Tag: Morality

Freedom Through Natural Law

 

While one bishop (the pope) offered a sadly forgettable speech before Congress, another bishop hit one out of the park at the World Meeting of Families.

Though I believe Christians of all sorts would appreciate Bishop Robert Barron’s full speech, this bit about acquiring freedom through adherence to natural law should be accessible to non-Christian Ricochet members as well. This is what is meant by the famous claim, “the truth will set you free.”

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Justice we think about mostly to blame someone for injustice. It’s not a pleasant topic of conversation, but our strong feelings about justice, especially anger, nevertheless make it impossible to put aside. An old liberalism, supposedly able to quell anger, required that polite conversation avoid religion & politics. But that opinion was abandoned & forward […]

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The article, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, says newborn babies are not “actual persons” and do not have a “moral right to life”. The academics also argue that parents should be able to have their baby killed if it turns out to be disabled when it is born. The journal’s editor, Prof Julian Savulescu, […]

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Moral Facts, Opinions, and Suppositions

 

478px-Vitrail_de_synagogue-Musée_alsacien_de_StrasbourgDiscussing a New York Times op-ed by a college professor about how young people are taught that all value statements are matters of mere opinion, Dennis Prager blamed the problem on a lack of religious faith. He went on to say that the kids have the logic, if not the conclusion: without religion, all moral statements have no truth claim:

If God doesn’t say “Do not murder,” murder isn’t wrong. Period, end of issue… Morality [becomes] just an opinion for “I like” or “I don’t like” if ultimately, there is no moral God in the universe that makes morality real. Without religion and God, there is no moral truth…

You can say “I think murder is wrong,” and I certainly hope you do. You can say “I believe murder is wrong.” But you cannot say murder is wrong.

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I just found out that the timeless, usually booze-fueled, sometimes pot-fueled, philosophical debate over the question “what is the difference between ‘morality’ and ‘ethics’ has a very, very simple answer: The word “morality” has a Latin root, while the word “ethics” has a Greek root. Over time, “morality” came to be associated with religion because […]

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That is not a rhetorical question. There are indeed things we value more than life itself.  That is why soldiers risk death in war, rather than surrender to conquerors and live under oppression That is why police officers patrol the streets, rather than surrender to criminals and live in abuse. That is why civilians risk death every […]

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The Horrible, Horrible Bill Cosby Story

 

imageIf you haven’t seen the headlines already, NBC has officially cancelled its plans for a new sitcom starring Bill Cosby. This comes on the heels of “The Cosby Show” being pulled from re-runs and Netflix’s announcement yesterday that it was “postponing” the release of a new stand-up routine they’d commission from the comic.

Reflecting on his own experience with Cosby, Ta-Nehisi Coates — generally not my cup of tea — explains exactly why all this is so disturbing (wade past the anti-Republican digs; it’s worth it):

I spent parts of 2006 and 2007 following Bill Cosby around the country. He was then in the midst of giving a series of “call-outs” in which he upbraided the decline of morality in the black community. Our current organic black conservative moment largely springs from these efforts. It’s worth distinguishing an “organic black conservative” from a black or white Republican moment. Black Republicans, with some exceptions, don’t simply exist as people who believe in free markets and oppose abortion, but to assure white Republicans that racism no longer exists. Organic black conservatives (like Cosby, for instance) are traditionalists, but they hold no such illusions about America’s past. They believe this country to be racist, perhaps irredeemably so, but assert nonetheless that individual effort can defeat trenchant racism. The organic black conservative vision is riding high at the moment. Thus even the NAACP cannot denounce the outriders of Ferguson without the requisite indictment of “black on black crime.”

The Ethics of Artificial Reproductive Technologies

 

Hand-in-glove with recent debates about marriage should be debates about artificial reproductive technologies, or ARTs. These have been largely unregulated in the US, resulting in a wild west of anonymous sperm donation, surrogacy, three party reproduction (egg, sperm and surrogate all from different people) and hundreds of thousands of frozen embryos awaiting….something.

Most Western countries regulate this industry. Though I’m generally against excessive regulation, I think we — as a nation — need to do the soul-searching and caution that the ART industry is seems so uninterested in doing for itself. In most Western countries, anonymous sperm donation is illegal, as is surrogacy. Many regulate the number of embryos that can be transferred per cycle, resulting in far fewer multiple births. These regulations arise from a great many legitimate ethical concerns. Most nations — and some U.S. states, to some degree — but not in America as a whole.

Can the Secular Define Evil?

 

I’m a fan of Dennis Prager, though I split my listening between him and Rush, as they’re both on at the same time. Dennis is an unabashed advocate for religion, and the notion that goodness flows from it. He frequently challenges secular people or atheists — like me — to contradict his claim that “[w]thout God there is no good and evil.”

It’s a good challenge, and I’ve been contemplating it for a long time. Not only do I think we should always confront our opponent’s best arguments directly but I really do think its important to ask myself — as secular person — how I draw the distinction between what is good and evil if I am not going to trust religion to define it for me?

How Do You Think about Animal Rights?

 

Browsing Twitter yesterday — what, like you spent the whole weekend building low-income housing and going to the gym? — I stumbled across an interesting exchange being curated by NR’s Kevin Williamson on the topic of animal rights. His take: that the whole idea of animal cruelty is awash in confusion.

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What I Really Think about Libertarianism

 

My libertarian friends may be surprised to hear this, but my respect for libertarianism has grown quite a lot since my introduction to Ricochet two years ago. Admittedly, my estimation at the time was pretty low. I had lots of libertarian undergraduates, and I also encountered a handful of professors and grad students with broadly libertarian views, so I was well familiar with that “I’m-conservative-but-not-a-moral-nag” snobbery. That bothered me only a little bit. My real reasons for dismissing libertarians were twofold.

First, libertarianism struck me as reactionary in broad sense. It presents itself as a universally applicable theory about the relationship between the individual to the state, but on that score, I found Ayn Rand far less insightful than Thomas Aquinas, Plato or Aristotle. Her influence, I saw, related to more idiosyncratic conditions of her time: the rise of the administrative state. That was, I supposed, a real problem in our time, but in historical terms it was still contingent; not every society has these same problems. As a political theory, then, it seemed to me that libertarianism drew unjustifiably broad principles on the basis of historically distinctive challenges.

Notes On Libertarians and Responsibility

 

Not wanting to hijack genferei’s response to Rachel Lu’s article on libertarianism and private morality I thought I’d start a second thread.

First, I wholly agree with Rachel that 1) small government requires private morality among its citizens to work; 2) that bourgeois, Judeo-Christian principles have proven themselves to be an extraordinarily robust, well-tested, and effective means of ensuring that morality; and 3) that some flavors of libertarians don’t appreciate either of the former points.  As she puts it:

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As Chris Anderson considers in his free audiobook Free: The Future of a Radical Price, the internet didn’t introduce the concept of profiting by offering “free” products, but it has certainly empowered such market approaches.  “Try before you buy” typically involves a demo (a mere taste of the complete product) or a timed trial after […]

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‘Good vs. Evil’ vs. ‘Weak vs. Strong’

 

As the fight rages between Israel and Hamas-led Gaza, those supporting Israel shake their heads at progressives around the world. How can a movement which boasts of its dedication to tolerance, feminism and LGBT equality endorse a terror state founded on thuggery and theocracy?

Israel is a modern, multicultural nation in a sea of medieval misery. Women can vote, gays can marry, and Arabs can serve in government. Just over the security fence, women are subjugated, gays are lynched, and there isn’t a Jew to be found (unless he has been kidnapped).

The Morality of Hermits?

 

shutterstock_181793927I was recently listening to the Rationally Speaking podcast, a show that discusses  philosophy, science and the relationship between the two. While the co-host, Massimo Pigliucci (a philosophy professor at CUNY-City College) was running through what various philosophers thought about suicide (that episode’s topic), he got off on a tangent about hermits. (You can listen to it here, with the hermit section arriving at about the ten minute mark.)

 Specifically, the discussion turned to the morality of being a hermit, which Pigliucci has a problem with because

I do think that if you choose to be a hermit, you are essentially abandoning the rest of society, therefore whatever moral duties you have to society, and therefore you cannot have a eudaemonic life.

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In one of my books, I wrote about the Veterans Administration’s active and deliberate assault on religious freedom, using our veterans as pawns in that effort.  In summary form, here’s what I wrote about the VA’s misbehavior in that arena. At funeral ceremonies in our National Cemeteries, VA management attempted to dictate the permissible content […]

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In Denise’s very moving post about her experience in consideration of abortion, we see a clear example of justice without mercy. That is not to say that her former church community was actually being just, but rather that they concerned themselves (in this case) only with justice to the exclusion of mercy. Many Ricochetti expressed […]

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