Friday, September 02, 2011

Do we have moral compasses?

There are no moral compasses. Everyone does what feels right, and looks good in his eyes. All of us. For some keeping Shabbos feels right; for others murdering innocents feels right. As to motives, there's really no difference. It all comes down to what makes us feel good.

Here's Joel Marks:
I had thought I was a secularist because I conceived of right and wrong as standing on their own two feet, without prop or crutch from God. We should do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, period. But this was a God too.... if there was one thing I knew in this entire universe, it was that some things are morally wrong. It is wrong to toss male chicks, alive and conscious, into a meat grinder, as happens in the egg industry. It is wrong to scorn homosexuals and deny them civil rights. It is wrong to massacre people in death camps. All of these things have met with general approval in one society or another. And yet I knew in my soul, with all of my conviction, with a passion, that they were wrong, wrong, wrong. I knew this with more certainty than I knew that the earth is round.

But suddenly I knew it no more. I was not merely skeptical or agnostic about it; I had come to believe, and do still, that these things are not wrong. But neither are they right; nor are they permissible....

It seems to me that what could broadly be called desire has been the moving force of humanity, no matter how we might have window-dressed it with moral talk. By desire I do not mean sexual craving, or even only selfish wanting. I use the term generally to refer to whatever motivates us, which ranges from selfishness to altruism and everything in between and at right angles. Mother Theresa was acting as much from desire as was the Marquis de Sade.
On FaceBook someone called this a "dangerous idea", and perhaps it is, but are dangerous ideas necessarily false?

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