Sunday, February 18, 2024

Obsessed With the Worship of Our Own Moral Ignorance



Thank God for people who do not get their moral values from the majority. Thanks to those who do not infer from The majority believe X is right/wrong, to Therefore, X is right/wrong.

Yet, this is what most people do; viz., infer from the majority. The opinion poll is their shepherd, and that's why in America we are morally wanting.

Writing in the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville said, "In America the majority builds an impregnable wall around thinking." (In Os Guinness, Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times, p. 40)

Novelist James Fennimore Cooper wrote, “It is a besetting vice of democracies to substitute public opinion for law.” (Ib.) The Supreme Court is not my shepherd.

The philosopher John Stuart Mill warned that “the price paid for this sort of intellectual pacification is the sacrifice of the entire moral courage of the human mind.”(Ib.) 

Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote in his journal, “The trend today is in the direction of mathematical equality.” (Ib.) Which means: utilitarianism; Bentham's hedonic calculus; the metricization of morality.

Everyone's moral opinion is not equal, just as everyone's opinion is not equal. Physicist Robert Jastrow was lecturing in support of President Reagan's plan to develop space-based missile systems. An undergraduate student challenged Jastrow. When the student realized a world-class physicist was not going to change his mind after a few minuts arguing with a sophomore, the student said, "Well, your guess is as good as mine." To which Jastrow responded emphatically, "No, no, no, my guesses are much, much better than yours." (In Tom Nichols, The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters, p. 83)

Some people's moral judgments are much, much better than others. Some have moral expertise. Most do not.

"The United States," writes Nichols, "is now a country obsessed with the worship of its own ignorance." This includes a rapidily growing moral ignorance that is as unstudied and unreflective as an emoji. 

If you are a follower of Jesus, listen to the plea of Os Guinness. "For the Hebrew prophets, “Thus says the Lord” was decisive, not the opinions of the people. And in fact, the pursuit of truth, beauty, excellence, whether in art, science or spiritual growth, has rarely taken its cue from John Q. Public or from Mr. and Mrs. Average. It aspires to the standards of the few and the exceptional—the great masters, the inspiring heroes and the extraordinary saints." (Op. cit., p. 41)