Re: A moral zero-point?

Michael S. Lorrey (
Mon, 18 Jan 1999 10:48:12 -0500

joe dees wrote:

> >mike wrote:

> > How do you know unless you have tried? Using my earlier definition of objective

> >morality, it would be relatively easy. First off, you need to theorize that it
> >might, in fact, exist.
> >
> >Can you do that?
> >
> Morality is connected with actions (or their forbearance). Not to act at all cannot be considered a zero point, however, in, say, the case of an excellent swimmer who just sits on the shore like a sodden log whilst clearly perceiving the gurgling plaints of a drowning child. The reason that there is no zero point is that there are multifarious circumstances (not to mention many ethical systems) which can not agree on such a common reference.

This is what I dispute. While most, or all ethical systems do not agree on everything, there are plenty of commonalities among most of them, especially the most successful of them, to imply that there is an inherent objective truth to the shared heuristics, at least as far as the human species is concerned. There may also be a subset of this set which may be objective truth for all thinking beings. In your example above, I can imagine no possible moral justification for an olympic swimmer saving a drowning child, if no other factors ar involved. That is not to say that there may not be one, but it not very likely to be one that is part of a successful ethical system of any sort. The closest to this that I can imagine is that the swimmer might want to get paid first (much like how Crassus made his fortune in ancient Rome as the owner of a fire company, he brought his pump and crew to the scene of a fire, and wouldn't even set his pump up until the owner of the building had paid him the negotiated price. Eventually he wound up owning most of Rome. This is where the term 'Crass commercialism' came from.).