Monday, February 19, 2007

The moralist

One of the interesting points of view, or theories - fairly explicable, in Dawkin's The God Delusion is how morality, more than anything else, could be seen as a function of time. Of course, a more interesting study dedicated to understanding morality across geographies, cultures & other factors can be found in Moral Minds. However, it was interesting for me to note how what we currently view as morally impermissible acts were, in the time they were mainstream, not really examined from a moral perspective & were just viewed as social or political instruments.

A good case in point is hunting. Hunting has its roots in survival. It was important as a means of survival - both as the source of food & the ability to kill a predator. Later, this was an exercise in pleasure, a hobby or a pastime. At the time, I'm sure, nobody examined seriously the moral implications of killing another animal for fun. Later still, we discovered ecological reasons for maintaining the fauna & giving it a chance to survive & flourish - this again, was not a moral choice but more of long-term commitment to the well-being of the planet in general. Then we had laws against the wanton killing of endangered species.

Usha's post about animals for amusement is one example of seeing things hitherto unseen from a moral perspective. A circus traditionally is wonderful, it is entertaining & fills us with awe, or makes us laugh or aims to attend some such end. If dogs can be trained to sniff drugs, elephants should be able to kick a football - & the questions of morality alone had not crossed my mind. At the same time, the methods & the general condition of animals are important though I did not see monstrosity alone whenever I went to a circus.

The questions that Usha raises are legitimate, however. But my point is not about what she asks. My point is ultimately about looking at issues from a moral perspective where historically it has been absent.

I think that it is important to understand this evolution of morality & appreciate its context. The term "barbaric" is sometimes used very loosely in our histories. Imagine that tag being applied to us if the world turns completely vegetarian in the year 2050.


Usha said...

I think this whole journey of evolution is all about shedding the animal instincts inside of us and becoming more tolerant, more compassionate and less violent.
We have a lot of it inside of us which through education and training we tame. It is only natural for us to want to control a wilder animal and feel a sense of achievement but should we? that was my point.
Deep post as usual Cap!

Usha said...

and if possible please read and watch