Letter from an alumnus about Missing The Real Question
Date Posted: 25 March, 2005
While the fascinating article by Katherine Hobson (feature, Jan. 26) offers various influences on our decision-making (instinct, cultural norms, independent reasoning, etc.), it entirely misses the real question concerning ethics — namely, what ultimate standard makes ethical norms intelligible? The influences mentioned are insufficient. After all, most would agree that an instinct for pedophilia or the cultural norms of Nazi Germany are not “right.” But why do we think so? Even evolution fails to show why killing another person’s baby is wrong (an act that would ensure a greater percentage of one’s own genes in the gene pool).
I find it interesting that former Princetonians recognized the need for an ultimate standard in the education of university students. Woodrow Wilson once declared, “If [education] give them no vision of the true God, it has given them no certain motive to practice the wise lessons they learned.” Perhaps the answer to ethics does not lie in our neurobiology so much as in the One who is the standard for all moral claims.
Carlton Wynne '02
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