Metaphysical Evolution, Sociology and Ethics.
Updated: Aug 10, 2022
I decided to have chilled out morning and start with a random surf of you tube, and as luck would have it I came across the video below:
The channel is owned and ran but Alex O'connor, a philosophy and theology undergrad at Oxford. You can also find his blog here
Now at first, since I didn't know Alex and had never seen his videos before thought that this might be an anti homosexuality video, but as you'll know by now having watched it, I was pleasantly surprised. And as ever the point Alex makes about "homosexuality" or indeed if we take that argument more broadly "orientation" being outside of the moral sphere is an interesting one. Unsurprisingly Humes guillotine popped up in the latter half of the the video when looking at the IS/Ought distinction and the "Ought implies can" characterisation of moral imperatives. All very good, interesting and well put forward, but having just finished my articles on the Self and the ontological/epistemological arguments of that I wondered about this issue of ethics and "should" that I keep returning to. How things change. It occurred to me when listening Alex's video that in order to agree with his position, and I do, one first has to accept Homosexuality is "real thing" that is to say that one has to accept the metaphysical argument that it exists in and of its own right. Talia Bettcher has written about this metaphysical scepticism argument as it pertains to trans gender people being perceived as valid in their transitioned to Genders. I'm sure most readers will be aware of evolution and Darwinism etc and I wonder about the mechanics of this evolution of ideas. After all the ethical viewpoint that "homosexuality is wrong" is now seen as erroneous because people did eventually accept the metaphysical argument, therefore the ethical one became moot. Are we then living through this evolution in regards to Trans gender, as growing acceptance of LGB and other orientations as "naturally occurring howsoever caused*" results in their being normalised in society, and has paved the way for "Gender" to follow in those footsteps? *Biologically and/or sociologically constructed.
Perhaps. But where I agree with Alex that orientations do not belong in the moral sphere, when one scales up the question of "what kind of life do I wish to lead" to a level of society, then we do bring in an element of "should". for example:
"what's kind of society do I want to live in" leads to "What kind of society should we attempt to create?" A short list of the infinite possible answers to this might be, "A good one" "a successful one", "a just one", "a benevolent one?" ~All of which focus on differing aspects of the human experience. Good (which can be defined multiple ways ethical or prudentially)
Just - righteous what does that mean?
successful - for whom and how ?
benevolent - kind and considerate, sharing. but with whim by whom? And of course all of the above have some form of ethical frame work around which differing people will have differing answers, constructed in differing ways. For the most part that is where it really ends for most of us, but for those who attempt to write policy, or change legal structures these issues become very apparent very early on and can sometime stifle progress. Why? because we are left debating the should and should nots rather than the "how to's" Having said that, whilst Darwins evolution creeps forward over millennia, appearing to be pretty much static in the lifetime of one human being, sociological evolution is racing forward at a much faster rate, as ideas, discoveries, knowledge and concepts shift and alter via our creation of them. By simply living everyday lives and attempting to understand those lives in the context of a "society" we create both the questions and the answers. However the ethical questions, even the frustrating ones, need to be asked, because the foundation of a society built without them are that much weaker. Sometimes there is so much negativity surrounding the life of LGBT people and their rights, (my own included), and the fight to be recognised as valid, etc etc, that occasionally it is nice to appreciate how far we have come, and just how much has changed in recent years, and although we're far from done, it does give me some hope on the darker days. So perhaps it is fitting then that the question of "what society should be" is an eternal one, in as much as it will, in my view, continue to be asked of and by humans for as long as humans exist. Perhaps then, that is a "good" thing, because, on the day we stop asking the ethical questions, we would have made a very unethical decision to do so.