Moral Certainties

Internal seminar at work yesterday, which raised an interesting topic, argued at length: what should an org like a museum say about something where most people agree – such as ‘whale hunting is bad’.


I don’t know what to say – of course whale hunting is bad, i think it is terribly cruel. Easy and quite glib. But it isn’t any part of my culture to hunt, and i’m not a whale – how can i state to others as a matter of fact that it is wrong?
But then, i think most would agree the killing of a child is wrong. So could we state that as a ‘fact’. Probably yes.
Which brings me to my point (sort of): why do we need to express these moral certainties as “x is true”? We seem as a culture to find “x might be true” or “i think x is true” difficult to accept. Intellectually, maybe. But not in the gut: there’s something ‘reading the Independent on a fence’ about it.
‘Killing a child is wrong’ doesn’t actually have any more force or moral certainty than ‘We all agree that killing a child is wrong’.
I’m happier to say that a person should be in jail because a law has been prosecuted by democratic means, than i am to say ‘unquestioned moral law leads to this prosecution’. But neither is stronger than another, i think.
This might be very naive of course. I have never had to deal with any moral dilemmas that are actually hard. Should i split up with a girlfriend who likes peanut butter, that might well be my top dilemma ever. (And the answer was not yet, but eventually.) (Though she split up with me. And didn’t cite marmite or peanut butter as a reason at all.).
OK, so this proves Pat was wrong. There isn’t anything worthwhile in my wordspew. Maybe that’s the Moral Certainty.

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1 thought on “Moral Certainties”

  1. fyi I am rarely wrong…sometimes consfused but rarely wrong 🙂
    I think there’s a parallel to be drawn between a Moral Certainty and say the study of Tai Chi.
    I like this bit
    ‘not in the gut: there’s something ‘reading the Independent on a fence’ about it’
    My moral (un)certainties sit in my gut. And as far as I’m concerned it’s the best place for them. For although that shouldn’t stop one from scrutinising them, it does allow a recognition of them as greater and more complex than my flawed intelect.
    Some things you just have to know.

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