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Notes and Queries in Anthropology
Contents:


  1. Notes and Queries in Anthropology
  2. The hypocrisy of saying "let me persuade you that I don't have to persuade you"
  3. Moral Anti-Realism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
  4. Can the Market be Moral? Peace and Prosperity Depends on a Reimagined Socialism

And they are doing this by building systems which sort out elements of reality, abandoning those elements which resist being integrated in the system. In other words, the philosophical task consists in reducing the unknown to the already-known. This is the proper task of idealism: it reduces reality to an ideal order, a product of thought. Unlike the idealist philosopher, the free spirit is the one who is able to recognize both this conflict and its passionate nature. Moreover, he is looking for the unknown, accepting the multiplicity of experience beyond the frame of our concepts and the possibility of different conceptual perspectives.

This open-mindedness leads him to surpass himself; a movement which characterizes perfectionism and presupposes the experience of loosing the realized self in order to look for the possible, still unknown self. Instead of looking for an ideal perfection, or the achievement of his best qualities and virtues, he is focusing on the reality of his own tendencies and plurality of affects.

By doing this, he stops avoiding life. The emphasis on life prevents us from an idealistic understanding of perfectionism here: if there is a demand for self improvement, it does not consist in the elaboration on an ideal of perfection and the subsequent attempt to reach it. On the contrary, the fundamental issue concerns the gap between thought and life, between the ideal and the real, and the aim of the free spirit is to bridge it. Now, according to Nietzsche, life is engaging our body and a range of passions and interlinked and conflicting affects.

The link between ideals and practices is reinforced in this conception of ideals as expressive of evaluations originated in our corporal dimension. As Nietzsche writes:. Then comes the upper stage: the attempt to create an ideal ein Ideal dichten. This precedes even the upper stage: precisely to live this ideal. At his point, the criticism against idealism opens up onto a strong double demand: first, the demand that life should be thought, grasped by our concepts and our language; second, the demand that ideals should be lived in practice.

In my view, Nietzsche is not totally rejecting idealism or philosophy ; he is rather advocating a reciprocal conversion of thought and body actions and affects. His own point of view is anchored in a personal impulse. The issues of truth and objectivity do not disappear, but they are not the topics Nietzsche is most interested in.

He is concerned instead with our way of being truthful to our affective motives, like the free spirit who has been able to free himself from his own impulses by accepting them and the tendency to ignore them. The experiment Versuch characterizes the way of living like a free spirit. The genealogical approach continues its work of mining culture and prejudices, and allows the free spirit to explore step by step the unknown without preconceived ideas, being open to adventure and new discoveries.

The experimental method is also a return to reality, to the solid world of our Erlebnisse. The purpose is still the attainment of knowledge, but in the specific form of self-knowledge that requires us to overcome the dualism opposing ideal and life. It involves a certain way of thinking by elaborating ideals conceived as being anchored in passions, and a certain way of living by trying to realize these ideals or to imagine other ones.

In this view, exploring reality overlaps with imagining possibility. Free spirits find their own paths by relying on their past experiences as well as by being open to the adventure into the unknown. In The Man without Qualities , the mathematician Ulrich is confronted with a painful experience: the failure of the successive utopia he has imagined.

So, at the end of the second section of the novel, he is increasingly concerned with the urgency to bridge the gap between ideals and reality, the failure of which continues to threaten the possibility of action and of improvement. The plot can be summarized as follows: Ulrich wishes that human beings would act more fairly and to the purpose of a better life. But this desire comes up against the unrealizable nature of many ideals of a good life, or, on the contrary, against a lack of ideals in our practical lives From then on, the aim of the moralist Ulrich is to find ideals which are compatible with reality.

This is the role of the sense of possibility. His change is not of a theoretical nature, but of a practical one: he adopts another attitude. This attitude consists in being open to the unexpected, to the unknown, and in acting step by step. The meeting with his sister brings an end to the theoretical moment of his life. He concludes that if he wants a fairer life, he has to find one himself: to find a personal way of being which is based on conviction.

The ideal we are thus offered is to do only what we are convinced of, to stop doing anything which would be insignificant for us. To act convincingly presupposes that we know ourselves well enough to be sure of the motives and meanings of our actions. Indeed, Musil criticizes idealism insofar as idealism constitutes a metaphysical flight from reality. Idealism suggests ideals that are always unattainable and to which we can only aspire. Instead of living our ideals , we live for ideals which remain confined in the world of our thought.

It is a kind of rough consequentialism. The rejection of idealism opens up the ideal of motivation or conviction. This ideal is not unrealizable and it is rooted in the subjective and affective dimension of individual morality. Self-improvement is depicted as a search for what is important and makes sense. Self-transformation thus implies an exploration of this personal universe of motives and of our capacity to make sense of anything. That is why we can gain motivation only step by step, according to our capacity to be aware of reality, to make sense of our experience, to imagine possible motives and meanings.

This itinerary to find who one can be includes a part of experiments and failures, which are inseparable from our practices. It must be pursued in the constant renewing of conviction. They are necessary for self-transformation since they constitute the temporary step to reach. As the image of a peculiar type of man, the free spirit constitutes a way of depicting what moral perfectionism could look like and how it is related to ideals.

The common ground of these three versions of the free spirit consists essentially in the notion of possibility. Possibility, usually seen as a logical concept in philosophy, is given an ethical importance. As such, it indicates a certain moral strength — call it self-reliance, probity, or conviction — which allows the individual to explore even the most obscure parts him or her-self, to be critical of oneself, and to accept the adventure of leaving this unsatisfied self and to search for a possible better one.

But it makes sense only if it has practical effect, especially the effect of leading one to become who one is. This point allows us to argue that moral perfectionism is pragmatic insofar as it demands practical effects and actions. Porte ed. Wismann H. Handwerk, Stanford, Stanford University Press, My translation. One may grant that nothing satisfies all of our desiderata regarding moral concepts, but the question remains whether any response-dependent concepts will satisfy enough of those desiderata to count as worthy and practicable surrogates.

An example of a relativistic response-dependent moral theory is Jesse Prinz's , while an example of a non-relativistic response-dependent moral theory is Firth's ideal observer theory. Here I will focus on the latter. Put in Johnston's terms, Firth's analysis of moral goodness is as follows:. The ideal observer is defined as having the following characteristics: He is omniscient with respect of the non-ethical facts, omnipercipient, disinterested, dispassionate, consistent, and in all other respects normal.

See Firth for discussion of these qualities; see also Brandt and Firth Often it doesn't make any difference whether a quality is predicated of the subject or the viewing conditions—e. Not only is Firth's analysis non-relativistic since it contains no ineliminable indexical element , but it is also, he declares, objectivist. Response-dependent properties do not depend for their instantiation on the existence of a single conscious entity in the whole universe; what they depend upon is the presence of a disposition. Just as a vase may remain fragile in virtue of having a disposition to break in C even if it never has been, and never will be, broken, so too the disposition to produce R in S in C may be instantiated even if no token of R ever occurs past, present or future , no token of S ever exists past, present or future , and no token of C ever obtains past, present or future.

Thus Firth's theory at no point implies that any character with the idealized qualities exists. Nevertheless, although analyzing morality in a response-dependent manner without doubt makes morality existentially mind-independent, it with equal certainty renders it conceptually mind-dependent. And this may be enough to leave those with realist leanings uneasy. Although it may be true that the non-objectivist has traditionally expressed her commitments by reference to an existential relation, this may simply be due to the paucity of well-formed alternatives having been articulated in that tradition.

Once conceptual mind-dependence is elucidated, the realist may find herself equally opposed. After all, in a sense all that has been altered is a modal variable: Instead of. If one's opposition to the former was based on an intuitive hostility to the mind-dependence relation it embodies, it seems unlikely that the tweaking of that relation in the manner of the latter will make one less inclined to balk. Firth's and Johnston's versions of a response-dependent morality may be categorized as non-normative , in contrast with a rather different way of understanding the response-dependent relation.

The key change is the presence of the normative notion of warranting or meriting or justifying or some such similar notion. The principal challenge for such theories is to explicate this normative notion in a non-circular way that does not undermine the need for a response-dependent theory in the first place.

Normative response-dependent theories are advocated by McDowell , Wiggins , and McNaughton Critics of response-dependent theories of morality include Wright b; Blackburn b, , ch. See also papers in Casati and Tappolet He discriminates between phenomena that play a wide cosmological role and those that play only a narrow role. A subject matter has wide cosmological role if the kinds of things with which it deals figure in a variety of explanatory contexts—specifically, if they explain things other than or other than via our judgments concerning them.

By comparison, something with narrow cosmological role fails to figure in explanations except concerning our judgments. Perhaps funniness is such a property. It need not be denied that there are facts about which things have this property, but it is hard to imagine that the funniness of something can explain the occurrence of any other phenomenon in the world without our tendencies to think it funny playing an intermediary role.

Wright doubts that moral facts have wide cosmological role, and thus—in this respect at least—comes down on the side of the moral anti-realist For another pluralistic approach to realism, see Pettit There are several objections to this way of understanding realism see Devitt , but perhaps the most salient in the present context is that many philosophers who think of themselves as robust moral realists—and, indeed, are categorized so by such a consensus of their fellows that they must be considered almost canonical examples of the view—would reject Dummett's semantic construal.

Suppose what is under contention is a mental state like pain. Consider, first, non-objectivism as response-dependence. Perhaps a response-dependent account of pain could be advocated, but it certainly doesn't seem mandatory to say the least. Therefore, under these terms the debate between the pain objectivist and the pain non-objectivist and, more broadly, the psychological realist and the psychological anti-realist can be a substantive one.

Consider, second, non-objectivism as narrow cosmological role. It suffices here to note that pain may or may not have wide cosmological role—the question requires delicate discussion—therefore, again, psychological anti-realism is by no means trivially excluded just in virtue of the subject matter in question concerning a psychological phenomenon. Consider, last, non-objectivism in Dummettian terms. So many debates in philosophy revolve around the issue of objectivity versus non-objectivity that one may be forgiven for assuming that someone somewhere understands this distinction. There certainly exists a widespread intuitive imagery associated with the duality that is sufficiently vivid to motivate heartfelt philosophical commitments, but, once approached directly, the distinction nevertheless proves extremely difficult to nail down.

It is likely that part of what is causing confusion is that there are a number of non-equivalent ways of drawing the distinction, some of which are better suited to certain subject areas than others. Expecting a monolithic theory that applies to all cases is probably an unreasonable aspiration. One further comment that should be made is to voice the suspicion that much of the knee-jerk opposition to non-objectivism is based on an impoverished understanding of the kind of resources available to a sophisticated non-objectivist.

It is feared that such a stance would force upon us a kind of tolerance of all manner of undesirable behaviors, from acts of rudeness to Nazi atrocities. There is much that is confused in such apprehensions. Moral non-objectivism is not the view the wrongness of genocide, say, is just a matter of opinion in the way that preferring chocolate ice cream over vanilla is a matter of opinion , and an undue focus on that sort of silly subjectivism—whether explicitly or tacitly and unthinkingly—has injected a fair degree of straw-mannishness into proceedings.

Moral non-objectivism need not be relativistic see the supplementary document Moral Objectivity and Moral Relativism , and even when it is so, it need not be tied to the whims of the individual. There are sophisticated versions of moral relativism that make sense of moral improvement, moral criticism, and moral disagreement see Harman , ; Wong ; Prinz Furthermore as has been noted on numerous occasions , there is no obvious route from relativism—no matter how rampant—to an attitude of tolerance.

If relativism is true, then the value of tolerance is no more absolute than any other. Consider a kind of tolerance we think desirable: say, allowing other adults to decide what clothes they will wear. If I happen to find myself with sentiments in favor of this kind of tolerance, then, according to naive individualistic moral relativism, it is true relative to me that choosing one's own clothes is permissible.

Were I, however, to find myself with vehemently intolerant attitudes toward other people's clothing autonomy, an individualistic moral relativism would be no less supportive of my values. If I happen to find myself with sentiments opposed to this kind of tolerance—if I think that Nazi savagery is a crime that must be prevented by extreme intervention—then, according to naive individualistic moral relativism, it is true relative to me that an indifferent attitude toward Nazism is unacceptable.

Were I, however, to find myself unresponsive when confronted with Nazi genocidal programs—were I, indeed, to find myself with sympathetic leanings—an individualistic moral relativism would be no less supportive of my values. In short, whether we are drawn to relativism in the hope that it will encourage desirable kinds of tolerance, or we are repelled by relativism for fear that it will promote undesirable kinds of tolerance, both the hope and the fear are misplaced.

This entry has not attempted to adjudicate the rich and noisy debate between the moral realist and moral anti-realist, but rather has attempted to clarify just what their debate is about. But even this much more modest task is doomed to lead to unsatisfactory results, for there is much confusion—perhaps a hopeless confusion—about how the terms of the debate should be drawn up. It is entirely possible that when subjected to acute critical examination, the traditional dialectic between the moral realist and the moral anti-realist will crumble into a bunch of evocative metaphors from which well-formed philosophical theses cannot be extracted.

If this is true, it would not follow that metaethics is bankrupt; far from it—it may be more accurate to think that modern metaethics has prospered to such an extent that the old terms no longer fit its sophisticated landscape. With so much ill-defined, however, it would seem close to pointless to conduct metaethical debate under these terms.

If someone tells us that she is a moral cognitivist then we comprehend, roughly, what she means. If someone presents an argument designed to support a moral error theory then we know what to expect. If someone articulates an objection to the ideal observer theory then we understand what we are dealing with.

But if someone purports to be a moral anti-realist, or a moral realist, then although we can immediately exclude certain possibilities, a great deal of indeterminacy remains. Just as important as gaining a clear and distinct understanding of these labels is gaining an appreciation of what of real consequence turns on the debate. This seems particularly pressing here because a natural suspicion is that much of the opposition to moral anti-realism develops from a nebulous but nagging practical concern about what might happen —to individuals, to the community, to social order—if moral anti-realism, in one guise or another, were widely adopted.

The embrace of moral anti-realism, it is assumed, will have a pernicious influence. This concern presupposes that most of the folk are already pretheoretically inclined toward moral realism—an assumption that was queried in the supplementary document Moral Anti-realism vs. Realism: Intuitions. But even if it is true that most people are naive moral realists, the question of what would happen if they ceased to be so is an empirical matter, concerning which neither optimism nor pessimism seems prima facie more warranted than the other. Who Bears the Burden of Proof?

Supplement: Moral Anti-realism vs. Realism: Intuitions Supplement: Moral Anti-realism vs. Realism: Explanatory power 3. Noncognitivism Supplement: Projectivism and quasi-realism 4. Non-objectivism 6. In this spirit of preliminary imprecision, these views can be initially characterized as follows: Moral noncognitivism holds that our moral judgments are not in the business of aiming at truth.

See: Supplement: Moral Objectivity and Moral Relativism As a first approximation, then, moral anti-realism can be identified as the disjunction of three theses: moral noncognivitism moral error theory moral non-objectivism One question that has exercised certain philosophers is whether realism and thus anti-realism should be understood as a metaphysical or as a linguistic thesis. Realism: Explanatory Power In short, attempts to establish the burden of proof are as slippery and indecisive in the debate between the moral realist and the moral anti-realist as they tend to be generally in philosophy.

Let us now discuss in turn the three specific forms of moral anti-realism in more detail. The above three characterizations can each be revised so as to drop mention of truth values, as follows: If moral judgments are considered to be mental states, then noncognitivism is the denial that moral judgments are beliefs. If moral judgments are considered to be sentence types, then noncognitivism is the denial that moral judgments have an underlying grammar that expresses a proposition.

If moral judgments are considered to be speech acts, then noncognitivism is the denial that moral judgments are assertions. What, then, are the noncognitivist's options regarding positive views? If moral judgments are taken to be mental states, but not beliefs, then the likely contenders for being moral judgments are: desires, emotions, attitudes, and, in general, some specifiable kind of conative state. The noncognitivist may want to present something more specific, such as dis approval , or desire that the action in question not be performed , or subscription to a normative framework [to be specified], or desire that transgressors be punished , etc.

The range of options is open-ended. Hare , restricted this to commands that one is willing to universalize. Since there are many kinds of non-proposition-expressing sentence, there are many such possibilities for a noncognitivist. This evasion of a cluster of thorny philosophical problems represents noncognitivism's greatest theoretical attraction. This fictionalist does, however, owe us some kind of account of what this property would be like, in order that the content of the fiction can be understood.

If moral judgments are taken to be speech acts, but not assertions, then the likely contenders for being moral judgments appear very similar to those described under ii : Moral judgments may be used to express emotion, or to voice commands, or to initiate an act of make-believe, or to express a wish, etc. The difference is that this kind of noncognitivist sees these possibilities as in terms of what moral language is used for, not as a matter of the meaning or grammar of moral language, and thus has no need to offer a translation schema into a different grammatical mood.

The critical and often overlooked point is that assertion is not a grammatical or semantic category. It can certainly be used to make an assertion, but it might also be uttered as a line of a play, or dripping with tones of sarcasm, or as an example of a 4-word English sentence—and in none of these cases would it be asserted. The match between grammatical categories and speech acts is a rough one. Since there are a great many kinds of speech act other than assertion admonishing, commanding, exclaiming, promising, requesting, pretending, warning, undertaking, etc.

For more on speech act theory, see Austin ; Searle Supplement: Projectivism and Quasi-realism Occasionally though less so these days one sees noncognitivism characterized as the view that moral judgments are meaningless. When so used the word stands for nothing whatsoever, and has no symbolic function. Error Theory Understanding the nature of an error theory is best done initially by example: It is the attitude that sensible people take toward phlogiston, that levelheaded people take toward astrology, that reasonable people take toward the Loch Ness monster, and that atheists take toward the existence of gods.

Non-objectivism To deny both noncognitivism and the moral error theory suffices to make one a minimal moral realist. But these intuitions are fragile, and every effort I know to find the principle that underlies them collapses. We sense that there is a heady metaphysical thesis at stake in these debates over realism … [b]ut after a point, when every attempt to say just what the issue is has come up empty, we have no real choice but to conclude that despite all the wonderful, suggestive imagery, there is ultimately nothing in the neighborhood to discuss.

See also Dworkin To illustrate further the ubiquity of and variation among mind-dependence relations on the menu of moral theories, consider the following: According to classic utilitarianism, one is obligated to act so as to maximize moral goodness, and moral goodness is identical to happiness. Happiness is a mental phenomenon. According to Kant, one's moral obligations are determined by which maxims can be consistently willed as universal laws; moreover, the only thing that is good in itself is a good will.

Willing is a mental activity, and the will is a mental faculty. According to John Rawls , fairness is determined by the results of an imaginary collective decision, wherein self-interested agents negotiate principles of distribution behind a veil of ignorance. Decision-making, negotiation, and agency all require mental activity. According to Michael Smith a , the morally right action for a person to perform is determined by what advice would be given to that person by her epistemically and rationally idealized counterpart. See also Railton Epistemic improvement and rational improvement are mental phenomena.

According to Richard Boyd , moral goodness is identical to a cluster of properties conducive to the satisfaction of human needs, which tend to occur together and promote each other. Human needs may not all be mental, but the needs that depend in no way on the existence of mental activity are surely few.

According to Frank Jackson , ethical terms pick out properties that play a certain role in the conceptual network determined by mature folk morality. After all, in a sense all that has been altered is a modal variable: Instead of X is good iff the ideal observer approves of X , we have X is good iff the ideal observer would approve of X. Summary So many debates in philosophy revolve around the issue of objectivity versus non-objectivity that one may be forgiven for assuming that someone somewhere understands this distinction.

Conclusion This entry has not attempted to adjudicate the rich and noisy debate between the moral realist and moral anti-realist, but rather has attempted to clarify just what their debate is about. Bibliography Anscombe, G. Asay, J. Austin, J. Ayer, A. Language, Truth and Logic , Harmondsworth: Penguin. Baeten, E. Bagnoli, C. Bedke, M. Blackburn, S. Spreading the Word , Oxford: Clarendon. Hursthouse et al. Kalderon ed. Blackmore, S. Caruso ed.

Boyd, R. Sayre-McCord ed. Brandt, R. Brink, D. Brosnan, K. Burgess, J. Carnap, R. Caruso, G. Casati R. Copp, D. Craig, E. Read and K. Richman eds. Cuneo, T. Daly, C. Dancy, J. Devitt, M. Doris, J. Sinnott-Armstrong ed. Dreier, J. Dummett, M. Truth and Other Enigmas , London: Duckworth. Dworkin, R. Firth, R. Foot, P. Garner, R. Joyce and S. Kirchin eds. Gibbard, A. Goodwin, G. Antigone : Yes, for it was not Zeus who proclaimed them, Nor justice which abides with the gods below Neither the one nor the other established these laws among men; I do not consider your decrees so powerful That you, mortal man, can disregard the unwritten and immutable laws of the gods.

The first are neither eternal nor are they in force everywhere and they do not oblige everyone. The second oblige everyone, always and everywhere To these laws, they opposed their narrow and erroneous idea of nature, reduced to its physical component alone. There is nothing of this sort in Plato and Aristotle. They are convinced that the laws of the city are generally good and constitute the implementation, more or less successful, of a norm of natural justice which is in conformity with the nature of things.

For Plato, the norm of natural justice is an ideal norm, a rule for both legislators and citizens, which permits the grounding and the evaluation of positive laws For Aristotle, this supreme norm of morality corresponds to the realization of the essential form of nature. What is natural is moral. The norm of natural justice is invariable; positive law changes according to peoples and different epochs.

But the norm of natural justice is not situated beyond positive law. It is embodied in the positive law, which is the application of the general idea of justice to social life in its variety. In Stoicism, the natural law becomes the key concept of a universalist ethic. What is good and ought to be done is that which corresponds to nature, understood in both a physico-biological and rational sense. Every man, whatever the nation to which he belongs, must integrate himself as a part in the Whole of the universe.

He must live according to his nature This imperative presupposes that an eternal law exists, a divine Logos , which is present both in the cosmos — which it infuses with rationality — as well as in human reason. Nature and reason constitute the two sources of our knowledge of the fundamental ethical law, which is of divine origin.

The teaching of Sacred Scripture This law of the Covenant includes fundamental ethical precepts. But these ethical behaviours are also valid for other peoples, in that God demands an account from foreign nations that violate justice and what is right In fact, God had already sealed, in the person of Noah, a covenant with the totality of the human race, which implied, in particular, respect for life Gen 9 For he commanded and they were created.

This obedience of creatures to the law of God is a model for human beings. Alongside the texts associated with the history of salvation, with the major theological themes of election, promise, law and covenant, the Bible also contains a wisdom literature that does not directly treat the national history of Israel, but deals with the place of man in the world. Man must apply himself to the search for this wisdom and then make every effort to put it into practice.

This wisdom is not so much found in history as in nature and everyday life In this literature, Wisdom is often presented as a divine perfection, sometimes hypostasized. The harmony that reigns among creatures bears witness to wisdom. In many ways, man is made a participant in this wisdom that comes from God. This wisdom is again the fruit of obedience to the revealed law. In fact, the Torah is like the incarnation of Wisdom.

But wisdom is also the result of a wise observation of nature and human morals in order to discover their immanent intelligibility and their exemplary value In the fullness of time, Jesus Christ preached the coming of the Kingdom as a manifestation of the merciful love of God made present among human beings through his own person and calling for conversion and the free response of love on their part.

This preaching is not without consequences for ethics, for the way in which the world and human relations are to be structured. At the beginning of the Letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul, intending to show the universal need for the salvation brought by Christ, describes the religious and moral situation common to all of humanity. But this knowledge has been perverted into idolatry. Placing Jews and pagans on the same level, Paul affirms the existence of an unwritten law inscribed in their hearts Nevertheless, knowledge of the law does not in itself suffice in order to lead a righteous life These texts of St.

Paul have had a decisive influence on Christian reflection in regard to natural law.

Notes and Queries in Anthropology

The developments of the Christian tradition For the Fathers of the Church, the sequi naturam and the sequela Christi are not in opposition to each other. On the contrary, the Fathers generally adopt the idea from Stoicism that nature and reason indicate what our moral duties are. To follow nature and reason is to follow the personal Logos , the Word of God. The doctrine of the natural law, in fact, supplies a basis for completing biblical morality.

Moreover, it allows us to explain why the pagans, independently of biblical revelation, possess a positive moral conception. This is indicated to them by nature and corresponds to the teaching of revelation. The Fathers of the Church, however, do not purely and simply adopt the Stoic doctrine. They modify and develop it. On the one hand, the anthropology of biblical inspiration, which sees man as the imago Dei — the full truth of which is manifested in Christ — forbids reducing the human person to a simple element of the cosmos: called to communion with the living God, the person transcends the whole cosmos while integrating himself in it.

On the other hand, the harmony of nature and reason no longer rests on an immanentist vision of a pantheistic cosmos but on the common reference to the transcendent wisdom of the Creator. To conduct oneself in conformity with reason amounts to following the orientations that Christ, as the divine Logos , has set down by virtue of the logoi spermatikoi in human reason.

To act against reason is an offense against these orientations. Very significant is the definition of St. More precisely, for St. Moreover, for the Church Fathers the natural law is henceforth understood in the framework of the history of salvation, which leads to distinguishing different states of nature original nature, fallen nature, restored nature in which the natural law is realized in different ways.

It is characterized by four traits. In the first place, in conformity with the nature of scholastic thought that seeks to gather the truth wherever it is found, it takes up prior reflections on natural law, pagan or Christian, and tries to propose a synthesis. Second, in conformity with the systematic nature of scholastic thought, it locates natural law in a general metaphysical and theological framework. It is not a closed and complete set of moral norms, but a source of constant guidance, present and operative in the different stages of the economy of salvation.

Third, with the recognition of the consistency of nature, in part linked to the rediscovery of the thought of Aristotle, the scholastic doctrine of the natural law considers the ethical and political order as a rational order, a work of human intelligence. The scholastic notion of natural law defines an autonomous space for that order, distinct but not separated from the order of religious revelation Finally, in the eyes of scholastic theologians and jurists, natural law constitutes a point of reference and a criterion in the light of which they evaluate the legitimacy of positive laws and of particular customs.

The hypocrisy of saying "let me persuade you that I don't have to persuade you"

Further developments In certain aspects, the modern history of the idea of natural law represents a legitimate development of the teaching of medieval scholasticism in a more complex cultural context, marked in particular by a more vivid sense of moral subjectivity. Among these developments, we point out the works of the Spanish theologians of the 16th century, who, following the example of the Dominican Francis of Vitoria, had recourse to natural law to contest the imperialist ideology of some Christian states of Europe and to defend the rights of the non-Christian peoples of America.

The idea of natural law also allowed the Spanish theologians to establish the foundations of an international law, i. But in other aspects the idea of natural law in the modern age took on orientations and forms that contributed to making it difficult to accept today. During the last centuries of the Middle Ages, there developed in scholasticism a current of voluntarism, the cultural hegemony of which has profoundly modified the idea of natural law.

Voluntarism proposes to highlight the transcendence of the free subject in relation to all conditioning. Against naturalism that tended to subject God to the laws of nature, it emphasizes, in a unilateral way, the absolute freedom of God, with the risk of compromising his wisdom and rendering his decisions arbitrary. In the same manner, against intellectualism, suspected of subjecting the human person to the order of the world, it exalts a freedom of indifference, understood as a pure capacity to choose contraries, which runs the risk of disconnecting the person from his natural inclinations and from the objective good The consequences of voluntarism for the doctrine of natural law are numerous.

Above all, while in St. Thomas Aquinas the law was understood as a work of reason and an expression of wisdom, voluntarism leads one to connect the law to will alone, and to a will detached from its intrinsic ordering to the good. Henceforth, all the force of the law resides only in the will of the lawmaker.

The law is thus divested of its intrinsic intelligibility. In these conditions, morality is reduced to obedience to the commandments that manifest the will of the lawmaker. Thomas Hobbes will end up holding the position that auctoritas, non veritas, facit legem it is authority and not truth that makes law Modern man, loving autonomy, could only rebel against such a vision of the law.

Then, with the pretext of preserving the absolute sovereignty of God over nature, voluntarism deprives it of all internal intelligibility. The thesis of the potentia Dei absoluta , according to which God could act independently of his wisdom and his goodness, relativizes all the existing intelligible structures and weakens the natural knowledge that man can have of them.

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Moral Anti-Realism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Nature ceases to be a criterion for knowing the wise will of God: man can expect this knowledge only from a revelation. In addition, several factors have led to the secularization of the notion of natural law. Among these, one can recall the increasing divide between faith and reason which characterizes the end of the Middle Ages or some aspects of the Reformation 36 , but above all the will to overcome the violent religious conflicts that bloodied Europe up until the dawn of modern times.

Thus a desire arose to establish the political unity of human communities by putting religious confession in parentheses. Henceforth, the doctrine of natural law prescinds from all particular religious revelation, and therefore from all confessional theology. It claims to be founded solely on the light of reason common to all people and is presented as the ultimate norm in the secular field. Further, modern rationalism posits the existence of an absolute and normative order of intelligible essences accessible to reason and accordingly relativizes the reference to God as the ultimate foundation of the natural law.

Certainly, the necessary, eternal, and immutable order of essences needs to be actualized by the Creator, but it is believed that this order already possesses in itself its coherence and rationality. Reference to God therefore becomes optional. The modern rationalist model of natural law is characterized: 1 by the essentialist belief in an immutable and ahistorical human nature, of which reason can perfectly grasp the definition and essential properties; 2 by putting into parentheses the concrete situation of human persons in the history of salvation, marked by sin and grace, which however have a decisive influence on the knowledge and practice of the natural law; 3 by the idea that it is possible for reason to deduce a priori the precepts of the natural law, beginning from the definition of the essence of the human being; 4 by the maximal extension thus given to those deduced precepts, so that natural law appears as a code of pre-made laws regulating almost the entire range of behaviour.

This tendency to extend the field of the determinations of natural law was at the origin of a grave crisis when, particularly with the rapid development of the human sciences, Western thought became more aware of the historicity of human institutions and of the cultural relativity of many ways of acting that at times had been justified by appeal to the evidence of natural law. The gap between an abstract maximalist theory and the complexity of the empirical data explains in part the disaffection for the very idea of natural law.

In order that the notion of natural law can be of use in the elaboration of a universal ethic in a secularized and pluralistic society such as our own, it is therefore necessary to avoid presenting it in the rigid form that it assumed, particularly in modern rationalism.

The Magisterium of the Church and natural law Before the 13th century, because the distinction between the natural and the supernatural order was not clearly elaborated, natural law was generally assimilated into Christian morals. It then identifies the content of the natural law with the golden rule and explains that the divine laws correspond to nature The Fathers of the Church had recourse to natural law and to Sacred Scripture to provide a foundation for the moral behaviour of Christians, but the Magisterium of the Church, early on, had to make very few interventions to settle disputes on the content of the moral law.

When the Magisterium of the Church was led not only to resolve particular moral discussions, but also to justify its own position before a secularized world, it appealed more explicitly to the notion of natural law. It is in the 19th century, especially during the pontificate of Leo XIII, that recourse to natural law becomes more necessary in the acts of the Magisterium. The most explicit presentation is found in the Encyclical Libertas praestantissimum Leo XIII refers to natural law to identify the source of civil authority and to fix its limits.

He vigorously recalls that one must obey God rather than men when the civil authorities command or recognize something contrary to divine law or to the natural law. He also looks to natural law to protect private property against socialism and to defend the right of workers to an adequate living wage. Certainly, natural law is a law accessible to human reason, common to believers and nonbelievers, and the Church does not have exclusive rights over it, but since revelation assumes the requirements of the natural law, the Magisterium of the Church has been established as the guarantor and interpreter of it The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Encyclical Veritatis splendor assign a decisive place to the natural law in the exposition of Christian morals Today the Catholic Church invokes the natural law in four principal contexts.

In the second place, in the presence of relativistic individualism, which judges that every individual is the source of his own values, and that society results from a mere contract agreed upon by individuals who choose to establish all the norms themselves, it recalls the non-conventional, but natural and objective character of the fundamental norms that regulate social and political life.

In particular, the democratic form of government is intrinsically bound to stable ethical values, which have their source in the requirements of natural law and thus do not depend on the fluctuations of the consent of a numerical majority. In the third place, facing an aggressive secularism that wants to exclude believers from public debate, the Church points out that the interventions of Christians in public life on subjects that regard natural law the defence of the rights of the oppressed, justice in international relations, the defence of life and of the family, religious freedom and freedom of education , are not in themselves of a confessional nature, but derive from the care which every citizen must have for the common good of society.

In the fourth place, facing the threats of the abuse of power, and even of totalitarianism, which juridical positivism conceals and which certain ideologies propagate, the Church recalls that civil laws do not bind in conscience when they contradict natural law, and asks for the acknowledgment of the right to conscientious objection, as well as the duty of disobedience in the name of obedience to a higher law The reference to natural law, far from producing conformism, guarantees personal freedom and defends the marginalized and those oppressed by social structures which do not take the common good into account.

Chapter 2: The perception of Common Moral Values The examination of the great traditions of moral wisdom undertaken in the first chapter shows that certain kinds of human behaviour are recognized, in the majority of cultures, as expressing a certain excellence in the way in which a human being lives and realizes his own humanity: acts of courage, patience in the trials and difficulties of life, compassion for the weak, moderation in the use of material goods, a responsible attitude in relation to the environment, and dedication to the common good.

On the other hand, some forms of behaviour are universally recognized as calling for condemnation: murder, theft, lying, wrath, greed, and avarice. These appear as attacks on the dignity of the human person and on the just requirements of life in society. But at the same time, one must admit that such agreement on the moral quality of certain behaviour coexists with a great variety of explanatory theories.

There is a diversity among these explanations, which makes both dialogue and the grounding of moral norms difficult. Nevertheless, apart from any theoretical justifications of the concept of natural law, it is possible to illustrate the immediate data of the conscience of which it wants to give an account. The object of the present chapter is precisely to show how the common moral values that constitute natural law are grasped.

It is only later that we will see how the concept of natural law rests on an explanatory framework which both undergirds and legitimizes moral values, in a way that can be shared by many. To do this, the presentation of the natural law by St. Thomas Aquinas appears particularly pertinent, since, among other things, it places the natural law within a morality that sustains the dignity of the human person and recognizes his capacity of discernment The role of society and culture The human person only progressively comes to moral experience and becomes capable of expressing to himself the precepts that should guide his action.

The person attains this to degree to which he is inserted in a network of human relationships from birth, beginning with the family, relationships which allow him, little by little, to become aware of himself and of reality around him. Oriented by the persons who surround him, permeated by the culture in which he is immersed, the person recognizes certain ways of behaving and of thinking as values to pursue, laws to observe, examples to imitate, visions of the world to accept.

The social and cultural context thus exercises a decisive role in the education in moral values.

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There is, however, no contradiction between such conditioning and human freedom. Moreover, in the present context of globalization, societies and cultures themselves must inevitably practice sincere dialogue and exchange, based on the co-responsibility of all in regard to the common good of the planet: they must leave aside particular interests to attain the moral values that all are called to share. Every human being who attains self-awareness and responsibility experiences an interior call to do good.

All the other precepts of the natural law are based on this precept This first precept is known naturally, immediately, by the practical reason, just as the principle of non-contradiction the intellect cannot at the same time and under the same aspect both affirm and deny the same thing about something which is at the base of all speculative reasoning, is grasped intuitively, naturally, by the theoretical reason, when the subject comprehends the sense of the terms employed. Traditionally, such knowledge of the first principle of the moral life is attributed to an innate intellectual disposition called synderesis With this principle, we find ourselves immediately in the sphere of morality.

The good that thus imposes itself on the person is in fact the moral good; it is behaviour that, going beyond the categories of what is useful, is in keeping with the authentic realization of this being — at the same time one and differentiated — who is the human person. By searching for the moral good, the person contributes to the realization of his nature, beyond impulses of instinct or the search for a particular pleasure. This moral good testifies to itself and is understood from itself The moral good corresponds to the profound desire of the human person who — like every being — tends spontaneously, naturally, towards realizing himself fully, towards that which allows him to attain the perfection proper to him, namely, happiness.

Unfortunately, the subject can always allow himself to be drawn by particular desires and to choose goods or to do deeds that go against the moral good which he perceives. A person can refuse to go beyond himself. It is the price of a freedom limited in itself and weakened by sin, a freedom that encounters only particular goods, none of which can fully satisfy the human heart. It pertains to the reason of the subject to examine if these particular goods can be integrated into the authentic realization of the person: if so, they will be judged morally good, and if not, morally bad.

This last claim is of capital importance. It is the basis of the possibility of dialogue with persons belonging to different cultural or religious horizons. It values the eminent dignity of every human person, in stressing his natural aptitude to know the moral good that he must accomplish. Like every creature, the human person is defined by a combination of dynamisms and finalities, prior to the free choices of the will.

But, unlike beings that are not endowed with reason, the human person is capable of knowing and of interiorizing these finalities, and thus of appreciating, in accordance with them that which is good or bad for him. Thus he recognizes the eternal law, i. This insistence on the dignity of the moral subject and on his relative autonomy is rooted in the recognition of the autonomy of created realities and corresponds to a fundamental given of contemporary culture The moral obligation that the subject recognizes does not come, therefore, from a law that would be exterior to him pure heteronomy , but arises from within the subject himself.

It takes on a character of obligation and of law. Law here designates an orientation of the practical reason which indicates to the moral subject what kind of action is in accord with the basic and necessary dynamism of his being that tends to its full realization.

This law is normative in virtue of an internal requirement of the spirit. It springs from the heart itself of our being as a call to the realization and transcending of oneself. The discovery of the precepts of the natural law: universality of the natural law Such recognition is not the fact of an abstract consideration of human nature, nor of the effort of conceptualization, which will afterwards be the distinctive characteristic of philosophical and theological theorizing. The perception of fundamental moral goods is immediate, vital, based on the connaturality of the spirit with values, and engages affectivity as much as intelligence, the heart as much as the mind.

It is an acquisition often imperfect, still obscure and dim, but it has the profundity of immediacy. It deals with the data of the most simple and common experience, implicit in the concrete action of persons. In his search for the moral good, the human person sets himself to listen to what he is, and takes note of the fundamental inclinations of his nature, which are something quite different from the simple blind impulses of desire.

Perceiving that the goods to which he tends by nature are necessary for his moral realization, he formulates for himself, under the form of practical commands, the moral duty of actualizing them in his own life. He expresses to himself a certain number of very general precepts that he shares with all other human beings and that constitute the content of that which we call natural law. One traditionally distinguishes three great sets of natural dynamisms that are at work in the human person The second, which is in common with all living things, comprises the inclination to reproduce, in order to perpetuate the species.

The third, which is proper to the human person as a rational being, comprises the inclination to know the truth about God and to live in society. From these inclinations, the first precepts of the natural law, known naturally, can be formulated. Such precepts remain very general, but they form the first substratum that is at the foundation of all further reflections on the good to be practiced and on the evil to be avoided. To leave this generality and to make clear the concrete choices about what to do, it is necessary to have recourse to discursive reason, which will determine what are the concrete moral goods capable of fulfilling the person — and humanity — and will formulate more concrete precepts capable of guiding him in his action.

In this new stage the knowledge of the moral good proceeds by way of reasoning. At its origin this reasoning remains very simple: a limited experience of life suffices, and it remains within the intellectual possibility of everyone. The precepts of the natural law We have identified in the human person a first inclination that he shares with all beings: the inclination to preserve and develop his own existence. Within this category of the preservation of life are included the inclinations to everything that contributes, in a way proper to the human person, to the maintenance and quality of biological life: bodily integrity; the use of external goods necessary for the sustenance and the integrity of life, such as food, clothing, housing, work; the quality of the biological environment Taking his bearings from these inclinations, the human being formulates for himself goals to be realized that contribute to the harmonious and responsible development of his own being and which, as such, appear to him as moral goods, values to pursue, duties to accomplish and indeed as rights to assert.

The second inclination, which is common to all living beings, concerns the survival of the species that is realized by procreation. Reproduction is included in the prolongation of the tendency to persevere in being. If the perpetuity of biological existence is impossible for the individual himself, it is possible for the species and, thus, in a certain measure, overcomes the limits inherent in every physical being.

The good of the species appears in this way as one of the fundamental aspirations present in the person. We become particularly aware of it in our time, when certain issues such as global warming revive our sense of responsibility for the planet, as well as for the human species in particular.


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This openness to a certain common good of the species is already an assertion of certain aspirations proper to the human person. The dynamism towards procreation is intrinsically linked to the natural inclination that leads man to woman and woman to man, a universal datum recognized in all societies. These inclinations imply that the permanence of the union of man and woman, indeed even their mutual fidelity, are already values to pursue, even if they can only fully flourish in the spiritual order of interpersonal communion The third set of inclinations is specific to the human being as a spiritual being, endowed with reason, capable of knowing the truth, of entering into dialogue with others and of forming relations of friendship.

Therefore, this third level is particularly important. The inclination to live in society derives first of all from the fact that the human being has need of others to overcome his own intrinsic individual limits and to achieve maturity in the various spheres of his existence. But for his spiritual nature to fully flourish, a person has the need to form relations of generous friendship with his fellow human beings and to develop intense cooperation in the search for the truth. His integral good is so intimately linked to life in community that he enters into political society by virtue of a natural inclination and not by mere convention The relational character of the person also expresses itself by the tendency to live in communion with God or the absolute.

It manifests itself in religious sentiment and in the desire to know God. Certainly, it can be denied by those who refuse to admit the existence of a personal God, but it remains implicitly present in the search for truth and meaning, experienced by every human being. Corresponding to these tendencies that are specific to the human person, there is the need, recognized by reason, to realize concretely this life in relationship and to construct life in society on just foundations that correspond to the norm of natural justice.

This entails the recognition of the equal dignity of every individual of the human species, beyond the differences of race and culture, and a great respect for humanity wherever it is found, including that of the smallest and in the most despised of its members. Here we encounter the golden rule, which today is posited as the very principle of a morality of reciprocity. In the first chapter of this text, we were able to find the presence of this rule in the greater parts of the wisdom traditions, as well as in the Gospel itself.

It is in referring to a negative formulation of the golden rule that St. Jerome manifested the universality of several moral precepts. Who does not know that homicide, adultery, theft and every kind of greed are evil, since one does not want them done to oneself? To the golden rule are linked several commandments of the Decalogue, as are numerous Buddhist precepts, and, indeed, some Confucian rules, and also the greater part of the orientations of the great Charters that enumerate the rights of the person. They also take on the character of immutability to the extent that they derive from a human nature whose essential components remain the same throughout history.

It can still happen that they are obscured or even erased from the human heart because of sin and because of cultural and historical conditioning, which can negatively affect the personal moral life: ideologies and insidious propaganda, generalized relativism, structures of sin But this does not mean that we cannot recognize in these precepts the common foundation for a dialogue in search of a universal ethic.

Those undertaking such a dialogue, however, must learn to distance themselves from their own particular interests, in order to be open to the needs of others, and to allow themselves to be summoned by the common moral values. In a pluralistic society, where it is difficult to agree on philosophical foundations, such a dialogue is absolutely necessary.

The doctrine of natural law can make its contribution to such a dialogue. The application of the common precepts: historicity of the natural law It is impossible to remain at the level of generality, which is that of the first principles of the natural law. In fact, moral reflection must descend into the concreteness of action to throw its light on it. But the more it faces concrete and contingent situations, the more its conclusions are affected by a note of variability and uncertainty.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the concrete application of the precepts of the natural law can take different forms in different cultures, or even in different epochs within a single culture. It is sufficient to recall the evolution of moral reflection on questions such as slavery, lending at interest, duelling or the death penalty.

Sometimes such evolution leads to a better comprehension of moral requirements. Sometimes, in addition, the evolution of the political or economic situation leads to a re-evaluation of particular norms that had been established before. Morality, in fact, deals with contingent realities that evolve over time. Although he lived in the epoch of Christendom, a theologian such as St.


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Thomas Aquinas had a very clear perception of this. Therefore, although there is some necessity in the general principles, the more we descend to particular matters, the more we encounter indeterminacy In matters of action, truth or practical rectitude is not the same for all in its particular applications, but only in its general principles: and where there is the same rectitude in particular actions, it is not equally known to all This perspective gives an account of the historicity of natural law, whose concrete applications can vary over time.

At the same time, it opens the door to the reflection of moralists, inviting them to dialogue and to discussion. This is all the more necessary because in morality pure deduction by syllogism is not adequate. The more the moralist confronts concrete situations, the more he must have recourse to the wisdom of experience, an experience that integrates the contributions of the other sciences and is nourished by contact with men and women engaged in the action.

Only this wisdom of experience enables one to consider the multiplicity of circumstances and to arrive at a position on how to accomplish what is good hic et nunc. The moralist must also and this is the difficulty of his work have recourse to the combined resources of theology, of philosophy, as well as of the human, economic and biological sciences, in order to discern clearly the given facts of the situation and to identify correctly the concrete requirements of human dignity.

At the same time, he must be particularly attentive to safeguard the fundamental givens expressed by the precepts of the natural law that remain valid despite cultural variations. The moral dispositions of the person and his concrete action To reach a just evaluation of the things to be done, the moral subject must be endowed with a certain number of interior dispositions that allow him both to be open to the demands of the natural law and, at the same time, informed about the givens of the concrete situation.