Andy Canivet sikyal:

> >Eh? The most popular justification for moral principles is, and long has
> >been, appeal to an outside, absolute standard.  Standards are usually set
> >down by [gG]od(s?), but need not be--the Platonic Forms are non-personal,
> >as is the Tao, but both can be used as moral principles. It is only a
> >short leap to propose that aesthetic principles may be similarly derived.
> >
> >I am aggressively agnostic about the existence of such *aesthetic*
> >principles, though.
> >
> Stephen Bachelor says its good to be aggressively agnostic about everything,
> and I quite agree.

I don't agree, for the most part--I'm aggressively gnostic about a lot of
things.  What I meant in this case was mostly that I would argue equally
vigorously with someone who denied aesthetic absolutes and with someone
who insisted on them.

>  You're right, typically western philosophy has appealed to an objective
> standard for morality, but ultimately it fails because it is impossible
> to prove the existence of such a standard.

Impossible to prove from a materialistic standpoint, or from the idea that
such standards require proof. If we accept some moral standards as axioms
and not theorems, this problem disappears.

However, if we're elevating moral absolutes to the level of axioms, it
becomes more difficult to call them "objective," since you cannot argue
towards an axiom and someone is sure to disagree whatever you propose. The
church in the West pushed this problem away a level by appealing to
special revelation. Once the revelation was rejected, however, the West
was forced to try to justify a moral system that had lost its
epistemological basis, which basically led to all of the philosophical
mess of the last two hundred years (as your next paragraph refers to.)

>  This is what Nietzsche meant
> when he said that God was dead, and what the existentialists were all
> about - finding some subjective yet reliable and universal basis for
> moral action.

I have never understood existentialism that way, but then, I've never
really understood existentialism at all.  I've read _The Stranger_, of
course, and hated it. Perhaps someone can explain this to me.

>  Ultimately, the existentialists fail because they remain
> trapped in the Platonic-Cartesian framework that distinguishes between
> subject and object, even though they are trying to reject it.

This I don't understand. How does the subject-object distinction relate to
this discussion? Or maybe I lost the thread somewhere.

> Be careful you aren't applying Cartesian thinking to the Tao.  Granted,
> different sects of Taoism believe different things about it and about
> morality - but the philosophical concept of Tao (and Buddhist "emptiness")
> is not external to the existence of individual objects.  It is not a godhead
> or platonic realm that sits outside the world - it IS the world.

Oh, obviously.  I didn't mean to conflate the Tao with Plato's Forms,
merely to use them as examples of a non-personal organizer for a moral

I know that certain schools of Taoist thought extended this principle to
the point that all that happens must be in accordance to the Tao, simply
because it happens. This is not my interpretation, however--although the
Tao arises from the nature of things, things and especially people may
move against the Tao. The Tao is then simultaneously a description of how
the world *is* and how it *should be*.

> much as we can.  Of course, because it trancends subject-object distinction,
> morality can't be objectified into a standard for behavior - what is right
> is always situational, experiential, and subjective (and thus impossible to
> justify logically).

Interesting. How do we reconcile the differences in subjective experience,
then, when different people's expectations of morality may be wildly
different, and neither can act without affecting the other?

Jesse S. Bangs [log in to unmask]

"If you look at a thing nine hundred and ninety-nine times, you are
perfectly safe; if you look at it the thousandth time, you are in
frightful danger of seeing it for the first time."
--G.K. Chesterton