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“The Return of Goodness” by Edward Skidelsky

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I expect it won’t be long before ID is explicitly used to justify virtue ethics/natural law just as Darwin is used to justify EvoPsycho and EvoEthics.

The Return of Goodness
by Edward Skidelsky

Contemporary liberalism’s insistence that morality is a mere matter of rights and obligations empties life of its ethical meaning. We need a return to the virtue ethics of the pre-moderns, and a renewed conception of the good life.

Morality is once again on the lips of politicians and commentators. David Cameron has warned that we are “becoming quite literally a de-moralised society, where nobody will tell the truth any more about what is good and bad.” He is echoed by Richard Reeves, new director of Demos, who argued in last month’s Prospect that Britain’s poor lack not only the material but also the moral resources to better their lot in life.

Behind these comments lies a flickering recognition that our nation’s central problems are moral, not economic. But any deeper reflection runs up against a principle entrenched in the liberal mind—that individuals are sovereign in their own sphere, and that only when someone infringes on others may he be rebuked or punished…


Design does not imply morality in animals, because animals do not have free will. On the other hand, if humans were designed to pursue some end, and if they were given a free will to pursue that end, then there is a morality proper to human nature. It follows that such morality would have to come from the designer since nothing that is designed can decide on its own purpose or destiny. Morality has to do with ends, so if something is made FOR SOMETHING, (in this case a human being) and it is has the power to pervert its nature and to pursue some other end, then it is doing that which is immoral. Morality or immorality is present only when a designed entity has the power to pervert its nature or the capacity to turn away from its destiny. StephenB
@5. In order for your logic to work, the human mind must be designed the same as animals. It is not. You assume that "it is designed" entails morality", but fail to ask "is everything designed the same". Our mind is vastly different to animals, which should be self-evident. It is because the design of our mind is different that we are moral beings, and it is applicable to us, not them. Animals do not live by 'right or wrong', etc, yet the question of 'is this right' plagues (most) humans. The lion that hunts down and tears the weak and elderly antelope limb from limb eats well tonight. The young man that hits the elderly man and snatches his wallet is immoral. Both are profiting from preying on the weak, yet morality only applies to the man. Why? The design of the human conscious is quite different to that of the animal. Avonwatches
"Design" is not an attribute that can be used to drive morality. My computer is designed and it is not a moral agent; it is never morally culpable for any action it does, not matter what its "purpose" is. Similarly non-human animals and plants are not moral agents either. If "design" is a common feature of all living creatures, and only some creatures (humans) are moral agents, then it's meaningless to say that our "design" dictates our morality. Trimbach
I agree that: "it won’t be long before ID is explicitly used to justify virtue ethics/natural law just as Darwin is used to justify EvoPsycho and EvoEthics". That would be a trap for the unwary. By the way that article was great until the last 2 para's. I didn't pick him as a greeny. mad doc
Interesting article. But it focuses on John Stuart Mill and ignores Darwin’s contribution. But I agree. The world of virtues rooted in culture—in stories and myths and history—was a far cry better than the godless statism (communist, fascist, socialist, “liberal”) that has replaced that older order. But enviro-pagans frolicking in the grass? My bet is on Intelligent Design. Without purpose there is nothing! Without purpose larger than local cultural concerns there is nothing to unite us. I find it comforting that two ID supporters, Natural Law theorist J. Budziszewski (What We Can’t Not Know) and Discovery Fellow David Klinghoffer (Shattered Tablets) both come out with strong arguments in favor of the Ten Commandments. Morality rooted in culture—if the gods aren’t too bloodthirsty—is superior to amorality rooted in atheism. But the Judeo-Christian ethic beats them all, and if we admit that Darwin got it wrong then that morality could enjoy a comeback. My guess is that—this side of the coming of Messiah—the new St Benedict will not be some charismatic religious leader or the resurgence of a particular denomination. My guess is that brave hearts and bright minds from many quarters will be involved—just as in the ID revolution. Some lament the fragmentation of the culture by the computer and the new media; I think it’s a good thing. Evil is metastasizing in dark corners, yes, but the old monopolistic elitism is being usurped by a growing body of sincere seekers undaunted by all the nay-sayers. Of such was the scientific revolution, and of such will be any coming spiritual renaissance. Rude
Certainly needs saying. And I'm glad some people are finally waking up to it. A good step in the right direction. Of course ID can be used to support morality. Darwinism can only be used to demoralize (when it's underlying assumptions are examined to moral consequences) since it renders human life of virtually no more value than the molecules it is made of. All life under Darwinism is just moving, evolving matter & energy. On the other hand, if life is designed then there is necessarily purpose and meaning and value - all assigned by the designer(s). Borne
"I expect it won’t be long before ID is explicitly used to justify virtue ethics/natural law just as Darwin is used to justify EvoPsycho and EvoEthics." Are you saying that with regret, hope, or indifference? Clumsy Brute

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