Statesboro, GA, USA
Stephen: But Grinch, I don't subscribe to the view that humans never act against their own moral insight, for selfish reasons or baser things like lust and greed.
Grinch: That's presuming they have a moral insight, which is something I don't subscribe to but I'm willing to suspend my subscription for a few moments to see where it takes us.
Good. Seeing that all civilizations (and even communities you would not call civilized) have had something amounting to a moral code, it would be a reasonable thing to consider.
when it comes to an objective judgement what would a third party have to gain by ignoring his\her moral insight and not condemning the transgressor? Surely a third party if they don't judge the act as morally wrong have acted selfishly against their own moral insight for no reason or gain at all.
First of all, "condeming" is a strong word. I suspect that you meant to say something like "disapproving". Not disapproving of something someone else does, can sometimes be explained by apathy. This is not "acting against one's moral insight" in the same way a violator would do so.
Of course, psychologically, there are other explanations as well. Sometimes people don't condemn others, even of things they themselves DO disapprove of, because they believe that "Judge not" is a higher moral principle. I know people who morally disapprove of abortion, but would not want to "impose it on others". Of course, I believe this to be a misunderstanding of the moral principle "judge not" ... a hypertrophy if you will, that can be passively accepting of all kinds of evil, in order to save someone's feelings. But it's important to note that the mandate not to "judge" others, is also a part of the moral law itself. Whether or not it is sometimes misapplied, is another matter.
Another explanation is that sometimes people embrace an absurd accomodation because it makes them feel somehow less guilty for their own sins. It goes something like this (even if not consciously thought out): "I don't condemn anyone for anything, therefore I'm basically a good person".
So, what you present as a problem for universal moral insight, is really no problem at all. The exception can be explained in terms of the moral law itself, or a desire to be quietly exempted from its demands in exchange for doing so to others. Or, it can be explained by a simply apathy. There are probably more explanations even than these. But however it is explained, I do not see how it would discount the notion of a transcendent morality.
You touched on the same dilemma when you suggested that I recognised the immorality shown by Hitler by reference to the very same moral insight I'm trying to deny, if moral insight is universal and the same why do people making objective judgments fail to see the immorality?
I'm not sure what you're getting at here. Do you actually fail to see the immorality of Hitler? Do you actually think his slaughter of millions was innocent ... a simple miscalculation? The fact that most people unrelated to the events of the Third Reich (people making objective judgements) see this as an atrocity, tends to support my view of universal morality. The minority that differs, is quite consistent with the possiblity of a damaged or corrupted sense of that morality. I've never said our relationship to the moral law was perfect, only that it is consistently evident in human behavior and thinking. Therefore an absolute compliance, or unanimity of agreement is not required.
It could be said that the third party objective judgment in this case is simply a mistake but that suggests, at least to me, that the moral insight isn't much of an insight if it can't be clearly recognised without the obscuring factors of lust or greed.
Lust and Greed often fail to obscure the moral insight, but rather make it difficult to follow. That's why lust and greed often carry with them the baggage of psychological and spiritual guilt. If consistently followed, they can lead to a real obscuring, much like a callous, or a damaged nerve. But usually this comes after our repeated violations of conscience. Sins are easier with practice, and that little angel on the shoulder can be gagged fairly successfully for a time. I think what you fail to accept (but is evident to me) is that people may sometimes wilfully choose what they know is not right.
A man deciding whether to sleep with another man is guided by his own self-interest and after weighing the consequences and their effects in the short and long term decides that the pressure outweighs the possible pain. When I look at the man and have to decide my moral stance on homosexuality I'm guided by my own self interest and weigh the possible consequences as they pertain to me, I decide his actions don't affect my short or long term self-interest and conclude that his actions aren't immoral.
Morals are sometimes irrelevant to the mere calculation (which is often erroneous anyway) of personal pain or gain. It also involves others. This is particularly true of sexual sins. And it's beside the point whether or not you feel that a person's homosexuality adversely affects you personally ... since you've already mentioned that we make judgements all the time upon actions that do not directly affect us. I think you called them "objective judgements".
Which scenario seems closest to what we see in the world around us?
Actually, you'd be surprised at how many people think homosexuality is morally wrong ... even those who would not say so to others for fear of "judging". It's due to the explanation I gave above, about elevating tolerance (which IS morally important) beyond proper bounds. There's also the popular scientific mythology of genetically predetermined homosexuality which affects the way people think about it. There's also the tendency to be accomodating of the deeds of others, for a guilt-anesthetizing effect in ourselves. But again, whatever the reasons, this doesn't reasonably discredit the idea of a transcendent morality.
Nothing we know of has a built in universal moral code
Except that people universally have always formed moral codes built on the same principles, differences notwithstanding.
It could be argued that they are intrinsic at some level but a universal moral code requires it to be constant and the same in each instance and example.
No more than the proposal that the universality of mathematics requires that all our equations be right in each instance and example. My C minus in 5th Grade math didn't touch the insight of Pythagoras.
Can it be said that there's a universal penal code, a universal dress code and a universal highway code?
Being that the penal code depends upon ideas of morality, it could be said that all penal codes operate on foundational principles like justice, protection, and proportional punishment. Penal codes that don't operate in such principles we call despotic (another word for immoral).
An enforced universal dress code would violate the moral code. It can at least be said that all cultures have struggled with the principles of modesty versus exploitation, and the principles of beauty, adornment, and honor, in dress. I think the much wider diversity in the subject of clothing, is due to the simple fact that it is often of less import than morals.
How much real variation have you seen among highways in the world? The very fact that you can, with a glance, call any one of them a "highway" tells me there is a great deal of conformity.
[This message has been edited by Stephanos (06-26-2007 03:15 AM).]