The Metaphysics of Morality: Part 3, Metaphysical Smuggling | 11/21/2018 | Staff
hubbog (Posted by) Level 3
Since I've started pursuing these explorations into the relationship between morals and metaphysics I've been reading quite a few books on this topic. I am not, you should know, the first to have noted the connection, that there is a "givenness" to values that can make them tautological and circular in how they simply have to be axiomatically asserted. Nor am I the first to note that this "givenness" makes morality and ethics an inherently metaphysical enterprise.

One book that has been very helpful in this exploration has been Steven Smith's book The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse. If you've been intrigued by my posts about moral hallowing and the metaphysical grounding of values you might want to read Smith's book.

Part - Smith - Argument - Examination - Enlightenment

A part of Smith's argument involves an examination the Enlightenment. Summarizing a conclusion reached by many scholars, Smith describes how the Enlightenment thinkers set out to build a moral system from scratch using only "pure reason" and the careful study of "human experience." But what the Enlightenment thinkers ultimately and unconsciously ended up doing was "cheating," smuggling in the values of the Judeo-Christian tradition they thought they were repudiating. As Smith describes (p. 157), "While purporting to derive ethical guidance from human experience, in fact they systematically imported their own preconceived values and imposed these values onto human experience...[T]hey pretended to ground their principles of ethics and justice in their empirical research and reflections, but in fact [as Carl Becker observed] 'the principles they are bound to find are the very ones they start out with.'"

In short, the Enlightenment smuggled Judeo-Christian values into their system. The Enlightenment thinkers praised themselves as Apostles of Reason, but their entire project was "constituted at its core by a practice of pervasive deception and self-deception."


Smith then goes on to argue that we continue to...
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