Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Analytical morality

Whom do we generally trust? Scientists, artists, religious people or atheists, or are these irrelevant to the matter of personal trust?

I tend to trust people with an analytical moral code. By that I mean those who clearly have a moral code, but are also analytical in its application. Those who use moral rules to analyse particular cases instead of passing a priori judgements on all cases before they have even occurred.

To my mind, the problem we have with our political elite is a lack of analytically moral people among their number. It is not moral to deprive citizens of the means to be moral agents. It is not moral to prevent folk from exercising their own analytical morality – to hinder them from applying moral rules to particular cases – those cases affecting their own lives.

In my experience, those people strongly aligned to political parties tend not to be analytically moral, but tend more to an a priori morality which doesn't work well and never will.  Yet it cannot be moral to force an a priori morality down the citizen's throat.

To me, this moral weakness is a major reason why the big three UK political parties are so hopelessly out of tune with life as it is actually lived with its never-ending cascade of particular cases. It's also a reason why the EU will never work as currently constituted.

Maybe those who are analytically moral are not attracted to modern politics. It isn’t just the people we have but the people we don’t have and can't attract. We never will attract them either, only a priori careerists who probably know perfectly well that analytical morality is not what modern government is all about. 


Anonymous said...

Do as thy would be done by - or do unto others before they do you? I suppose an embargo on murder, theft and mayhem is a good thing most of the time and for most people. But I do wonder if these rules are imposed by those 'on top' whilst many of them steal, lie, fornicate and overindulge - generally at our expense. Don't do as we do, do as we say.

I doubt it does to be too obedient to these rules, you will get trodden on. Rather like crowded laboratory rats we have become a little more vicious just to get fed. I expect the old commandments to fall into decline, no-one can afford them. In the end what is moral is dictated by survival, unpleasant but probably true.

As for the political class, morality and politics are orthogonal paths. I reckon all politicians would gladly kiss
Satan's backside if such would win an election - the Whips would make sure of it. My morality?, I've not killed anyone yet, but I have coveted my neighbours ass.

Sam Vega said...

"It is not moral to prevent folk from exercising their own analytical morality – to hinder them from applying moral rules to particular cases – those cases affecting their own lives."

But what if their own morality involves doing repugnant things to innocents? You position seems to lead to a form of impotent moral relativism. It could be argued that all ethical systems rely at some point upon a priori judgements, even if only to cross the "is-ought divide". How can goodness or the right thing to do be known from an examination of facts?

A K Haart said...

Roger - exactly, we have to be free to point the moral finger in their direction, but it frequently doesn't work like that.

SV - I’m taking a moral code as given and the issue as one of applying the code in daily life.

We have to open the door to the unpredictability of real life, so given a moral code, people have to analyse for themselves how the code applies. This is not an a priori analysis – it can’t be.

To my mind, people who do repugnant things to innocents don’t have a moral code in the first place.

Sam Vega said...

The application of the code to a perception of reality cannot be a priori, but the code itself might well be. Kantianism, for example, or even Utilitarianism, in the sense that there is no a posteriori reason to equate goodness to pleasure.

And people who do repugnant things to innocents might well have a moral code, albeit one that differs from one's own. Abortion is a good example here. Or the issues such as Suttee or cannibalism, or female genital mutilation which arise due to cultural relativism. Famously, Eichmann told his Israeli judges that he was a Kantian.