One’s moral duty, one’s responsibility is easy to understand on a micro level: do not do upon others. But our context has changed dramatically over the last 50 years. How can we factor in the right of future generations to be born, the safety of an entire planet, and hold ourselves accountable to a current ethical standard that also reasonably must include them?
Plato makes me think of the Problem of Knowledge and Karl Popper’s critique of Plato’s vision. Our struggle with the meaning of justice makes me think of Rawls’ reflective equilibrium. We should continually be aware of, reflect upon and be prepared to update our moral position.
It was a long time ago, and probably I understood too little, but the main thing I took away from all this is the difference between believing that one can find – and describe – absolutes in morality and philosophy and political thinking, versus the approach that time and context is a factor as well, and everything is by definition in a constant state of flux – also our thinking and our morals and ethics.
Immanuel Kant died before Charles Darwin was even born. Defining a Categorical Imperative without the context of On The Origin of Species?
The pure and existential question “what should we do” as an imperative, and we look to philosophy to provide us with a reasonable answer, or at least a frameset for thinking. I struggle too… but the seeker will not find solace, because there is no end point, not even a direction, there is only a journey with glimpses of the larger whole. What should we do? Do universal values exist? Is it possible to strictly separate factual observations from value judgements? Is mankind predictable or free? As long as we do not stall, atrophy, and become a pillar of salt.
Imagine Nicolaus Copernicus, staring out the window at the stars above, wondering whether to publish his manuscript with comments on the revolutions of heavenly spheres, or to just let it be. Everybody was going to make a fuss about it anyway.