Monday, January 21, 2008

body and soul. . . .

Nee, over at Non-essential Equipment, pointed to an article that she thought was "spot on" with respect to certain physical and cultural manifestations of moral sensibilities. I disagreed. To me, the article was little more than the attempt to reduce morality to a [not-completely-known-at-present] physical and/or sociological manifestation; an instinct. Here's what she wrote, and here's the article she referred to by S. Pinker. It's entitled The Moral Instinct.

Interestingly, today I read an article kind of from the "other side", in which a theologian makes the argument that we are more than our minds - that the body has something to do with our thoughts [and prayers] as well. Check it out - it's entitled "Thinking With Our Bodies", written by Mike Metzger.

How is it that I can so completely disagree with the one, and yet agree with the other? Aren't they really just approaching a similar conclusion, but from different perspectives? You know, I just don't think so.

I think it has to do with the question of responsibility - which in the one seems to be either lacking or sought to be restricted - but which in the other seems to acknowledge the potential of a greater richness in how we think, know, and decide, all the while leaving our individual responsibility in place.

I have a hard time with any kind of approach that would reduce morality to an "instinct"*. There is no trouble, however, for me to acknowledge that morality [or other kinds of thought and understanding] is influenced and/or enhanced by the physical and by our bodily experience.

One of my favorite quotes is from C.S. Lewis to the following effect [paraphrasing from memory here]:
So much of what passes for godliness is nothing more than a proper digestion and a good night's sleep.
It does not work the other way around, though, that what passes for a proper digestion and a good night's sleep is nothing more than godliness [or morality]. . . .

But perhaps this merely demonstrates my own bias in favor of the metaphysical, and my disenchantment with the Enlightenment Project, by which man seeks to elevate human reason and understanding to ultimate status.

*C.S. Lewis has another great thought regarding instinct, and the fact that relying upon it does not advance our understanding of the underlying matter: "to say that migratory birds find their way by instinct is only to say that we do not know how migratory birds find their way". . . .

C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (London: Fount Paperbacks, 1999 ed.)p. 21.

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