Thursday, March 3, 2011

The ZigZag Café

We will be convening here at the ZigZag café, Suisse, on Thursdays for conversation and dialogue. I invite you to stop by every Thursday for the question of the day. Your thoughts and participation are most welcome. Pull up a stool, avec un café, un thé, ou un chocolat chaud, et un croissant, and join in here on Thursday at the ZZ café.

For today:

Do you believe that morality is inherited from our ancestors?


Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

My moral standards will surely be shaped/formed by my ancestors (i.e. family, society, surrounding) and also by my understanding of God. We probably inherit more than we intend and comprehend. But the encounter with the living God can change everything. And it will change morality too.

Why do you ask?

Your question already is a statement in support of the existence of morality, right? Is your question about the source? Then "ancestors" is no enough, because where did the ancestors get their morality from? My take is that all morality originates in God and his law.

Greg said...

Thanks. I was not yet on particular "standards" but on general morality. Surely standards may be part of this.

Yes, the question assumes that a general morality exists and if it didn't, we wouldn't.

Part of the question has to do with source and part of it with the kind of world we live in.

Do you not think it possible that the world (nature and humanity) can produce a general morality?
If your take about God and his law being the origin of morality is accurate, what is your informer that makes it so?

Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

Greg, what do you understand by "general morality" as opposed to "moral standards"?

Greg said...

I was thinking of something innate - the capacity to think morally - to have a moral sense. This wouldn't mean that everyone, everywhere had the same standards or moral beliefs.

Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

I don't think that everyone everywhere every time has the same moral standards and moral beliefs. I did not want to say that. I guess I would appreciate more common moral standards though - if they are consistent with Gods moral standards. Everybody builds their own set of standards.
This is part of the problem, as there will be no common standard and everybody will judge his acts according to his own standards. This is exactly the world we live in. "Everybody else is wrong, I am right."
We have a huge case of our defence secretary had to resign from his office because of cheating at his PH.D. Surely no one else cheats there or anywhere else. Still everybody is disgusted.
This is how mankind handles morality - on their own interest/advantage over everybody else.


On morality in general. Are we able to create/produce morality? Only in terms of the God given morality. As we adhere to it society will change in small steps.
But I think the capacity to think can only come from the creator, we can not create it.

And also we are created in Gods image. He distinguished between good and evil. So this is part one of the source.

God put us under moral law in the very beginning with the tree... So this is part two of the source.

What do you think about creating/producing morality?


Could you explain your assumption, that no one existed without morality. Why? Because we killed each other? Because God

Greg said...

True, I don't think you were saying that. I only mentioned it to try to draw a distinction between morality in general and in particular - meaning moral choice for good or bad or specific moral standards.

Maybe if we all share in being moral beings, but yet make different moral choices there might be something positive about that. It may open up in the direction of responsibility and the recognition that general morality will be insufficient and we need more.

I have heard of the problem with your defense sec. and agree that this kind of thing is always wrongly thought of as having to do with others and not oneself. This is clearly a case of a particular and particulars are important.

"Are we able to create/produce morality?" This is what I was wanting to explore. Is there something, from a biological point of view, that might play a role in morality - true, and I agree, this could not be all, but it may be a consideration. Could there have been some notion of morality before good and evil?

Yes, it would seem that without some morality there would have been extinction. God definitely is a key to this in a creational sense.

Joshua said...

Yes, I'd suggest that morality is inherited from our ancestors, much the same as practically all other types of behavior are. I tend to think that morality is revealed in religious and irreligious experiences, and I'm highly interested in Bonhoeffer's notion that ethics and a moral disposition ultimate stems from transgression and disunity from God. What seems most off about it though, is it judges the moral sensibility by the historical happenstance of its arrival.

Greg said...

Thanks. I tend to think you're right about the inheritance feature. Seems like morality is transmitted, but that moral choices and responsibilities are more our own.

Not so sure about Bonhoeffer's views.

reneamac said...

Interesting. I think morality is implanted by God. As Romans states, "God has written his law on the hearts of all people." We inherently know what's right and wrong. Like you often say, "People don't go around killing each other."

That's not to say our ancestry doesn't have anything to do with it, especially if one believes, as I do, in a literal Adam and Eve.

Greg said...

Thanks. True enough. A question comes to mind. Would you see morality as possibly existing outside God's law, or for that matter, beyond people?

reneamac said...

I see God as Goodness, so I certainly see morality as existing beyond people. As far as morality being beyond God's law, that's tricky because I also view God's ultimate law being God himself.

Joshua said...

I'm not so sure about his ethics either, but one of the two things I'm taking from his viewpoint, is that the Christian ethic is about faithfulness and doing the will of God, not from "our own resources" or "knowledge of good/evil", but from the accomplishment of the will of God within us already.

The gist of the myth of the fall is that we came upon this sensibility through an arguably trivial transgression. A major point of the narrative of Christ is that He perfectly obeyed the will of God. I'm not comfortable agreeing with Bonhoeffer that thus he overcame the knowledge of good/evil, but he has a point as to what can be a pathological obsession in many.

You hypothetically posited that we all share in being moral; however we also share in being immoral. And while I affirm that we should cultivate a discerning mind and moral habits, I think we both affirm that this is no substitute for living in faith.

General morality is both beyond ourselves and a creative endeavor. While it's not the only explanation, given the divergence in particular moralities, the notion that we partially create morality is a likely one. Another way of seeing it, is in "moral choices and responsibilities" and understanding that, we creatively participate in a general morality. And ironically in being immoral persons sometimes are particular moralities are to suppress the givens of general morality.

But the secret to a Christian morality, is following God. The chief concern is the morality inherited from Abraham so to speak. Living in faith even through the dilemma of even an obviously immoral crisis.

Greg said...

I wonder if what you state in your first paragraph could be a both / and. In other words, "doing the will of God" and "our own resources" might sometimes overlap. True, the overlap would never be sufficient to make a claim on God to be declared "right", so we need much more than our own knowledge can supply. Yet having said that, it wouldn't have to cancel out any overlap.

Agreed, living in faith goes far beyond being moral.

Good points in the fourth and fifth paragraphs. Well said.