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smokydevil
Smokydevil  (Level: 163.0 - Posts: 5381)
Thu, 27th Nov '08 10:28 PM

MORAL PROGRESS

Alan made an interesting statement on another thread:

Gfawkes: I have a theory that for all the technological advances, human moral development has been largely stagnant. Gandhi is a towering figure in moral philosophy (on a par with prophets and higher). The world needed Gandhi much more than Edison, IMO.

How far, if any, has man progress morally??

I apologize, I'm agnostic and read religious and non-religious authors alike, I don't want anybody to think I have an agenda or am trying to push something here. I've never learned to think very clearly about the concept of moral progress.

C.S. Lewis brought the subject up in Mere Christianity:

"Surely the reason we do not execute witches is that we do not believe there are such things. If we did — if we really thought that there were people going about who had sold themselves to the devil and received supernatural powers from him in return and were using these powers to kill their neighbours or drive them mad or bring bad weather, surely we would all agree that if anyone deserved the death penalty, then these filthy quislings did. There is no difference of moral principle here: the difference is simply about matter of fact. It may be a great advance in knowledge not to believe in witches: there is no moral advance in not executing them when you do not think they are there. You would not call a man humane for ceasing to set mousetraps if he did so because he believed there were no mice in the house."

I would be curious if any of you out there could clarify this discussion any.

What constitutes moral progress? Notice above that Mr. Lewis thinks that not executing witches isn't a sign of moral progress but merely a sign of an advance in knowledge. What, then, would constitute "moral progress"?

oogie54
Oogie54  (Level: 201.4 - Posts: 1120)
Fri, 28th Nov '08 2:26 AM

Sun and I have discussed this on numerous occasions, and I have shared with her my thoughts on what I call the Retrogressive Evolution of mankind. In a nutshell-Early man needed every member of the tribe to function at their optimum ability to survive the prehistoric environment, physically of course, but increasingly the development the human brain fueled the evolution and success/dominance of early man. As culture developed, civilization arose, it was no longer necessary for every member of the expanding group to perform at their best potential, tasks could be organized, safeguarded by numbers,averting the process of natural selection/survival of the fittest. Fast forward to the Industrial Revolution,machinery-technology taking the place of human ingenuity with the exception of the gifted few creating the "better life" for all. The same processes that created the rise of man, enable the stagnation of the species really progressing as a whole, because there is no drive out of necessity to go beyond. The human race is a tiny flicker in the history of the planet, no other species has leaped forward as we have on an evolutionary scale. I feel we have evolved too quickly to sustain longevity, we have rocketed forward in an instant of time without developing the necessary skills to manage our large brain power. We can create powerful technologies without having the moral conscience to employ them.

davidf
Davidf  (Level: 102.1 - Posts: 746)
Fri, 28th Nov '08 9:43 AM

Is there a pre determined design for all things, are we as humans pre destined to briefly flourish and inevitably fail, or are we making our own history.

smokydevil
Smokydevil  (Level: 163.0 - Posts: 5381)
Fri, 28th Nov '08 12:17 PM

I don't believe in fatalism, the idea that we are predestined to live out a certain history, but I don't entirely believe that we "make" our own history either through our use of "free will". Because it will come up, I actually believe in what you might call "soft determinism", or compatibilism in the determinism/free will debate. I think that to a certain extent human history is made by "forces" outside of our own control (even regarding our own behavior) you might say, and partially determined by us as humans, so I take the middle road on that one right now. I actually think we have "some" say in history.....though if you want to know which way I lean right now, as in which plays a bigger role free will or determinism, I actually lean towards determinism a bit. This does seem relevant to the role of moral progress. If humans are stagnant morally, and humans are "determined", then certainly they can't be held responsible for that moral stagnation, right? On the other hand, if humans "make" their own histories, than something is terribly wrong that needs to be fixed and we need to hold as many people as possible accountable!

smokydevil
Smokydevil  (Level: 163.0 - Posts: 5381)
Fri, 28th Nov '08 12:45 PM

I really have no response for your post Danny, it seems very nicely put and well-thought out.

gfawkes
Gfawkes  (Level: 36.2 - Posts: 30)
Fri, 28th Nov '08 5:05 PM

Was there ever a time that community had the cohesion that Oogie states? In the Bronze Age? In medieval times? I think the community operated haltingly with many ebb tides from individuals working at cross purposes. I think there is some attribution of natural selection of the individual being writ to the larger community organism, and I am not persuaded that it works. I think this model of the community working as a well-oiled machine occurs only in times of extreme crisis, and communities never worked that way in normal pedestrian times. I acknowledge that there were greater social pressures for conformity in past times. In no sense do I think that was a good thing.

I think societies like Athens c. 400 BC, Rome about 1 AD, Holland in 1650 were not warning signs of the inevitable surrender of civilization due to increased liberty (which Oogie would interpret as superfluous and pointless), rather they were islands of advancement that were inspirations for future development.

oogie54
Oogie54  (Level: 201.4 - Posts: 1120)
Fri, 28th Nov '08 5:23 PM

I think my basic premise is that mankind as a whole doesn't progress when life becomes easier. Our present standard of living takes away the initiative to achieve a higher ideal of intellect, moral excellence, etc. Graduates of our school systems rank among the lowest, obesity in school age children is alarming, media has become the conduit for entertainment instead of reading to enlighten the mind. All these factors seem to present an image of mankind stalling out rather than evolving towards a higher consciousness. Life is easier for each successive generation and the brain gets switched to neutral, we aren't challenged by life as our ancestors were, and we don't challenge ourselves, mediocrity rules i.e. Survivor, American Idol, Gameboys and various pursuits which do nothing to promote the learned mind, much less a fit body.

gfawkes
Gfawkes  (Level: 36.2 - Posts: 30)
Fri, 28th Nov '08 5:31 PM

I think my basic premise is that mankind definitely does not progress when life gets harder. Mankind does progress when life gets easier, although not all "advancements" are progress. It would be nice to think that pioneers had a thorough knowledge of Shakespeare and Greek Tragedy, but I am pretty sure they did not. I don't think mankind's problem is that life is too easy. I think the problem is mankind generally is not too smart. That applies to all levels of civilization, those that are struggling and those that are affluent. Life was easy for the Athenians, and they produced a great civilization. Sparta worked more as you envision, and they have left only the legacy of conquest.

oogie54
Oogie54  (Level: 201.4 - Posts: 1120)
Fri, 28th Nov '08 5:33 PM

A parable I read many years ago mentioned by Malcolm Muggeridge, and other apologetic Christian writers was the frog in boiling water. Don't know if everyone is familiar with it, but essentially--you place a frog in a container of very hot water he will do everything in his power to escape, but if you place the frog in a container of comfortable temperature water he will remain. If the temp. is increased gradually he may become uncomfortable after a while, but will get used to it. As the temp. rises incrementally over a period of time he will succumb to the heat without realizing his peril til he is powerless to save himself.

gfawkes
Gfawkes  (Level: 36.2 - Posts: 30)
Fri, 28th Nov '08 5:44 PM

Unless you intend the boling water to mirror global warming, I find your parable to be misleading. Medical advances are extending life. The arts continue to flourish, increasing the quality of life (at least in my book). Technological process continues apace. The only interpretation I can get on board with is our knowledge of how to use the increasingly powerful tools is not keeping pace. I do not subscribe to the James T. Kirk theory of civilization ("man was meant to fight,scratch" to progress). I don't think that society would be better with more rodeos and fewer operas, or more soup lines and fewer three-star restaurants.

luvnmexsun
Luvnmexsun  (Level: 147.4 - Posts: 711)
Fri, 28th Nov '08 6:11 PM

There is a definite agreement between Alan and Danny that is based on "crisis" and the human response to it. Maslow's hierarchy of need makes a lot of sense to me along these lines. Danny is proposing though, that our society is so sated, that instead of further growth, it is stagnating and regressing.

Alan, your proposal that an affluent society can and has achieved advancement certainly fits with Maslow's theory. But what is advancement if it is not thoughtful and intentional? Our "advancement" is all about technology and science, without analysis nor thought of its ramifications. Indeed, pure scientists do not want to even consider what to do with their discoveries and technology. That is for philosophers supposedly. Or worse, religion. (No wonder we are in such a mess!)

I think you are both agreeing that, as Allan said, "I think the problem is mankind generally is not too smart." If I understand Danny, he is saying that man is regressing because even though all the "progress" and "advancement" man has achieved, and even though many now have leisure time available for self-actualization and invention, no real mental evolution has taken place...instead complacency has led to mediocrity. Not only is man in general not too smart...but seemingly is less inclined to use his own mind.

I'm not sure of the cause, but obviously mankind now has the tools and available information to do better.






oogie54
Oogie54  (Level: 201.4 - Posts: 1120)
Fri, 28th Nov '08 6:12 PM

A small percentage of society excels in using their minds for technological ingenuity, another in advances of medical research, and yet another in art and literature, but as a whole the majority of the population never does more than function as a cog in the wheel and benefit from the the accomplishments of the creative few. I believe it is an unspoken tenet of govt. and power that the majority of society must serve in that capacity in order for the machine to function. The colony needs worker drones. All civilizations have functioned similarly when dealing with large populations, slavery, serfdom, caste systems. Opportunity has been historically for the few. There's no argument that outwardly, civilizations as ours progress, but the majority are clueless to the mechanisms of power and higher thought, maybe that is the only way it can work in socioeconomic terms, but I see it as a limiting factor in the actual progression of mankind comprehensively.

davidf
Davidf  (Level: 102.1 - Posts: 746)
Tue, 2nd Dec '08 8:49 AM

I think opportunity and position advances our society in terms of contemporary life. Hidden genius may remain hidden whilst forceful enthusiasts come forward. That is the nature of things of course. The caveman that threw a rock the hardest ate, the caveman that represented life in art on a cave wall may go hungry, he or she will however always have a place in the history of our world.

smokydevil
Smokydevil  (Level: 163.0 - Posts: 5381)
Tue, 2nd Dec '08 9:44 AM

"I think opportunity and position advances our society in terms of contemporary life", I would love to get into a discussion about power......fun subject.


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