Why the Objective Nature of Morality Does NOT Imply One Universal Book of Moral Rules

"Let us assume the philosopher to have deformed himself by adopt­ing the belief that the truth of existence is a set of propositions con­cerning the right order of man in society and history, the proposi­tions to be demonstrably true and therefore acceptable to everybody.

"If, holding this belief, he enters the field of symbols, he will be dis­appointed and bewildered. In vain will he look for the one set of true propositions that he may well expect to have emerged from the labors of mankind over a period of five thousand years.

"The his­torical field will present itself rather as a selva oscura of such sets, differing from one another, each claiming to be the only true one, but none of them commanding the universal acceptance it de­mands in the name of truth.

"Far from discovering the permanent values of existence, he will find himself lost in the noisy struggle among the possessors of dogmatic truth–theological, or meta­physical, or ideological.

"If in this confrontation with the dog­matomachy of the field he does not lose his head and join the battle, but holds firmly to his belief that existential truth, if it can be found at all, must be an ultimate catalog of propositions, rules, or values, he will tend toward certain conclusions.

"Intellectually, he will perhaps suspect a search that has been going on for millen­nia without producing the desired result, of being a pursuit of the unknowable that had better be abandoned; if then he contemplates the unedifying spectacle of dogmatomachy–with its frustration, anxiety, alienation, ferocious vituperation, and violence–he will perhaps deem it also morally preferable not to engage further in the search.

"And we shall hardly blame him if in the end he decides that skepticism is the better part of wisdom and becomes an honest rel­ativist and historicist.

"The questionable phase in the philosopher's process of thought is not the skeptical conclusion but the initial belief by which he forces upon the field of symbols the appearance of a perpetual dog­matomachy." -- Eric Voegelin


  1. Anonymous11:47 PM

    With very few exceptions, what is shown to be universal today will reveal great disparity in a future time.

    Universality seems to be the great pursuit of all philosophical endeavors, yet it is predicated upon our own agreement amongst humans, which tells me that there can only be universality in this agreement and nothing else. It does not make it so.


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