Epistemology first

There is no point in our arguing over what is moral If we disagree about what is true regarding gods, souls, or an afterlife. And there is no point in our arguing over what is true if we disagree on how we can know if something is true. Epistemology is the first thing to get straight.

I embrace a humanist definition of morality. To be moral is to promote the well-being of conscious creatures in this (temporal, natural) world. I can use this definition because to me:

  • There is no god whose sensibilities have to be appeased. 
  • There is no soul — no ‘person’ or ‘will’ independent of the organism. 
  • There is no afterlife in which a soul could be happy or miserable.

To someone who believes in a god, or in a soul, or in an afterlife, morality can be much more complicated. Such a person’s moral code can contain rules and principles that have nothing to do with the well-being of conscious creatures in this world, or that even detract from it. Appeasing the god, nurturing the soul, and helping oneself and others attain a pleasant afterlife might all be seen as more important or urgent than practicing the more tangible morality of humanism.

That is why i consider it futile to argue about what is moral with someone who disagrees with me fundamentally about what is true. 

And if their epistemological approach is different from mine — e.g., if “scripture” and spiritual experiences are treated as automatically trumping other forms of evidence — it’s futile even to argue with them about what is true. 

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Posted on April 29, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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