Just started reading this wonderful book by Michael Shermer. It seems to be one of the most important works of moral philosophy I’ve ever read.
The main claims made by the book are that
- We live in the most moral period of human existence.
- The moral progress that began with the Renaissance and has culminated in the present state of morality derives from our advancement in scientific reasoning, as applied to social and moral issues.
If this book makes its case convincingly enough, I may have to give up my position of moral relativism in favor of a more objective view of right and wrong.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the sobering, yet inspirational words of Carl Sagan about the simultaneous significance and insignificance of the pale blue dot we call home. I was somewhat surprised to see this excerpt from Pascal’s Pensées, in which he seems to be echoing a similar emotion from centuries ago.
Let man contemplate Nature in its entirety, high and majestic; let him expand his gaze from the lowly objects which surround him. Let him look on this blazing light, placed like an eternal lamp in order to light up the universe; let him see that this earth is but a point compared to the vast circle which this star describes and let him marvel at the fact that this vast orbit itself is merely a tiny point compared to the stars which roll through the firmament.
But if our gaze stops there, let the imagination pass beyond this point; it will grow tired of conceiving of things before nature tires of producing them. The entire visible world is only an imperceptible speck in the ample bosom of nature. No idea can come close to imagining it. We might inflate our concepts to the most unimaginable expanses: we only produce atoms in relation to the reality of things. Nature is an infinite sphere in which the center is everywhere, the circumference is nowhere. Finally, it is the greatest sensible mark of God’s omnipotence, that our imagination loses itself in that thought.
Continue reading Unknown, Unknowable and the All-knowing