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Atheist ten commandments? and the legacy of Kant

February 18th, 2013 · No Comments

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9847637/Alain-de-Bottons-10-commandments-for-atheists-could-be-a-civilising-influence.html

Peace on earth: 'To know oneself is to try not to blame others for one’s troubles and moods; to have a sense of what’s going on inside oneself,’ says 
de Botton

Peace on earth:
'To know oneself is to try not to blame
others for one’s troubles and moods; to
have a sense of what’s going on inside
oneself,’ says de Botton
 Photo:
Getty Images

This is no doubt a clever exercise, and not without interest, but it shows its own failure immediately, and also the great irony that for all its talk of morality, the older monotheism could never resolve the issue at all, precisely visible in the Old Testament’s attempt to numerize ethical commandments, a prima facie idiocy that confuses the issue of ethics altogether. The traditional religions could not handle the issue of ethics, and the reason is not hard to find: the question is elusive. The secular attempt to revise that format fails, step one. The Old Testament was an attempt to create a religion for primitive people, and the ‘deceptive’ mythmaking of Moses shines through the result. Not surprising that atheists scotch the effort. However, that gesture of the early redactors of the Old Testament (whose lack of veracity is troubling…) did succeed beyond measure with those for whom it was intended: primitive peoples. But after the aura fades, the reality is that the Old Testament couldn’t produce an ethics. The New testament senses the problem and tries to create a new approach, and a new commandment. But its success was not in ethical instruction, relying on the Old Testament for its background.
In a real sense the subject of ethics was invented for the first time by Kant, whose formulation has many liabilities of its own, but for the first time (?) ethics was explained in terms that were extra-religious, non-theistically founded, independent of brain structures, and ascribed to the faculty of pure reason, with a set of deductions relating to the freedom to choose, hence the ability to act ethically, and means to derive the ‘ought’ from universal principles, such as the categorical imperative. That the latter has a set of contradictions (in principle answerable) and that the faculty of ‘reason’ is hard to locate are not the least of the problems found here, but the basic gesture as a trial stands: it was not intended as an ethical manual,but a clarification of ‘common ordinary morality’. But is that really the case? In any case, attempts to improve on Kant should be manifold, but have never happened, in part because noone can approach the level of intelligence in Kant, an evolutionary genius in advance of his time, and fellow humans.
For the first time all the pieces of an ethical system came into existence, replete with its own flaws, conjectures, and mistakes. The gesture is, strangely, beyond the capacity of minds trained in science, or conditioned by the cult of atheism with its cast of scientism. Kant’s ethical thinking has been, should be, the object of further critiques, and its basis can be called in question. But the attempt, like trying to get into orbit but in a suborbital trail mission, gave a demonstration of what an ethical system would have to look like.
The mystery is that homo sapiens has a complex ethical sense, but can’t understand how it works. And the efforts of Darwinists to explicate ethics are almost worse than the most primitive myths of the Old Testament.
It is remarkable that Kant, who should have led to a progressing scientific study of ethics, is ignored because he is too hard, and noone can improve on what he does, a sign that homo sapiens may not yet be evolved to fully manifest an ethical behavior, beyond the simplified ‘common ordinary morality’ that has emerged in human evolution (which wasn’t Darwinian).

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