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Spirituality, Ethics, and Postmodern Relativism

Christians believe that spirituality and ethics are extrinsic to a person and immutable, as they come from God. Is there truth beyond science? (n.d.) highlights this reliance on knowledge that cannot be confirmed by humans as a characteristic that it shares with science. This purported existence of a singular set of ethical laws means that there is always one, and only one, correct decision in any situation. Moreover, the Christian acknowledgment of spirituality leads to attempts by medical practitioners to satisfy the spiritual needs of their patients as part of holistic care.

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Postmodern relativism, on the other hand, asserts that ethics is a social construct that changes along with the people who created it. As Hughes (2012) claims, this approach rejects the existence of a universal right and wrong, such as those codified in Christian ethics, relegating the discipline to dealing with the subjective rather than objective. As such, in the context of medical care, it would see no reason to deal with spirituality in most cases. Relativism can also be used to justify behavior that would otherwise be seen as unethical, potentially even in extremes such as eugenics. Overall, postmodern relativism makes ethics in healthcare more convoluted and leaves them to the practitioner’s discretion.

Scientism and Arguments Against It

Scientism is the view that trustworthy knowledge can only be obtained through scientific inquiry and that all else should be dismissed. Its adherents tend to dismiss opinions and disciplines that are not based on observable reality, such as philosophy, metaphysics, or religion. With that said, the first significant failure of the view arises from this refusal to consider such matters, even if they may help expose some of its failings. As Hughes (2012) explains in great detail, prominent scientism advocates’ work is fraught with easily exposed fallacies when viewed from a philosophical stance. These faulty notions cannot be accepted as mainstream because of the potential dangers that they represent.

The second frequent criticism of scientism that will be reviewed in this paper is that of its issues when taken to the logical conclusion. Per Feser (2010), it has the problem of either denying itself or proving to be trivial and irrelevant. The first description arises when the underlying assumptions of scientism, which it takes as axioms and does not question, are considered. It cannot scientifically establish these ideas, as any attempt to do so would necessarily rely on them and thereby constitute circular reasoning. The second arises when it attempts to circumvent the problem by incorporating disciplines that aim to answer these underlying questions, such as philosophy. Such a process will have to continue indefinitely to address existing and new problems until scientism encompasses all inquiry and is, therefore, trivial.

Worldview Questions

My view of ultimate reality is a set of immutable principles that govern the universe (or multiverse) throughout all time. I think that humanity is massively distant from discovering what these laws are if it is at all possible for it to do so. Hence, the question of whether the laws are passive and inanimate or an active personal entity such as a God is irrelevant to me. Any answer one could currently give to this question would be mostly meaningless and only possibly have an effect on the person’s mental well-being in some cases. As such, I am willing to accept any explanation of ultimate reality that will measurably improve the lives of those around me.

My opinion on the nature of the universe is that it is ruled by a set of laws of physics that do not change with time. It is challenging for me to conceive of them being different, whether due to the influence of some external power or the existence of parallel universes where they are not the same. I have no answer to the question of the origins of our universe, as any response I may provide creates a chain of logic that leads to something appearing out of nothing.

A human being is defined by its genetics, with any individual that has a set of particular genetic characteristics such as (but not limited to) 46 chromosomes qualifying as human. Due to my lacking background in the discipline, I find myself unable to provide a more comprehensive list that will stand up to scrutiny. Through this definition, the status is provided to both conscious and unconscious people as well as fetuses and fertilized reproductive cells, among others, but possible sentient non humans are excluded. The ethical discussion regarding human rights using this definition is beyond the scope of this paper, but I am aware that it exists and is quite involved.

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Knowledge is information that any human is aware of and perceives as true. Objective truthfulness cannot be ascribed to any of it due to the limitations of the human mind. However, when conflicting knowledge collides, some variations of it may take precedence over others. I prefer knowledge that can be confirmed through the scientific method, but I am also aware of its limitations as well as mine. I cannot check the validity of every piece of information that I learn without relying on other people unquestioningly. However, when I see a reason to challenge particular knowledge, I will do so because I believe that humans can approach objective truth through discussion.

My personal ethics are based on the idea of liberty, as expressed by Western liberal philosophers. I believe that a person is free to do anything that does not harm other people, which includes self-destructive behavior in principle. I recognize that it can cause others concern and potential declines in mental health, but the same could potentially be said of non-destructive behavior, as well, such as competition. As such, I only consider direct harm, as otherwise, no decision would be considered ethical. In dilemmas where people will be harmed regardless of the choice that one makes and no option decisively minimizes harm, the person should pick the choice that maximizes their well-being.

There is no purpose to my existence, as I think that it came to be due to chance. As such, any goals that I would achieve would be incidental or the result of my designs. My current target is to achieve a comfortable existence that lets me take care of my needs comprehensively and without much effort. From that position, I can consider my next target, which will probably also involve maximizing my subjective happiness. I expect that I will also set and achieve other, smaller goals as I progress through life, experience new things, and change my outlook. I am also open to changing my primary target over time, based on how my life progresses in the future.

References

Hughes, A. L. (2012). The folly of scientism. The New Atlantis, 37, 32-50.

Is there truth beyond science? (n.d.). The Veritas Forum. Web.

Feser, E. (2010). Blinded by scientism. Public Discourse.

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