Monday, November 29, 2010

Values and Virtues

To continue on with my previous rambling, we believe in a hierarchy of truths. Higher truths like those revealed by God take precedence over lower truths arrived at through less reliable means. Science does not do that. But in the area of morals we see people using the same kind of reasoning. They break down moral questions to a very low level and try and analyze them that way. The analysis boils down to feelings. Do I feel this is right or wrong? When you try and describe the conclusions on a more general level you get values. What things are, in general, right and what are, in general, wrong? But like scientific theories they allow for exceptions. So adultery can generally be wrong. That can be my value. But I can still feel adultery is OK in exceptional situations.

Catholics say there is a higher truth here. That God has said "Thou shalt not commit adultery." So then my feelings become irrelevant. Again, modern man will look at that and complain you are using faith to trump reason. But the truth that adultery is always wrong can be derived from faith or from reason. So that isn't it. It is the notion that higher moral principles must apply regardless of the individual situations. Modern man tends to rebel against such notions. Often citing reason but never giving a rational argument. Typically there is an appeal to a person's moral intuition rather than an appeal to reason. But a someones moral intuition is hardly infallible. There are always hard cases.

Protestants do appeal to higher truths but they want them to be explicitly in scripture. Adultery is pretty explicitly condemned in scripture. Abortion? Not so much. The evidence becomes questionable very fast. St Thomas Aquinas said the argument from authority is the weakest form of argument. Reason is much more convincing to people. But protestants ONLY accept authority. When you make an argument against contraception based on reason they simply demand scripture and don't even interact with it. Of course, there is scripture as well. But in the Catholic world a rational argument can be given authority by the church. In the protestant it will always be second class.

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