Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

A Little Morning Music

with 2 comments

Okay, for a post title, that was bad.

But it’s Wednesday, and there’s a lot of stuff to do, and I have to get out of here early again.  So these are just a couple of notes.

First, an objective basis for morality is just that, an objective basis, not the rules of morality themselves.

The objective basis for building a bridge is the laws of physics, but those laws are not the rules for building a bridge themselves.

And yet, nobody would say that building a bridge is an entirely subjective exercise, or that the rules for doing so are simply made up and derive from nothing in the real world.

And I’ll stick by my previous statement–if it actually is possible that morality derives from nothing, that it is entirely subjective and made up, then it’s being produced by that diembodied soul most of you say you don’t believe in.  Because such a thing–entirely subjective and made up–is not possible in a world without the supernatural.

Second, I’ll stick by my term “stagnant.”  It was accurate–and, by the way, objective. 

The socieites some of you want to label as doing just fine, even prospering and growing, neither had nor were in a position to develop vaccines, air conditioning, antibiotics, central heating, telecommunications systems, space travel.

The full list is a lot longer.

And that inability to develop–ever, at least as far as we know, since those societies not only never did develop those things but never did develop even the first steps towards eventually developing those things–meant that, in all of them, the most common cause of death for women was childbirth, infants had no better than a two in five chance of reaching adulthood, epidemics wiped out legions of people in short periods of time–

And you can go from there.

The idea that such societies were in some way “just as good” as the ones (well, one, the single case) of societies with all that stuff is mostly academic masturbation.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at the here and now, when millions of people annually make a judgment on whether or not such societies are “successful.”

It’s why we have an illegal immigration problem in the US and other knds of immigration problems in Europe.

In the third place, the fact that the objective basis of morality must be expressed statistically instead of absolutely does not make that basis subjective.

The fact that some very small subset of human beings have their hearts in the right side of their chests does not stop medical books from saying that human beings have their hearts in the left side of their chests. 

They do.  Life being life, there are sometimes a few anomalies, and we deal with those when they come along.  But we make rules for how to treat heart disease and do heart surgery on the widely general case, and the widely general case does indeed have an objective basis (i.e., most people’s hearts are in the left sides of their chests).

In the same way, it’s possible that a small subset of people will not respond to the existence of slavery in their society by feeling no need to invent the lawn mower–but most people will behave as indeed most people have behaved over the course of millennia.

Which I probably spelled wrong.

This has been entirely too abstract.

I need to go find out who won last night.

I’m getting old.  It used to be I’d stay up all night to find out who won an election for dog catcher.  These days, I have limits even for a Presidential election.

At least there’s tea.

Written by janeh

November 3rd, 2010 at 5:35 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses to 'A Little Morning Music'

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  1. How do you distinguish morality from politics?

    Politics is surely the job of figuring out what kind of society is desired and then what kinds of laws and other social structures will promote and protect such a society. That has to be based on a profound knowledge of human nature – objective knowledge. And it sounds like that’s what you’re arguing. But that’s not morality at all. Morality is what you should do, not what you have to do to X to get Y to happen, and a great many moral systems do indeed require something outside the system as a basis.

    Of course, you can argue that Y is best because it’s associated with societies in which fewer women die in childbirth than in most societies, and that’s surely a Good Thing, to quote 1006 and all That. But by saying that you are adopting some version of utilitarianism, greatest good for the greatest number, a sometimes very attractive system of moral philosophy based on the assumption that what’s good for women is good for everyone – an assumption based on what objective fact? PETA fanatics would claim that the fact is that humans are a blight on the universe, and the ‘greatest good for the greatest number’ should include wild animals, whose interests outweigh those of all the pregnant women in the world.

    I really don’t see a way out of this without assuming an outside source for the moral code. Otherwise, the discussion always comes down to ‘This is right because obviously things are better if this is done. Maybe it is obvious, but ‘obvious’ and even ‘best because living is always better than dying’ don’t mean the same thing as ‘an objective fact a morality system can be based on’.


    3 Nov 10 at 8:11 am

  2. Careful analysis has revealed that the same people are elected by Wednesday morning whether I stay up all night on election day, or go to bed at my regular time and have a decent night’s sleep. (The 2000 presidential was an exception, of course.)

    Get some rest. Stay up nights when there’s something you can do about the situation.

    Otherwise, can’t improve on Cheryl.


    3 Nov 10 at 2:56 pm

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