During the second week of lecture, Professor Van Breugel lectured on Edward R. Harrison’s Masks of the Universe. Van Breugel breaks down the context and paraphrases Harrison’s perspective about mankind’s perception of the universe and how our upbringing will inevitably affect our assumptions and judgment. Our knowledge of the universe is limited and we are still far from discovering the ultimate answer which we may or may not be prepared for. However, mankind has prospered as a result from technological advancement due to the drive that people tend to have in finding out the unknown and unlocking the secrets of the natural world. We may ask ourselves, “What is the universe? How does it evolve? What is the purpose of life…?” or something similar of that sort. We will never know unless we continue to have faith in mankind’s ability to find an answer.
Van Breugel explains to us how human views of the universe and morals have drastically changed over time due to the occurrence of particular events and traditions being passed down from generation to generation. He quoted Albert Einstein:
“Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age 18.”
I agree with both Einstein’s and Van Breugel’s opinion upon this matter. In addition, this quote strongly ties into Harrison’s idea that one can never be unbiased for their perspective has already been affected by the people they know and their environment. For example, the morals and values that convention today view as just has been passed down from previous generations that have made and learned from their “actions”. I do not dare label what they did as “mistakes” because the conventional perspective of their time viewed it as the norm. Thus, the concept of human sacrifice for any religious ritual or practice is now viewed as murder.
Since the earliest record of history, humans have always wanted to valued, to be viewed as significant in this vast world, and to have a purpose for the things they do. They sought for answers through methods of magic which eventually changed to mythic and finally scientific. Although it is impossible to be unbiased, we can still do our best to minimize the affect our own values and perspectives have on our experiments and research by putting the scientific method into practice. By doing so, there is a more defined cut between what is and what we want it to be.
My question: How has convention affected your views of morals and ethics? What do you think caused convention to pass down some concepts as just and unjust?