Jeff H wrote: ↑
Thu Aug 16, 2018 3:52 pm
I didn't find the book (Beyond Religion
) vague at all. The first two thirds of the book essentially exposes the way ego and attachment distort what should be commonly discernible ethical guidelines, utterly without regard to any particular religion or lack of religion. Toward the end of the book he does start providing some clearly identifiable Buddhist practices, but most of the book is quite specific while taking religion out of the picture.
I think he provides a profound conversation.
Have not read it. But I have read other statements of his on human rights.
He's proposing a secular ethics based on what he says are universal values - compassion, love, kindness, etc.
That's well and good, I agree those are values to build on - I've argued this extensively over the last few weeks down here in the lounge - and receiving considerable push back to my surprise.
But, any secular system will need to pick an arbitrary starting point - a common denominator that everyone can agree on. This is what "human dignity" functions as in the human rights rubric. "Human dignity" is the basic value from which all the various civil and social rights derive. We can all agree on human dignity, right? That all human beings are intrinsically deserving of respect.
All well and good when we're talking about a bill of rights as a document that we can discuss and ratify. The problems come up when we start trying to apply this - that's when we have to actually start thinking about what "human dignity" actually means.
The same issue will arise when you pick any arbitrary value as a basis for a moral or ethical system. Sooner or later, you are going to come back to questions about what "compassion" actually means. Where does it come from? What are the psychological mechanisms that add up to compassion? What parts of the brain are activated? Is compassion really just a sort of self interest? Is it divinely inspired and therefore a pure, essential dharma that is beyond dissolution?
No, rather this new arbitrary value just becomes another line demarcating polite conversation.
I'm not saying this is bad. I'm saying, hey, that's better than what we have, but don't kid yourself that this is going to get us past all the problems that have plagued us in the past.