Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What the Fool says (7)

The late atheist philosopher, J.L. Mackie, made the following assertion in his book Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong, 'Morality is not to be discovered but to be made'. This disconcerting statement, which dramatically lowered my estimation of him, crystallizes precisely one of the great dangers entailed in atheism, the separation of fact and value. On this account, moral principles and values have nothing to do with the structure of reality, but are statements of how we would like things to be. We make morality in our own image, which is not such an objectionable idea if 'we' are peace loving followers of Saint Francis, but is completely objectionable if 'we' are the not so peace loving followers of Hitler, Stalin or Mao. Once moral principles cease to be regarded as objective statements about the world and become expressions of our personal prejudices, then any behaviour can become morally acceptable, if we choose to make it so.

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