Re: [asa] Re: good atheists?

From: Cogan, Susan L. <>
Date: Wed Sep 09 2009 - 13:54:14 EDT

>> My point here, Susan, is that one can have all these competing *self-evident*
> feelings as to what is the right thing to do, and to judge between them you
> have
> to get a standard from somewhere outside of them all.

How do you judge among all the outside standards? It's good to get a lot of
different moral views when something is morally ambiguous. Listening to the
arguments of others lets you learn something about the possible consequences
of your behavior and that's important in a moral choice. But in the end you
are the final arbiter.

>I may settle on either
> two or even three above, but in doing so I have to appeal to something
> outside.
> Whether that something is Christianity or some not, we can argue. But my
> point
> here is that there will be *something* besides the natural tendencies and
> intellectual responses above that finally motivates us to pay more attention
> to
> one and ignore another. If you take the argument from one of the above as
> being
> so self-evident as to be its own foundation, then it simply means you haven't
> considered the others yet. Much as a young child may stop at the first one
> (not
> pick up the cup for selfish reasons) simply because he hasn't matured to the
> point of seriously considering other courses of action.

I actually wasn't arguing from "self evident." I was arguing from "what goes
around comes around." I don't want to push granny under the bus because *I*
don't want to be pushed under the bus. I can identify with her and feel
compassion for her. If I saw someone else push her under a bus I would feel,
at least in part, as if it was done to me. Hurting ME is an objective evil.
Therefore pushing anybody under the bus is objectively evil. Children can
have that "fellow feeling" that adults have, but it's just not as strong.
That's why adults who don't have it are generally considered emotionally

> Even in cases of "don't push granny under the bus" ---well, what if a child
> was
> packing an explosive vest and about to suicidally detonate it in a crowded
> market place? Okay to shoot a child then? Or is it okay to stay
> "comfortable"
> with your conviction that such a thing is always wrong and doom the families
> in
> the market for the sake of your own moral good feelings? You may respond
> --and
> very fairly so, I might add, that the Christian has no easier answer for such
> situations than others. (And I'm a Mennonite --pacifist leanings -- who
> struggles as this from a different direction than most other Christians
> probably
> do.) But at least there is a "court of appeal" that we Christians have with
> each other to begin to even approach such situations. We can disagree but we
> do
> so knowing that there will be a judgment seat someday - a higher court.

You have to make a decision one way or the other whether a higher court
exists or not. I would say that anyone who judges you negatively WHATEVER
you decided in the above scenario is not an adequate moral judge.

> Was it okay to kill the Grannies in Hiroshima so that possibly, WWII might be
> ended earlier? Christians argue over such things all the time. And
> simplified
> maxims like "do no harm" are exactly useless and provide no foundation
> whatsoever to address these moral questions except as reference points to be
> utilized by some higher arbiter that will (rightly or wrongly) nudge us to
> decide between them.

Oddly, "do no harm" was the foundation for the decision to bomb Hiroshima. I
once figured out that death was occurring at such a high rate during WWII
that if they had delayed the decision a mere two weeks the same number of
people would have died--and nothing would have happened to prevent the same
number of people dying the two weeks following that, and the two weeks
following that, etc. As I said, "do no harm" isn't 100% useful in every
moral situation, but it gets you 99% of the way there and you don't need an
outside 3rd party to tell you it's a good idea.


Please visit my Web site:

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Wed Sep 9 13:54:46 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Wed Sep 09 2009 - 13:54:46 EDT