Ben Avuyah

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Pan Seared Morality

Since the tides of the blogoshpere seem to have set us all adrift in the murky swamps of morality, moral relativism, and the rational basis for morality, I thought it might be a good time to talk about a movie I saw last night that dealt with some very traditional moral issues in a wonderful way.

For those who have not already seen Pan’s Labyrinth, I will try not to ruin it by divulging too much.

I had toyed with the idea of exploring religious (non-questioning) morality in a story, by separating it from the multiple “believability” problems that plague most religions, through a creative narrative means, but I think this movie does so wonderfully in two separate tales: One that approaches the difficulty in terms of the fascist regime in the Spanish civil War, and a second that does so through the vivid imagination of a young girl, finally uniting the two in a “Akedic” climax.

I'd love to talk about it more, but I don't want to ruin it for anyone.

I’ll say no more…enjoy!!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Pour yourself a tall cold one....of similac!

In my opinion the winner of the similac contest on XGH is Bal Devarim, with these two comments.

"This thread is seriously disturbing. That some otherwise reasonable people (i.e. not Jacob Stein) seem to admit that had they been sure God commands it they would've done it is especially exasperating. How would that be moral? God, even if he exists, has no dominion on what defines our humanity.Morally, he cannot go around murdering his creations; at least he'll never get me to be his hit man. Hey, He's omnipotent; He wants someone dead, He better do it Himself!"

Taking away someone's life clearly brings no benefit to that person from a human point of view; therefore, it is always wrong for a human to do it, no matter by whom it is commanded. As I said, it is immoral to relinquish our humanity to God, even if He exists.If it is beneficial to kill someone from God's point of view, let HIM do it; for a human to do that job without clearly perceiving the benefit to humanity is always immoral.

I think that is a great start.

Now clearly there is a lot more to say, we need a tighter definition of what morality is !!

I think there are a couple ways in which God may be inapplicable to anything we understand as moral.

Firstly, whatever morality is, if we assume it has any human components in it, then God is in for trouble, we know theological omnipotents like Yahweh often get their skirts caught in the machinery of human emotion (Does God not have emotion? not omnipotent...he cannot expereince love. Does he have ultimate emotion and exist simultaneously depressed to suicidal ideation, and as deliriously extactic as a crack whore??...fine...unknowable, and it would be foolhardy to insist that whatever system he has for doling out punishment and reward would in any way resemble what the human mind percieves as moral or lack thereof.)

Secondly, if we postulate that morality is some sort of fusion of various empathic calculus, then it may not be possible to call a decision morally guided unless the calculus is completed. (Copying God's answer is cheating, in the sense that x decision enters the category of morality via the calculation of it. Hence one may follow an order with the hope that it has an affect that will be judged to be moral, but the task of following that order is not in itself moral.)

Thirdly, are trust issues, is it a test? is it a rule? No way to know. Our God has a track record of pretty horrible tests and rules. What's he looking for this time??? Not knowable. Is he smiling or crying as Abraham raises the knife, is Jacob Stein the desired outcome of Torah? Is David Guttman? No one knows.

Fourth, can there be a higher morality? say aliens who torture babies and then eat them with a wonderful socioeconomic outcome. Is there any standard by which our innate human morality can be succusfuly measured and rebuked except by the very ingredients that create it (empathy sympathy or whatever else they may be) that is to say, if there is a "morality" that is outside our ability to fathom or understand, can it be labeled morality ?

These are just a few thoughts, but I think there is more to be said of the subject. Part of what complicates the discussion are the reflexive postions of religious and skeptical bloggers like myself. I would like to, if it is possible, remove the discussion from such close proximity to religion and place it in more nuetral territory (any one smell a science fiction story on the horizon???).

What really complicates this discussion is lack of a good definition of "morality". That is probably the right place to begin.....