The Moral Philosophy of Conservatives and Progressives

When I was in grade school, my maternal grandmother gave me a set of hard cover American Heritage books.  My favorite one was the historical treatment of the 1920’s.  In that book there were citations of  some jokes from the Harvard Lampoon of the 20’s (maybe the precursor to the National Lampoon?).  The joke follows:

A linebacker, who was having a hard time passing his philosophy class, made a deal with his professor that if he could answer only one question in class, he could receive a passing grade and play in the Championship game on the following Saturday.

The exchange went:

Professor:  “Name one German philospher.”

Linebacker: “Can’t sir.”

Professor: “Congratulations, Kowalski, you have passed.”

Emanuel Kant is our pictured guest above.  And, also a German Philospher.

Moral Philosophy was the precursor to the study of ethics.  Kant has very interested in deontological ethical frameworks.  Simply put, deontology posits that there is a morally correct resolution of all ethical problems and those should be sought, regardless of the outcome.  An example:  “People get hurt, so be it.  Executing God’s will is more important. “

Contrast the deontological framework with the Utilitarian perspective;  the major tenet of this latter approach was that the action that produces the greatest amount of good, for the greatest number of people, is the ethical solution that should be sought.

Guess which of the above approaches matches best with the two major U.S. political Parties. 

Most ethical codes try to resolve and use both of these approaches.  Sometimes including both can work and sometimes not.

The value of both approaches is what makes it important to me that the Republican party does not cease to exist.

Your thoughts?  I am taking a home study ethics course; so I apologize for this digression.

iggy donnelly



Filed under Elections, Ethics, Republicans, Secularism

17 responses to “The Moral Philosophy of Conservatives and Progressives

  1. lilacluvr

    Is it too much for me to expect our politicians to at least have the basic moral compass to not lie and not try to cover up when they get caught?

    I don’t care whether you’re Democrat or Republican, there should be a basic common decency in our conduct.

    As evidenced on the blogshallnotbenamed, we all know people there who are absolutely rabid about their viewpoints and they will go for the jugular vein on anyone that dares to even question their authority.

    In a country filled with differing opinions, we cannot continue on when one or both parties are so obsessed with their idealogy that nothing ever gets resolved.

    Compromising is what makes governing work.

    But remember when the Social Conservative Republicans took power in 1994 (Todd Tiahrt, Sam Brownback to name a few), the first thing they said was that ‘compromise’ was a four-letter word to them and they considered that surrendering.

    Is it any wonder the country is so divided?

  2. tosmarttobegop

    Lila perhaps the honesty factor is the most upsetting to me in politics. Hardly a day goes by that I do not hear someone say something that is an insult to the public’s intelligence. Often giving the impression that the Politician thinks we are just that stupid.

    Leo Strauss as a professor of Political philosophy at the University of Chicago taught his students such concepts as the “Noble lie”. A lie is not amoral if the intent is for the good of the masses. And a lie is the easiest way to accomplish your goals toward the good of the masses. FYI some of his students were Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Bill Kristol and the list goes on and they in turn taught the concept to others.

    • jammer5

      Justice Clarence Thomas; Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork; former Assistant Secretary of State Alan Keyes; former Secretary of Education William Bennett; Allan Bloom, author of The Closing of the American Mind; former New York Post editorials editor John Podhoretz; former National Endowment for the Humanities Deputy Chairman John T. Agresto: all followers of Strauss.

  3. lilacluvr

    The concept of Noble lie may sound good to some people but my question would be – who gets to determine if telling the lie is for the good of the masses?

    I’m sure all dictators follow this concept – don’t they?

    I am not naive to think that our government has never lied to us. But, then, perhaps that is why we’re having all these chickens coming home to roost?

  4. tosmarttobegop

    Both parties operate with these similar concepts, to flip a coin. Often taxing the rich is seen as a solution to funding projects. The hardship of a tax on certain segments is offset by the benefits seen by that tax.
    LOL I am a smoker and often think that the Government seeks to solve the national debt on my back!

    A democracy is based on the moral stance that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
    There is no objection unless you happen to be one of the few. But then there is also the philosophy that the individual has rights that supersedes the good of the many.

    Often there are incidence where both concepts go head to head. Those taking which side depend on the incident.

  5. tosmarttobegop

    That is the question, common good is often seen solely on the person’s concept of what is common good.
    The Neo-Conservatives operate on the primus of they are the only ones intelligent enough to see the big picture. So it is their duty to act upon the big picture that you and I are not capable of seeing.

    That is why we invaded Iraq, they saw a threat that the rest could not see. Of course there is the problem they are delusional so they see things that do not or is not in existence
    Paul Wolfowitz tried to convince President Ford to start a shooting war with the Soviet Union. Based on there was no evidence that the S.U. had developed a weapon that could track our sub without using harmonics.

    “Just because there is no evidence they are, does not mean they are not!”.
    The country suffered from one of her worst nightmares, a group of like minded mentally ill gain power.
    Acting in what their defective minds saw as the common good.

  6. jammer5

    Ethics in America is like religious tolerance in Iran: nonexistent. We’ve become a nation of the Simpson ethic: I didn’t do it; nobody saw me do it. Then when caught in flagrante delicto, the “I’m sorry” comes out, like it really means something.

    No, asshole, you’re not sorry, you made a decision, and it was a bad one and you got caught. Had you not got caught, the “I’m sorry” would have stayed in the closet, along with the ethics you so dearly love to flaunt.

    It’s not just ethics that is on trial, it’s the hypocrisy that permeates to whole political spectrum that makes the word, “ethics”, mean so little anymore. Maybe we should toss out the word ethics and substitute the word bullshit for it. At least it would be closer to the truth.

  7. lilacluvr

    This may not be the appropriate thread for what I am about to ask, but it does deal with idealogic politicians – so here goes.

    All this newfound information coming out about this C-Street Gang of the so-called religious organization has me somewhat worried.

    From all I’ve heard and read about this place, it is a very secretive group and they all believe they are the Chosen Ones by God to be in power. I also have to wonder about the finances of this organization and has any money passed through other-than-legal means to get certain bills passed through these so-called chosen Congressmen?

    And why are they all men – is that some throwback to the Biblical days when men were the rulers?
    (I’m not trying to pick a fight here with men on this blog – this is just an observation of mine).

    And exactly what part does a secretive religious organization filled with politicians with direct access to changing foreign and domestic policies have in a democracy?

    Is this a group similar to the Iran’s Taliban, of which each of these C-Street politicians will use as their reason for fighting terrorism, or is it just a group of men who like to have their secret meetings, smoke their cigars and then brag about their latest conquest?

  8. lilacluvr

    Oh – and as for ethics in this C-Street group – what part of coming up with a plan for Ensign’s parents to pay off his mistress, her husband her children is ethical? It’s been reported that Zach Wamp from TN was the one that came up with that brilliant plan.

    • jammer5

      Sub bullshit for ethics in your post, and you’ll have your answer.

      • lilacluvr

        I knew the answer when I asked the question, but you’re right – B.S. through and through.

        I am just waiting for more details about Tiarht’s and Brownback’s connection to this C-Street Church of the Chosen. It’s been reported both of them have spent time there and have some fond memories of their special times with the other chosen ones.

        Maybe this is why the Republicans always try to mock Obama as being the ‘Chosen One’. They don’t like some skinny black guy crashing their territory?

  9. lilacluvr

    Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) was the one that said health care reform was going to be Obama’s Waterloo and we (the GOP) can break him.

    I just did some research and Jim DeMint also belongs to this C-Street Gang.

    I know Rachel Maddow from MSNBC is doing some reporting on this C-Street bunch and I hope there is more to come.

    But when thinking about the list of infamous people who were taught by Leo Strauss about this Noble Lie concept – is that what we have in this C-Street bunch?

    Is it a bunch of tyrannical religious wackos that believe they really are the Chosen Ones and only they are the righteous ones that are to lead our country – for our own good?

    Of course, to them the good of masses is what is good for their own pockets!

    I never even heard of this C-Street Gang until Mark Sanford referred to them during his tearful confession about his affair, all the while calling his mistress his soul mate. And why is Sanford’s wife still even talking to him – he dissed her on national television!

    Has C-Street been common knowledge before these last few weeks and I just didn’t know about it?

  10. TSTBG,

    I was not able to find any source that said Dick Cheney studied under Strauss. Paul Wolfowitz did. Wolfie was an aid to Rumsfeld and Cheney.

    These sources make Strauss sound like a real nut-job: .

  11. tosmarttobegop

    It seems as if what Socrates said of perversion, “perversion is the one thing you will not do!”.
    Maybe has came true of morals and ethics, it does not depend on what other think of as moral and ethical it is what you yourself think it is. What you will or will not do depends on your own concept of the action.

  12. Iggy, I have a degree in philosophy, which certainly in no way insures any expertise on my part concerning the subject (lol), but if you need anything let me know and if I can help you in any way, I will do my best.

    Deontic ethics imply a certain duty to do what’s right, no matter the consequence. This is manifested in Kant’s Categorical Imperative, his meta-ethical syllogism (my term) for testing the rightness or wrongness of any action; a pretty cool and systematized way of legitimizing your mom’s old saying, “Well, what if everyone jumped off a bridge? Would you do it too?” One problem though, and it’s not necessarily an argument against this idea, is that it implies that we hdo or have much thought beforehand of what need to be done. Most times, we are knee deep in a situation before we have the time to sit and ponder how we should handle it.

    Utilitarianism implies too much knowledge, that you can actually see how the effects of your actions will ripple out though time and space and how it will actually affect people. Also implying a sort of enough time beforehand to measure our actions beforehand, which is mostly impractical. Again, not an argument against it necessarily, but something to think about concering it’s practicality.

    My personal belief is that morals are brute facts base dupon individual temperament and pragmatic intent. No situation ever fits an example from a textbook exactly; each situation is unique, hence ethics for the most part is taking the responsibility to be honest about that fact and not do violence to each unique situation by trying to force them into predetermined ethical molds, which can only serve a mere guideline anyway, at best. We have no grand far off sight into time and space or even into our own minds at the moment an ethical decision is required, we just do what we think the moment calls for. I’m not offering anything new, I’m simply suggesting this is in fact how we really act, not how we should act. Ethics is complicated, and it deserves much study, but I think in the end it’s a matter of simple pragmatism, based on studied observations what we each have gleaned from life and we in turn apply it based on unique moments in our lives.

    If any of that made any sense then I didn’t my job as a philosopher. LOL. I better get to bed.

  13. At least in the world of politics it seems they hold the level of ethics they are permitted to have. And when it’s discovered how low the level they embraced went, they tell us they’re sorry.

    When the apologies are frequent I never wonder if they are truly sorry, but usually I conclude they are sorry about being caught — again.