“What is morality?” might be the biggest unanswered question facing humanity, other than what caused the Big Bang to form the universe. You might think the answer is simple: what is right versus what is wrong. But morality is more than that. It varies significantly across generations, societies, cultures, and individuals. Could a moral or immoral act be considered both objective and subjective?
Tonight, our guest on the Perpetual Notion Machine, Russ Shafer-Landau, doesn’t think so, but he views morality from a philosophical point of view. He is a professor of philosophy at UW-Madison who studies metaethics, which focuses on questions about the status, rather than the content, of morality, or the meaning of moral judgment. In a conversation with PNM’s Dennis Shaffer, he also disagrees that a person’s emotions or feelings are part of moral behavior. But he does agree that there is such a thing as moral truth, something that has unwavering certainty. One example is genocide, where all societies, cultures, and individuals agree is abhorrent. Deciding what is morally true can be a challenge. But Russ believes in a possible universal, all-encompassing, morality, where everybody benefits and the common good prevails.
In early April, Russ appeared in a talk about this very subject on the Crossroads of Ideas lecture series presented by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). Here’s a link to Crossroads of Ideas: What is Morality, where you can view a video of the talk.
Providing more information on such a complicated topic like morality has been difficult, but here is one from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Image courtesy: Aprilia Muktirina via Wikiversity
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