By Hunter Wallace
Editor’s Note: For future reference, I am going to knock out my thoughts on this subject and post it at the top of the sidebar.
As individuals, I believe we are all ultimately responsible for our own actions. I have my own moral beliefs. I’m sure you have your own thoughts on this subject. Generally speaking, I don’t think it is my place to preach to you about right and wrong. That’s a realm which I think should be left to your relationship with God, your relationship with your church, or your relationship with your favorite philosopher.
Unfortunately, we live in a time in which our country is in an advanced state of moral and cultural decline. Due to processes beyond our control, Americans no longer share a common culture or a common morality. Instead, we have seen a rapid disintegration of our common moral tradition which has been steadily eroded by the advances of Enlightenment liberalism. In his book After Virtue: A Study In Moral Theory, the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre diagnosed our present moral condition which he has labeled “emotivism.”
In his opening “A Disquieting Suggestion,” MacIntyre compared the present state of Western morality to a hypothetical scenario in which a fanatical movement has seized power and destroyed science and its heirs have been left to reconstruct the scientific tradition with only incomplete knowledge:
“Imagine the natural sciences were to suffer the effects of a catastrophe. A series of environmental disasters are blamed by the general public on the scientists. Widespread riots occur, laboratories are burnt down, physicists are lynched, books and instruments are destroyed. Finally a Know-Nothing political movement takes power and successfully abolishes science teaching in schools and universities, imprisoning and executing the remaining scientists. Later still, there is a reaction against this destructive movement and enlightened people seek to revive science, although they have largely forgotten what it was. But all that they possess are fragments: a knowledge of experiments detached from any knowledge of the theoretical context which gave them significance; parts of theories unrelated either to the other bits and pieces of theory or to experiment; instruments whose use has been forgotten; half-chapters from books, single pages from articles, not always fully legible because torn and charred.
Nonetheless all these fragments are reembodied in a set of practices which go under the revived names of physics, chemistry, and biology. Adults argue with each other about the respective merits of relativity theory, evolutionary biology, and the phlogiston theory, although they possess only a very partial knowledge of each. Children learn by heart the surviving portions of the periodic table and recite as incantations some of the theorems of Euclid. Nobody, or almost nobody, realizes that what they are doing is not natural science in any proper sense at all. For everything that they do and say [used to] conform to certain canons of consistency and coherence; [but now] those contexts which would be needed to make sense of what they are doing have been lost, perhaps irretrievably. …
What is the point of constructing this imaginary world inhabited by fictitious pseudo-scientists and real, genuine philosophy. The hypothesis which I wish to advance is that in the actual world in which we inhabit the language of morality is in the same state of grave disorder as the language of natural science in the imaginary world which I described. What we possess, if this is true, are the fragments of a conceptual scheme, parts of which now lack those contexts from which their significance derived. We indeed possess simulacra of morality, we continue to use many of the key expressions. But we have – very largely, if not entirely – lost our comprehension, both theoretical and practical, of morality.”
What’s the point of sharing this?
The point is that I shouldn’t have to articulate the notion that murdering random people is immoral, or that you should refrain from raping people, or that it is a good idea to brush your teeth, etc. The basic concepts of morality and hygiene are something which should have been instilled in you from birth by your family, your peers, your church, your community, and countless other institutions. Ideally, “Thou Shalt Not Kill” should be an unchallenged moral assumption in our culture.
Just so we are clear, I am not encouraging you to murder random people or even people you know. That’s certainly not what I believe. I’ve made that clear on numerous occasions here in the past during previous meltdowns. I don’t support fanatics or psychos who repudiate basic moral precepts and ignore their conscience for the sake of their political ideology.
If you would like to learn more about my religious and moral beliefs, then feel free to ask me or check out Alasdair MacIntyre and the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. I would also recommend you do some research into classical virtue ethics which runs through my approach to moral questions on this website.
I believe, for example, that honesty is always a virtue. Integrity is another virtue which I prize. This is why I cannot stand political correctness. I can’t in good conscience say things or conform to notions which I believe to be false. It would be dishonest and immoral for me to do so. As our founder Martin Luther put it in his famous words, “I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”
I believe in classical virtues such as prudence, justice, temperance, and courage. I believe in Christian virtues such as faith, hope, and charity. There are many other virtues which make up the moral life and contribute to sound character: honor, loyalty, moderation, perseverence, generosity, kindness, compassion, etc.
I don’t believe that racism, sexism, nativism, patriarchy, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Eurocentrism, homophobia, heteronormativity, transphobia, white privilege, discrimination and other sins against modern liberalism constitute moral failings. My ancestors who settled the Southern states would not have recognized these moral failings either because they simply did not exist at the time.
Murder is immoral. There are many people who strongly believe that “racism” is immoral, but I can’t find any compelling reason in either religion or philosophy to believe this is the case. Indeed, the greatest theologians and philosophers in Western history were completely oblivious to the idea that “racism” is a moral failing. Jesus Christ himself never thought it necessary to identify “racism” as a moral failing.
Moving forward, this is the framework in which I will continue my work. It has always been implicit in my writing, but now I have made it explicit. Even if it means taking the time to read every comment, which can be an arduous chore, I will also try to clamp down on the comment section which can get heated at times.
Note: I will also add here that what people say in the comment section reflects their own beliefs. Obviously, I do not agree with or endorse everything that appears in the comments. Everyone has their own point of view and I have traditionally given commentators a wide latitude to speak their minds.