Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Grand Theories and Everyday BeliefsScience, Philosophy, and their Histories$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Wallace Matson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199812691

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199812691.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 28 September 2021

Ethics Without Edification

Ethics Without Edification

(p.177) Chapter 23 Ethics Without Edification
Grand Theories and Everyday Beliefs

Wallace Matson

Oxford University Press

Gregarious animals are biased to within-group choices favoring recognition of hierarchy, limitation of intragroup violence and rivalry, nurturing of the young, cooperation in obtaining and distributing food: low morality. But high beliefs result in propitiatory sacrifices indifferent or contrary to low morality: high morality. In the ancient world each community's morality had the same low component. The question of ‘Why be (low) moral?’ arose only among the Jews, who conceptualized their one God as creating and decreeing everything. Low morality was obligatory only because He had commanded it. All immorality was disobedience. Taken up into Christianity, this command theory of morals became universal in the Western world. Utilitarian and Kantian efforts to rebuild morality on secular foundations fail because both still conceive of morality as a system of imperatives, which are unintelligible without commanders. The rise of science affords a worldview dispensing with high beliefs, hence with religion. The question of whether morality must go down with it thus becomes pressing.

Keywords:   hierarchy, high/low morality, sacrifice, Jew, command, OCL (Omnipotent Creator-Legislator), disobedience, Utilitarian, Kantian, Christianity

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .