Friday, 6 June 2008

A Failure of Ethics

Any culture that raises men and boys to kill unlucky girls, rather than comfort them, is a culture that has managed to retard the growth of love. Such societies of course, regularly fail to teach their inhabitants many other things - like how to read. Not learning how to read is not another style of literacy, and not learning to see others as ends in themselves is not another style of ethics. It is a failure of ethics.

How can we encourage other human beings to extend their moral sympathies beyond a narrow locus? How can we learn to be mere human beings, shorn of any compelling national, ethnic, or religious identity? We can be reasonable. It is in the very nature of reason to fuse cognitive and moral horizons. Reason is nothing less than the guardian of love.

The Golden Rule really does capture many of our intuitions here. We treat those we love more or less the way we would like to be treated oureselves. Honour killers do not seem to be in the habit of asking others to drench them in gasoline and immolate them in turn.

Sam Harris: The End of Faith