Another culturally embedded phrase in addition to “just as nature intended” refers to “letting nature take its course.” Excuse me? …its course?? Again, nature has no intentions… as if it had some magical ability to transcend itself and perceive the course of its own history… in other words, as if nature were supernatural.
Ethics has been on the brain for a while – particularly how ethics are formed and shaped by value-judgments about the quality of a given thing. I’ve did a little image a while back mapping my current understanding of how ethics works philosophically: ontology (what is it?) precedes teleology (what is it for?), which precedes ethics (what is right or wrong?), which precedes laws (what is legally right or wrong?).
Anyway, so I was amused to see some qualitative ontology not so far below the surface of this cultural text – our (Macleans Advanced freshmint) toothpaste tube: “Your mouth is amazing. Macleans Advanced believes it deserves the Amazing science of TRIPLE PROTECTION.”
This post – in less overtly philosophical language…
We can talk about what something factually is and we can also talk about what it is worth. Science can tell us factually what a foetus is, but not what it is worth.
We can talk about the way things ‘do’ behave, and we can also talk about the way things should behave. Science can tell us the way a rapist behaves, but not that rapists should not rape.
Whilst a quantitative ontology is perfectly useful for scientific study, only a qualitative ontology can make the necessary (qualitative) value judgments that form the foundation of ethics. Even the ‘obvious’ idea that suffering is ‘bad’ is a qualitative (‘bad’) ontological (‘is’) statement.
And whilst a descriptive teleology is wonderful for observing how things ‘do’ tend to behave, only a prescriptive teleology can provide goals against which actions can be said to be ethical or not. The observation that rapists ‘do’ tend to have forceful sex is a descriptive (‘do’) teleological (‘tend to’) statement. But only a prescriptive teleology can establish goals with which rape can be said to be inconsistent.
behold “the ladder of ethics” – a.k.a. an explorative conceptualisation of the steps we take (consciously or subconsciously – considered or assumed) when we deal with ethics/morals/laws/etc.
A while back, I did a post called ‘ontos|telos|ethos‘, and I’ll build on that, adding the codification of law (greek: nomos) to the scenario, hence, ontos, telos, ethos and nomos – or οντος → τελος → ηθος → νόμος.
- Laws (good or bad, subjectively or objectively formed) are based on
- ethical principles/opinions (good or bad, subjective or objective) which are based on
- goals or ‘ends’ (good or bad, subjectively or objectively formed) which are based on
- essence or nature – including what the thing is worth (good or bad, subjectively or objectively formed)
This is a strictly philosophical accounting of ‘the ethical ladder’ (as I understand it currently). One can give a scientific or empirical accounting of laws, ethics, goals and nature – but it would of course be restricted to scientific (and thus prescriptively indifferent) modes of analysis. No sorting a good law, principle, goal or nature from a bad one. Just indifferent, numerical, statistical quantities.
* * *
P.S. – Interestingly, Christianity can be seen in terms of this ‘ladder’ with each rung being revealed through Love.
- Laws = the highest Law: Love
- ethical principle = do what is Loving
- goals or ‘end’ = to become like God who is Love
- essence or nature: all reality grounded in God who’s essence/nature is Love
The word ‘produced’ carries around a bag loaded with connotations of intentionality or goal-endedness.
Is there a teleologically indifferent word for ‘produce’?
Because if it is utterly wrong (which, biologically/scientifically speaking, it necessarily is) to say that evolution ‘had humans in mind’ (or any particular species for that matter), then this word would be nice to have to keep us from sweeping intentionality under the rug with such phrases as “evolution produced humans”.
I finally got around to watching ‘Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed’, by Ben Stein & co.
I won’t bother dissecting its entire content, but in passing, found it opportunistic in both persons interviewed and interview segments used. On the atheist side of the coin, you had Michael Ruse being interviewed along with PZ Meyers and Richard Dawkins, of which Ruse has expressed embarrassment about one, and probably feels similarly about the other. On the theist side, you have Alister McGrath and John Lennox being quoted as if having the same view of the issue as William Dembski and all the others – which I’m almost certain they don’t. Continue reading “eugenics thought”
Conversations about sexual ethics often are had without reference to assumed/unstated/unconsidered ideas about:
- (in particular) goals for human(e) sexual acts – ‘what is the telos (end, goal, purpose) of human sexuality?’ (i.e. ‘what is sex for?’)
- and (in general) the relationship between sexual acts and being a human – ‘what is the relationship between sexual actions and human identity?’ (i.e. ‘how dependent is human identity on sexual actions?’) Continue reading “humane sex”
Discussions about the nature/essence of reality lie behind discussions about goals/ends, which lie behind discussions about morality/ethics.
Or – ontology precedes teleology which precedes ethics.
Or – οντος → τελος → ηθος