. One may want to have sex with animals, children, or a sibling. (I do not think homosexuality is broken in the same way as the desire to have sex with children or animals, by the way; further, homosexual acts are less immoral than something like sex with children, etc., as child abuse and likely rape thwart more than just one's sexual end). Even though such people may be personally Happier fulfilling their desires, they will still be thwarting their metaphysical nature and will likewise be doing something bad, or wrong, or immoral. This would be the case even if the pedophile mentioned above never actually got his hands on a child. If he were instead looking at child pornography---even if it were a computer simulation of children committing sex acts (which the internet will no doubt get good at doing soon, sigh) where no real living child were harmed---he would still be committing an immoral act.

This doesn't apply just to sex, of course. A man may enjoy beating others and feel weak and unhappy when he doesn't get to fulfill such desires. He may actually have an unquenchable desire for such things, actually. Or a woman may enjoy the rush from theft and feel depressed when she doesn't get to shoplift. All the same, committing acts related to those desires are immoral because such actions thwart a human's metaphysical nature and end.

I'd like to emphasize, though, that your sister's Desire to commit homosexual acts is not immoral. She clearly cannot control those initial desires (all things being equal). Homosexuals have been trying to not desire members of the same sex probably since humans have been around, and I don't think they've figured out how to do it yet. It's merely homosexual Action that can be labeled immoral, as homosexual action is the Choice to thwart one's metaphysical nature. Disliking someone who simply has homosexual desires is like disliking someone for being colorblind. It is only when choice comes in to play---rational choice, of course---that morality is at issue.

Pattsce said...

Rupert,

I just realized I kept calling your cousin "your sister." I'm not sure why I was thinking she was your sister. I apologize.

dan said...

Testing

Rupert said...

What reason does my cousin have not to perform homosexual activities?

hurr said...

What reason does my cousin have not to perform homosexual activities?

The same reasons you have not to base your diet on ritz crackers with Colgate toothpaste.

Rupert said...

That really is an extraordinarily stupid thing to say.

hurr said...

We aim to please.

Rupert said...

But not to engage in intellectually serious conversation, evidently.

dan said...

Will try one more time:

Oh dear freaking god, do I really have to explain this? Apparently I do, so here goes nothing. I'll try to go verrrry slowly

* The Guardian article used the term "Christian ethics" several times, including in its sub-headline
* I made a claim that this term is meaningless
* To support my claim I pointed to the fact that Christianity has so many adherents, and has been around for so long that there is not a single ethical precept that is shared by ALL the Christians
* If there is not a single ethical precept that is shared by all members of a group, then it is my contention that there is no such thing as the ethics of that group
* So far no one has disputed anything I said above

Now Marc Duch did try to provide an example of what he claims is an ethical precept shared by all Christians: "the seal of the confessional". Unfortunately this example fails. The failure is two-fold. The easiest one is found in the very definition he gives of the term: "a cleric is bound not to reveal anything said in the confessional". His very definition states, openly, that this ethic applies to clerics, not the Christian population in general. In addition even the clerics have not always been as rigorous in upholding this precept -- during the times of the Inquisition, for instance, anything obtained during the forced "confessions" was fair game. So the one example given to dispute my claims it entirely inapplicable, it neither applies to all Christians, nor through all times.

Daniel Smith, on the other hand, makes a strange point.
So why does it seem so inconceivable to you that a group with one like evolutionary trait (Christianity) would tend to also display another (similar ethics)?
It is not inconceivable, Daniel. It's possible. But it didn't happen. I'm not dealing with hypotheticals here, we have actual data that we can check. And even the most cursory check of the available data states that Christians don't all display similar ethics. It's not physically or biologically impossible that they all COULD, any more than it's not impossible that all mammals could have 10 fingers and 10 toes. But that simply didn't happen.