After my Dawkins/Bering post, and your reactions to it (thank you), it set me thinking about what Noam Chomsky says about morality - the philosopher of language & political activist (& atheist - but a very different one from Richard "God Delusion" Dawkins).


I consider Chomsky to be a major voice for humanity and sanity, and this is what he says :


1. "Why does everyone take for granted that we don't learn to grow arms ? 
Similarly, we should conclude that in the case of the development of moral systems, there's a biological endowment which in effect requires us to develop a system of moral judgement and a theory of justice, if you like, that in fact has detailed applicability over an enormous range.


(Source : Flyleaf of Marc Hauser's "Moral Minds)

2 “We are after all biological organisms not angels . . . If humans are part of the natural world, not supernatural beings, then human intelligence has its scope and limits, determined by initial design. 
We can thus anticipate certain questions will not fall within [our] cognitive reach, just as rats are unable to run mazes with numerical properties, lacking the appropriate concepts. 
Such questions, we might call ‘mysteries-for-humans’ just as some questions pose ‘mysteries-for-rats.’ 
Among these mysteries may be questions we raise, and others we do not know how to formulate properly or at all...
We will discover what we can about the nature of the world, and, among the truths about it, I believe we will find that part of our genetic capacity, which evolved over millennia, is that CERTAIN MORAL PRINCIPLES ARE ASCRIBED IN IT; probably genetically determined.
To try to discover them is, of course, a big task"

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By the way, here is a short comment by Chomsky on religion & atheism :


On his views of religion, Chomsky said in a Common Sense interview in 2002

"...if you ask me whether or not I'm an atheist, I wouldn't even answer. I would first want an explanation of what it is that I'm supposed not to believe in, and I've never seen an explanation."

Hi Jean Marie


I'm back, but might have to 'disappear' again - a few problems requiring full attention.


No, this is NOT the point I am trying to make (ie there is no biological root for morality, therefore we all need a dog (sorry, a god) to have morals.


The point I am trying to make is that, whether aware of it or not, we all have a Moral Instinct, which is both IMMANENT within us (ie biologically-rooted/subjective/natural/physical reality) and TRANSCENDENT of us (ie non-biologically rooted/objective/non-natural/metaphysical reality).


This Moral Instinct is made up of 7 Values etc etc. The nearest alternative words for this Moral Instinct could be, say, Conscience ? Soul ?


The idea of God can be incorporated into this Mega Theory - eg a Christian Philosophy  - but it doesn't have to be. In other words, you don't need God to have morals.


Does that make sense to you Jean Marie ? I could go on, but I'll spare you that !


Remember, this is only a Theory (or Hypothesis) - not a dogma - not caste in stone. I need you, and others, to kick it around, pull it apart, criticise it etc. Most importantly, I want it to be understood quickly & easily - but of course don't expect agreement with it here...especially the transcendent bit.

That's probably one of the main reasons why I submitted the idea here in the 'lion's den' - you all would be the most severest critics ! That is hugely valuable to me, and very much appreciate your time & effort in reading & responding to it.



Thanks Adriana - interesting - could you give me your 'Atheist Morality' thread ?

That's probably one of the main reasons why I submitted the idea here in the 'lion's den' - you all would be the most severest critics ! That is hugely valuable to me, and very much appreciate your time &
effort in reading & responding to it.


I was under the impression these were just quotes from Chomsky, not YOUR ideas on morality. As much as I love Chomsky, like the next semantic relation to a sentence, it seems you are just quote mining and then asking us to critique his idea, but playing it off as your idea. As these quotes don't explicitly state any theory of morality, his comments are that we will eventually find better (more complete) systems/theories of ethics once we develop 'cognitive' abilities that comprehend them more. Which I agree. Similar to how we develop knowledge in math and science, eventually someone has to think of better methods, or better explanations to the given data, or provide more data.

My mistake Adriana - already owned up to it - but how about responding to that blogger's comment - even though it's not Hauser's ?

Jake, I am NOT playing off Chomsky's ideas as my ideas - if I was, he himself would 'hang me up by my balls' (figuratively speaking) - and rightly so.


I was trying to illustrate (but failing) that Chomsky  - one of the 'greats' - has some penetrating views about moral systems, but he is firmly in the 'biologically-determined camp'.


I was trying to contrast Chomsky's view with my own  - which is that our moral instinct is not only biologically-determined (immanent), but also non-biologically determined (transcendent).


Yes, I use Chomsky's ideas (& Others) to develop my own - 'standing on the shoulders of giants' and all that...nothing wrong with that, is there ?



My apologies, you make it sound like we are doing you a favor by analyzing the quotes for you, as if this needs to be turned in for a graded assignment (Being a student I attempted to pull this once or twice), so again my apologies.


I am also misunderstanding the purpose or need to coalesce these two ideas of whether morality was/is driven by biology and non-biology. As you stated earlier in a response, you are referring to the "non-biological" as something that developed, along with, the "biological" source of origin for ethics. My only misunderstanding is what realm (of existence) we are attributing to the non-biological and what specifically are we talking about when we say "Non-biological". My impression is that morality may also be conceptual/abstract, which is an action done because of a biological/neurological process, and in which case we can just attribute that to biology. I hope I am not mistaken in my interpretation.

Re : Non-Biological Origins of Ethics


Thanks Jake.


"Non-Biological" I take to mean...well, choose the term which 'rings true' for you the most :


Non-Natural, Super-Natural, Metaphysical, Religious, Objective, Different Order of Reality, Transcendent, Soul, Spirit, Spiritual etc...


Religious people (eg Christians) are likely to use words like "spiritual" instead of "non-biological".


Plato, in his 3 Parts of the Soul/Recollection Theory, describes this 'other reality' in a different way :


For example, a student marches to Westminster to protest at tuition fees; THAT is in the 'here & now' physical reality.

If the student is then asked a (moral) question "What's wrong with raising tuition fees?", they go to 'another order of reality' to answer the question.


We all do it : I am watching TV (physical reality). Does TV rot the moral mind? (non-physical reality) - we 'alternate' between two orders of reality (my body is here in this room & my thoughts are 'somewhere else')

Interesting Adriana; but speculative - you haven't an ounce of proof to what is essentially an opinion.


For example : what is "the mind" - that's as mysterious & unprovable as dreams, the unconscious...and a moral instinct.

Is Mind the 'ghost in the machine of the brain (ie body)


Descartes dreamt up the idea of Mind & Body (dualism), but left us with a philosophical puzzle of how the two related. He came up with the idea of the pineal gland, which is just as difficult to swallow as seeing ourselves as Mind, Body & Spirit.


I see a beautiful rainbow and stand in awe : "My heart leaps when I behold a rainbow in the sky..." (Wordsworth).


Presumably, an evolutionary biologists can only say "My mind leaps...", because there is no room for the idea of a "heart" - except the biological one. 


"There are more things in heaven and earthHoratio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy" - Shakespeare (Hamlet) 

What you are saying is that we transcend reality into the spiritual world to answer the questions regarding morality. My main objection is that you are still using "spiritual" as a way to fill in the gap with another gap. So what does it mean to come to ethical conclusions based on 'spirituality'? I am not sure why you have asserted a metaphysical presence, when none is needed to answer the question of morality. Otherwise, we would need sufficient reason/evidence to imply a non-biological presence.

No Jake, what I am saying is that to answer the critically-urgent "questions regarding morality", we can - must - 'tap into' both the IMMANENT order of reality (eg our biology/physical world) AND the TRANSCENDENT order of reality (eg spiritual/metaphysical world).


In Humanity's endless quest to solve our moral problems, you (& 'The Dawkins Secular Atheist Sect) seem to deny/reject the existence of "a metaphysical presence", and rely ONLY on "a biological presence".


That rejection - and the rejection of religious believers (& their ideas) - creates an imbalance which - IMHO - is a threat to the survival of Humanity.


In other words, the 'immanent-transcendent' idea corresponds more with the reality of our human condition, than the immanent/biological one.  

Jake, Richard is continuing a discussion on his hypothesis about transcendent morality which started here:


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