Philosophical Perspectives on Religion, Ethical and Moral Values (7)

Philosophical Perspectives of Moral Values

The problems of modern moral theory emerge clearly as the failure of the enlightenment project. On the one hand, the individual moral agent, free from hierarchy and teleology, conceives of himself and is conceived of by moral philosophers as sovereign in his moral authority. And on the other hand, it is the inherited, if partially transformed, rules of morality. Some new statuses have to be found, deprived as they have been of their older teleological character and their more ancient categorical character as expressions of ultimately divine law.

Religions, environmental, tax, and social policies develop a moral philosophy framework. A person who acts under duress cannot be judged entirely as a liar, given the circumstances that brought about his lie. There is an ongoing ancient debate in moral epistemology about the epistemic significance of disagreement. An essential question in these debates is to what extent the prevalence and persistence of disagreement of humankind’s moral intuitions cause problems for those who rely on intuitions to make decisions, judgments, and craft moral theories? The word ‘standard’ refers to an act, behavior, or moral principle accepted as normal or usual.

Since both these choices have moral reasons, therefore, ethicists have called such situations moral dilemmas. These types of dilemmas are situations where any choice of action does not lead to morally acceptable consequences. Some scholars like John Stuart Mill feel that individuals should remain in complete control of their lives and the paths they choose to take based on individual circumstances. Others believe that those with strong moral beliefs are the job of guiding and protecting those who have “lost their way, (Reid, 1981). Is the ‘self’ relevant for a moral domain? The question leads to a moral dilemma because actions may be permissible for the self but not so when others are considered.

Moral dilemmas involve conflicts between moral and ethical requirements. Self-sacrifice is a strong indicator of a moral position. Do we always feel the pressure of acting for others, or do we mostly think of ourselves primarily? Altruistic sacrifice has become an essential topic in moral theorizing; though it is rare, some people believe in such sacrifices. Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because God commands it? Plato’s EuthyphroSocrates 469-399 B. C., (1892) sets forth the prima facie dilemma inherent in this question. If God’s commands are based on what is morally good (holy), then it appears that what is morally good has its basis independent of God.

On the other hand, if what is morally good (holy) is because God commands it, then what is deemed suitable might not be deemed good at another point. There would be no objective standard for determining whether anything is inherently good (holy). The conclusion from Socrates’ perspective is that God’s commands are based on what is, in fact, morally sound. However, he acknowledges that this alone does not help humankind understand the nature of moral goodness.

***In the next article (8), I will discuss ‘Three Moral Philosophies.’

Philosophical Perspectives on Religion, Ethical and Moral Values (6)

Types of ethical theory are:

  1. Consequentialism suggests that a good action is one whose results favor the majority of those affected by the action.
  2. Egoism
  3. Altruism is a version of consequentialism that holds that a good action is the one whose result is for the benefit of everyone affected by the action except for the performer of the action.
  4. Hedonism means every individual has the right to do everything in their power to achieve the most significant amount of pleasure possible for them.
  5. Collectivism: the core principle of this theory is that the right action is the one that places a higher emphasis on the effects of moral action on the collectivity of the group. Their identities, goals, rights, and outcomes as more important than the interests of the individual that constitutes the group
  6. Relativism
  7. Absolutism
  8. Utilitarianism
  9. Situationism
  10. Ascriptivism
  11. Decisionism is premised on the argument that it is not the content of a decision that matters or makes it suitable.
  12. Emotivism
  13. Ethical formalism – here, moral judgments are based on the conformity of an action to universal laws or universal prescriptions.
  14. Moral absolutism conjectures a right or wrong action as good or bad in themselves irrespective of the reason for acting and the consequences of performing them.
  15. The Divine Command

***tomorrow, I will discuss the Philosophical Perspectives of Moral Values. Join me please.

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Philosophical Perspectives of Ethical Values

The practical thing about ethics in decision-making is that most people view things from two significant perspectives. The first perspective is called ontological, and the second is called deontological. Ontological perspectives emphasize the consequences of an action rather than the nature, form, and process by which the action is performed. The deontological perspective believes that people should adhere to their obligations and duties while decision-making.

Clifford (1974) and Peterson et al. (2014,103) argue that “it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” This argument is valid. If humankind acts on poorly supported beliefs, they are likely to harm either themselves or someone. But fundamentally, by habitually accepting beliefs that are not supported by evidence, one can make oneself and other people gullible. According to the evidence, Clifford (1974) says that there is a moral duty to believe. The duty applies to belief itself, not only to action; it applies to everyone, not only to the educated; it is wrong to believe without good evidence, even if someone’s belief turns out to be true.

Aquinas (ca.1224-1274) argues that as the result of being created in God’s image, human beings possess the rational capacities to comprehend those aspects of God’s ethical standard that have been revealed in nature. He maintains that one can deduce how human beings are to act and be treated, which does not place genuine reason above divine revelation. He summarizes by saying that humankind’s reflection on the nature of things can discover a lot about God’s basic ethical standards and their application to their daily lives.

Theists contend that a world without God has at least two undesirable characteristics: life can have no meaning, and all moral values are relative. According (to Blackham, 1961), Sartre (ca.1905-1980) acknowledges that a world without God is different. In a godless world, there are no absolute values without overlaid on humanity. Humankind creates their values.

Nonetheless, humankind’s actions have significant consequences for others and a pity that no one knows beforehand the outcome of their actions. Conversely (Blackham, 1961), Sartre denies that humankind can find no personal meaning in the world without God. He challenges the contention that creating personal values would enable humankind to justify arbitrary and capricious behavior by pointing out that such behavior would not be compatible with a proper understanding that humankind’s actions always have significant consequences for others.

***Series 6 tomorrow, Sunday 29 May 2022.

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Ethics in History & Culture

The ethics of the ancient people are tied to their philosophy of life. Ethical ideas systematically defend and justify the moral standards and values placed on actions, decisions, and institutions. An ethical matter raises the question of the righteousness or unrighteousness (rightness or wrongness) of an action performed voluntarily.

Maclntyre’s (1981, 1985) work has been highly influential in the contemporary movement in moral philosophy known as ‘virtue ethics.’ In some aspects, this is a revival of the Aristotelian conception that stressed how the virtues necessary for a fulfilled life require training and habituation within a particular moral culture. Maclntyre (1985, 187-188) defines the virtues as qualities necessary to achieve the goods ‘internal to practices’; these include arts, sciences, politics, family life, and ‘any coherent and complex form of socially established cooperative human activity’; involving ‘standards of excellence.’ Maclntyre’s virtues are required to sustain households and communities where humanity can seek good together. He insists that moral identity is necessarily shaped by tradition.

Ayantayo (2017, 4) describes three significant ethical concerns:

  1. What do actions and intentions mean?
  2. What constitutes a good or bad action, and who determines what constitutes a right or wrong action?
  3. Why is there concern for the type of action or intention a person performed or muted at one time or the other?

Human action or intention is performed voluntarily; they are not performed under duress, coercion, force, and pressure (Lillie, 1961, 1-2). When it comes to ethical issues, every person is constantly confronted with two courses of action: good and evil, from which one willingly chooses.

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By following the various laws, the believer seeks to lead a virtuous life and sustain their socio-political and economic challenges. Religion provides an ethical framework from which human beings can lead their lives. Religions are coherent systems of beliefs and practices that arise from particular worldviews. Such worldviews incorporate a distinction between that which is ordinary and mundane and that which is spiritual or transcendent. There is no universally accepted definition of religion. Religion is conceived and defined differently by different people. Religion means one thing to the theologian, another thing to an anthropologist or sociologist, another thing to the psychologist, a different thing to the Marxist, etc. Religion has distinguishing features that distinguish it from other human activities as a human activity. The concept of deity is essential to the concept of religion. Hence, where a deity’s belief is lacking, there can be no religion since religion is essentially a relationship established between man and a deity, that is, a transcendent personal being believed to exist.

According to Stephen Prothero, (2010), each religion articulates:

  • a problem;
  • a solution to this problem, which also serves as the religious goal;
  • a technique (or techniques) for moving from this problem to this solution;
  • an exemplar (or exemplars) who chart this path from problem to solution.

 For example, in Christianity

  • the problem is sin;
  • the solution or goal is salvation
  • the technique for achieving salvation is faith in Jesus Christ and good works;
  • the exemplars who chart this path are the saints in Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy and ordinary people of Faith in Protestantism

In Buddhism

  • the problem is suffering
  • the solution or goal is nirvana
  • the technique for achieving nirvana is the Noble Eightfold Path, which includes such classic Buddhist practices as medication and chanting and
  •  the exemplars who chart this path are arhats (for Theravada Buddhists), bodhisattvas (for Mahayana Buddhists), or lamas (for Vajrayana Buddhists)

 Prothero also identified Eight Rival Religions in the World:

  1. Islam: The Way of Submission
  2. Christianity: The Way of Salvation
  3. Confucianism: The Way of Propriety
  4. Hinduism: The Way of Devotion
  5. Buddhism: The Way of Awakening
  6. Yoruba Religion: The Way of Connection
  7. Judaism: The Way of Exile and Return
  8. Daoism: The Way of Flourishing

He also refers to Atheism as the Way of Reasoning

African God of wisdom is called Ifa or Orunmila in the Yoruba language. Ifa is a significant influence in West Africa; it has originated several new world religions, such as Santería in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Candomblé in Brazil (Soboyejo, 2017, 31). Ifa is the medium with which individual strengths are expounded and expressed the different attitudes in harmony (Soboyejo, 33). Many religious practices include giving alms to the poor, fasting, charity forms like helping the needy, and offerings. Religious ethics deals with what religious people ought to do and believe. And how they should conduct themselves in this world (Ayantayo, 2017, 21). While describing Christian ethics, Barth (1939,146) says that man unaided cannot discover moral truth.

Africanism affirms negritude: a total attitude of response to a situation. Before the advent of Milesian philosophers, African mythological-theological perspectives explain events. The reasons for rainfall, the rainbow, and the alternating nature of day and night, were given mythological explanations. Certain gods or other supernatural beings were believed to be behind the happenings and the universe’s nature (Bejide, 2017).

So, in a sense, religion describes a system based on belief in a creator, which is rules-based and exists at an appropriate time and place to satisfy the people’s deepest needs. According to (Aderibigbe & Aiyegboyin, 1997), Emile Durkheim defines religion as: “A unified system of beliefs and practices which unite into one moral community called a church all those who adhere to them.” Bouquet (1941, 16) defines religion as “a fixed relationship between the human self and some non-human entity, the sacred, the supernatural, the self-existent, the absolute or simply, God.”



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Philosophical Perspectives on Religion

Religion is an issue of intense trepidation for every reflective person, whether one ultimately rejects its validity or not, because it addresses and answers the most fundamental questions of human existence. It is impossible to answer ‘What is Religion?’ without resorting to personal opinion. Like ‘What is good?’ the question is one of the values that are perhaps not open to the scientific inquiry. It is quite an intractable problem. Although most of humankind has an idea of religion, one struggles to explain it. When asked, many would say that religion is a way of life-based on belief in God.

Dennett (2014, 10) wonders why religion, since so costly, has survived. Religion arose when people embraced an intentional stance, which attributes agency to various things, whether animate or inanimate, that puzzle or frightens them. Throughout, Dennett is not concerned with the truth of religious beliefs but rather with their origin and function in individual behavior and culture. Wittgenstein (1996) emphasizes the importance of religion not as a set of quasi-scientific doctrines but as a form of life influential in the latter route. (Wisdom, n.d.) argues that religious claims should not be construed as referring to practical issues but should be assessed regarding the differences they make to the believer’s life. (Griffiths, n.d. {b.1947}) holds that each religion is unique in its historical particularity. And religious doctrines are rooted in and definitive in the respective community, making universal and exclusivist claims. (Wilkins, J.S. and Griffiths, P.E., 2013).

African philosophy explains African beliefs, religions, and worldviews. 

It explains African mythologies and cosmogonies, African rituals, and morals. The Philosophy clarifies African systems of thought, African tribal art, and African ethno-philosophies. An African has his frank phenomenon of himself, society, universe, experiences, and ethical problems such as the problem of evil, life & death, knowledge, marriage, destiny, and so on translated into his religion.

Religion is an essential cultural characteristic and one of the ethnic ‘descriptors.’ Most religions seek to transcend the divide between the ordinary, mundane world of everyday life and the spiritual. Religion provides an ethical framework from which human beings can lead their lives. Any nation’s cultural and religious background is essential to interpret the people’s religious thoughts and what shapes their thoughts and sometimes politics (Asaju, 1990). Smart (1992) suggested seven dimensions of religion. One of the seven is the ethical and legal dimension, covering religious rules and laws that stem from each tradition’s narrative and doctrinal aspects.  – continuation on Wednesday, May 25, 2022.

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I am serializing ‘Philosophical Perspectives on Religion, Ethical and Moral Values’ in 12-piece articles. Starting today is an Intro to the topic. Some philosophical questions are agitating my mind and autoflowing into my thoughts. These questions are:

  • Could humankind live a good life without the ideals of ethics and moral values?
  • Is knowing God of religion the determinant for good morals, or can we have ethics without religion?
  • How are ethics and moralities sustained and transmitted?
  • Is morality universal?

The answers to these questions are my focus. I look at ethics in history and culture in understanding its evolution, cultural appreciation or/and cultural appropriation. A peep into ancient philosophers’ thoughts and writings gives perspectives on the significant themes. I am advocating the sustainability of religious belief, ethics, and morality to meet the challenges of the 21st century in political, economic, and cultural contexts. I examine philosophical ideas and intensely religious concepts on morality and ethical values. God has designed the world to be, first and foremost, an environment that enables and facilitates each individual’s moral and spiritual development.

Religion’s prerogatives are approachable in two ways:

  1. Logical analysis and the scrutiny of the evidence on the one hand.
  2. And on the other, an emphasis on faith, passion, and the will to believe.

Philosophy of religion in the twentieth century explored these two paths. On the one hand, debates on the verifiability of religious doctrines. And the rational justification for belief in God, and the other hand, attempts to understand religious theory and practice as an entirely different enterprise from what is done in the objective world of scientific theory.

Plato (1982) sets out a vision of justice for the state and the individual. The dominant element in that vision is a conception of a life lived by reason. Where goodness and virtue flow from an intellectual understanding of reality. And where the enlightened philosopher-rulers devote their lives to the contemplation of truth and the state’s service. Plato raises the issue of whether goodness and virtue are worthwhile for the individual. Most offenders think they could get away with immoral conduct, and the offender risk getting caught, and most religious teaching promises the wrongdoer punishment in heaven. For this kind of religious teaching, it is prudent to act morally; this does not mean that the virtuous life is inherently valuable for its sake.

Aristotle’s vision of the good life was informed by reason and characterized by moderate desire patterns, neither excessive nor deficient. The Stoic thinkers who followed Aristotle seemed clear that the life of reason was in constant danger of being blown off course by human emotions’ turbulence. Consequently, in place of the Aristotelian ideal of metriopatheia, moderate desire, they advocated a life of apatheia – a life entirely suppressed the potentially harmful passions. Spinoza (Ethics c. 1665) made the conquest of the passions the central theme of his writings. Spinoza equates the life of virtue with a life lived by rational nature: pursuing what reason perceives as genuinely beneficial means acting freely and virtuously. When in the grip of the passions is like a servant acting at the behest of some external power. Spinoza’s remedy against the passions is essentially a cognitive one: the use of reason enables one to understand all things’ inevitable causes. The good life, for Spinoza, is essentially a tranquil and harmonious one, and this links up with the chief reason one should overcome humankind’s passions – they are responsible for disharmony and discord, both in relations with other humans beings within oneself.