Its been fascinating to read the discussion started by Barry Arrington that seems to expose some critical holes in the moral thinking of materialism. The discussion seems to range from justifying the existence of pornography to denigrating religious organizations that proselytize as they offer help and assistance to those in need. And, as Barry pointed out, the discussion is 41 posts in (actually as of now 53 posts), and still no materialist has condemned the views of the poster called Seversky on moral grounds. Perhaps having to decide between helping women in poverty by buying pornography or by funding a religious charity is too morally complex a choice for clarity for a materialist, so I want to offer an alternative.
So, here’s a simple thought experiment for any of the materialists (or philosophical naturalists, or atheists) among our number here at Uncommon Descent. Perhaps this simple thought experiment can bring some clarity to moral questions from a materialist persepctive.
Here goes: You’re in a large city and walk up to a a busy street corner. Heavy traffic is whizzing by in both directions on the street you need to cross. As you prepare to cross, you notice next to you a smallish, frail, elderly woman, carrying some shopping bags, who also needs to cross the street, but is quite obviously nervous and frightened of the attempt. You now have 3 options: 1) you can ignore her completely and just go about your business; 2)you can push her into the traffic; 3) you can assist her to get safely across the street. The moral question is, what is the right thing to do and why is it the right thing to do (that is to say, how can we know that is the right thing to do)?