Omelet, Eggs

Roger Scruton, speaking of the evolutionary origins of human morality:

“Morality is like a field of flowers beneath which the corpses are piled in a thousand layers.”

3 Comments

  1. “I am fairly confident that the picture painted by the evolutionary psychologists is true. But I am also confident that it is not the whole truth, and that it leaves out of account precisely the most important thing, which is the human subject.”

    Do I agree with Roger Scruton? As you might expect, from a physicist and an ethnic Jew who is not religious, my answer is “yes and no”. I am confident that the picture painted by the evolutionary psychologists is true. I do not, however, believe that it leaves anything out.

    I understand that a majority (perhaps vast majority) of people believe in the existence of a human soul. They want to believe it. They need to believe it. Because otherwise, “What’s it all about, Alfie?”

    That all encompassing and elusive meaning of life, however, is not within the realm of scientific knowledge. It is strictly an issue for philosophy (not that there’s anything wrong with that, however). But even if we grant that there exists something sacred and ethereal beyond the scope of scientific knowledge, and that the overwhelming consensus (even more overwhelming than global warming) of humanity swears by it, such a consensus is, in the final analysis, merely an unsupported opinion comprising a collection of suppositions and assertions that a million philosophers will never be able to prove. IMHO.

    Posted March 7, 2017 at 7:12 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Henry,

    That all encompassing and elusive meaning of life, however, is not within the realm of scientific knowledge.

    Well, that’s really his point, no? That there is more to our experience as humans than science, at least at its present competence, can explain? And that what’s “left out” is in fact all of the most important parts of our experience?

    Leaving aside the question of the soul — what could be more essential to our experience of human life than our consciousness? Yet science is entirely mute upon the nature of consciousness, and so of all subjective experience.

    I think Scruton’s right here — even though I strongly suspect, as I’ve said before, that consciousness is indeed, somehow, an emergent property of the material world.

    I won’t press the point further, though: I know you aren’t fond of philosophical wrangling.

    Posted March 7, 2017 at 9:57 pm | Permalink
  3. I think our differences derive from our differing interpretation of what constitutes the so-called “picture painted by the evolutionary psychologists”. I believe that humanistic experiences, as well as evolutionary pressures, did enable an emergence of consciousness from the material world, in some manner to be determined by future sciences. I also believe that ethical cultures have been contrived by societies so as to extract and preserve some semblance of law and order out of the law of the jungle. This, in turn, enabled large numbers of people to collectively achieve what Western civilization has provided for those of us lucky enough to become its members.

    I do, indeed, believe that whatever meaning any individual wishes to ascribe to his own life must come from within his own assemblage of thoughts, feelings, and personal experiences. I contrast that with some universal “meaning” for all life, other than what is prescribed by the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

    Posted March 7, 2017 at 10:47 pm | Permalink