Slavery and Abolitionist
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22-12-2014, 09:23 AM
Slavery and Abolitionist
One argument that I often encounter, is that since slavery was advocated in some parts of the bible, and never really condemned in any other parts of scripture either, that the moral forces behind the abolitionist movement were secular.

In fact when one encounters discussions about the historical failings of religious based morality, you often finds praise for godless moral forces that saved us from this religious abyss of darkness and destruction.

If you do believe in the viability of this godless moral alternative, I'm curious.

Assuming you belong to a society where slavery was accepted, on what basis would you claim it was morally bad/evil/immoral?
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22-12-2014, 10:10 AM
RE: Slavery and Abolitionist
You cant simply dismiss it.

Even as atheists we have to acknowlege that it was a protestant movement that advocated abolition in the English speaking world.

And in the relaims of the Spanish empire it was franciscan monks and some parts of catholic clergy who advocated abolition.

But the end results arent as flowery as some people might want to see it.

In the eyes of most anglican abolitionists the black people were humans but not equals.

They were savages that had to be christianised and civilised to be part of empire.

So the christian abolitionist movement was not only racist itself but also an integral part of the notion of empire within British society.

Ask yourself, why are the famous black intellectual leaders of the British abolitionist movement all but forgotten?

Because they didnt fit into the narrative of the civilising christian forces of empire.

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22-12-2014, 10:51 AM (This post was last modified: 22-12-2014 11:05 AM by Tomasia.)
RE: Slavery and Abolitionist
(22-12-2014 10:10 AM)The Germans are coming Wrote:  Because they didnt fit into the narrative of the civilising christian forces of empire.

But what was their competing untold narrative?

The question I'm interested in, is what is the secular moral narrative. I can understand religious moral narratives, christian or otherwise, or even non-traditional christian narratives etc, but I have a hard time understanding the competing secular ones, in particular the underly directive basis for it, the underlying reason for why slavery is wrong from such a perspective, for that particular time period.
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22-12-2014, 11:10 AM
RE: Slavery and Abolitionist
(22-12-2014 10:51 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  ...
The question I'm interested in, is what is the secular moral narrative. I can understand religious moral narrative, christian or otherwise, or even non-traditional christian narratives etc, but I have a hard time understanding the competing secular ones, for which I am trying to understand what the underly directive basis for that is, the underlying reason for why slavery is wrong from such a perspective, for that particular time frame.

Two models for objective morality:

The god(s) model aka Divine Command Theory...
... hyped as 'objective' because it's outside of 'us' but in reality subjective because it comes from a personified entity.

The non-god(s) model aka secular morality...
... an attempt to discover an objective morality, i.e. common subjective factors, through dialectical collaboration.

From a nihilistic perspective, slavery is neither right or wrong because the universe doesn't give a fuck, but if our search for objective morality assumes that 'well-being' is a useful axiology then slavery is a no-no.

This nihilistic perspective refers to, as Dan Dennett would call it, the 'physical stance' whereas the well-being axiology relates to the 'intentional stance'.

The veil of ignorance argument might help you understand why slavery is wrong from this 'intentional' perspective.

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22-12-2014, 11:11 AM
RE: Slavery and Abolitionist
Do you care about other people?
If you care about other people, would you allow someone to be taken into slavery?

It is called empathy. Empathy is the underlying basis for why slavery is wrong.

You, presumably, would not want to be someone's slave and probably would do anything to avoid or escape it.
You empathize with anyone being taken into slavery and should also do anything to prevent it.

Empathy:
Quote:Empathy is the experience of understanding another person's condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling. Empathy is known to increase pro-social (helping) behaviors.
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22-12-2014, 12:16 PM (This post was last modified: 22-12-2014 12:29 PM by Tomasia.)
RE: Slavery and Abolitionist
(22-12-2014 11:11 AM)RogueWarrior Wrote:  Do you care about other people?
If you care about other people, would you allow someone to be taken into slavery?

It is called empathy. Empathy is the underlying basis for why slavery is wrong.

You, presumably, would not want to be someone's slave and probably would do anything to avoid or escape it.
You empathize with anyone being taken into slavery and should also do anything to prevent it.

Empathy:
Quote:Empathy is the experience of understanding another person's condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling. Empathy is known to increase pro-social (helping) behaviors.

Yes, empathy, even those appealing to well being, are in essence appealing to empathy. But there's another missing layer of the onion here. You're saying something about empathy, when you appeal to it in such a way, where it's not just a feeling, but a directive, that empathy is a call to act in such a way. That my feeling of empathy towards other human beings, is directive to treat them in such and such a way.

You're transforming empathy from a mere biological sensation, into a call to act. What you're not saying, but appears to be implied, is that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, and this call to action, this protest of inaction and contrary actions like slavery, are breaking of this human calling to love others as themselves.
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22-12-2014, 12:46 PM (This post was last modified: 22-12-2014 02:09 PM by Mr. Boston.)
RE: Slavery and Abolitionist
(22-12-2014 12:16 PM)Tomasia Wrote:  You're transforming empathy from a mere biological sensation, into a call to act. What you're not saying, but appears to be implied, is that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, and this call to action, this protest of inaction and contrary actions like slavery, are breaking of this human calling to love others as themselves.

Numerous "biological sensations" result in a call to act. The biological sensation of being afraid of a charging grizzly bear, calls us to run away if we see one. The biological sensation of hunger calls us to heat up a Hot Pocket. The process of sensation becoming action doesn't require the intervention of a prime mover.

Don't put words into others' mouths. There's a difference between empathy and "loving" your neighbor. One can have empathy for those who live in slavery, or "enemy combatants" who are water-boarded to obtain information without "loving" them. If you want to take "neighbor" in the literal sense, meaning the people who live around you - the fact that I would feel sorry for them if a tree fell on their houses, or they got hit by a car, doesn't mean I "love" them. I mean there are people in my neighborhood I downright loathe, that doesn't mean I want bad things to happen to them; I still hope for the best for them.
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22-12-2014, 01:04 PM
RE: Slavery and Abolitionist
(22-12-2014 10:51 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  
(22-12-2014 10:10 AM)The Germans are coming Wrote:  Because they didnt fit into the narrative of the civilising christian forces of empire.

But what was their competing untold narrative?

The question I'm interested in, is what is the secular moral narrative. I can understand religious moral narratives, christian or otherwise, or even non-traditional christian narratives etc, but I have a hard time understanding the competing secular ones, in particular the underly directive basis for it, the underlying reason for why slavery is wrong from such a perspective, for that particular time period.

I dont feel like posting a several sentences lon explaination, but I guess I cant avoid it.

You should know that after the abolishment of slavery, inequality was not abolished by the forces who had advocated the abolition, since they thought that blacks were savages.

Due to these inequalities there were several riots, slave revolts and native revolts in Haiti, Jamaica, New Zealand, Tasmania and other regions.

Out of those rebellions the notion developed that the blacks and other natives could not be civilised.

Believe it or not, back then in the early 19th century, the position taken on the issue by progressives was that "the savage" could not be civilised and slavery must be reinterduced.

The famous advocate of child protection, progressive thinker and novelist Charles Dickins actualy even wrote opinion articles in papers, arguing that slavery must be reeinterduced for the "protection of the savage".

I am sorry if I disrupt the way you might see the world and the notions you might have had on history.

But in all honesty, during the early 19th century the position taken on abolition by most progressives and the then existing secular thinkers, was that slavery should be reinterduced.

If you want I will post a link to a documentary about this.

The notion of human equality, liberty and justice born during the enlightenment age really only applied for white men.

The notion that the white woman, black man, black women and all other fellow humans were also equal, was really only born in the aftermaph of the second world war.

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22-12-2014, 02:24 PM
RE: Slavery and Abolitionist
(22-12-2014 12:46 PM)Mr. Boston Wrote:  Numerous "biological sensations" result in a call to act. The biological sensation of being afraid of a charging grizzly bear, calls us to run away if we see one. The biological sensation of hunger calls us to heat up a Hot Pocket. The process of sensation becoming action doesn't require the intervention of a prime mover.

And yes in the sense, slave owners, rapist, oppressors, denier of freedom and human dignity had biological sensations the resulted in them acting in such a way, sexual cravings, greed, selfishness etc... We can say they all are acting in accordance with a series of biological sensations.

But it's fairly obvious that when speaking of empathy, we mean more than it's biological parts, of even the chemical sensations it arouses. We tend to speak of it as guiding, as directive, revealing to us how we are to be, and live amongst each other. That empathy reveals our moral directive as human beings. In a religious narrative this makes sense, because in such a narrative man is called to love his neighbor, to do unto others as he would have them do unto himself. In this religious narrative life has a moral direction, a moral arc so to say, and the Good, what is right, what is just and moral, are revealed through compassion or "empathy" as you put it.

What seems to be the case from my experience, atheists proponents of morality, those keen on expressing moral disapproval and protest, appear to borrow from this same narrative, though it goes by unacknowledged. Their moral claims are anchored in the same unacknowledged grounding. This religious edifice is left in tact, and never really questioned, or recreated into a purely secular one.

This is observation is not my own of course, in fact it's been noted by some prominent atheists philosophers as well, such as Jurgen Habermas:

"Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of continual critical appropriation and reinterpretation. To this day, there is no alternative to it. And in light of the current challenges of a postnational constellation, we continue to draw on the substance of this heritage. Everything else is just idle postmodern talk." (J├╝rgen Habermas - "Time of Transitions", Polity Press, 2006, pp. 150-151,)

And I was curious to see how this assumption holds up, by examining the beliefs of actual unbelievers here, who feel strongly about their sense of morality.
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22-12-2014, 02:57 PM (This post was last modified: 22-12-2014 03:00 PM by Tomasia.)
RE: Slavery and Abolitionist
(22-12-2014 01:04 PM)The Germans are coming Wrote:  I dont feel like posting a several sentences lon explaination, but I guess I cant avoid it.
...
If you want I will post a link to a documentary about this.

While all this is interesting, and I would be curious to watch the documentary on it, it doesn't really have much to do with the question being raised. I don't mean to simplify the abolitionist movement of course, and my post wasn't so much about the history of the movement, but rather solely used as an example, to discuss the wires and gears that hold up secular moral frameworks, particularly when expressed as a moral protest on the conducts and behaviors of a society.

I'm interested in the underlying beliefs, and presuppositions of moral language, particularly when adopted by non-believers, about what in essence holds it up.

I frequently hear about the dressing, but hardly ever do we talk about the body. In this case the body being explored, is our idea of empathy, and whether our inherited beliefs about it, are merely a product of religious indoctrination so sublime we hardly even notice, so entrenched in the fabrics of our society, that even atheists can't escape it, or something far deeper than this.
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