Category Archives: Good people disagree

Divine command ethics

  

God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son.” Abe say, “Man you must be puttin’ me on. God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?” God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but The next time you see me comin’ you’d better run.” – Bob Dylan, “Highway 61 Revisited” The Genesis story of Abraham being commanded by God to sacrifice… Read more »

The Ten-ish Commandments

  

Despite their iconic status in Christian and Jewish theology, it is unlikely that even the most Bible-literate person you encounter could easily and accurately name all ten of the commandments from chapter 20 in the Old Testament book of Exodus. [1] Bring up your computer’s notepad and try it yourself before looking at the source below. You shouldn’t be too… Read more »

King Hammurabi and your “deontology brain”

  

For many people, especially the most religious of a fundamentalist bent, the whole idea of ethics and morality is only about rules. In this continuing exploration of our four “ethical brains” (see this earlier post for an introduction to that concept), it is practical to start with “rules and exceptions,” not because they are the earliest or dominant ethical modes, but… Read more »

Your four (or more) ethical brains

  

The organizing thread of these observations on ethics and morality is that we have historically mis-ordered the sequence of human ethical reasoning. My assertion is that first multiple parts of the human brain are evaluating the alternative survival strategies which they have evolved to address. Only second do the human languages of theology and philosophy attempt to “map” the conflicting… Read more »

Ethics from the bottom up

  

I have studied ethics for many years now, including formal academic work. I started from the usual place, which was an assumption that you will find some higher-order “correct ethical decision” for every dilemma if you can analyze it properly “top-down” and apply the correct philosophical or theological model. Over the years I have more often preferred to turn this… Read more »

Ethics or morality – Is there a difference?

  

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – – that’s all.’ —Lewis Carroll, Through… Read more »

North Korea and Game Theory

  

A recent post on this blog noted that the current North Korea nuclear showdown is not far afield from what I call “the first ethical dilemma.” This dilemma dates from the time in our distant hunter-gatherer past when our emerging extended-family “mini-civilization” was threatened by the encroachment of another extended family group into “our space.” I presented a 2×2 decision matrix… Read more »

The first ethical dilemma

  

The discipline of Ethics is not really about “good actions versus bad actions.” Murder is bad. Got it. The most interesting and vexing ethical questions are those issues where good people disagree about basic issues of human volition (i.e., “choice” or “free will”). And beneath the conscious volition there are different parts of the human brain doing probabilistic survival planning, with… Read more »

Government budgets are moral documents

  

“The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.” – U. S. Constitution, Article I Section 8 With the release of President Trump’s first proposed budget, I thought… Read more »