The Decline of Morality in the West

I believe in objective secular morality, founded on reason and universalism. I think a common mistake is the idea that if we ditch religion, we must fall back on moral relativity. Then the religious people feed on this and get to accuse secular people of being nihilists or hedonists. But I think that an objective secular morality can easily be formulated without relying on an appeal to authority, wether that be an appeal to a deity or an appeal to government. In some ways, I share a lot in common with the philosophy of the Objectivists (Ayn Rand's philosophy), although I think they make some wrong turns and draw some erroneous political conclusions.

I think that morality has declined in the west because we have abandoned reason for secular forms of faith (often political ones). We are not taught to value ourselves. Rather, we are taught to value an endless array of group-identities. Thus, instead of identifying ourselves as individuals we think of ourselves as a part of imaginary collective constructs, such as political groups, races, nations, economic classes, and so on. Out of the crises of meaning brought on by the relative fall of medievalist religion, we have sought meaning in the wrong places. And the persuit of science has unfortunately lead us down a path that leads people to erroneously accept determinism, thus denying free will. We need a new enlightenment.

The philosophy of self-sacrifice (altruism) has been widely accepted in varying forms. But this philosophy is erroneous and destructive at its root. What are the logical implications of universally applying the philosophy that the primary reason for living is to sacrifice oneself for the sake of others? The logical implication is mutual self-destruction. If the purpose of life is to sacrifice it, then in effect life has no real value. So this altruism ends up leading us in a nihilistic direction in practice, to deny the existance of truth and the genuine "self". In place of our genuine identities as individuals, we have identified with archetypes.

The solution, then, lies in the rediscovery of reason and the self. This requires the purging of false collectivist constructs, which obscure who we really are as individuals. While the enlightenment may have lead to the decline of religious absolutism, this does not suffice to solve the problem. Tearing down one false god and replacing it with another is hardly an improvement. In the abscence of hardcore belief in a diety, people have turned to governments to provide the exact same function. The false gods of government and nation-hood must be questioned altogether. Only then will needless conflict and moral deprivation start to subside.

Published Sat, Dec 22 2007 7:51 PM by Brainpolice


# Patricia Halliday said on 24 December, 2007 11:57 AM

This article misses the boat entirely!  You don't become moral because you value yourself or have some great ability to reason.  "I understand in order that I believe"  has been proven to lead to elitism and even a return to primitivism.  "I believe in order that I understand" leads to a civilization of morality.  The belief these quotes are refering to is in the Triune God.  They knew that only by this authority a moral people could grow, civilize and prosper unto life.

# Brainpolice said on 24 December, 2007 08:08 PM

So faith is primary over reason? Maybe I'm just too much of an Objectivist, rational egoist type. I think that reason should be the primary, and to base morality on divine revelation, utility or political tradition leads to moral deprivation. I don't think one can be virtuous without rational self-interest.

My main gripe is with sacrificing one's individual identity to collective constructs, and that an appeal to the authority of deities has simply been replaced by an appeal to the authority of governments and social groups. And this has lead to a crisis of meaning by which people have abandoned rational self-interest and chosen to sacrifice themselves in the name of imaginary secular gods.

# Brainpolice said on 28 December, 2007 09:17 PM

My premise here is similar to what Buttler Shaffer argues in the book "Calculated Chaos".