Sunday, November 23, 2008

Roderick Long on morality

Sound recording of the lecture.

From “Foundation of Libertarian Ethics” by Frederick Long (the lectures after this one focus more on morality and are worth watching/listening; the preceding lectures would be difficult to follow and are not too relevant).

Now, I don’t agree with much or most of what is said — but I think it’s important to hear an argument well presented in order to understand why one is against it. Not that this is the case regarding all of the lecture, but near the end, an interesting explanation why utilitarian approach to morality (so-called “relative morality”) is wrong from praxiological point of view (from the axiomatic system of human behavior).

Overall, I don’t find morality argument (one cannot create a system of morality that makes sense on the individual level without absolute source of morality — namely, G-d) a very convincing proof of G-d. Even if it is true that no absolute morality exists without G-d, so what? It only means that we live in a world where it cannot make sense on a personal to necessarily treat people nicely (and then, the society dissolves, or we get anarchy which works out for the best, or we get society spontaneously reversing into most of its people living with a religious belief in the existence of absolute morality). This is just like the question about life after death of purpose of life — without G-d, these is none. So? Yes, it sucks, but that alone is not a proof of anything.

Conversely, if we really can construct a system of absolute morality without G-d (which I still have very serious doubts about) — again, so what? Even if morality, laws of universe, complexity, human mind, etc., etc. can exist without G-d — so what? They can be conceived to exist without G-d (if you ignore other facts); it doesn’t mean they do. Jews don’t believe in a “G-d of gaps” anyway — we have a positive reason to know about G-d’s existence, not “otherwise, things don’t make sense”.

So, I am not afraid of people proving that Universe can function without G-d, that species could originate without G-d, that morality can be defined without G-d. After all, G-d creates the world (oilam in Hebrew) in a way of concealment (chelem). I know that our tradition of revelation at Mt. Sinai cannot be explained without G-d — the alternative is too improbable.

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