[lit-ideas] Re: Inner Moral Law

  • From: "Andy Amago" <aamago@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 1 Aug 2005 08:47:07 -0400

> [Original Message]
> From: Phil Enns <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxxxx>
> To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> Date: 7/31/2005 11:01:27 PM
> Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: Inner Moral Law
> Andy Amago wrote:
> "Experience can teach us what works and what doesn't.  That which works
> over time to enhance happiness becomes a self evident truth."
> The problem is that you assume that happiness is a moral goal and that
> we know when we have reached it.  That is, you assume an innate moral
> knowledge, an 'inner' moral law.  Your problem is that you claim that
> knowledge of what works to enhance happiness is only alleged.  A bit
> silly, but there you have it.

I used happiness deliberately as one of the goals in the DOI..  I never
claimed it was a moral goal, simply a goal.  In fact, my next line says
that I think none of the DOI is about morality.  The framers were too wise
to use something as protean as morals and morality as a goal in the DOI.  
Morals change with the centuries, even the decades; the DOI  has remained
constant.  Case in point, our discussion about Israel.  When Israel was
founded, usurpation of anyone's land and expropriation or subordination of
its inhabitants was perfectly moral.  The Americans did in here with the
Indians in 1838, only 50 or so years after the DOI was written.  The
Indians waged tribal wars.  Slavery was an accepted worldwide institution,
including in the U.S. in the late 1700's. Women and children were chattel. 
Today as Julie pointed out, DFS got involved because her kid wasn't
seatbelted.  Likewise ethnic cleansing and religious wars are often moral
goals.  The framers in their stunning wisdom intuitively knew that
standards of morality change with the ages.  They therefore avoided morals
and instead used timeless words like life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness and left it to the ages to determine how those goals were to be
realized, including what morality to apply in achieving those goals.

> Andy goes on:
> "I think none of the Declaration of Independence is about morality."
> Oh my.  Talk of all human beings created equal, having inalienable
> Rights, including Life, Liberty and pursuit of Happiness, that is not
> moral talk?  Fascinating!  Just to remind you that above you talked
> about morality as being the enhancement of happiness so I am having
> trouble seeing how you square that with the claim that 'pursuit of
> Happiness' is not about morality.

Addressed above.

> Andy concludes:
> "[The Declaration of Independence is] only about creating a climate that
> would be conducive to the greater good of white men."
> Ah, white man's guilt syndrome.  A distinctly moral position.  I am
> curious, how does this enhance your happiness?

That was a throw away phrase that I thought rather clever.  But now that
you pin me down on it, it's more evidence of how beautifully crafted the
framing documents are.  They were written to protect white men in an era
when white men had all the power and dictated all the morals.  Yet over 200
years and a universe later, they protect all men.  And all women and all
children.  No guilt about being a white man, Phil.  Just a bit of reality.

Andy Amago

> Sincerely,
> Phil Enns
> Toronto, ON
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