If so, how can we learn about it? Or is the whole idea of a universal morality misguided? A post on Self Aware Patterns raised the question and I felt moved to answer it.
No I do not agree with Jason Mckenzie Alexander (Professor in Philosophy at the London School of Economics) that “morality is a social technology, one that goes out of date and frequently needs to be upgraded.”
Morality is not personal preference. Morality is not subjective. And I don’t give a damn about game theory. Yes, we have evolved chaotically, in a Darwinian sense. We have evolved to fight and kill and maim to ensure that we survive and to do the next man out of his food and his shelter. The more hideous elements of capitalist society and politics continue to live this way and presumably see nothing wrong with their conduct. And it is certainly true that different societies over the ages have developed different moral standards, biased no doubt by their survival needs.
My own “belief” however (for it is of course only a belief) is that there is an absolute morality but we are only beginning to grope our way towards it.
I keep going back to that kindly old buffer at the recent royal wedding: love he said. Love is all. And I believe that, very firmly. That we are groping our way towards it seems indicated by the fact that in general we are becoming better behaved towards each other.
I will tell you a funny tale. I was having a drink with an ancient colonel one night at his house down in Kent. He was talking about Africans, black Africans. Can’t remember in which country on that sad continent but this mad old buffer was talking about “blacks” and how the only way to keep them in their place was to shoot them. Or a few of them anyway. Few people think like that from later generations; hopefully anyway.
Yes, different ages have different standards, different morals. Read the books of John Buchan to see how things have changed in the past hundred years. But I like to think we are changing for the better and not just for utilitarian purposes. I am afraid that like Teilhard de Chardin I see us heading towards the Omega point.
But that is mere belief. And wishful thinking no doubt. Nonetheless the kindly old African American at the Royal Wedding had it right. Love. That is the essential and immutable moral from which all else should flow.