Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Conversion by Way of Evil, Part 2

This continues part 1 . . .

4. This is closely related to no. 2, but now restricted only to one's own self. Notice carefully the interior situation of your own person in regard to doing bad things--those circumstances when you have done something wrong and you are aware that you did something wrong. If it were true that the universal human moral code that identifies what we recognize as "good" vs. "bad" human actions were merely a matter of practical and utilitarian observation, then our own personal lives do not make sense. Think carefully about your own experience of temptation and giving in to doing something you know is ultimately bad in the final analysis (though you probably have some justification based on a lower, more superficial good). It is true in my own life, and it is manifestly also true for others, that we often do bad things that we don't really want to do, and yet we find ourselves doing them anyways. This situation has to be explained in order that any particular viewpoint about the true nature of human life might be considered reasonable. With careful analysis, I came to realize that this seemingly simple (though so often frustrating) fact about human life--that we sometimes commit evil that we do not want to do--makes a merely pragmatic and natural explanation of the universal moral nature of mankind unreasonable, even irrational. It calls out for a hard-hitting question that a pragmatist has no answer for: If choosing good acts and shunning the bad were only a result of making conclusions based upon observations and experience of what works well for an ordered society and what doesn't, then why, oh why, do we still sometimes do what we know on the deepest level of significance that we should not? This makes no sense from an exclusively pragmatic viewpoint. In other words, if it were true that the interior urgings that prompt me to act in certain ways were only shaped by the conclusions that I have reached as a result of experience and reason I ought to be able to do what I know to be right--every single time! But, in fact, I don't. WHY??? If I know that certain actions are bad (whether of lesser or greater moral gravity) and my interior motivations were impacted only by practical reasoning, I should have no trouble simply not doing what I have identified as bad actions. All that should be required to avoid them, is simply to have categorized them as bad. But this is not real life. We still find ourselves seemingly pulled against our best judgment at times to do things we know we will regret, that harm the social order rather than up-build it. If life worked on solely utilitarian and practical principles, this would not be the case. Yet it is. Therefore, I concluded that a solely practical and utilitarian explanation of the reality of human moral life as it actually exists, is highly irrational.

And so, I came to realize that an exclusively natural, pragmatic approach to explaining morally relevant human action simply fails to explain human life as it really is in two very important arenas: in regard to the most heinous, depraved and despicable evil actions done by others, and in regard to the interior reality that I, myself, (as is true for each individual person) cannot always successfully avoid doing the bad things that I nonetheless know I should not do. Think deeply about these facts of life. Ponder them. Question them. I found that when I did so, I had no choice but to consider the pragmatic explanation of our moral nature as human persons an indisputable failure. And this, most especially when pondering the true character of evil acts as committed by others and ourselves.

Continued in part 3 . . .

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