Sometimes the simple, desirable path for things just isn't there,and we find ourselves choosing between a number of more complexroutes with unknown destinations. So goes my personal life. Accidentallyrelates to the main part of this entry..
Here's yet another restatement of my philosophy, this time in responseto an article by Christians that I was sent and more or lessasked to comment on. The topic was the traditional "Can people be goodwithout a belief in our god" kind of thing. The specific title ofthe thing is "Can We Be Good Without God", by J Budziszewski.
I guess I might as well give this thing a title too. I'll call it
Virtue and Self-Insightby Pat GunnDistribution is unlimited, and provided notice of any modifications ismade, modification is also kosher.
Good is a useful social and personal construct, but like 'tasty', itis ultimately a human judgement that, while having great practicaluse and meaning in our day-to-day existence, ultimately boils down tovalues rather than fact. There are, of course, things that are commonbetween most people, just as we might say that sugar is sweet, butthese things in values are born of common self-interest and instinct,the latter being emergent of selection. Good and Evil are useful socialconstructs in that they allow us to pretend to universalize somesocietal-concensus-reached principles so as to argue for their acceptanceby people who otherwise would adopt different, perhaps societally damaging viewpoints. This use is merely propoganda, however, and whenthe curtain is pulled back, we lose our hold on them. It can beunfortunate, but as people who value truth above all else, it isduty to give up this control over people when it is dishonest. Good andEvil, as ideas, are slavery to days past, a representative of valuesystems which we are asked not to question. Virtue (Here, note, I'mstarting to speak of my philosophy, and not meta-philosophy, which you see above) does not come from following others. The christians,and anyone else who submits to value systems of ages past, actuallyhave the worst understanding of values. By simply adopting someoneelse's value system as their own, and adopting notions of 'sin' againstthose values, they acquire an unnecessarily adversarial understanding ofthemselves and their desires, and prevent really understanding what itmeans to be human. As philosophers who are open to inquiry, we caneventually understand the numerous desires in ourselves, from thesocietally unacceptable and ugly to the sublime and cooperative. We don'tneed to pretend that the origin of any of these lie outside our own mind,nor shall we say "I want to do this, but I just cannot help myself".Instead, we can say, "I have conflicting desires -- how can I best dealwith them?". Self-understanding is a prerequisite to virtue. When wehear people talk of helping the poor because of their god, all we can say is"they're suited to be a slave, and their act has little other meaning". Instead, the most meaning is found among those who can say, "I helpthe poor because I value their human experience", that is the sign ofsomeone whose values we admire, someone we call virtuous.
Where does that value for the poor come from? Why is it virtuous?It can come from many life experiences, with soul-searching and instinct. We build, rearrange, and drop values over life. It is virtuous,but only from our perspective, as people who first adopt themetaphilosophy - our understanding of values free of advocacy ofa particular configuration, and then adopt some set of values thatmore or less resembles our own on some rough level. The first is suitable for all, providing a framework for people to place theirindividual worldview in the second.