This post is a blog I made instead of posting to a comment thread on Facebook. Trying to feed that monster a bit less on a daily basis.
As far as ethics are concerned the main thing that I get hung up on is the question – “Where is our firm ground to stand on?”
We live in a world of collapsing and shifting values and virtues. Terrence used the term once “balkanization of epistimology” and I think this plays heavily into it.
In Man’s Search for Meaning the author goes in depth on this topic from his personal perspective as a holocaust survivor. With so much suffering, how can we make heads or tales of this life, and what we are to do with this life.
IMHO We can honestly say things like, “I don’t think people should do harm to other people or animals.” But can we say that this is a universalizable commandment? A Moral Imperative?
I think it is hard to get there. Best I can tell E. Kant, a prolific ethicist and philosophy, was positive that if we can universalize something, then it is ethically ok. I’m not so sure. There are plenty of religious and philosophical traditions that I wouldn’t want to say are doing things ethically wrong.
They are doing it differently. I may disagree, I may be amused, but this is my personal interaction with the thing.
Sam Harris’s critiques of how rough Islam can be, hit some solid points, but he is really just making an argument. If it is correct or right or not depends on how those arguments intersect with a particular human mind. Reading books by Ayaan Hirsi Ali seems to really helps inform perspective here.
I want to say it is not right to just go around killing people or stealing people’s stuff, but some may say that this is an ethical imperative. Think Russian and Chinese revolutions. Is Marxism or something akin to a post-Marxist communism a moral imperative? I think this is a decision that individuals make and argue for. I’m not sure there is a clear moral right here. (Millions or billions dead for the hope of a utopian future for all future generations?)
Do we need “bad” people to do “bad” things on our behalf so that order persists? This is a theory that seems common and global at least in the more powerful countries. What meaning can those of us with somewhat normalized progress humanist values make of this and much of what is happening in the world?
More than a decade ago, I was at a Bioneers Event (eco\systems thinking\aware of global suffering) in New Bedford, MA and we had a long discussion about mining. A country had booted out foreign mining companies. They wanted to take control of their mineral resources and have more soverinty. On one hand this is amazing and empowering, on the otherhand, if mining continues, huge amounts of waste and downstream human \ eco harm is to come.
What is the answer here? Hard saying. Stop mining, stay poor, and have an accerating population of starving and angry people, or mine and poison people and the land.
Hard questions exist. We don’t have all the answers. We are all stumbling around in the dark. If you have answers, they may not be appropriate or valid for others. Perhaps they are. How do you convince people in an ethically sound way?
I’m hopefully not being cheap or intellectually dishonest here. Best I can tell this is usually most well done in books.
I personally want to see humanity coming closer to our potential of being an amazingly eco and loving civilization that can spread across the galaxy (Inner and outer). I don’t want to see Trumpy lies and BS or neoliberal imperialist BS hold us back and move us closer to an enslaved, less free and dying culture.
I believe in humans and human potential. I also believe it is a choice to believe in something. I could just as easily want to work against humanity for the sake of the rest of life on earth.
Revealed a lot here. Ethics is not a short subject, but this is a snapshot into my psyche at this point in time. Make sense? Happy to discuss further.
Post script: I read Sapiens, Homo Deus and “Enlightenment Now” this year. They were good for the most part. I really feel like they boiled down to – “I’m a humanist, and this is why you should be as well.” I didn’t hate it,and didn’t have anything to quite disagree with. They helped me have more hope. I’m happy with that. Wish it totally sold me, but I have to say I’m personally more in that camp than I was before. I also agree largely would like to see more people all in on science and the furthering of the human project.