Non-religious explanations for morality

NON-RELIGIOUS EXPLANATIONS FOR MORALITY

“Conscience is a product of the brain”

Sigmund Freud, Psychoanalyst

  • SUPER EGO – Contains our conscience. This is a socially acquired control mechanism which has usually come from our parents initially.
  • ID – Houses our sexual drives that are instinctive.
  • EGO – Is our conscious that has the job of sorting our differences between our Id and Super Egos. Our sexual drive says one thing, our conscience another; the Ego settles the issue.

Cultural evolution – Richard Dawkins

Evolution makes certain that the best-equipped individual for his or her environment will survive. This applies to culture, such as law making, as well as physical features, such as gills (see Kevin Costner in Waterworld).

  • Q: Why have people thought marriage is such a good idea?
  • A: Because it leads to the best-equipped individuals for their environment.

Does this theory work?

In favour:

  • Psychological background would explain the variety of morality and responses to conscience.
  • Too many variations points to an individual rather than divine voice.
  • No one can establish the exact rules of the Divine Moral Law (see variety of religions) – is it then objective.

 

Possible objections:

  • Where did the first moral voice come from?
  • Who taught Freud’s first set of parents?

 

Difficulties with the concept of objective law

Morality is more than simply obeying your duty.

  • Q: What is a mother’s duty to her child?
  • Q: What is a teacher’s duty to their students?
  • Q: What is doctor’s duty to their patients?

Joseph Fletcher

  • Situation Ethics – Just following rules is not enough, you must look at each individual situation.

An objective law operates independently of human action.

If we take into consideration the law ceases to be objective.

 

The law states – do not kill

Terrorist has bombs strapped to his legs and chest, is reaching for trigger. You are the best of the best snipers. You can shoot him and stop the bomb. Pop quiz, hot shot: what do you do?  What do you do?

“If the law is not our duty, there is no need for God to help us attain the highest good, because it is no longer our absolute duty.” (Kant)

Non-religious explanations for objective law

“Is it illogical to aim high?” Brian Davies (you may know him from such books as Introduction to Philosophy of Religion)

Kant says: To aim for something you can’t reach is illogical.
Davies says: Immanuel, I’m not sure that’s always true.

  • LIST THE TIMES IN YOUR LIFE WHEN YOU’VE AIMED FOR SOMETHING THAT YOU DID NOT REACH.
  • WOULD YOU STILL HAVE GONE FOR THEM EVEN KNOWING THAT YOU WOULDN’T REACH?

 

Failure of the argument to prove God as the basis for morality

Let’s accept some things:

  1. Maybe there is an objective moral law . . .
  2. Maybe there is a commander behind the commands . . .
  3. Maybe our conscience is from one source . . .

What does that prove?

  • An omnipotent, omnibenevolent God?
  • Brian Davies suggested a being who devises laws.
  • A  Kantian-minded angel?
  • Or Shrek, even?

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