I must admit confusion. Why claim to have morals at all if you don't care whether or not they're even slightly functional?
Heh. As must I. I don't care whether my kitchen table sinks or floats. Sure, its an attribute a kitchen table could and in fact does have, but for me its not the core role of a kitchen table and is a totally useless attribute.
I think we might be running up against a chasm of "we don't agree" here. But let me trace through my argument even if more in the interests of clearing up confusion than convincing you.
morals plural of mor·al (Noun)
1.A lesson, esp. one concerning what is right or prudent, that can be derived from a story, a piece of information, or an experience.
2.A person's standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do.
I think we can agree we're talking about definition 2, here. One seems to be "the moral of the story is <whatever>" Taking that definition, functional is clearly not an issue.
You seem to be adding to that definition, though, words to the effect of "and that you believe others should also adopt." That's fine. I'm not gonna criticise you for not using dictionary definitions, we both knew exactly what you meant. The reason I throw the fine folks at Mirriam Webster into the mix though is to try to show that your addendum doesn't form a sine qua non
of a moral system.
So I think that in part the reason for your confusion is that you haven't fully internalised that your addendum is
an addendum and you're viewing it as an essential part.
Had I set out to create something in the Ephiral mould, I may have come up with something else. I didn't.
So why not? Why haven't I said "You know, Ephiral, I'd actually never considered a world where everyone adopted that standard. Hmmm. Lemme go away and think about that." It's not just pride. I'd like to think its not at all pride, but I'm not certain so will veer away from that higher level.
My issue is that I don't think its possible. Again, I think we fell into a little semantic trap with my quoting your "too hard." To me, the "too" there is an absolute. Flapping your wings hard enough to fly is "too hard". "Too hard to be done", is what I read from that. "It's hard" isn't an excuse, "it's too hard" isn't just an excuse but also an absolute. So when, in a few paragraphs, I use "too hard" bear in mind that I'm using it in my sense of "impossible" not what I now realise is yours of "very hard".
My belief is that the vicissitudes of the world on a system make predicting the outcome of the world's influence on an idea too hard. You mention John Bentham and that's a brilliant example (more on that anon) and I actually logged on today to correct myself with the example of Calvinism which it occurred to me is also relatively unchanged, unchanged enough to be recognisable. So yes, you're quite right that my blanket statement of (paraphrased) "all ideologies change from the ideas of their maker" was incorrect. As I say, I'll return to this in a bit as there's some interesting ideas to be drawn from it.
Your point about meritocracies is off base a little, by the way. While the word for it may be new, the idea certainly isn't. Hell, look at Paul. He devoted his life to preaching and instruction, he was a guy who got shit done. And now Pauline Christianity is overwhelmingly the dominant brand. Throughout history, leaders of movements have been (not exclusively, granted) people who got shit done. Modern times have formalised the idea, not invented it. But that's by the by.
So given that future generations change every idea - whether they change it enough to be a different thing or simply refine isn't important, merely that it is changed and developed - we have two routes. I use "we" deliberately, there are more than two but "we", Ephiral and Kythia, have two different routes.
You attempt, so far as is possible, to future proof your ideas. That's fine, I think we both understand what that implies.
I, and hopefully here is where the last part of your confusion is addressed, say that future proofing is too hard and the thought put in to that could more profitably be placed elsewhere. Specifically in altering current conditions enough that future generations have ideas I would like. Take the example of slavery. I think most people would see it as abhorent and thats a function of the world we have grown up in. Noone thinking about their beliefs today accepts it because its unacceptable and no moral code developed in the west nowadays would include it as an option. Changing the world today means that whatever people come up with in the future it will be influenced by the changes we have made today. Let the future deal with itself, but let it deal with itself within a framework made by the present.
Not that I'm accusing you of doing nothing, of sitting in an ivory tower and ignoring present problems. That's certainly not the way you come across. All I'm saying is that I believe morals should work for the person, the time and the place, and that generalising beyond the specific is unhelpful because the factors that will affect it are unknowable to us.
As I say, I think we may not agree here but hopefully that does at least clear your confusion. In brief:
1) We are using different definitions of morals - mine happens to agree with Miriam Webster but thats not to say its more or less correct than yours and its certainly not why I adopted it.
2) You confusion stems in part from, I suspect, not having realised that your definition wasn't the only possible one
3) I don't adopt yours as I believe doing it fully is impossible.
I struggle to think of a counter example where the leader/founder is not still alive and active in the movement.
Jeremy Bentham is over a century dead now
As I say, I logged on here today to mention that it had occured to me that Calvinsim wa a counter example - noticed your post and figured I may as well respond. I'm actually more embarassed about not having thought of utilitarianism, given who I'm speaking to. In my partial defence, I think the fact that its not called "Benthamism" may have meant Bentham wasn't at the forefront of my mind but that may well be descending to self-justification. Certainly not my smartest moment, I think we can agree on that much.
So I guess that makes the question of whether there are attributes of a system that make it resistent to change or whether its a fluke of probability - if enough people toss a coin a hundred times, some of them will get a hundred heads, if enough people come up with ideas systems, some of them will be unchanged.
I can't answer that, but I tend towards the latter. That may well be idealogical and I'd be wary of attaching too much weight to that. One interesting point that does come out though relates to your:
Addendum to my last bit: Also extremely crucial (else the "examine" stage goes wonky) are explicitly stated goals in the clearest available language.
If the thought of Calvin's language didn't leave you crying and gently rocking then I can assume you haven't read them. Don't. Noone in the world ever has enjoyed reading Calvin's writings and Wikipedia's summary is perfectly fine. Suffice to say his language is dense, confusing, full of detours and tautology and generally just horrific. So I'm not sure that that part is crucial. I actually think volume
of work (unique work) might be more important than clarity qua clarity. The sheer number of variations addressed and situations explained. Bentham also left a lot of writing. But that's just a gut feeling.
He (Calvin) did, however, insist on people not revering him but rather working with and on his ideas, which links to your:
(For the record: While the originators of ideas tend to get more credit as leaders, it is considered important in some circles - including the ones I follow - that a leader's ideas be viewed with extra skepticism, lest we descend into hero worship and akrasia.)
I suppose the logical thing to do is to examine various idealogies and see if common strands could be extracted that does serve to future proof them. If that is something you plan to do, to devote any time to, then I would be extremely
interested in being a part of that project now the idea has occurred to me. Whether as the two of us or as part of a wider group. If it is an idea you run with and you feel I can contribute anything at all then please take my willingness to be a part as read, if you don't feel I can contribute then please take my willingness in reading your conclusions as read.
Life on the inside and the holy spirit. Mmmkay.
Let me preface this with a few caveats which I shall spoiler as they're a bit of a side issue:
1) It's almost impossible for the layman to say anything about the nature of the trinity that hasn't been decried as heresy. As I sit and mentally compose this exposition I am aware I'm veering into the Sabellian heresy
(and related modalist heresies), the Pneumatomachian heresy
(although I personally have a lot of time for Marcionism.) There are probably others. If I thought there was much chance of converting you then I would likely be a bit more careful with some of my language, but for our purposes I don't think its overly important.
2) I'm not supporting anything with quotations. This is simply because they space they will take up will make an already long post into an absolute monster. If you want me to expand on anything then shout, but for the moment I won't bother.
3) I find when a lot of people, atheists, decry Christianity what they are actually complaining about is a particular brand of predominantly new world evangelical protestantism. I'm not sola scriptura, I think I've made that clear. I'm from the all consuming via media
of the Catholic and Reformed Church of England. While, as I mentioned in the Religion. Ethics. Life thread that started this there are positions on which I disagree, I'm not about to get excommunicated nor am I about to schism.
Stephen Langton (?1150 - 1228), while he was Archibishop of Canterbury, divided the Bible into chapters and verses, the system we use today. I think this was, on balance, a mistake. If I say that, in "The God Delusion", Richard Dawkins wrote:
It is time to face up to the important role that God plays in consoling us
Then, assuming you didn't think I was lying (I'm not) you'd assume that I'd ripped that quote out of context. And you'd be quite right, I have. I think it's easier to spot that its ripped out of context because I can't precisely identify the sentence better than "start of the second paragraph on page 394 in the 2007 paperback printing" which makes it clear its only one line within an entire book. However, any sentence in the Bible can be precisely identified. <Book> <Chapter>:<Verse>. I think that has had the side effect of making the Bible look like a collection of statements rather than a cohesive whole. I've touched on it above, more than touched in fact, but I just felt it worth making explicit that while there may be a specific passage in the Bible that says one thing what is important is the message as a whole from both Scripture and, as I shall discuss once this seemingly never ending aside ends, Church Tradition.
As an aside, to answer a question I am frequently asked, no I don't see any issue in being a member of the church when I don't wholeheartedly support all of its positions. Any more than I see a problem with voting for a candidate when I think some of their policies are incorrect, some should have greater focus, some less. Or giving to a charity that I feel should focus more on one problem than another. I see no issue with belongning to an organisation whose agenda I don't 100% support (obviously I see an issue with one whose agenda I 0% support, but you get my point). I know you haven't mentioned it, but its something I find myself explaining a lot so thought it was worth putting here.
So. Roughly two millenia ago, Jesus lived and died. If he wrote anything down - he almost certainly was literate - we don't have it. Following his death there was a trend to write histories of his life. What we now call the Gospels. Further on, there was a trend to write expositions of his teachings, these go by various names. There was also the tradition of Apocalypses - Revelation is the most famous - but they're a side issue. All of this, without exception, was written by humans.
By about the end of the fourth century there was a de facto
acceptance that 27 of these writings were Scripture; the most important of the vast array of writings that emerged. It's instructive to note, though, that there was no de jure
acceptance of the canon until the Council of Trent - 1545 to 1563 - and solely to answer Luther. Without him, its likely there still wouldn't be an official list. (I can't count the number of people I've directed to Misconceptions about the First Council of Nicea
These were - here and throughout I'm taking the existence of God as a given, you've mentioned you're willing to concede for the purposes of this conversation - divinely inspired. Jesus was physically, as a human, on the earth for about 38 years (and here I veer into Arianism
, I really am racking up the heresy today) so clearly not every human would be able to hear him speak. For future generations, or even present ones not living in Judea, it was important that his words gain a broader and more permanent means of spreading. God knew that, he's pretty fucking smart, and so inspired writers to spread and work on the teachings.
Why work on? Well, as I say I'm not sola scriptura myself and, while I know the arguments, because I don't believe them I can't put them across fully. But some would, and do, argue that if God is so fucking smart why couldn't he overcome the biases of the authors and put it in a way that would be clear to all men throughout all time. Firstly, I believe that argument fails even within its own terms. There are numerous Old Testament passages of God telling people to do shit and them not understanding, so following that argument through leads us nowhere but "Jews are so fucking stupid that even an ominscient being couldn't get through to them, not like us" which is disturbing and, more importantly, impossible to reconcile with them being His favourite/favoured people. Secondly, sure God was capable of giving Paul instructions about how we're to deal with nucleur winter, what precisely to do about the Fourth Earth - Alpha Centuri War and how to deal with Hitler. But in order for His words to carry the emotional punch - Yey! Full Circle! - that is needed for people to follow them, they needed to be understandable. So those bits were left out, He'll tell humanity when they could understand what He was on about rather than confusing a load of first century levantines with instructions about what He thought about cloning. Not like He'll die before He gets a chance.
So the important point to note is that Christian thought didn't stop with the de facto acceptance of Scripture. Then there were the Church Fathers - Tertullian, Origen, Augustine, Clement who I mentioned above. Then the ecumenical councils - the Church of England accepts, in order, Nicaea 1, Constantinople 1, Ephesus 1, Chalcedon, Constantinople 2, Constantinople 3, (Quinisext - arguably) Nicaea 2 - covering 450 years. Then the medieval doctors of the Church, Aquinus, Beckett and the like. Then the 39 articles. Then the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. Christian theology certainly didn't end with Scripture.
But equally, not all of Christian thought is accepted. You'll notice (or possibly you won't) I skipped Ephesus 2 in the list of accepted councils for example. So who decides what gets accepted and what not? You could argue this is to do with persuasive speakers or politics. I would argue that that is a symptom
rather than a cause. That politics worked in that way, or that Athanasius was a more powerful writer than Arius, because
of God's influence. That the reason we can be sure of the thought that has developed to us in the present day is because God has been watching the process the whole time (ugh, that makes me feel dirty but it'll do for the purposes of this conversation) and encouraging the correct ideas while discouraging the either incorrect or so warped by human intervention as to be unhelpful.
And, finally, the part of the Godhead that does that is the Holy Spirit. The person who keeps that process on track.
So yes, the Holy Spirit is a source of consistent and reliable feedback. Its a self correcting system, the ideas that are in accordance to the Divine Plan float to the top, the others sink. Perhaps you could wish it to be clearer but, meh, religions aren't there to please atheists and you kinda don't have a dog in that race, to be honest. As to how I know its judgement criteria makes sense, God exists out of time. He's not bound by the same problem we are, that we have to judge an action based on its predicted usefulness, He can flat out see the results of any action. So its criteria... well, it doesn't really have
criteria in the sense you mean it. It's not limited by having to work out whether action A will support its goals so judgement criteria simply aren't relevant.