A Letter to a Misanthropic Idiot by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
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A Letter to a Misanthropic Idiot
Dear Fellow Human Being,
Please don’t get me wrong! I am not writing about the degree of your intelligence or cleverness. I am employing the word “idiot” in the etymological sense of the Greek word “idiot” (῎ιδιος), which means “one’s own, personal, and private”. Its secondary meaning is “peculiar, separate, distinct” from which is derived “strange”. Hence, I am not using idiot in the derisive sense of stupid or moron that it has come to have in English and German. I take the term’s etymology to be a call for a more nuanced analysis of the human condition.
Particularly in democratic societies, humanity thinks of itself as “free” in contrast to tyrannies, autocracies, and oligarchies. The license plate from the state of New Hampshire states: “Give me liberty or give me death!” The USA is sung of as the “sweet land of liberty” for whom “our fathers died”. What follows is an examination of freedom and liberty.
Trump’s Utilitarianism: Placing the Economy First is Anti-Democratic and Immoral by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
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Trump’s Utilitarianism: Placing the Economy First
is Anti-Democratic and Immoral
Trumps call to cease social distancing and “rev up the economy” is the most blatant confirmation of his anti-democratic and autocratic mentality. Such “Utilitarianism” claims that it seeks “the greatest good for the greatest number”. Despite the appeal to the “majority”, though, Utilitarianism is not only anti-democratic but also arrogantly immoral. It is anti-democratic because it denies the dignity owed to every citizen and treats persons as mere means for achieving “the greater good”. It is arrogantly immoral because, under the assumption that only consequences count (“we know a tree by its fruit”), it claims to know in advance what the fruits are going to be of a decision/action. Both assumptions ignore the limits to human reason and elevate the agent(s) of such decision taking to the throne of God.
Ethics and Morality: External Law and Crooked Wood by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Ethics and Morality:
External Law and Crooked Wood
There is an important difference between socially constructed rules/laws and internally, self-legislated moral principles. The former, socially constructed rules, govern solely the external affairs of individuals and groups, and we can call that the concern of ethics. The latter, internally, self-legislated moral principles, however, can trump external rules, and we can call that morality.
Mere Rules do not Morality Make by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Mere Rules Do Not Morality Make
The flourishing field of the role of evolution in the development of humanity’s moral capacity maintains that morality is the consequence of adaptation to a social environment. Whether or not its orientation is genetics (kin selection from Hawkins, Dawkins, and Dennett or euociality from Nowak, Tarnita, and Wilson) or neuroscience, it takes as its definition of morality to be “right and wrong conduct,” and argues that such a capacity can be seen as emergent across social species in the struggle to survive as a group or, especially in the evolutionary advantage that is humanity, as the evolutionary advantages that emerged with frontal cortex development, the amygdala, as well as the hormones oxytocin, arginine vasopressin, and dopamine. Frequently, the view of sociobiology contrasts its notion of morality as a natural, emergent characteristic with the notion that morality is a social construct, that is, a product only of culture. What follows proposes that there are serious grounds for questioning both options: evolution of morality and the social construction of morality.
“Utilitarianism, Virtue Ethics, Moral Autonomy, and Grace” by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Utilitarianism, Virtue Ethics, Moral Autonomy, and Grace
It is to the advantage to the interests of those who have power to convince us all that moral principles are relative. It also serves the interests of those who have power to keep us convinced that we cannot be virtuous without the aid of divine grace.
Religion and Morality: A Static fait accompli or a Dynamic Possibility? by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Religion and Morality:
A Static fait accompli or a Dynamic Possibility?
Religion is a conundrum. We all recognize religion when we see it, but we can’t define it. Rather than waste ink on a new attempt to define religion, these reflections examine the religious conundrum with respect to what it says about humanity. Without denying the importance of the empirical examination of the human species biologically and psychologically, these reflections engage the empirical phenomena of religion as a product of humanity, the only species as far as we know that generates these phenomena that we readily identify as religion. In other words, the religious conundrum will be approached not by an empirical analysis of particular religious traditions. Such an investigation primarily establishes differences among religions. In contrast, our question is: What do religious phenomena suggest about humanity’s capacities and role in the order of things? By shifting from the empirical phenomena themselves to focus on the capacities that humanity must possess in order to generate religion, we can learn something profoundly significant about religion as well as identify what is universal in religion.
“A Non-Secular ‘Critique” of Things Secular and Sacred by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
A Non-Secular „Critique“ of Things Secular and Sacred
In one respect, John Lennon was right in 1966 when he observed that “The Beatles were more popular than Jesus.” That he was very wrong in another respect illustrates the shallowness of social criticism, generally, and the depth of a corresponding social disorientation, as well. The following proposes that more than ever our contemporary international situation calls for a new form of critique that profiles the necessity of religion, but not doctrinal or dogmatic religion, for the human species, universally.
Critical Thinking in Morality by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Critical Thinking in Morality
When it comes to evaluating the virtue or lack of virtue of others, we are readily critical. Yet, what “critical” means is by no means so obvious. Our judgment of others can only be limited to how they appear to us. Nonetheless, each of us is all too aware of the difference between our external appearance and our inner selves. This difference is not only what ensures that each of us is a unique and unrepeatable individual in the cosmos but also what cautions us against all too readily judging the virtue or lack of virtue of others.
Creativity — Not Just for Geniuses by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Creativity – Not Just for Geniuses
Paul Elie reports in his NY Times Magazine article of September 7, 2012, “30 Variations and a Microphone:”
“Glenn Gould was booked into 30th Street Studio for the two middle weeks of June in 1955. The weather in New York was sunny, the temperature in the 60s. He arrived at the studio by taxi from a hotel near Central Park, wearing an overcoat, a beret, a scarf and gloves, and carrying a leather suitcase and his folding chair. He stripped down to a dress shirt and a sleeveless V-neck sweater. Opening the suitcase, he set out pills, bottled water and towels. Rolling up his sleeves, he ran hot water in a sink, the sort of deep-basin porcelain sink that mops are wrung out in, and soaked his hands and forearms until they were red.
Earlier that year, he paid a visit to the Steinway & Sons showroom on 57th Street: in the basement, several dozen grand pianos stood side by side, and he had played them in succession, finally identifying one he liked.
Now the piano, known as No. 174, was in the studio, with microphones arrayed around it. He set up his chair and settled himself before the keyboard. He took off his shoes, so he could move his feet without making noises that would be picked up on tape.”
M-Blog Introduction by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
We need to discuss the M-Word! Don’t misunderstand me. A discussion of the M-Word is important not because we are going to Hell if we ignore it. A discussion is important not because we are not going to survive the evolution struggle (less dramatically, will not get what we want) or because we are not going to experience “real” personal satisfaction if we ignore it. Simply stated, morality is important because we want to be human rather than mere animals or mechanical toys. It is at the pinnacle (actually, just below the pinnacle) of a set of astonishing, intangible (hence, immeasurable) and freely chosen (hence, ignorable) capacities that can make us human.