Caputo: Chapter Two—What Do We Do With Religious Truth?—Part Two–

To further flesh out where Caputo is going regarding religion he brings up two historical figures who were very insightful as to the condition and effects of modernity.  He first brings up Max Weber (1864-1920), who, as he notes, “was one of the inventors of the modern railroad in Germany and Austria…”
“… [Weber] noted this contradiction or eclipse of truth in modernity under the name of ‘the disenchantment of the world’.  He said that as we have more and more promoted the interests of reason, the world—and life along with it—has lost its magic.  Our most precious values retreat into private life, leaving the public square value-free.  Magic sounds like the sort of thing that could be brushed off by the hard-nosed rationalists as sheer superstition, but that would be a hasty judgment.  When love loses its ‘magic’ the love is gone.  So the significance of what Weber is saying is that he was touching on this matter of our restless heart.  In modernity we lose heart, our joi de vivre, the ‘reason’ we have for cherishing life, and life loses its charm.”
I doubt but that only the most dense, unreflective, and obtuse of observers are unable to see that modernity has had this “deadening” effect upon western culture.  When we think of the “rat race” and the plastic, surface, shallow aspects of modern culture—we can see these links.  When life becomes nothing more than survival, generating income, and the “material” only—then it loses any “higher” or noble goal.  In fact, “higher” and “noble” become evacuated of any significance.  They melt away and all that is left is personal, private, subjective interest (greed) trying to balance itself against all the other “consuming” interests (others) shuffling along like zombies on a road that in the end goes nowhere.  Is it any wonder many other parts of the world want nothing to do with the “American Way” and “success”?   The next figures he mentions are Theodor Adorno (1903-69) and Max Horkheimer (1895-1973), who were:
“…a couple of neo-Marxists who were influenced by Weber, spoke of the ‘dialectic of Enlightenment’, meaning that the more we promote pure rationality, the more irrational and ‘barbaric’ (add this to mad, foolish and robotic) the world becomes.  By rationality they meant instrumental thinking or means-end thinking.  We are justified in saying or doing something only if it is an effective means to an end.  It must be subjected to a cost-benefit analysis, have a pay-off, a pay-back; it must produce a result that (rationally) justifies our expenditure of time and energy.  This results in a world in which everything is a means but we are increasingly at a loss to say what the end is.  Nothing is sacred.  Sacred doesn’t mean clouded in incense but valued—or rather loved—for itself.”
Caputo is going to get there but I would ask anyone, what economic system does one think this type of “rationality” is most conducive to?  I would caution all those secularists and atheists out there who spend a lot of their time whining and moaning about Republicans, corporations, and capitalism.  Guess what?  You are a big part of the problem.  You support a world-view (the modern/Enlightenment) that in the area of economics actually underwrites the very mentality that produces what you then complain about.  Caputo continues:
“I mention that Adorno and Horkheimer were neo-Marxists because capitalism is a perfect example of instrumental reason.  Left to itself you eventually end up with Gordon Gekko saying, ‘Greed is good.’  Unless you have actually read Marx’s ‘Introduction’ to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, you might not know that just before Marx said that religion is the opium of the people, he had said that religion is the heart of a heartless world.  I am not denying that Marx was slamming religion as a crutch, but the rest of what he was saying is that the sighs of the oppressed, of the people on crutches, deserve to be heard, that the cruel logic of unchecked capitalist rationality—every investment should have a return—and instrumental thinking—the bottom line—produces injustice (to which Weber would add disenchantment).”
What we now have is many a rationalist/materialist who all of a sudden wants to invoke a public ethics and morality (God forbid!) into economics while spending an inordinate amount of time telling us that such things (ethics, morality) are purely imaginary, subjective, private, personal, and not meant for the public square.  Well guess what, economics isthe public square.  You have cut off your nose to spite your face.  Why in the world should anyone listen to you now?  We could rightly say, “Quit imposing your personal private views on everyone as if they were universal!”  Of course this hypocrisy, this special allowance for themselves, is usually lost on them.  But, nice job—thanks for making an ethical appeal in any area seem pointless and trite, which now also comes back to haunt in the area of economics—the one area you want to invoke it.  Caputo continues:
“Marx said we should hear these sighs and answer them, not with more religion but with economic justice.  But my question, the postmodern question, is: is there a clean distinction between religion and economics, between profits and prophets?  If we have a passion for justice, is that a matter of economics or religion or bits of both (a blend of buckets)?  That is why Marx is sometimes thought of as a kind of nineteenth-century messianic materialist, a kind of atheistic Jewish prophet!  That’s not just a good line, a clever quip.  That’s my point.  It gets at something very important, because for the Jewish prophets, the most important name of God is ‘justice’, so if Karl ever came home from school and announced he was an atheist, Mama Marx needn’t have worried in the least.”

From here Caputo goes into the area he calls “repetition”, a critical and crucial point in understanding how Caputo is asking us to see “truth”, and what it means, so we will pick it up there with the next post.
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26 Responses to Caputo: Chapter Two—What Do We Do With Religious Truth?—Part Two–

  1. Burk Braun says:

    Darrell-

    ““… [Weber] noted this contradiction or eclipse of truth in modernity under the name of ‘the disenchantment of the world’. He said that as we have more and more promoted the interests of reason, the world—and life along with it—has lost its magic.”

    I see, so what you mean by “truth” is actually “magic”. That makes all kinds of sense.. no really!

    Charm, precious values.. call it what you will, but truth is not it. Perhaps you could set the goal of not mangling the English, and then we could talk about actual issues.

    “When life becomes nothing more than survival, generating income, and the “material” only—then it loses any “higher” or noble goal. In fact, “higher” and “noble” become evacuated of any significance.”

    That is in the eye of the beholder, as usual. First, many people find all sorts of significance in the material only. Parents in their children, Marx in the movements on history, botanists for botany.. it is immersion and love that creates significance.

    Second, if you rely on fairy tales to provide significance, like racial superiority, or religious superiority, or salvific millenialism, etc.. then you are using the wrong crutch, pure and simple. Sure, people have found enormous significance in all sorts of fairy tales.. twelver Shiism, Scientology.. there is no question that these things are effective. But are they good? No, I would offer that adopting such mythologies for the significance they provide puts the cart before the horse.

    Lastly, with regard to morality, subjective is not the same as imaginary. If something is claimed as objective, but is not, such as Christianity, then it is imaginary. If something is claimed as subjective, like, say, morality, or significance of life, or feelings about many other things, then it is not being claimed as objective and can not be imaginary. One's feelings are never imaginary, even if they are based on incorrect theories and facts.

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  2. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    “Lastly, with regard to morality, subjective is not the same as imaginary. If something is claimed as objective, but is not, such as Christianity, then it is imaginary. If something is claimed as subjective, like, say, morality, or significance of life, or feelings about many other things, then it is not being claimed as objective and can not be imaginary. One's feelings are never imaginary, even if they are based on incorrect theories and facts.”

    Ridiculous. This begs the question–like all the rest. It reduces morality and ethics to “only” or “just” feelings—in other words, to the chemical/electrical firing or physical events in a body—it assumes that is all they are. So, for you, to say, “I think slavery immoral” is to say nothing more than, “Slavery feels icky to me.” It may not “feel” “icky” to others however. What right do you have to impose your personal subjective “feelings” upon others? And herein lies the problem of modernity. All one is left with is power and violence. And in “peacetime” all one is left with is unbridled capitalism, which is power and violence disguised as natural theology of economics or secular principle of nature.

    No one is saying feelings are imaginary. What you are saying however is that if anyone thinks their feelings are a response to an objective source for ethics or morality (God for instance) then their feelings point to the imaginary. Beyond just begging the question here (the only form of argument you appear capable of making), the problem is, as noted in the post, it makes any objective source imaginary and it cuts both ways. What is one invoking when he whines and complains about Republicans, corporations, and the excesses of capitalism? According to you, he is invoking nothing more than something similar to heartburn or a headache. It only points inward and never outward. Well, good luck with that. I'm sure people will move immediately to change their economic views because you have a headache.

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  3. Burk Braun says:

    Darrell-

    Yes, you identify the problem of subjective morals correctly.. it leaves morals out of the objective sphere. But if they really are not objective, then making believe that they are is not a sound argument or practice, right? And your only argument for saying that they are objective is that you feel really, really strongly about them, and other people feel that way too. Hardly a winning argument. There is also a whole argument of divine origins for that and much else, but that certainly begs the question.

    But on the other hand, I think you fail to appreciate the power of subjective morals. Because the way the civil rights movement worked, and the Gandhi movement, and modern liberal democracy and human rights movements in general, is to appeal to the feelings of the majority of people. Gone are the old days where the feelings of the despot were the only or most important thing in the world, only to be dislodged by mob revolt. Now that we feel that each individual has some basic worth, and their views deserve to be heard, and that each person should vote, the feelings of each person have immense power. This can work for ill as well as good, but with a bit of faith in our fellows, and cultivation of their better natures, tremendous progress can be made, without appealing to any objective morals at all. And definitely not to power and violence.

    Democracy itself is based on feelings of moral equivalence among people. There is nothing objective that says that Bill Gates shouldn't get a billion votes for every one of mine. It is our feelings of fairness & humanity that have produced our current system, and which continue to produce moral progress undreamed and ceratinly unattained by the religious theorists of primitive times. Christianity certainly contributed to this conception of human equality. But you will note that the most moral progress has been made in the last century or two, at least in my opinion. And this is measured against.. my feelings of fairness, of broad opportunity, reduced violence, etc.

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  4. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    “Yes, you identify the problem of subjective morals correctly.. it leaves morals out of the objective sphere. But if they really are not objective, then making believe that they are is not a sound argument or practice, right?”

    Seriously? And if they are objective then making believe they are not would also not be a sound argument or practice, right? Do you see how completely useless an argument this is since both sides clearly already understand this—and still make their arguments?

    “And your only argument for saying that they are objective is that you feel really, really strongly about them, and other people feel that way too.”

    No, that is your argument. For you, all this really is just about feelings and the physical reactions in bodies. My argument is that even if one did “feel” it was okay to own slaves—he would be wrong. I don’t care how he “feels” about it. For you, that is all we should care about.

    “But on the other hand, I think you fail to appreciate the power of subjective morals. Because the way the civil rights movement worked, and the Gandhi movement, and modern liberal democracy and human rights movements in general, is to appeal to the feelings of the majority of people.”

    This is just so wrong on so many levels it staggers the mind. None of those things “worked” that way. They were all based upon appeals beyond our “feelings” especially the “feelings” of those who were the abusers. All those movements made appeals to the transcendent in some fashion. You are just wrong here.

    The point is that in all your, clearly moral and ethical, criticisms of Republicans, corporations, and capitalism (many criticisms I share) you seem to think that “fairness” and “equality” should be seen the same way you do—but all you can say is this is just how you “feel” about it. Well, so what? Others “feel” differently. And in a world where we can only appeal to our “feelings” the bullies and those with the power and willingness to use it will always “win.” Again, you cut off your nose to spite your face here. That is what modernity has left us.

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  5. Burk Braun says:

    Darrell-

    “No, that is your argument. For you, all this really is just about feelings and the physical reactions in bodies. My argument is that even if one did “feel” it was okay to own slaves—he would be wrong. I don’t care how he “feels” about it. For you, that is all we should care about.”

    This isn't even an argument.. it is an assertion. I would truly like to hear your argument for why morals are objective. An argument not based on authority, or on what you wish were or should be true, or what is motivationally effective, but what is actually the case in fact.

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  6. Darrell says:

    I agree it’s not an argument—only an assertion, but that is the only way you argue. And it is your argument:

    “But on the other hand, I think you fail to appreciate the power of subjective morals.”

    By which you mean the power of feeling “really” “really” strongly about something. And you throw around words phrases like, “better natures” and “moral progress” as if your world-view provided for anything like “better” or “progress”. Those words can mean only what you think they should mean based upon chemical reactions in your brain based upon pure psychology, or “feelings”. Why should your chemical reactions (matter-in-motion) be superior or sought above another’s? Again, the problem modernity leaves us with.

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  7. Darrell says:

    By the way, I meant I agree that your argument is not an argument–just an assertion.

    And, you have seen my arguments for objective morality, like Eric, we both have been making them for years now on our respective blogs.

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  8. Burk Braun says:

    Darrell-

    Needless to say, the arguments for the objectiveness of morals are ones that have not gotten through, or with which I disagree, perhaps for some minor reason. I have summarized what I believe they are by way of the formulation I gave above. You and Eric seem to think that if something feels really, really bad, like killing babies, then it is objectively immoral. And I have to say that is not a convincing argument, when stripped of its rhetorical (aka emotional) freight. All those time when you say you don't care about gravity? Those are precisely the times when you lose this argument, because gravity is one of those objective things.. it is not a subjective thing, so caring about it doesn't make it either appear or disappear. That is one way to know something is objective.

    So, if you would humor me, it would be quite interesting to rehearse a truly philosophical argument for the objectivity of morals.

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  9. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    “You and Eric seem to think that if something feels really, really bad, like killing babies, then it is objectively immoral.”

    No, again, that is your assertion. Your assertion is that the power of subjective morality is all that we have—or, in other words, the power of feeling “really” “really” bad or good about something.

    Whether you agree or not, the objectivist position, while acknowledging our emotions, places the goodness or evil of something outside of or not being based merely upon our emotions. Again, I don’t care if a slave owner’s “feelings” are such that slavery is okay for him.

    I have heard your arguments too for a subjective morality and feel they “are ones that have not gotten through, or with which I disagree…”

    Burk, the reasons we disagree with each other have nothing to do with not knowing the other person’s argument.

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  10. Burk Braun says:

    Darrell-

    Well, this field is in dire need of decent arguments, if this all is true, and we have simply been going around from assertion to assertion. So let me begin.

    1- The default position is, due to the emotions aroused by morals and the lack of any evident measuring method or objective method of observation… that morals are subjective.

    2- The burden is thus on the objective moralist (moral realist) to show that “something is out there” separate from humans and other animals who have glimmers of morality that go along with their inborn emotions related to empathy, selfishness, fairness, etc. The default theory postulates that morals are explict expressions of emotions that are in-born anyhow, in any social species whose members face the conflict of selfishness vs duties of membership, even if the group is merely the nuclear family.

    3- The subjective moral position would postulate that these emotions are in-born for purely utilitarian reasons, in that, over the long term, they create the sociality of the respective species, whether high, such as ourselves, or low, like most others. The emotions are not typically absolute, because conditions are not always uniform, so we experience continuing internal conflicts between selfishness and community, not to mention external conflicts, which allow escape from moral strictures for a few most of the time, for many some of the time, depending on conditions. But the overall tenor of sociality requires some level of pro-social (i.e. moral) emotions from its members, otherwise the species is not longer social.

    4- Taking a much more microscopic view, morals always associate with emotions. They are expressed in the languate of disgust, praise, love, hate, etc. This is a strong sign that morals have principally emotional content.

    5- The origins of morals, insofar as anyone knows, are likewise rooted in emotion. Any law or rule we make explicitly (not killing, for instance), has its obvious precedent in what the responsible people felt, such as response to a gross sense of violation, revenge, etc. Whether this feeling also accords with some objective or abstract principle is a matter of pure speculation, really. All we have to go on is self-reports of what those people feel is right. Even if we agree with them, that raises the status of morals to no more than a widely held or even universal social convention, not an objective fact outside of our feelings.

    I think those are all the relevant points I can think of for the moment.

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  11. Burk Braun says:

    Oh- one more..

    6- As to the function of morals in restricting emotions, that is not dispositive. In a community, the powerful or the majority make the rules that regulate the community, and it is the origin of those rules that we are interested in. Those rules typically regulate or restrict the actions of a minority in the utilitarian or emotional interests of the rule-makers. That just means that the community uses morals to bring its member's emotions (or at least behaviors) into alignment with what the rule-makers want, according to their feelings, whether relative to kosher food, or sabbath observance, or crime, etc.

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  12. Darrell says:

    Yes, and I and Eric and myriad others are well aware of these arguments. And, over the years, there has been much ink spilled (or electrons) over why we disagree. I’m not going to re-hash all that again in a comment section.

    However, again, no one is saying our emotions are not involved or important as far as morality and ethics go—I don’t even see how that is an issue. The issue is can morality or ethics be reduced to only physiological changes in bodies.

    Given you believe that morality is not “an objective fact outside of our feelings…” then you agree that it is your argument, “…that if something feels really, really bad, like killing babies, then…” such is what we call bad or good. Right?

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  13. Darrell says:

    Oh, and by the way, #1 is not the default position now, nor has it ever been the default position.

    #1 is simply you begging the question and the rest is why Caputo is writing his book. You are just regurgitating the very process of thinking that is at issue here–that he is calling into question.

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  14. Burk Braun says:

    Darrell-

    “…then you agree that it is your argument, “…that if something feels really, really bad, like killing babies, then…” such is what we call bad or good. Right?”

    Precisely. But the caveat is that we integrate these feelings over the whole scope of our lives and our social system's life. So if some of us at some times or places do not happen to feel that killing is bad, then the rest of us as the rulers of the social system express our countervailing feelings as the moral (and law) to prevent that from happening, or punish it if it does. In this way we regulate our collective feelings (and individual actions) in a way that tries to exert more fool-proof control than our individual super-egos (in Freud's teminology) can do.

    Anyhow, this is all obvious. What is not at all obvious is how the objectivists/realists pull objective morals out of all this, other than by pure assertion.

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  15. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    “Precisely.” Well, then please do not ascribe your method, system, or world-view to us. You are the one who thinks it comes down to “feelings” and how our emotions rule us and, in fact, how the powerful can persuade and influence emotions. Given the power of capitalism and advertising, your world-view opens up us to the very worst in ourselves. Nice.

    “…some of us…” Yes, perfect, there are the “elite” the “powerful” who can “prevent” or “punish” those who fall short somehow. I can’t think of a better underlying foundational view for the modern, capitalistic, state who basically acts in the very way you suggest. A very strong apologetic for the “American Way”. Thank you for that.

    And how amazing, how revealing, how naïve, that you think all this “obvious”. It could not have been better said than by the Republicans, corporations, and the zealots of capitalism. Good cheerleading. But, of course, this is all lost on you. You have no idea what I am really saying, do you.

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  16. Burk Braun says:

    What you are really saying.. well, what are you saying?

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  17. Darrell says:

    Well, exactly what I said in the last response and the ones before that. If morality is “just” emotions, if it is “just” agitated matter-in-motion, changes in chemistry and physiology—and nothing more—then there is no “higher” “better” or something like “progress”. To be accurate, one should say something like, “The physiological changes I am experiencing right at this moment lead me to say I think certain economic policies should be changed.” As Caputo noted, it makes us robots–not humans.

    When you hear someone say that unless morality has an objective referent, it doesn't really exist, you hear something like, “Feelings don’t exist” or that “atheists cannot be moral.” Neither is what is being said. You don’t get that. Further, you don’t get that your reduction of morality to agitated matter-in-motion undercuts your attempt to criticize certain economic policies, Republicans, corporations, and so on. It undercuts all attempts to criticize. People can simply say, “Keep your emotions to yourself—those are private, personal, and subjective.” In other words, the same thing you tell Christians.

    Plus, I can tell by your comments regarding Caputo's use of the word “magic” and not getting his joke about Republicans–that you simply either miss-read quite a bit or just don't get it–I don't know how else to put it. Maybe it's just a nuance thing or sensibility. I encounter it with all fundamentalism really.

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  18. Burk Braun says:

    Darrell-

    Let me be as specific as possible. We really are robots.. that is not an adverse hypothesis, or untrue or absurd on its face. So claiming that the objective moral position is necessary lest we think of ourselves as robots.. well, that is begging the question in a major way. It assumes the point your are trying to make.

    Aside, from that, I still don't get what your claim about morality “not existing” really means. The way it sounds to me is, that if you can not have morality on your terms, then morality doesn't exist. It is a presumptuous method of argument, when neither side rejects the existence of morals.

    We are clearly arguing from different frameworks, and you seem to be unable to concieve of the other one. I understand very well that, if morals were objective, it would make them solid, discoverable, eternal, and external to ourselves. That would have all kinds of benefits. But wishing doesn't make it so.

    When I argue for things I want to see in the world, the argument is not staked on any objective perfection that I can detect which no one else can detect. It is staked on drawing an ideal that I have, which others might desire as well, if they have what seem to be normal feelings and desires. I am not trying to appeal to some perfect spheres state of absolute morality that we are far from or near to, but something entirely subjective, though shared in community- our feelings about how we want to live.

    And the interesting part of all this is that this is how religion operates as well. For all the proclamations of moral certainty, morals change all the time, and are subject to whatever the pope or whoever else is in power thinks is good and right. There is no “discernment” of any objective ethereal morality with a capital M. There is only feelings plus some wisdom / discernment about what various practices will mean for people in the long run, based on how we want to live.

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  19. Darrell says:

    “We are clearly arguing from different frameworks, and you seem to be unable to concieve of the other one.”

    The irony (or self-unawareness) in that statement is delicious…

    Does your significant other know you are a robot? And you were concerned about the use of the word “magic.” Wow.

    “I understand very well that, if morals were objective, it would make them solid, discoverable, eternal, and external to ourselves.”

    No, you don’t understand, except for maybe the “external” part. God is not an object like other objects that exist in the universe. So no, you don’t get it. You are constantly arguing against things no one is asserting. When this is pointed out, your response seems to be, “Nice day isn't it…” and then you bring up the same argument again at some point. This essay may help:

    http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2014/03/18/3965697.htm

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  20. Burk Braun says:

    Darrell-

    Your link and your reply are of a piece, showing a clear inability to take the other position seriously. It is pretty hilarious to hear the guy taking atheism as a different way to talk about god. He seems totally unable to concieve of a godless world. Very well. But if you can't express your position any further, then there is nothing really to say.

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  21. Darrell says:

    I've expressed my position ad nauseum on the blog for years now and will continue to do so. Plus, I am in the middle of posting on Caputo's book, not the subject of morality and whether it is subjective or objective. If that subject comes up in relation to the book, of course I will comment.

    It is you who seems incapable of conceiving a God existing and as almost anyone can tell from your responses you never take my position, Eric's, or any Christian's seriously. That you can only see this in the “other,” again, shows you being completely self-unaware. Never a great place to either learn or engage others.

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  22. JP says:

    Hi Darrell,

    It would be interesting to see how you address the problems raised by the idea of an “objective” morality, by which I more or less mean moral truths that are not grounded in our biology or culture. It's somewhat off-topic, as you say, but perhaps you could clarify your ideas in a later post. I am quite curious about this and, while I have been following you and Eric quite closely (as well as looking elsewhere), I have not seen a satisfactory treatment of the subject.

    To summarize (and this is obviously a simplification), I see at least the following problems.

    First, how do go about defining what it even means for a moral rule to be objective? I have not seen an intelligible answer to this.

    Second, even if we assume we have a coherent definition and that these moral truths exist, how are we to know what they are? You would perhaps claim that slavery would be wrong even if everybody felt strongly otherwise, presumably with supporting arguments. But to claim this is just about the same as claiming we cannot really know.

    Lastly, even if we could know what these truths are, why should we care? I mean, if you knew abstractly that, to take the opposite position, slavery is morally right, you would still oppose it, wouldn't you?

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  23. Darrell says:

    Hi JP,

    I suppose after Caputo (or during if it comes up in the book) I could post on the subject of objective morality, although, as you point out, both Eric and I have written quite a bit already on that topic. But, briefly (and I can’t spend much more time here):

    “First, how do go about defining what it even means for a moral rule to be objective? I have not seen an intelligible answer to this.”

    Well, you mean “intelligible” to you. That doesn’t mean intelligible answers haven’t been given. For the Christian anyway, the question that comes before the existence of an objective morality is the question of God’s existence or the existence of something that transcends the purely material. For the Christian, the idea of an objective morality is completely intrinsic and related to the existence of God. There are no moral rules. There is a God of love, who is love—in other words it is not that God loves (does something)—it is that God “is” love. You may disagree, you may not like that answer, but it is intelligible and it is a basis for an objective morality.

    Further, the existence of this God cannot be proved by empiricism or science, so then neither can morality. Burk seems to think if “good” were an objective entity (like he seems to think God is), we should be able see it on radar, thus because we can’t—it does not exist objectively. But everyone knows that is not what is meant by “good” (or God) being objective. I hope you do too.

    “Second, even if we assume we have a coherent definition and that these moral truths exist, how are we to know what they are?”

    The Christian would say we can know from the Judeo-Christian narrative and from our personal and universal experience. Frankly, the same way you think you know that morality is not objective, which is your adherence to some sort of Enlightenment/secular/naturalist narrative. We both think we “know” what we do in the same way—there is not difference here between us. We “know” what we know through the narratives we inhabit. If I were to ask you to give me an example of what you thought was “evil” or “good” you could tell me (by reference of the narrative you inhabit) why you thought something was one or the other or how they existed (or didn't)—so you are asking a question that you first need to ask yourself. In the asking of yourself and reflecting, when you then run into someone with a different perspective, it will help you to then understand their position (Not meaning you agree or disagree—but at least understand) better.
    (Continued)

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  24. Darrell says:

    (Continued)
    “Lastly, even if we could know what these truths are, why should we care? I mean, if you knew abstractly that, to take the opposite position, slavery is morally right, you would still oppose it, wouldn't you?”

    Think about that question. To assume that slavery is morally right, from my perspective, I would need some objective foundation and something based upon a narrative that called forth the “better” angels of my nature. What would that be? From my perspective and from the narrative I inhabit, (because all this is based upon a prior belief in God), it would be impossible for slavery to be moral. If though, I took your perspective, that slavery (correct me if I am wrong) is neither right nor wrong, it is simply the practice of whatever group has the most power and wills to practice it, then I certainly wouldn't care—I would just hope (for survival reasons) I was in the power group and not the slavery group.

    Even abstractly, if I were to imagine a universe that was Godless, without transcendence, and purely material, then I (logically I would think) should neither care nor could I care one way or the other. It would be a meaningless question. It would be like asking your laptop if slavery is moral. As Burk believes, I would be a robot or a highly complex bundle of organic matter-in-motion, and neither cares whether or not slavery is practiced. I’m curious: is that what you believe we are—robots?

    I think the modern western materialist objects to cruelty and torture because he has lived in a culture that for two thousand years has said we should object to these things, even going against our “nature” sometimes which often leads us to be cruel. However, the materialist thinks he objects to these things because of evolution or pure reason and he is welcome to do so; I just think nether can be the basis for the objection and, in fact, undercut the very basis for such objections. That was the point of this post in regard to trying to talk ethically (the “ought”) about economics. Why isn't anyone addressing the post?

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  25. Burk Braun says:

    Darrell-

    Thanks for laying this out. It is explicit. Let me ask one question. If we are all anchored in narratives, which inform what we think is objective, how can anything really be objective? If our narrative happens to involve piles of speculation and assertion, then is its assertions still “objective”? This seems problematic, basically allowing one's self to believe in one's narrative, rather than taking a critical approach to the concept of objectivity. Or is the solution that nothing is or can be really objective after all, to a postmodernist?

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  26. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    Are you serious? I've addressed those questions or concerns about, oh, I don’t know, a thousand times now (yes, I exaggerate). Remember that entire series on determining the truthfulness of narratives? What about all the posts on postmodernism and especially this one? http://byzantinedream.blogspot.com/2013/05/a-horse-of-different-color.html

    Ring any bells?

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