Saturday, April 28, 2007

Saints and Morality

The post on St Gianna Molla illustrates a life of great heroic virtue.

Most lives of the saints also illustrate such heroic virtue, moral selflessness and unbounded altruism motivated by faith.

The Catholic view of saints has always been controversial: perhaps today more than ever.

But the need for saints is stronger than ever.

Their stories are moral parables illustrating that Man has a moral sensibility which sharply distinguishes him from mammals and other animals. The moral sense is one of the few remaining exclusively human characters which distinguishes us from the Animal Kingdom.

Nowadays there seems to be an attempt to equate what seems to be moral behaviour of animals and primates with that of human beings, and that what we regard as a moral sense is not the result of a rational choice but raw, unprocessed emotion making us more like our animal cousins than philosophers and psychologists have hitherto supposed.

This week`s Times Literary Supplement publishes a review entitled Are mammals moral? by Matthew Cobb

It is a review of three books:

Frans de Waal, Primates and Philosophers:How morality evolved; Richard Joyce, The Evolution of Morality; and Lee Alan Dugatkin, The Altruism Equation: Seven scientists search for the origins of goodness.

"De Waal’s aim is twofold. First, he wants to convince us that primates, and in particular the great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, orang-utans and ourselves), show behaviour that can be interpreted as a product of morality. Second, he seeks to use these data to undermine what he calls “veneer theory”. This is the idea, which he traces back to T. H. Huxley, that human morality is a thin “veneer” laid on top of a brutish and selfish core, a view that implies a fundamental discontinuity between humans and our closest animal relatives. In other words, this is not only a discussion of how we became moral, but also of what we really are. The key question addressed by de Waal is whether non-human animals “possess capacities for reciprocity and revenge, for the enforcement of social rules, for the settlement of disputes, and for sympathy and empathy”. "

If of course there is no distinction between Man and the animal kingdom, then why bother about the right to life (we kill animals, don`t we ?), chimera, the individual above and over the collective.............