In the previous post below, I asked what justification, under atheistic premises, would there be for selfless behavior. To merely assume its rightness would suggest (and strongly) a Christian premise, or one derived by two thousand years of its influence. But certainly not an atheistic premise.
A reader responds with asking why the feeling of empathy is not sufficient reason. And further goes on to state that morality is arbitrary. As blog owner I’m going to arbitrarily make my comment a post, because I can, and I thought it furthered a terminated conversation. I missed the first volleys due to work and will probably be doing so again as I only have a single day off until next Thursday.
I pick up after the declaration that morality is arbitrary: And note I did not settle the question definitely but merely showed where the argument led.
So, would you agree that your desire to live and your murderer’s lust to shed your blood have equal moral status? Or the mob’s lust for your blood, say, if you were an apostate in a Islamic state? If morality is arbitrary, your protests are pointless squawkings of no more import or meaning than the arbitrary preference for Skippy peanut butter over Jif.
Except to you, but I suppose even the gazelle has some say as it falls to the ground under the lion’s teeth. But the lion also has his arbitrary say in the growl of his stomach. Neither “opinion” contradicts the other – except that the lion wins by Might.
That is the project you propose for humans with an “arbitrary morality”.
Morality as arbitrary = Might makes Right.
“We are just speaking on this particular scenario, in which I am acting in my own right.”
Cherry picking and concept stealing. You are merely hiding behind a safe action, the moral import of which only an Objectivist would disagree. You are denying morality while hiding it in your back pocket.
Tai, and I as well, were talking about universal principles of human action (more popularly known as morality). You want to stick to one action only (the safe, non-objectionable one) and then to declare the whole field of morality as invalid – which is what is meant when someone says morality is arbitrary.
You do not leave anything open for discussion. You say your question was never answered after disregarding the entire subject. This is like presenting us with a question of mathematics, but that you don’t believe in mathematics so we will have to answer you by non-mathematical means.
Tai’s response to your declaration of the arbitrariness of morality, “Well, there it is then.”, was perfectly just and the only response possible. Suppose you proposed to enter into a discussion of epistemology and as your starting premise you asked the table to accept, as an axiom, that man is a wholly determined creature of no free-will, that he functions as a falling rock functions, or as the snail-darter functions. The conversation would be wholly senseless then – everyone would, on those premises, have to believe whatever the unfathomable forces that determined his mind made him believe – and yourself likewise.
A sounder foray into the field of morality, indeed one of its founding questions, is: Are there universal principles of right action (and the resultant finding of right action which we call virtue) applicable to all men at all times or are there not? The question of whether morality is arbitrary or not reduces to: Is there morality, or is there not?
An arbitrary morality is a contradiction in terms.
You are also smuggling in a morality while declaring it arbitrary. Where did your empathetic feeling come from? And is it just that the needy have to wait for your empathy to spring up? Or are you one of the rare breeds that bleeds with the pain of the world 24/7? Don’t have a day where the world can just go piss off? Or that you are just indifferent? Bored, cynical, spent? Rolling in your own merriment (a date, perhaps) to give two hoots about some stranger’s discontent on this fine day? After all people the world over suffer everyday. Can’t you have a day off, two, three, a hundred?
If it is all arbitrary, each of those feelings are just as valid. You can’t really blame the person who can step over the homeless man without pausing to look or care. He simply has not the special feeling that unerringly compels him into action. You can’t object to him not having it any more than a psychologist can cure a depressive by screaming, “JUST BE HAPPY!”
And there is certainly nothing to say to the person who takes advantage of the person in need (robbery, murder, etc) he obviously is responding to a different emotional response. You may not like his action, nor the feeling that gave rise to it, but so what? He has his feeling, you have yours. Now, if you are bigger than he is, or have better weaponry, or a bigger gang or mob, you may enforce your arbitrary empathy over his arbitrary lust and greed.
Or do you say it is wrong for him to take advantage of someone in need?
Wrong? By what standard? You have disregarded those by disregarding morality.