Lazy Sentimental christianity: Part 4, Lazy

You can't get an ought from an is.

Hume's dictum haunts our secular world and humanistic morality. You can't squeeze values out of a scientific, materialistic description of the cosmos. The more and more you lean into scientific description, the more the cosmos is emptied of value. As the atheist, Nobel-laureate physicist Steven Weinberg said, "The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless." The scientific gaze strips the world of value.

True, as noted in the last post, people still try to ground values, ethics, and morality in science and materialism. But those efforts have proved futile. James Davison Hunter and Paul Nedelisky's book Science and the Good: The Tragic Quest for the Foundations of Morality is a nice critical survey of these attempts. Hume's dictum still haunts.

And once again, the mere fact so many atheists even attempt this account points to how christian they are. There's an urgency to provide some non-theistic account of the good, the good as we've understood it in the West, the good we've inherited from the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Which brings us to our last description of secular, humanistic morality. It's lazy.

Humanism, as we've pointed out, is riding on the coattails of the Judeo-Christian tradition, jettisoning its metaphysics but keeping its moral content. Humanism is christian. And by rejecting Judeo-Christian metaphysics, humanism is also sentimental, reliant upon universally shared feelings and sensibilities in the West about "the good," feelings and sensibilities that we inherited from Christendom.

All of which highlights the laziness of the humanistic enterprise, how it borrows someone else's work and presents it as its own. Without an appeal to metaphysics humanism can't give an account of the good, but it doesn't really need to try as Christendom has already done the hard pedagogical work. Humanism just swoops in to enjoy the fruits of someone else's labor and toil. And that's lazy.

To be fair, there are many, many humanistic attempts to create a non-Christian grounding for the moral vision of the West. And those efforts seem to count as work. But the laziness here doesn't show up in the private, personal labor to come up with some non-theistic account of morality, but in the fact, since you don't need to create a shared consensus about your work, that you can forgo any pedagogical labor beyond convincing yourself. Christianity already did the heavy lifting in the West, so you can pursue your moral explorations as a hobby, with no pressure to convince anyone other than yourself. Do you like evolutionary accounts of morality? Hooray for you! Don't dig evolution but like utilitariansim? Fantastic, good for you! Rather opt for John Rawls' veil of ignorance? Wonderful choice, all the rage today! Want to talk hours and hours about the Trolley Problem or the Prisoner's Dilemma? How delicious!

No matter what you choose, you can pretend in social media debates that YOUR theory is THE theory that grounds morality. Never mind that hardly anyone agrees with you, or cares what you think. Pedagogy doesn't matter. And securing this account universally doesn't matter either. All that hard work has already been done. All you need to do, your one job, is convince yourself that you are being "rational" in espousing the Judeo-Christian ethic. 

Humanistic morality is lazy because, in the final analysis, it's really just a game for ethical hobbyists.

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