Letter to Howie re: Mtg on Politics/Morality (11/5/9)

Dear Howie,
 
We had a good turn out this last meeting. I think we had about 20 people including some new guest. As you may recall in my last communication regarding this weeks topic,”Is politics based on morality or self interest.” my initial thought was whose morals are we referring to? In previous philosophical discussions I believe most of us concluded that morality is in the eye of the beholder. It is subjective in nature and really does not have a direct connection with politics. I have seen morality used as a political weapon as it were. You can talk about conservatives or liberals, some people find it necessary to profess a superior morality for political reasons. Most do not even realize they are doing this. They convince themselves that morality and politics are one in the same. In this case if you disagree with this person politically you are categorized as being immoral. I can assure you that the Taliban, the Nazis, Stalin, Joe McCarthy and others felt they were acting in accordance with their own respective moralities. It is a dangerous thing when we combine these two ideas.
 
I have learned quite a bit listening to the political discussions over the past seven years but as the moderator I have to note that I have not seen anyone change their political views in a political debate at our table very often. I know the people interested in politics enjoy the debates and if things do not get personal in nature the discussion can be informative and instructive. For example, It is always interesting listening to David who writes the political comments on this blog. He can communicate in an effective manner. After last night’s meeting  it occurred to me that the times when the  political discussions  do get “heated” are probably due to this misconception of morality and politics being one in the same thing. You noticed I have not mentioned religion. I believe religion is more concerned with morality and that it is a good thing we have the separation of church and state doctrine.
 
With this being said where do moral obligations come in and how do we come to decisions on moral questions. Moral  decisions are made on an individual basis hopefully. I have already mentioned that various organized groups can have a moral doctrine as it were that can lead to  different moralities due to ethnocentric or Realpolitk reasons. On every German soldiers belt buckle in World War II was the phrase “Gott sei mit uns” or God be with us. Never mind that the Nazi’s morality was more pagan than Christian in nature.  
 
We have Kant’s Categorical Imperative which is a secular version of the Golden Rule. Many philosophies have relied on one or the other to solve the sticky problems of ethical behavior. Everyone knows the Golden Rule, Kant’s imperative stated that to perform any actions you must decide if you want the application of that action to be standard amongst all humans. Kant believed that if an assassin wanted to kill a friend of yours and asked you where he is hiding, you have no choice but to tell the assassin the truth. This is a universal standard according to Kant. Let the moral arguments begin.
 
In accordance with the piece on neo-existentialism, every person has the duty to define their purpose, their being. (Even Sartre relied on the categorical behavior). In neo-existentialism I can’t tell you what morality you should have. I have to decide what is right for me and me only. That is a big enough job in itself. We are all individuals by birth. We are all unique. Morality and other issue are mine and mine alone to determine. This moral growth is an open ended process, it should evolve on a daily basis. Indeed, the purpose of this discussion group is to facilitate that moral and intellectual growth by exposing oneself to new ideas and concepts, to constantly move forward, to view any certainty with suspicion. As soon as a thought or idea becomes static in nature it becomes a prejudice. 
 
So, if someone tells me I am immoral because of the way I vote, I do not argue their point as I would not argue with a child’s fantasy of the Easter bunny. I would say please keep these simplistic conclusions to yourself, they are yours and yours alone. 
 
We are talking next week about the Cambrian Explosion which was postponed before. That’s all for now. Take care.-Gary
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