Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

The stories we are allowed to know and tell


John Gardner, from “On Moral Fiction”

… what we generally get in our books and films is bad instruction: escapist models or else moral evasiveness, or, worse, cynical attacks on traditional values such as honesty, love of country, marital fidelity, work, and moral courage. This is not to imply that such values are absolutes, too holy to attack. But it is dangerous to raise a generation that smiles at such values, or has never heard of them, or dismisses them with indignation, as if they were not relative goods but were absolute evils. The Jeffersonian assumption that truth will emerge where people are free to attack the false becomes empty theory if falsehood is suffered and obliged like an unwelcome — or worse, an invited — guest.

Good thoughts. Part of the problem is that it is easy for a clever but lazy writer to attack virtue. Especially unfashionable virtue. It is also easy to attack unfashionable facts. Throw enough mud and some of it sticks. Invent a clever putdown – and you own Twitter, maybe Facebook too.

Life’s all different when we actually have to do something, not just have clever opinions.

Also, from Anna Mussman: Consuming Only Modern Stories Will Cement Your Brain Into A Rut:

If Verne lived today, his “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” would be different. That is because the rules about what makes a book morally acceptable have changed. Nowadays, even as we have become less sensitive about portraying certain types of human death (say, the teen-on-teen killings in “The Hunger Games”) we are startled if a piece of fiction speaks positively or even neutrally about the wholesale slaughter of animals. It is not that our society refuses to kill animals or that we are unaware that animals (whether hungry great white sharks, antisocial pit bulls, or aged tigers), sometimes endanger human life. It is merely that we have complex, unspoken rules about how these topics should be handled in literature, rules that flow from our cultural perceptions and priorities, and one of our rules is that we must mention human culpability and encroached habitat when talking about, say, wild animals who prey on human villagers. To do otherwise is just…. wrong.

Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? Certainly, rejecting aggressive violence is good, as is a proper humility about our own ability to always know friend from foe. Yet I think the shift is also tied to a widespread, paralyzing relativism. It’s a funny thing—a healthy humility about our own virtue seems to have created a potentially dangerous disbelief in virtue itself and therefore in evil. We are no longer comfortable with the idea that anything is worth killing for (or dying for). We might feel differently if we did not live in a prosperous, safe, first-world society. Thoughts?

Follow UD News at Twitter!

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

I've noticed that there is something of a resurgence of virtue and traditional moral/political concepts pushing its way through the gatekeepers of media lately. For instance, in the Avengers, Iron Man didn't redirect the incoming nuke to where it couldn't harm anyone; he redirected it against the invading army - certainly an unacceptable choice given the moral equivalence preferred by the cultural elite. Are any of the heroes found discussing the morality of annihilating a foe with a nuke as they eat lunch afterwards? Are they exhibiting remorse? Captain America is the living embodiment of traditional values and ideals. In The Winter Soldier, he explains the difference between doing what you have to temporarily (even if you lose sleep over it) to protect freedom, and suspending freedoms in order to protect safety. Both movies offer a healthy distrust of government and focus on individual freedom and moral conscience as being the only thing standing between us and totalitarianism - either by our own government or by some invading force. Not exactly the pro-statism message political leaders wish to promote as they expand both the size and role of government in our lives. Both movies were hugely popular worldwide. Worldwide.William J Murray
November 16, 2014
04:27 AM

Leave a Reply