Saturday, July 14, 2012

2. There is Universal Truth.

The Church of Camwell will likely be accused of being relativist, but that could not be further from the truth.  The Church of Camwell believes that Universal Truth exists.

Universal Truth is something that is true for all people, in all times, all places and all cultures.  Part of the case for Universal Truth can be explained in this logically fallacious statement: there is no universal truth.  Simply by uttering that phrase, you are admitting that there is a universal truth: that there is no universal truth.  You then might say, "well that's the only Universal Truth that exists."  Well, you're wrong by even saying that because that statement is another Universal Truth.

You basically state that there are infinite Universal Truths, because you say that there is no universal truth, and that is the only universal truth.  But then you must say, "there are two universal truths: that there is no Universal Truth, and that is the only Universal Truth."  But in that instance, you have three Universal Truths.  Get it?

If you're a relativist, then just run through all of those logical loop holes.  You would have to say that maybe universal truth exists in some places, but not in others.  That's impossible, because a Universal Truth must exist in all places and times, or else it is not universal.

The positive basis for Universal Truth is the notion of reason.  Reason is man's understanding of the world around him.  The best way this can be demonstrated is by the concept of mathematics.  We know that there are laws of nature, and mathematics conform to those laws.  If an architect hopes to construct a structurally sound building that doesn't collapse, then the better hope that the math is done correctly.  Mathematics is man's construct for understanding the laws of nature and existence, and our ability to use that to our advantage lets us know that there is Universal Truth.

The proof that mathematics is true is because we have been able to use it in the world.  There are universal laws of physics and nature that apply everywhere, for everyone, and in every time.

Since there are Universal Truths in nature, it would stand to reason that there are also Universal Truths in morality.  Just as there are laws of physics that reign true everywhere, there are laws of morality that govern the universe.

Let's take slavery for example.  For a long time, humans justified slavery as a right of conquest.  During the 18th and 19th Century, many Americans used the Bible to justify slavery.  In fact, the bible does not condemn slavery while it outright condemns other institutions.  This indicates either acceptance or indifference.  However, we know that slavery is wrong.  Slavery was never morally permissible, no matter how prevalent it once was.  Just because slavery was a "reality of that time," doesn't make it any more morally permissible.

Slavery is wrong.  It was wrong in 5,000 BC, it's wrong now, and it will be wrong in 3492 AD.

We know in our hearts that there are things that are immoral.  Even psychopaths understand the concept of morality even though they are physically incapable of feeling guilt.  It does not take a Bible or any other religious text to know what is morally good.  All it takes is some rational thought.  The one universal moral truth that all humans should agree on is that it is wrong to maliciously harm another sentient being.

The last thing we should mention about Universal Truth is the fact that we may never discover it in its fullness.  The evolution of ideas constantly leads us to a more perfect understanding of Truth, but it is likely that humanity may never discover it in its entirety.  The goal of every human should be to discover Truth in its fullness


Jersey McJones said...

"Since there are Universal Truths in nature, it would stand to reason that there are also Universal Truths in morality."

"Let's take slavery for example."

Jack, the arguments that ended slavery were not moral. They were political. To this day that stands. The universal truths of morality are bullshit. Truth is truth. Morality is morality.


Jack Camwell said...

So you're saying that slavery is morally permissible?

Mind you, there were slave owners that even admitted the immorality of slavery (Washington and Jefferson come to mind).

Silverfiddle said...

Slavery in England was ended by appeal to Christian morality, somewhat less so in the US.

Our civil rights movement was firmly grounded in an appeal to Christian morality.

God bless Martin Luther King. Many blacks, rightly so, wanted to burn the whole damned place down, but King appealed to our consciences, and changed our society for the better.

I liked the Foucault twist at the beginning...

Jersey McJones said...

Jack and Silver,

Slavery, everywhere it has ever been and ended, ended because it became a social/economic problem. Morality, throughout the ages, often allowed for slavery. Study the various antebellum Christian churches in America. Churches split apart all over the country.

The ethical problem of slavery is obvious. It is an horrifically wrong-headed, counter-productive, antisocial behavior. To hold another human being as a slave today is to lack any human consciousness whatsoever. To be a common vulture.

That many a great man and woman have owned slaves is a product of the times in which they lived. And as time goes by, through history, we see these greater people come to disdain slavery, even when engaged in it.

But gradual realization that slavery was ethically wrong, came with the gradual move toward science and reason over religion during that period. Our founders were thoughtfully critical people, and they were most certainly not religious zealots.

Just the same, slavery ended in most places at most times before the morality caught up with the changes. Remember, here in America, it was quite a while after the Civil War before black people were constitutionally "free."


Jack Camwell said...

I'm failing to see where you are trying to disagree with me.

It doesn't really matter why slavery ended, all that matters, for this discussion, is the notion that slavery has always been morally wrong.

Jersey McJones said...

Jack, if you asked someone, a regular Joe just like you or I, a few hundred years ago, whether or not slavery was wrong, depending on that place in time, you or I might respond, "Yes, it is."

Morality denotes popular acceptance. Ethics denote what is necessary for a civil society. And whether you like it or not, in reality many churches assert definitive morality quite different from yours. No ethical person would give them the time of day.


Jack Camwell said...

But that's my point. Morality isn't determined by the flavor of the month.

Morality is universal. Slavery was always wrong and it always will be wrong.

And that part of universal truth is why we can say, with some authority and certainty, that slavery should not be allowed to exist.

Morality is not about popular acceptance. If in the future it becomes popularly acceptable to murder people, would you then throw your hands up and say "well, since most people think it's fine then it must be fine?"

No. You would still say that murder is wrong. Sure, you'd be laughed at because you're the only person saying that it's wrong, but you would know in your heart that you're right.

Silverfiddle said...

I see Jersey's point. Slavery was not economically feasible. Personally, I believe it rots a culture and then has an economic impact.

Think about it. The south had free labor, the north did not. Who won?

So Jersey, I agree that there was an economic component, but we cannot discount the moral arguments that brought the institution down.

Teresa said...

I am in full agreement with you about slavery, Jack.

Couldn't it be possible that the economic and moral reasons juxtaposed prior to and during the war in order to end slavery?

FreeThinke said...

The Civil War was far more immoral than the slavery, and there was NOTHING "idealistic" about it.

One absolutely CERTAIN "Universal" Truth is the proscription against MURDER.

~ FreeThinke

Shaw Kenawe said...

"One absolutely CERTAIN "Universal" Truth is the proscription against MURDER."

But our society permits killing, as in state executions and war.

Good discussion.

"Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it."
--Andre Gide

Teresa said...

“You call for faith: I show you doubt, to prove that faith exists. The more of doubt, the stronger faith, I say, If faith o’ercomes doubt.” -- Robert Browning

“Truths turn into dogmas the instant that they are disputed. Thus every man who utters a doubt defines a religion. And the scepticism of our time does not really destroy the beliefs, rather it creates them; gives them their limits and their plain and defiant shape…. We who are Christians never knew the great philosophic common sense which inheres in that mystery until the anti-Christian writers pointed it out to us. The great march of mental destruction will go on. Everything will be denied. Everything will become a creed.”—G.K. Chesterton, Heretics (1905)

Jack Camwell said...

Killing gets into some pretty murkey territory, because sometimes killing is justified, even if it's morally wrong.

I would say that yes, murder is universally wrong, but then we ask ourselves "what is murder, anyway?" Is a state-sponsored execution murder? Is war murder?

The answer to both of those is probably "yes." At least for executions anyway, because the killing is indeed premeditated and it's for a specific purpose. It's to exact our pound of flesh in the name of "justice."

No, I haven't read that, but I will since it's short =)

That is exactly the point I'll be making in one of my beliefs (I can't remember which number it is, haha). That doubt makes faith stronger.

Kevin T. Rice said...

"Morality denotes popular acceptance. Ethics denote what is necessary for a civil society."

In the descriptive sense of the term, the term morality refers to a certain class of beliefs and customs of a particular society, thus the statement that morality denotes popular acceptance is true enough if we were discussing the descriptive use of the term. But there is another philosophically legitimate way to use the word: a normative use. That seems to be the sense of the word being employed in the blog article above these comments. To see the normative sense, we can reflect on that which distinguishes the moral customs and beliefs from those that fall under different categories: etiquette, folk remedies, food preparation, holiday traditions, etc. What distinguishes the moral beliefs of a society from other beliefs and customs is that morals are the beliefs held by that society as their vision of a universal code or set of principles established by a transcendent source (God or gods, cosmos, Heaven, the Tao, Mother Nature) that built them into the nature of the world and to which all human beings everywhere and at all times as rational agents are subjects.

The distinction between morality and ethics is a distinction without a significant difference. The difference between them amounts to this: morality is a Latin word, and ethics is Greek (ethikos). The former was used from the time of Cicero as a translation word for the latter. They are fundamentally the same thing.

Kevin T. Rice said...

"And whether you like it or not, in reality many churches assert definitive morality quite different from yours."

Not quite different, no. There are often some non-trivial differences in details, but individuals and societies rarely disagree on the fundamental principles that underly their particular moral judgements. The lives of some classes of people may be less valued than others from society to society, or held less dear by one individual compared to another, but you won't find a society where anyone can just kill anyone they like for any reason without moral disapproval. There are competing codes of and customs regarding property ownership, but no society and no individual believes that anyone should be able to take anything they please from anyone at any time whatsoever. If we even try to imagine what a "quite different" morality would be, we may find it all but impossible. Try to imagine a society of unrestrained and addicted cannibals with no restriction on any of its members killing any one or more of its other members for their flesh as a food source. Is that even conceivable?

A "quite different" morality would be a like a "quite different" color (one not on the spectrum) or a "quite different tone (not on any musical scale).

War and capital punishment were brought up and the implication put forward by one commenter that they fall under the category of murder was even accepted explicitly by another. But even in the descriptive sense of morality it is not that the case that either the death penalty or war were accepted by society in general to fit the definition of murder. Murder is the intentional killing of a human being without just cause. Self-defense justifies killing. Killing in self defense is not murder. War is not an intrinsic moral evil - it can be fought for a just cause. War is justifiable as self-defense writ large. Individuals have the right to use force to defend themselves against other individuals, and nations at war are collections of individuals exercising that right in concert. As for the death penalty, two principles justify its morally licit use:

1. To defend society from an existential threat posed by the consequences of the use, as a rule, of any lesser punishment for a particularly heinous crime that threatens to tear at the social ties that bind people together in community (e.g. murder, esp. mass murder, and treason).

2. To protect the lives of people who would be put in danger by an extremely dangerous criminal if he is allowed to live behind bars until he makes good his escape. Prison breaks do happen, and prisoners murdering each other is not a morally trivial matter.

FreeThinke said...

Do come to FreeThinke's blog and read the latest heavily illustrated article It's the BELLIGERENCE, Stupid!

I appreciate everything that's been said here -- and at Western Hero the other day -- that sparked these debates.

I hope to have added another dimension to the conversation.

~ FreeThinke