Monday, June 11, 2012

The Jenga tower of your own moral philosophy

One of the arguments that I've used for the Catholic Faith is the consistency of the doctrine and how one teaching flows into another.  While the limits of human knowledge combined with divine revelation lead us to paradoxes, there does not exist a true contradiction.  That this body of doctrine has been consistent for 2000 years is but another sign of something special.  Also of note is how the teaching seems to encompass the universal experience of human existence yet allows room for the variety we see in the human race.

A logically valid criticism is that a philosophy that is internally consistent does not automatically make it true.  In theory, a system of moral thought that is completely consistent can be thought up out of whole cloth.  From a purely logical standpoint this is correct.

My counter to such an assertion is that while it is theoretically possible that a completely consistent moral philosophy that meets the above criteria can be imagined, the ability to construct such a philosophy is remote at best.  While others have claimed such, the reality is the attempts to create such philosophies have time and again crashed against the rocks of reality.

Since the turn of the 17th century when ideologies that attempted to supplant the Catholic understanding of Man the human race has had to deal with its own hubris.  While some positives have come out of modernist thought (as all human endeavors generate such at times) by and large the concept of Man has been reduced from the Imago Dei to that of little more than a random collection of atoms.  The 20th century saw this come to a head in Fascism, Communism, and in the growing soft totalitarianism of Socialism.

And that's for systemic thought.  Your average modern person has the moral philosophy of a Jenga tower.  It may look upright.  But it is full of holes, and any pressure put upon it will bring it tumbling down.  The lack of philosophical training, combined with the arrogance of the attitude that one is a moral expert the minute one pops out from the womb, has led to moral philosophies whose shallowness is only matched by the emotional defensiveness of its adherents.

The simple truth is that while we as human beings can come to know ourselves we really don't understand ourselves.  Not completely.  Humans are notoriously fickle creatures.  We seem to rise to such great heights and then come crashing down through self-inflicted wounds.  We do things that we know for a fact aren't good for us, yet we keep doing them.  In short, we can't even seem to keep the day to day straight.  Why in the world should we expect to be able to construct a philosophy that actually encompasses the human experience accurately?

So the mere existence of a consistent and universal moral ethic is at the very least worthy of careful consideration.  That such a body of thought has existed for 2000 years and continues to deepen its understanding only makes it more worth our time.  For those who are searching for why the world is as screwed up as it is, maybe it is time to see what the Church actually teaches.  You may find (as I did) that the beauty of her doctrine is in and of itself worthy of study.

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