The question of what’s right or wrong has played a significant role in the thoughts of many no matter what god they may believe in.  Thankfully  the world is a better place because  this question does come up in most everybody’s daily life, unless you’re a sociopath.  Most of us are moral people.  Where does this ‘morality’ come from?

Some say it ‘evolved’ in us.   Usually this assertion is made by people who didn’t bother to pay too much attention in science class.  Their  argument goes something like this; morality is a characteristic of highly developed successful people and since evolution moves all life from less developed to more developed, morality must be a product of evolution.   Actually, a concept called ‘reproductive fitness’  describes one of the major ‘drivers’ of evolution and it has nothing to do with the end result of the process magically directing the earlier stages of a species evolution.

Morality is not necessarily an advantage in the evolutionary fitness of a species or an individual.  If it were, why aren’t horses, cabbages and ants moral?  In our own species, sociopaths occupy a disproportionate percentage of highly successful positions of leadership and status in our social institutions  (Zack Beauchamp).  But if science is your god why bother your blind faith with the details?

Others will argue that morality is a  human trait arising out of our physical and social complexity.  To be human is to be moral because morality is good and humans are good.  Usually this argument is put forward by humanists.  It’s interesting because it does run counter to those  who worship science as their god in that it implies a separate species for those individuals that are not moral (ie; sociopaths) and so cannot be strictly termed ‘human’.

The humanists may not have a problem with declaring individuals that have the same physical complexity and live successfully in the same complex social systems ‘unhuman’.  But  according to evolution, successful interbreeding cannot occur across species lines.  Sociopaths do seem to be very successful in the breeding department with ‘our tribe’.

Furthermore, what gives any humanist the right impose any particular morality (their own) upon another.  Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin have just as much right to their morality as anyone else just as long as they don’t hurt others.  If they do and get caught and are overpowered by a significant force of people with a different morality they become ‘sociopaths’.  But if humanism is your god why bother with those sorts of details?

Socrates thought a lot about all kinds of things.  He developed an interesting question about morality that might shed some light on this discussion.  Being a pagan and living in a world where there were lots and lots of gods, his approach might be more congenial to our  ‘postmodern’ mindset.

In the Ευθυφρων (Euthyphro), for example, Socrates engaged in a sharply critical conversation with an over-confident young man. Finding Euthyphro perfectly certain of his own ethical rectitude even in the morally ambiguous situation of prosecuting his own father in court, Socrates asks him to define what “piety” (moral duty) really is. The demand here is for something more than merely a list of which actions are, in fact, pious; instead, Euthyphro is supposed to provide a general definition that captures the very essence of what piety is. But every answer he offers is subjected to the full force of Socrates’s critical thinking, until nothing certain remains.   (Britannica Philosophy Pages)

Interestingly ‘character education’  which has become a big ‘hollow’ drum of schooling these days proceeds like Euthyphro with a list of good and moral characteristics that are praised and rewarded by the system with no real way of measuring its effect.  This is odd in our school system today given the keen desire to measure every other outcome.  However lets see how Socrates replied.

Socrates generates a formal dilemma from a (deceptively) simple question: “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” . . . Neither alternative can do the work for which Euthyphro intends his definition of piety. If right actions are pious only because the gods love them, then moral rightness is entirely arbitrary, depending only on the whims of the gods. If, on the other hand, the gods love right actions only because they are already right, then there must be some non-divine source of values, which we might come to know independently of their love.  . . . In fact, this dilemma proposes a significant difficulty at the heart of any effort to define morality by reference to an external authority.

Yet, even in Socrates day which was just as ‘evolved’ as our ‘postmodern’ pagan tolerant times the question of morality was a vexing one.  In any intellectual system where there are ‘many gods’ knowing which god is right over another or if any of them are right when it comes to human affairs is highly problematic.  When humans define divinity these dilemmas develop.  When truth becomes relative and knowable by reason only, gods arise spontaneously from the moldering rags of our contemplations.  Who would ever have thought it!  Can there be another way?

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