WHAT WOULD YOU SAY: Are We Morally Advanced Compared To Previous Generations?

Work on Capitol Hill and sooner or later (most likely sooner) you will be confronted with a response to the effect that your views are obsolete or “out of date” or even “reactionary.”

In fact, that response is derived in great part from 18th and 19th century thinkers who believed the Renaissance and the Enlightenment that preceded them represented the onset of a steady progress toward the good society.

But, as Shane Morris of the Colson Center explains in the following “What Would You Say” series video, there are at least three good reasons such thinking is disconnected from reality, particularly on this side of the bloody 20th century!


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4 thoughts on “WHAT WOULD YOU SAY: Are We Morally Advanced Compared To Previous Generations?”

  1. i think some ways we are, in that we’ve become more tolerant than recent generations. but then again i think back to ancient civilizations where homosexuality was a normal occurrence and orgies were part of everyday life, and i wonder whether that’s really true..

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  2. I expect that someday abortion will be looked on with horror and revulsion the way we look on slavery. Or, even more aptly, child sacrifice. Those people will certainly not think we were morally superior to anyone.

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  3. If I were to express to someone that ‘they were on the wrong side of history’ and they responded with those three points, I would look at them like they were an idiot. Not that those points are wrong, but that they had nothing at all to do with what I was talking about.

    We generally believe that our society has become more just over time. The video even acknowledges that (many historical injustices have been corrected.) Behaviors that were once allowed, protected and thought of as morally correct are now considered beyond the pale. If, when you wear shorts on an airplane, I inform you that you are on the wrong side of history I am making a prediction that like racism is now, in the future wearing shorts on an airplane will be considered something that is completely socially unacceptable. I could of course be correct or incorrect in that prediction, but it doesn’t have anything to do with most of the points in the video. In particular it has nothing to do with an assumption that individual shorts wearers will be more intrinsically moral in the future, but rather that social pressures will cause a different behavior.

    Obviously this isn’t really a good argument for whether or not X behavior is moral or not. One is it a blatant appeal to authority, with the authority being predicted future generations. Secondly it is based on a prediction that seldom has any strong evidence since social norms can evolve unpredictably and seldom move in a straight line. Lastly, even if it is true and even if we do believe that we generally are creating a more just society over time, obviously this is uneven and while we might generally be becoming more just some particular societal choices might go contrary to that.

    Despite this, there is some power in the argument. Most of us would prefer that our children and grandchildren would regard us as moral people and similarly may look at particular beliefs our progenitors held and find them cringe worthy. If we knew for certain that our grandchildren would find a particular belief we hold appalling and immoral I do think that most of us would at least carefully examine that belief.

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    1. Interesting analysis and thank you for posting it, Dave. But I don’t see the connection between wearing shorts on an airplane and slaughtering six million Jews because they are Jews.

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