Replying in part to me Daniel writes
It seems to me that secular ethics distinguishes itself by recognizing the fundamental pluralism of society, and that while these community-level constructions of the world are useful for getting along in the world, in a community – they don’t quite reach a standard of justification they claim for themselves. So we need a broader, more pluralist ethics and Douthat is right – that often consists of dismissing the justificationist, foundationalist project itself. Why? Because an ethics that you can get by writing a poetic book and waiting a couple centuries for it to gain mystical significance does not seem like a very laudable ethical code. You’ll get some gems from that approach, of course. We humans learn how to get along with each other, and that is going to be distilled in these various books. But it’s not a very strong justification. What much of the world has converged on is that since within-community justifications don’t work outside of the community, we need to come up with an ethical orientation that allows the coexistence of multiple potentially contradictory communities, justification and foundation be damned.
I don’t mean the following in any dismissive way but simply to articulate my understanding. Daniel seems to be making three statements to me
- Secular Ethics is Pluralistic Cultural Politics
- Hurrah for Pluralistic Cultural Politics!
- I am not interested in playing ethics-game
I understand the pull of this approach. I find this unsatisfying because, like Daniel I assume, I see limits to coexistence. As a contemporary practical matter for example, are we willing to accept, acceptance of human trafficking as a within-community ethical standard that should be tolerated, without even protest or disapprobation?
And, if you do think that we should attempt to morally press a community which accepts human trafficking, not to do so, are you not at minimum initiating a neutron-bomb moral assault. Where in this case you hope to leave the actual human participants unharmed, but to obliterate the underlying ethical standard.
And, if you do then what calculus do you use to decide when such an assault is warranted? This, I think, leads us back to playing ethics-game.