Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Morality so far as we understnad it might conceivably be thus based on divine commands, and therefore have, for us, a duty-based form; but if we reject this mythology abd see morality as a human product we cannot intelligibly take duties as its starting-point. (171)
I found this very interesting, especially his choice of the word "mythology". It seems to me that he is calling this divine thinking nonsense. My confusion lies in the end of the statement. Why does a human invented theory of moraliy not account for duties, or them as a starting point? Perhaps I have misunderstood so far, but one can have rights or duties as premises, and there are duties or rights that follow, respectively. Why does the creating matter in this case?

I also found the passage on the bottom of 174 and top of 175, when Mackie talks about individualism and the members of A and B. He claims that those who are more co-operative, less quarrelsome and more successfull will do better in the group. Why shouldn't they? He further explains that some inequalities are indeed justified. For some reason, this example reminded me of Social Darwinism....

Further on that page, Mackie's views align with Dworkin. The homosexuality example came to mind when he says: "People differ radically about the kinds of life they choose to pursue...based on such comparative evaluations." (175) He ties this into his larger arguement that people have a right to "progressively choose how they shall live". It is their fundamental freedom.

I will try to re-read this, because I am not understanding all of it.

1 comment:

  1. I think his argument for rights-based morality over duty-based morality is not hinged on the idea of whether or not there is a god or not. For Mackie the real issue is why would we have a duty-based morality in the first place. He argues that if morality is duty based then we must be saying that duties are something we value as a goal rather than as a means to achieving a goal, which for Mackie does not really make a lot of sense. This is where the divine comes into play; if there is a divine which issues duties or commandments to follow then these duties must be for some purpose or the divine is simply tyrannically controlling our lives with arbitrary whims(which is something most would not accept as being a propper understanding of the divine) and if we dont use the divine then most would say that morality is something that is not objectively true or true independent of us. If this last one is the case then we ought to have a foundation which is something we believe is a worthy end/goal this can not be filled by duty but can be filled with rights because many, if not most, value rights as an end/goal. this matters for moral theory when trying to establish a foundation to stand on while asserting that specific rights or duties ought to be respected. the only way I understand it is that if rights come first and spawn duties then you are stuck in a system where the only duties you have are those that are connected to rights.