The View From 1776
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Whence Comes the Concept of Fairness, of Right and Wrong?
Without acknowledgment of God-created human souls, society is reduced to a random collection of people guided only by pursuit of their individual ideas of pleasure and avoidance of what they find painful. In such a society, nothing is inherently right or wrong.
Read Ben Shapiro’s Why Atheism Is Morally Bankrupt.
John Dewey, in the first half of the 20th century, taught that there is no such thing as timeless moral principles. Humans merely respond to pleasure and pain, while pursuing actions that redound to their benefit. Dewey’s compass, in his philosophy of pragmatism, was only whether an action achieved the actor’s aim, without regard to its effect on others.
Pleasure-pain motivation is a root doctrine in psychology, which, despite the literal translation of its name, is essentially a materialistic, not spiritual body of doctrine. Psychology is one of the pseudo-sciences created by the French Encyclopedists as part of the movement that led to the 1789 French Revolution. Their anti-spiritual psychology of materialism led straight to the slaughter of more than 70,000 French citizens during the Reign of Terror, perpetrated in the name of Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood.
Since the days of Francis Bacon at the turn of the 17th century, scientific materialism has sought the conquest of nature, aiming to improve the life of humankind. Until the 18th century, scientists saw no conflict between efforts to understand the laws of nature and worship of God, because they acknowledged that the laws of nature are God’s creation.
Beginning with the French so-called Enlightenment (to be contrasted sharply with the contemporaneous English and American Enlightenments), however, scientists increasingly fell victim to hubris. They believed themselves to be gods, capable of reshaping the natural world and human nature, ultimately capable, via a planned society, of perfecting human nature and human society.
With such a dazzling goal apparently in their grasp, hubristic social scientists were prepared to inflict any degree of misery upon their compatriots, for the benefit of posterity. This was the rationale for the worst tyrannies in human history, from the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror to the Soviet Union’s murder of tens of millions of its citizens.
C. S. Lewis dealt extensively with such misguided presumption. In The Abolition of Man he wrote: