The Moral Necessity: the Problem

Dear hijas,

We’ve been talking about the three main areas of philosophical and religious thought, or to say it another way, the three fundamental components of a worldview:

1) metaphysics (the nature of reality, of being and existence)

2) morals and ethics (how we live and conduct our lives)

3) epistemology (how we know what we know).

Remember in an earlier post we said that everyone is a philosopher because everyone has a worldview. For our purposes we’ll define a worldview as a network, a system and package of interconnected thinking governed by basic pre-commitments.  The idea is that each person, whether she realizes it or not, understands the issues of life in a framework context. In this sense each of us has a worldview and thus each of us is a philosopher.

We’ve covered the metaphysical question in earlier posts (although briefly), and I wish to move on to the second area; that of morals and ethics, of what we might call the moral necessity. This is the area of human conduct; the study of right and wrong actions and attitudes. It attempts to answer the question: How shall we live and conduct ourselves?

You see, man has a problem. When he looks at himself he soon understands that he is finite, yet personal. By finite, I mean that man looks at himself and realizes that he doesn’t have ‘all’ knowledge, can never attain to ‘all’ knowledge, and will never know everything there is to know about ‘everything’. Even if he is a specialist in some field, he understands that even in his specialty he doesn’t know all there is to know. Finite implies ‘limit‘, and man, by his very nature, is limited. He can’t love the way he wants to love, help others completely in the way he wishes to completely help them, can’t change others or the world for the better in the way that he wishes to change them. As Schaeffer says in He is There and He is not Silent, ‘because man is finite, he has no sufficient integration point in himself.’

Yet man is also personal; different than non-man in contrast to that which is impersonal. He loves, he cares, he creates, he aspires to beauty, he feels guilt, he is altruistic, he thinks in the abstract, he feels loss, he seeks and demands justice for wrongs, he communicates to others of his kind in complex languages, all the while understanding a significance outside of himself. He understands a spiritual nature to his constitution and to the constitution of others, and that this world and this life can’t be all that there is. He must work very hard to convince himself that ‘you live, you die, that’s it’. Most people intrinsically know that that’s not all there is. All these things and more make man personal.

Man also understands when he looks at himself and others a profound dichotomy. On the one hand he sees the goodness of people, their nobility, if you will, a profound kindness and caring for others of his kind and for the world around him, yet on the other hand he sees the utter cruelty and evil that man can do to his fellow-man. He is altogether perplexed at the history of man’s cruelty to man, and the utter evil that people can do to each other.

So man has a dilemma, a problem. The first dilemma is that man is finite and yet personal with no sufficient integration point in himself and the second dilemma is that man is both noble and cruel, good and evil. Or as Schaeffer likes to say, expressing it this way: ‘the alienation of man from himself and from all other men in the area of morals’.

How does one answer this dilemma, this problem? Following Schaeffer, this can be addressed again in two areas: A.) the impersonal, and B.) the personal.

We’ve already seen that evolution; modern man’s creation myth, starts with the impersonal, so we’ll take a look at this first and attempt to answer the question of moral necessity from an evolutionary impersonal standpoint. The question before us will be: How does evolution justify morality, or can it? How do morals arise, where do they come from in an impersonal beginning?

Vaya con Dios mis hijas,

Dear ol’ Dad

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