History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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The issue of ethics, bad science, bad Nietzsche, and the ignored Kantian breakthrough

May 18th, 2015 · No Comments


We are living in a strange situation where the issues of religion and ethics are being dominated by the two parties least able to discuss them, apparently: the science and religion community!

The perspective here has always been that religion in encountering modernity is undergoing a form of transformation or recycling, but that this process is the object of incompetent or ignorant/prejudiced commentary from, not only the science community, but especially the new atheists.

At the same time we do confront a uniquely confusing situation. http://www.uncommondescent.com/darwinism/does-new-atheism-has-a-real-problem-with-morality/:

Coyne provides the following quote from Robbins:

Nietzsche’s atheism is far from exultant—he is not crowing about the death of God, much as he despises Christianity. He understands how much has been lost, how much there is to lose.
. . . Nietzsche realized that the Enlightenment project to reconstruct morality from rational principles simply retained the character of Christian ethics without providing the foundational authority if the latter. Dispensing with his fantasy of the Übermensch, we are left with his dark diagnosis. To paraphrase the Scottish philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, our moral vocabulary has lost the contexts from which its significance derived, and no amount of Dawkins-style hand-waving about altruistic genes will make the problem go away. (Indeed, the ridiculous belief that our genes determine everything about human behavior and culture is a symptom of this very problem.)

. . . The point is not that a coherent morality requires theism, but that the moral language taken for granted by liberal modernity is a fragmented ruin: It rejects metaphysics but exists only because of prior metaphysical commitments.

I have noted many times that Nietzsche is confusing the issue: he can offer no real analysis of the situation. If we backtrack to the early modern we see that the core advance lies in Kant, but that Nietzsche simply cannot bring himself to really deal with this. The charge of concealed Xtianity is somehow irrelevant.

The issues are stark. The myth of the Ten Commdandments simply indicts xtian moral thinking as infantile, so the debate is…with what? not the myths of the Bible. The ‘secularists’ are understandably impatient here. Let’s face the reality that xtianity simly can’t provide a foundation for ethics.

The position of Nietzsche is too pat. The work of someone like Kant, for the first time in history, from the stance of philosophy, found a venue, flawed and incomplete, for the foundation of ethics. This advance is simply cashiered by the cynical Nietzsche. His criticism of regurgitated xtianity is unfair. Kant was very clear that ethics must derive without ‘god’, and this was not even an atheist perspective.

Kant’s take is open to many criticisms, but it is so original and so acute, with all the pieces in place, despite the overall possible failure of the argument, that it is hard to see how Nietzsche can be taken so seriously on the question. So there we have it: with respect to an almost impossibly difficult question Kant provided the outline of a new approach. Nietzsche’s refusal to deal with this springs in part from his degraded and reductionist version of transcendental idealism, which he castigates and rejects in the name of the ‘will to power’, a parodist of the stance of Schopenhauer. It is not surprising that scientists simply disregard the stance of Kant (and Schopenhauer) but it is in fact the real advance where the afterthoughts of Nietzsche and his fans in the science propaganda circuit are confused.

Kant (but Schopenhauer has a different idea) acknowledges the impossibility of what he is trying to do but nonetheless provides an outline of an ingenious and convincing ‘in principle’ reconstruction of ethics in a rationalist mode. It is not fair to simply dismiss this in the name of science and start regurgitating Nietzsche.
Scientists are downright obtuse in this area. It is impossible to reference anything from Kant. Nietzsche with his concealed nihilism is the only figure these science retards can deal with. But Nietzche has confused all the issues, and his superficial embrace of science has made him useful for scientific narrow-casting. I think a more careful look at the Kantian attempt is one of the keys. We don’t need to find his approach finally conclusive to see how in principle the question is to be solved.

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