“‘Cuz I Said So”

The recent issue of Philosophy Now is devoted to a debate about morality–not about what constitutes morality, but about whether or not there really is such a thing. The debate, however, has only two sides: those who champion relative morality and those who believe morality itself to be a fiction. The latter group is further divided by its views on whether or not the fiction is useful. Note the clever title for the issue: “W(h)ither Morality?”

There are those of us who might argue that there is indeed an inevitable withering of morality when it is seen to be entirely relative. Yes, we comprehend it only in part and from limited perspectives; but to believe that there exist only the perspectives and nothing behind them is a road to nihilism. If morality is essentially a fiction, much else goes “nighty-night” along with it. Not just “mundane” things such as with whom and when one might have sex, but the very notion of “appropriate” as well. Appropriate to what? Something that is preferred; but why should anything be preferred? Why do we have preferences at all? Preferences seem to me to be inextricably tied to purposes. We prefer what promotes our purposes to those things which destroy them. But purposes themselves are aimed at some ultimate end, even if that end is completely time bound.

What of justice? In a non-moral universe there should be no courts or law enforcement; there should be no accounting to be done by Charlie Sheen, Bernie Madoff, or 9/11 terrorists or Middle East dictators. But such accounting is exactly what everyone demands–not just because they arbitrarily prefer it, but because something very basic to human nature cries out when human dignity (another casualty, I’m afraid) is continually thwarted.

One strongly suspects that such pronouncements as the fictionality of morality can only be posited by tenured ivory tower academics who leave their notions at the office when they go home. It is difficult to imagine that they allow any behavior whatsoever from their children; but to enforce restraint is to shape in a certain direction which is presumably thought to be better than the alternatives. It is even more difficult to imagine them having teenage daughters and not caring about the intentions and attitudes of the young males whose attention has been captured. In either case, as soon as the offspring involved ask the inevitable question of “why?” in response to the parental directives, there is nothing to say except what we’ve all said at some point, knowing it to be inadequate: “because I said so.”

Perhaps more to come on the subject, including a more detailed look at the arguments–or would that not be preferable to the readers? Or maybe I’ll do it just because I said so.

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4 thoughts on ““‘Cuz I Said So”

  1. It reminds me of the debate that the Russian author Dostoevsky presented. If there is no God or God is not recognized then all things are permissible.

  2. Since there is no God, there can be no sin. No morality is the next logical step to complete freedom from all restrictions. I have been set free to do whatever I want! but not you, because you might to do something that I don’t like, but how can I not like what you do if there is no moral compass…my head is spinning…I’ve lost my bearings which, evidently, never existed!

    Add this to the growing list of attacks on Christianity.
    “Science” belittles our intelligence, Gay activists call us hate mongers, the Pro-Choice groups think we hate women, the entertainment industry uses us for laughs and target pracitce, Islam wants us killed…on and on.
    “But the gates of hell shall not prevail.”

  3. Didn’t nihilism at that time in Russian history give birth to some rather violent events that lasted over a few decades then ultimately to Stalin and Lennin. Seems like the faculty who are marketing those ideas should take look at history. The flow of new ideas would be a good thing if the ideas are checked against some measurement of moral judgement. When new ideas flow freely without any measurement the result is decay of social standards.

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