One’s moral duty is easy to understand on a personal level: do not do upon others. 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 I held onto the difference between the belief that one can find and describe absolutes in morality, philosophy and political thinking, instead of the approach that time and context is a factor that creates a flux in our thinking, morals and ethics.
Immanuel Kant died before Charles Darwin was born. Defining a categorical imperative without the context of On The Origin of Species?
We treat the question “what should we do” as an imperative, and we look to philosophy to provide us with a reasonable answer, or at least a frame 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, become pillars of salt.
Imagine Nicolaus Copernicus, staring out the window at the stars, 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.