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by Joel Rich

Looking for a list of serious Torah U’Madda (if you’ve been reading these posts for a while you probably have a good idea what I mean) communities in Aretz which include a retiree age demographic.
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Article is a bit dense but he’s trying to answer the question we’ve discussed – why should one feel bound to morality that is simply a byproduct of evolution. His answer isn’t really clear to me

How to Live a Lie by William Irwin

My cut and edited key points:

The philosopher Michael Ruse has argued that “morality is a collective illusion foisted upon us by our genes.” If that’s true, why have our genes played such a trick on us? One possible answer can be found in the work of another philosopher Richard Joyce, who has argued that this “illusion” — the belief in objective morality — evolved to provide a bulwark against weakness of the human will. So a claim like “stealing is morally wrong” is not true, because such beliefs have an evolutionary basis but no metaphysical basis. But let’s assume we want to avoid the consequences of weakness of will that would cause us to act imprudently. In that case, Joyce makes an ingenious proposal: moral fictionalism.

There is, though, a practical objection to moral fictionalism. Once we become aware that moral judgments have no objective basis in metaphysical reality, how can they function effectively? We are likely to recall that morality is a fiction whenever we are in a situation in which we would prefer not to follow what morality dictates. If I am a moral fictionalist who really wants to steal your pen, the only thing that will stop me is prudence, not a fictional moral belief.

It is not clear that this practical objection can be overcome, but even if it could, moral fictionalism would still be disingenuous, encouraging us to turn a blind eye to what we really believe. It may not be the most pernicious kind of self-deception, but it is self-deception nonetheless, a fact that will bother anyone who places value on truth. Fictionalism has the understandable goal of facilitating what one wants to do — acting as a kind of commitment strategy — but it would be preferable if one could do what one wanted to do without this maneuver.

Indeed, Joyce speculates that some people probably take a fictionalist approach to God; they accept the existence of God but they do not really believe God exists. They accept that God is love and that (the concept of) God has shaped human history and guides human lives, but when pinned down they admit that they do not really believe in the actual existence of such a God. Their considered judgment is that the existence of God is not literally true but is mythologically true. {Me-Social Ortodoxy}

Joyce advocates a similar voluntary fictionalism for morality. Fictionalism may not be voluntary for everyone, however. For example, it is possible that for some people religious fictionalism is involuntary. Whatever the reason, they cannot help but act as if there were a God, even though, when they stop to consider the matter, they do not really believe God exists. The same may be the case regarding morality for some people. We can call this phenomenon involuntary fictionalism.

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About Joel Rich

Joel Rich is a frequent local lecturer on various Torah topics in West Orange, NJ and supports his Torah listening habits by working as a consulting actuary.

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