Castles in the air, yet real castles all the same — morality, music, money

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According to Joshua May

At one point, De Waal firmly objects to those who argue, for example, that human empathy is “some sort of afterthought of evolution or something contrived” or that “we are never truly empathic and kind” (p. 74). According to De Waal, the apparently moral behavior and emotions of primates provide key “building blocks” or “prerequisites” for human morality. Haidt, also in a more positive vein, is quite attune to the fact that one can deny strong forms of moral realism while still holding that there are important facts of the matter, though they may be in some sense relative to something or other: “[W]ith morality, we build a castle in the air and then we live in it, but it is a real castle. It has no objective foundation, a foundation outside of our fantasy–but that’s true about money, that’s true about music, that’s true about most of the things that we care about” (p. 161). But even here Haidt seems to put an unnecessarily gloomy spin on this picture. Does morality have “no objective foundation” whatsoever even if it’s grounded in human nature, for example, in the empathic responses we have to the needs of others? Likewise, though we play a large role in the creation of money and its significance, is its existence really just a “fantasy”?

See also “Money is just information, not real wealth“.

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