Human, All Too Human

This is something Meera Singh wrote to me during our conversations on morality. I must emphasize to the reader that this is not meant to be a proof of anything. I am posting it because I find it a beautiful and eloquent articulation, and it deserves to be shared.

"The origin of conscience or morality as either metaphysical or biological cannot be solved by debate. Never. It's like the consciousness problem itself. In a way, the naturalist is half-right in asserting that conscience is a product of biological evolution and hence must be talked of in relative terms. Because conscience is found only in humans. And yet again, it does not stop you and I from speculating that conscience may have deeper roots in the Absolute and hence must be talked of in absolute terms. But I wish to say that relativism or absolutism, morality is a human concept and only about humans. Even if we suppose it comes from God, by the time it threads its way to earth and comes here, its pristine robes are soiled and it becomes completely a humanized concept. And on its return journey back home, morality perhaps melts again into a perfect all- knowing Conscience. The difficulty is that there is no proof of such a transaction. This is where people like you and me are stuck. Did morality emanate from higher nature or not? Reason cannot know. And what is not within the pale of reason, it can only speculate and debate but never conclude. All we know is that morality coexists with our discordant, divisive and fluctuating human nature and hence morality and Ignorance are interdependent faithful friends. If we all turned into Gods right now, morality is not required. Hence, morality is of humans, by humans and for humans, no matter where it originates from."

Comments

Butters said…
Actually the problem can be solved, as can the problem of consciousness. I see no reason, in principle, why reason cannot be helpful and lead us to an answer on these issues.

Perhaps I can help clarify things a little, and put my philosophy degree to use! (something my parents don't believe is possible, lol).

The 'opposite' of relativism is not absolutism, but objectivism. A person can coherently be a non-absolutist moral objectivist (I am an example of such a person).

Morality is not just about humans. In fact many moral philosophies are non-anthropocentric, in the sense that they may have a 'vertical' component (it may be about individual flourishing, or attaining the good life), and may include non-human sentient beings as well. In other words, not all moral philosophies are humanistic, and not all people who believe in objective morality are humanists.
Butters said…
"Hence morality is of humans, by humans and for humans, no matter where it originates from."

No, most emphatically not. To me morality is not about humans, but about God. And even if it weren't about God, it would be about sentient beings in general, and about spiritual flourishing in some form or another (something that can theoretically be attained by non-human creatures).
meera said…
Actually the problem can be solved, as can the problem of consciousness. I see no reason, in principle, why reason cannot be helpful and lead us to an answer on these issues.

I said 'debate' as a technique is inadequate in solving a problem, like that of consciousness.


The 'opposite' of relativism is not absolutism, but objectivism.

Perhaps I would agree if you said: "The 'opposite' of relativism is not just absolutism, but objectivism too." And I hope what I am saying is right.

To me morality is not about humans, but about God. And even if it weren't about God, it would be about sentient beings in general, and about spiritual flourishing in some form or another (something that can theoretically be attained by non-human creatures).

I guess I have to agree with you that morality is about sentient beings in general and it is very true.

I will nevertheless hesitate to link morality with God because I have atheist and agnostic friends who are as moral as my other theist friends. What I do believe is God is a good reason for humanity to be moral. It also certainly helps to be moral as a preparation to turn our nature towards God. And that is all there is to it - to exist as a prep school for those who want God. And being moral automatically does not elevate one to the state of Godhood. One can remain moral for a whole lifetime and yet not achieve God. To achieve God, one has to be strive to be strictly spiritual and this is a much harder discipline transcending morality. An atheist or agnostic can be moral but he can never be spiritual. Hence spirituality is about God. But not morality. All I can say is that morality is about GOOD and not about GOD :) And it works with extra fuel in the light of God :)