Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Joe Lieberman and the Basis of Morality

A lot has been written recently about Joe Lieberman and his primary opponent, Ned Lamont. Lieberman has been under fire for his support of the Iraq war and for being "Bush's favorite democrat." So he's facing a strong primary challenge and it's not clear that he will win the Democratic nomination for Senate.

Reading all this has reminded me of the 2000 election, when Lieberman was already beginning to annoy me. (Since then Gore's done a lot to redeem himself; Lieberman, not so much.)

In particular, what set me off was Lieberman's linkage of morality with religion. In August 2000, Lieberman quoted George Washington who, he said, warned us "never to indulge the supposition ‘that morality can be maintained without religion.’"

(You can see what Jacob Sullum and Bruce Gottlieb wrote at the time.)

That's poppycock on two levels. First, it's laughably false, since it ignores millennia of work in philosophical ethics. So I take exception to Lieberman pretending as if a non-religious basis for ethics is impossible.

Second, as Sullum pointed out, Lieberman was also distorting Washington's words:

Washington’s actual words were not quite that strong. "Let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion," he said in his 1796 Farewell Address. "Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."
Washington's point was that, with a "refined education" individuals could be both ethical and areligious, but that this was not realistic for an entire nation.

So, two strikes against Lieberman.

What annoyed me in 2000, and still does, is Lieberman's sanctimony. When you get right down to it, what he said was the same as what evangelical Christians say all the time. I can't support an evangelical Christian running for Senate, and for the same reasons I won't support Lieberman.


Blogger Fábio said...

Start this universe of thoughts citing a phrase: “TIMEO HOMINI UNIUS LIBRE” I have fear of man with one alone book, (unknown author). One confides the parentheses of the relations of the being it to be. My life always was dotted of gaps and ellipses, however, let us see that to each as this universe it is become enlarged in extraordinary way, in the mental direction, forces that we add in our estimulos and later we launch to the patrimony most efficient, called: Essence… Je thinks, donc je suis (I think, then I exist) Discarding. Of that it forms we can evaluate this phrase and configure it in our existence? Yes, each being develops its raciocinio with firmness and good sense in the dialectic.

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