Secular Distributism; Moral Absolutes

I’ve been keeping a curious tab on the Distributionist’s Review which is a news blog with the focused aim of distributing the ideas of the easry 20th Century catholic philosopher G. K. Chesterton called Distributionism.

I’ve talked before about how the system of thought surrounding the old distrobutism has remarkable similarities to Free and Open Source models and I’m not the only one to think so. But in this blog entry I’d like to outline where I fundamentally disagree with a lot of distrobutionists: Religion and absolute Morality.

As a good apathist I’m not keen on god. By not keen I mean to say I think it’s a brain disease, a mental disorder which poisons reason and is the resting place of unfounded faith and the denial of evidence. The undoing of self understanding and in an attempt to explain the outside world with inside your head data really misses the point of philosophy.

OK so now I’ve made it clear that I’m not a supporter of religion or gods (whether they exist or not I don’t care), the one thing about the Distrobutionist’s review that sticks in my craw is the way there is often a forced joining of moral thinking, religious fundamentalism and economic process.

It’s true that many factors of economics do need to include morality, but morality isn’t absolute, you can find yourself in a position of having to commit immoral acts by virtue of being stuck between decisions which are all immoral, all cause suffering and in these cases I will have to apply the same underlying personalisation of moral responsibility which governs the rest of the distrobutionist philosophy.

Take abortion, which is far harder a topic than contraception which I consider to be perfectly solved, it is a hard question because the assessment of what is life, what is murder and what is suffering give us a negative sum game. No matter what you do, you loose. I’m happier giving this question over to the people and person who will ultimately loose from the decision: the mother. they are the ones who must make the decision because child-in-potentia is their responsibility, not the state’s. But why should the state not punish the murderer after the act?

So long as the state can’t take responsibility for a life immediately, it has no business being a moral authority. Take an extreme case; if a child born can not be looked after by the mother animal and there is no society to take responsibility then it’s very hard to force the mother animal to have a morality that respects the sanctity of life and at the same time rejects the suffering of life; often nature has right the answer where excessive stress in a mother will cause them to kill their children (and possibly eat them).

But where would religions possibly find footing in this apparent abhorrent behaviour? Often this is summed up by the quip about American Calthics: “the foetus is precious, the mother is sinful and the born child is a nuisance to be ignored”. Basically that religions concern themselves will unrealistic absolutes like “life for everyone” without considering the resulting suffering that it causes. This perhaps why my own morality is based on suffering and not on life, to me it’s quite possible for “Thou shall not kill” to become immoral in rare instances.

And besides we can’t very well go around convicting mothers on a morality which is based on their own internal responsibility, it’s not societies place to force individuals into responsibility and suffering. Of course the question then becomes; well how can you support society helping abortion with medical practice?

Another hard question but I put it like this, the mother after careful consideration has requested the help of their community to both help with the consideration and help with the safe medical procedure that will ensure a minimisation of suffering. In this way the community can be more sure the decision was not made lightly and the mother can be sure of not dying from the procedure. Surely this must be the most balanced approach for both women and community.

To the conclusion.

Plenty of anarchists would suggest that as well as being economically distributed an ideal society must also be morally distributed. This might be a little extreme for most who need the reliability and security of a normalised legal morality with which to work from and with other people around them. So a rejection of a moral consensus is not really the way to go.

But I would argue that when considering how your moral consensus ties together with your ideal world view about economic distrobutism, that you must consider it to be an under-developed philosophy and not as many Catholics see it; an absolute perfection delivered by god. Because unquestioning religious dogma has no place in a truly compassionate, thoughtful and moral world view.

Your thoughts?

4 thoughts on “Secular Distributism; Moral Absolutes

  1. Hello Mo i wanted to reply to this post since you published it but didn’t have the proper mind set to do it so far so I’ll try now.
    I don’t believe there is such a thing like morality , good or evil , there is just useful , pleasure giving , empowering , i think this is how we are programed. we are just some smart animals , we hunt , we eat , we consume and we wage wars and we almost always do this things because we want our selfs our group , society , country to gain more power , more resources, more influence . But at some point in history humans realized that strength alone can`t win everything and started to protect the weak (physically) and so they invented RULES then some people had time to train other to think and invent.
    That is morality a bunch of rules … but this rules changed they adapted and some people don`t even care about them because they aren’t part of us , we learn them from the society and are different in different parts of the world. And those people that don’t care about this rules but know them , those are the people that gain the most out of them. There is nothing sacred about life , but life is precious , not because of life but because of intelligence and what any human life can give we can’t know what a human will give to the world until his entire life ended. and that is why life is precious.
    I think we shouldn’t be afraid of humans who don’t respect this rules … i believe we should be afraid of over respectful . I’m really afraid of a world in which everyone would be perfectly moral , that would be like living in a glass bubble and when the unmoral human will be born there will be devastation. I’m also afraid of ecologists and vegetarians exactly from the same reasons . We as persons should always be prepared for everything and we should train our selfs continuously.
    Now about your example , Abortion , i think abortion is stupid because society looses a life but then again if the society can’t guarantee the survival of the child after he/she is borne then it has no right to stop the mother from aborting , but there are many more reasons why a woman would abort not just survival of the child and this days is mainly because they don’t want the child and it should be their option not society`s and still should this woman be stigmatized . I don’t think so the child is first and foremost hers and the fathers and not society’s but if she would of killed my child wich i wanted and she agreed with me to have then she should die also .

    My morality goes something like this :Someone does something good to you return the favor , someone does something bad intentionally return it 10x

  2. @valentin: thanks for your comment.

    I can not agree with your moral resolution system, because retribution and revenge is proven to not work. To give a wiser man the stage for a second: “An eye for an eye leaves everybody blind”

    If there is such a thing as suffering, if there is such as thing as empathy and the ability to feel other’s pain. Then there is morality.

    It’s also not possible to explain morality as simply a social phenomenon. There is plenty of morality which is ingrained, biological and in certain instances requires social factors to stop moral decisions from happening. I’m not totally sure you’ve gotten the right end of the stick of this moral/social concepts.

  3. I’m not saying that my morality is good Mo . But the morality based on empathy and suffering is also broken in my opinion. How do we know that the pain one is experiencing is real or that he really feels pain … or how can we know that one’s suffering isn’t a consequence of his own actions .. and if we help how can we make sure that the actions that brought suffering in the first place won’t repeat , or are we going to help every time endlessly? But the abortion is somehow in another chapter is somewhere in the region of doing damage and i really don’t want to turn the other cheek.
    I really think morality is learned … we all feel the pain of others but we learn how to react to it . Saying that morality is something biological is like saying it comes from god and it is similar to saying that criminals are somehow sick of a psychological disease which is totally wrong.

  4. @valentin, I’m saying that there is a large chunk of moral behviour which is encoded in the brain in ways which is biological. Fortually we don’t need to debate it because it’s fairly well established nuro-science.

    But now that we’ve talked a bit, I think what you mean by moral and what I mean by moral are not the same thing.

    Existing suffering should be helped, but the task really is to avoid suffering in yourself and others. Others are quite helpful when they’re not suffering. So moral codes are not about blame in my opinion.

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