Thursday, January 7, 2016

James Q. Wilson on Morality

1/7/16. A brilliant politically scientist --- his wisdom is missed.

From "What Is Moral, and
How Do We Know It?"
by polit-
ical scientist James
Q. Wilson
(]931-2012) in Commentary
magazine, June 1993:

Almost every important
tendency in modern thought
has questioned the possibility
of making moral judgments.
Analytical philosophy asserts
that moral statements are
expressions of emotion lacking
any rational or scientific basis.
Marxism derides morality and
religion as "phantoms formed
in the human brain," "ideologi-

cal reflexes" that are, at best, view of human nature, one
mere sublimates of material that assumes that people are
circumstances. Nietzsche writes naturally endowed with cer-
dismissively that morality is tain moral sentiments. We
but the herd instinct of the in- have a peculiar, fragile, but
dividual. Existentialists argue persistent disposition to make
that man must choose his moral judgments, and we gen-
values without having any erally regard people who lack
sure compass by which to this disposition to be less than
guide those choices. Cultural human. Despite our wars,
anthropology as practiced by crimes, envies, snobberies,
many of its most renowned fanaticisms, and persecutions,
scholars claims that amid the there is to be found a desire not
exotic diversity of human life only for praise but for praise-
there can be found no univer- worthiness, for fair dealings as
sallaws of right conduct .. " well as for good deals, for

I wish to argue for an older honor as well as for advantage.

These desires become evident
when we think disinterestedly
about ourselves or others ....

Mankind's moral sense is
not a strong beacon light, radi-
ating outward to illuminate in
sharp outline all that it
touches. It is, rather, a small
candle flame, casting vague
and multiple shadows, flicker-
ing and sputtering in the
strong winds of power and
passion, greed and ideology.
But brought close to the heart
and cupped in one's hands, it
dispels the darkness and
warms the soul.
Post a Comment