Can Reason Alone Lead to the Ethical

To the Thinkers:

As I struggle each month to come up with something that connects philosophy and the modern world, I keep running into the same place. Most every topic of consideration inevitably gets you back to a common nothing-place where the terms of any discussion morph constantly almost to the point of pointlessness. For this reason I am going to consider a topic that came out of several recent meet ups where we talked about the recent National Day of Reason. Can we approach any ethical system, a system that provides guidance on what to do in our world going forward, through reason alone or must we inevitably rely on something that gets us into the arguments of a moral system that is grounded somehow into faith-based things like religions and related stuff to guide our thoughts.

Want proof. Do any Google search on the subject.

Obviously an appeal to humanism is the most likely way forward but I need to focus things some more. Any ideas would be helpful.

More to come.

Your Head Whatever


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  • Karen A.

    As for doing something to promote reason, can we make some noise about these issues? From the president's media machine:

    There is only so much I can do on my own.

    The special interests know it, and they're counting on you to be silent on gun violence and climate change. And they plan to make the loudest noise when your members of Congress come home for August recess.

    I'm counting on you to be just as vocal -- to make sure the agenda that Americans voted for last year is front and center.


    But it's not a reason to sit back and do nothing -- our system only works if you play your part.

    If you don't let your representatives know where you stand in August, we risk losing an important battle on your home turf.

    So I'm asking you -- pass this along and make sure three of your neighbors to do at least one thing in your community during Action August:

    http://my.barackobama.com/Commit-to-Action-August

    Thanks,

    Barack

    1 · July 30, 2013

  • marios

    I will like someone to define spirituality, is it a form of religion in different clothing?

    July 16, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      It's called peer review and while we are not infallible and yes, we want our results to yield our hopes and dreams, peer review helps weed out those who might be temporarily "blinded by ambition" as well as those who are unworthy to call themselves scientists.

      1 · July 18, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      I'm aware of all that. Of course, the nature of scientific truth is always incomplete, provisional, subject to refinement. It's ability to predict things doesn't make it "true." Newtonian physics predicts lots of things, but the quantum revolution showed much of it was incomplete. Even when more complete, science can only describe essentially "What" is happening. It cannot answer ethical questions, tell us how to live, or tell us the moral significance of anything at all, and yet we need such knowledge to live and make decisions. Futher, as I was implying above, the theoretical foundations of science require many great leaps of faith, including on the consistency, predictability, and comprehensibility of the universe as a whole.

      July 18, 2013

  • Scooter D.

    Sorry, not well.

    July 15, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      On the mend, I hope.

      July 16, 2013

  • Karen A.

    I couldn't make it either, but wonder what the consensus was. Do we need regligion to be ehical?

    July 15, 2013

    • Karen A.

      Thanks for the reading suggestion Marios.

      1 · July 16, 2013

    • marios

      You welcome, I am on the final pages of this book, for the monthly book club.

      July 16, 2013

  • Betsy L.

    Because so many individuals believe the defiinition of "ethics" deals with subjective labels such as "good" or "bad," it's difficult to discuss without trailing off on mythical tangents of "goodness" (for Christians, Christ-like) and "evil" (for Christians, devil-like). Ethics are an evolving entity; what is ethical now was not ethical in the past. Ergo, how can one posit a system of ethics for the future when ethics are constantly evolving -- and dependent upon where one lives? One might instead consider a system of ethics that itself is designed to evolve to match the concensus of the future, irrespective of religions or spiritualities or even locations. That very evolution is quelled by religious systems, which are tied to sometimes ancient belief systems and even more ancient documents and doctrines. One must be able to approach the subject without religious or FOO (Family of Origin) bias to discuss it. I'm new to the group and would love the opportunity.

    July 16, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I am sorry I wasn't able to make it. Verbal sparring is not my goal. Instead, I seek truth however it may be revealed. I do think it is important to differentiate between religion and spirituality.

    July 16, 2013

  • Trude D.

    Vivid conversation!

    July 16, 2013

  • Brent

    Events have conspired to prevent my attendance. Apparently the universe thinks I don't need to be there. Or things just happen, as a thinker would conclude!

    July 15, 2013

    • Katherine S.

      You would have enjoyed the discussion

      1 · July 15, 2013

  • A. Colin F.

    love the diverse experiences and opinions of this inteligent crowd

    July 15, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I got stuck in Tampa and couldn't make this, but judging by a few posts I'm not sure I like the direction the conversation took. I may be wrong, but it sounds like religion, the great usurper of morality, reared its ugly head. Vocal atheist here. And may I just interject (keeping it brief because I can go on and on regarding this), the 10 com. did not "exist" before the bible. I don't think anyone cared who you coveted and what deity's name was taken in vain, blah, blah.

    1 · July 15, 2013

  • Katherine S.

    All societies had various laws that were based on honor codes. Check out the online exhibit at UT http://tarlton.law.utexas.edu/exhibits/aztec/

    1 · July 15, 2013

  • A. Colin F.

    Copied from the ancient folktales and legends of the Egyptians about 1,500 years before, much of the Bible was the moral social code (the de facto law) of religions in CONJUNCTION with the primitive military societies that existed 2,000 plus years ago. It is NOT possible for the magical events, demons, angels and gods of the Bible to exist (unless the stories are inspired by hallucinogenic drugs as other cultures did), but it is possible for humans to decide what is right and what is wrong. We cast these moral decisions into social codes and call them laws.

    3 · July 14, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      I realize that this is not the mission of this particular meeting. I'm merely suggesting as it was suggested to me nearly 40 years ago that you "think" about asking the Universal Force if it exists to make itself known to you.

      July 15, 2013

    • Brent

      I think a Universal Force that existed would know without being asked. OTOH, if you desire a delusion, your mind will produce one.

      2 · July 15, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Not to be confused with the John Gray of Men Are From Mars...

      July 15, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sorry. I won't be able to come tonight, but did anyone mention the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_Hammurabi

    July 15, 2013

  • Carlton C.

    Looks Like a Good Group can't wait

    1 · July 15, 2013

  • marios

    A humane code of laws way before Jesus was born if he ever was born from a virgin.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQUYwDi08v4

    1 · July 14, 2013

  • A. Colin F.

    The After Meeting
    Barnes & Noble
    213 North Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, FL

    Debriefing and serious follow-up free-flowing discussion over tasty beverages in an old fashioned bookstore (physical media).

    July 14, 2013

  • A. Colin F.

    Social codes of morality existed long before the Bible re-wrote them as legends to be revered. So yes. Even primates have a social code of conduct. The Ten Commandments existed thousands of years before the Bible! In fact, anthropologists know the concept of right and wrong existed BEFORE the notion of magical gods. Mankind has slowly winnowed down from thousands to hundreds to now just the three gods that Christians believe in. So morality is NOT a God-given magical concept. It is a hallmark of intelligence, compassion and civilization. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_Hammurabi

    July 14, 2013

  • Momir F.

    Just recently joined... I hope it's OK if I just listen in on this one. I would like to feel out how the group works before I jump in with both feet.

    July 12, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    And, by way of introduction, I'm new to the group, lived in Tampa since 2010, studied philosophy and then law, lived in Orlando and prior to that Dallas and Chicago, and am looking forward to meeting new people, challenging myself, and challenging my thinking. Thanks.

    June 23, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Religion, aesthetics, sentiments, self-interest, upbringing, etc. affect all kinds of moral beliefs. It seems a myth (or more gently aspiration) that there is a scientific way to adopt a philosophy. Enlightenment Liberals did embrace this pretension, while suggesting the rest of us were repeating obscurantist religious beliefs or the drive of the id/power, etc. While rationalism of any sort may be internally rational, any such system too is founded on assertions outside of reason, such as the so-called “self evident” truths of the Declaration of Independence, which led to the attempted reestablishment of political morality on “scientific” foundations. There are in fact many foundational pre-moral axiomatic questions on which moral reasoning depends. Plato talks of this as the “golden chord” and Kant the “song we sing to ourselves.” In other words, there is an aesthetic and intuitive foundation to moral principles that cannot easily be criticized, proven, or analyzed by moral reasoning.

    June 23, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I believe that goes back to Immanuel Kant's Critique of Moral Reason.

    June 17, 2013

  • Bob M.

    I love your comments, Trude. Just last evening on the deck I was waxing eruditely on the recent studies that show that we are, indeed, "wired" to be social and even moral in some ways. But, when I take a look at what humanity in general is doing with this genetic endowment, I return to the nurture side of the issue. Or even the biology. The three brains we have do not seem so well integrated. Given privation or a threat, the reptile comes to the fore. In any event, I have found it difficult to arrive at common values through rational conversation. They seem to arrive almost automatically when people share common experiences and circumstances. Are values, then, just a fance window dressing we put on our prejudices? (Must drop out of the conversation now to catch a plane.)

    1 · June 17, 2013

  • Trude D.

    Well, how about this? If we take into rational account the scientifically demonstrated fact that the human brain his wired for empathy as, at original core, a survival mechanism, then the rational/empathetic (emotional) duality isn't a duality but an integrated whole. Following the integration metaphor ... what can vary is, at any given moment and in response to given stimuli, who's driving the bus, because the passengers at the front (rational, prefrontal cortex) and back (amygdala and its cohort) are having a highly interactive conversation about both the destination and the best route to it.

    June 17, 2013

  • Bob M.

    I wish I could share in this conversation. It has long been contended that the absence of religion leads inevitably to nihilism. I do not agree. However, I do think it is important to consider the psycho-social challenge of arriving at common values, in this case, ethical values, without a common social structure in which those values are identified, taught and nurtured. To me the question is not whether "reason" alone can lead to ethical values, but whether through reason and social interaction--such as conversation--we can reach agreement about what those values are or should be. (My experience so far has not been encouraging.) A final thought: Ethics is about "us"--how we relate to one another. So, "reason" alone is not enough. For ethical considerations to arise, we must, in some way, care about our relationships to others--if not care for others in themselves, as Kant suggested. Best wishes for a good discussion!

    June 17, 2013

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