The Sushi Bar (Far East Plaza) and the Non-objectivity of Moral Theory

Dinner at The Sushi Bar (facebook. #04-28, Far East Plaza) was, in the end, a happy affair. L grumbled at first about how the prices compared with Sakuraya Fish Market, but was later won over by the quality of the sashimi – fresh and sweet.

The Sushi Bar, Far East Plaza, SingaporeIt was not without a tinge of sadness though that it became obvious that we had little in the way of common topics of conversation now, despite being roaring good friends a decade ago. I should have found a way to talk about my current intellectual obsessions – but they probably aren’t L’s cup of tea anyway…

Was chatting with NC tonight about my frustration at how discussions about moral theory fall into the same problems as that regarding the existence of God. And while it is easy to state the negative – what moral theory must not be based on (usually, Organised Religion), it has been more difficult for philosophers to state positively what common objective morals are (Dworkin’s morons?) and how they can be derived. All efforts trip themselves up with a priori presumptions.

NC claimed that one can speak of moral theory without referring to ultimate values, and sent me over to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s entry on justice in public reason. The objections in paragraph 7 articulated much of my own views on the theories. NC also recommended John Rawls’ early Outline of a Decision Procedure for Ethics.

The Sushi Bar, Far East Plaza, Singapore Sadly, none of this was satisfactory. The strategy of a procedure for ethics is questionable: after all is this “reasonableness” that the “competent” judge is to have? What is  the “rule of common sense” that he is to apply?

It comes back to the fact that there is a inviolable three-way nexus between ontology, epistemology, and ethics (of which, I assume, moral theory is part). Any heuristic device needs to address all three of these guardians. There is no point trying to trying to prohibit the use of divine revelation if one runs into problems of a similar kind using human reason. The Sushi Bar, Far East Plaza, SingaporeDoes this mean that most discussions must inevitably be apologetic and evangelistic?

“Look, mate. It’s not that I want to bring religion into the public square, but how can we even begin to talk when you think you have complete autonomy to construct your own idea of right and wrong, and I insist that only God determines what is right and wrong? Therefore, we need to talk first about who’s mad and who isn’t.”

Selfish Gene Cafe (40 Craig Road, Duxton) and Ronald Dworkin’s “Justice for Hedgehogs”

We were working at Selfish Gene Cafe the other day.

Selfish Gene Cafe, 40 Craig Road, Duxton, Singapore
Selfish Gene Cafe, 40 Craig Road, Duxton, SingaporeX joined us at lunchtime – she wanted to know more about Jesus so we looked at John 20:20-31, and John 1. Like the other Gospel writers, John had written his Gospel for the specific purpose that his readers would know who Jesus is/was – his claims, and the evidence that backed up his claims, and in so knowing, believe and have life in him.

No pressure of course, but it is important that everyone considers Jesus’ claims seriously since they aren’t frivolous – he claims to have created the entire universe, to be God, to give life to all, to give enlightenment (or light) to mankind. And since he’s the only one who has ever seen God, he alone knows the truth and speaks the truth. Very very bold and seemingly-arrogant claims!

In the coming weeks, we will see if the rest of John’s Gospel is able to demonstrate evidence that these claims are true.

Selfish Gene Cafe, 40 Craig Road, Duxton, Singapore
Selfish Gene Cafe, 40 Craig Road, Duxton, Singapore Selfish Gene Cafe, 40 Craig Road, Duxton, Singapore

This being a renovated shophouse, the high ceiling and hard cement walls meant lots of echoing and harsh sounds, so it was sometimes a struggle to hear each other over the lunch crowd. X was remarkably patient about that!

The coffee beans were from Highlander Coffee. My flat white (S$4 after 3p.m. for now) was well-executed.

Selfish Gene Cafe, 40 Craig Road, Duxton, Singapore
Selfish Gene Cafe, 40 Craig Road, Duxton, SingaporeThe pasta (spaghetti with sous vide egg, extra virgin olive oil, parmesan, smoked bacon bits, garlic & parsley) was tasty enough, just probably not quite value-for-money (S$13). But I did choose to order it, so no complaints there! S struggled a bit with her delicious-looking beef sandwich (low temperature roast angus beef, arugula, onion jam, dijion mustard, mayo in a sundried tomato bread) saying that her teeth was no match for it.

Spent the next happy few hours being amused by the development of Ronald Dworkin’s thought in Justice for Hedgehogs, which has the distinction of having the cutest cover animal in the history of legal theory and political philosophy.

I’m glad some big guy has articulated, not-so-succinctly, the need for coherence in political and ethical (and philosophical) thinking. Most philosophical discussions annoy me because their blinkered-ness results in much needless tail-chasing. But I fear that Mr. Dworkin himself has made far too many unwarranted assumptions. To be discussed another time.

banana cake, Selfish Gene Cafe, 40 Craig Road, Duxton, Singapore