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A question of ethics - the funcrunch files

Aug. 9th, 2003 12:11 am A question of ethics

Tonight I watched my all-time favorite movie, Crimes and Misdemeanors, which I finally bought on DVD. Besides having a stellar cast and soundtrack, and being directed by the incomparable Woody Allen, this film perfectly illustrates my pessimistic view of human morals and life in general.

Among other philosophical and ethical questions, the film asks: can there be justice in the absence of God? As an atheist, I have been confronted with that question on numerous occasions. I have always maintained that humans are capable of devising and adhering to a coherent moral framework without resorting to a made-up deity to lay down the law for them. The atrocities committed by many religious devotees - of all faiths - also lends little to the argument that God = justice, in my opinion.

And yet, I have been wondering of late if there is any moral purpose to human life. We are animals; our job, like that of all other organisms, is to be fruitful and multiply. But beyond that, is there a purpose? Who is to say?

Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: Schubert string quartets

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Date:August 18th, 2003 04:59 pm (UTC)
I like to think of humans as a series of levels layered on top of each other. A good analogy is that of a computer which at its lowest level has a bunch of voltage, with bits layered on top of that, with machine language layered on top of that etc. on up to higher level programs like a web browser or what not.

Likewise humans can be thought of as a physical layer, with a biological layer on top of that with culture and beliefs on top of that etc.

I think each layer can also be thought of as having its own indpendent purpose and meaning. It is true that my biological layer has similar purposes to those of other animals which can be summarized as being fruitful and multiplying, but it also sustains the layers above it that have their own meanings.

I also intuit that the higher levels have richer and deeper meaning than the lower ones even though they are dependent on the the lower for existance. Just like the web browser has more meaning than the voltages several layers below, my beliefs have more meaning than the chemical reactions, or biological instincts several layers below.

A common thing for people to do philisophically seems to be to take one layer and say everything is "really" that. Like everything is really the physical world (materialism) or everything is really biology (biological essentialism) or everything is socially constructed (social constructionism). I think any time you do that you lose part of the richness and complexity to what it is to be human.

Date:August 18th, 2003 05:28 pm (UTC)
Good thoughts. But I can't help thinking to what possible end all of the complexity we've introduced into our world is good for, other than keeping ourselves happy. (Only momentarily, and only for those who can afford it.)

When I was (briefly) on a Church of All Worlds mailing list, one member posited that the purpose of human evolution is to protect the Earth in the event of collision from a meteor (or similar catastrophe). This idea seems far-fetched to me, but again I am an atheist so I do not think in terms of any divine god/dess creating us for a specific purpose.