Morality abandoned for progress, innovation

Four years ago, President Barack Obama ran on the platform of hope and change, a progressive mantra that defines his liberal ideology. As Paul Gigot wrote last week in the Wall Street Journal, “In his more candid moments, Mr. Obama has said he wants to be the progressive version of Reagan, that his goal is ‘fundamentally transforming’ America.”

Obama’s first four years have certainly delivered change, and, as Gigot notes, his next four are likely to “be about preserving the government gains … and using regulation to press government control wherever else he can.” His policy implementations have proven as much, but they further beg the question: Does Obama’s vision for progress offer true hope?

Although progress is inevitable due to the constant flow of knowledge and ideas, a certain amount of prudence is necessary to ensure that such progress does not undermine the pillars upon which our society stands. Progress at the expense of traditionally established virtue will not succeed in upholding the common good; rather, it diminishes the common good in the name of societal advancement and economic prosperity.

In short, progress must be conjoined with virtue in order to truly uphold the common good. Virtue, from the Greek “virtues,” literally translates to moral excellence. This classical ideal has maintained a cultural presence throughout the course of humanity, namely through ancient Greek philosophy and the Judeo-Christian attitudes. It should be noted that both these influences were instrumental during the foundation of the U.S.

As evidenced in the founding documents, the Founding Fathers maintained a deep respect for classical ideals and the Christian heritage, both of which they studied extensively. Patrick Henry wrote, “The great pillars of all government and of social life (are) virtue, morality and religion.”

History reminds us that when virtue and morality are divorced from culture, degeneration of the state is certain to follow. This degeneration is most explicitly visible when human beings become expendable for the sake of progress, or another popular buzzword, convenience. This disfigurement of the concept of humanity is a lie that must be abolished.

The battle can only be fought by individuals who recognize that culture cannot progress in good conscience if virtue and morality become subjective. Plato acknowledged the inherent danger in subjective morality. In countering the Sophists, a group of thinkers who taught self-interest as the highest ideal, Plato argued that this line of thought would lead to a moral uproar. If individuals could choose for themselves particular truths, then there would be no objective compass to direct humanity.

Yet, this is the current landscape of our culture today, one that is riddled with individualism under the guise of compassion. In reality, the popular social agendas of the modern age uproot truth and morality for the sake of progress. Virtue and justice in particular, are abandoned in the wake of this secular movement.

These changes we are witnessing in politics and culture today suggest the need for individuals who are willing to courageously defend the truth. For without the truth, there is no hope in modern progress.

 

Reach the columnist at mrrich2@asu.edu or follow him at @cshmneyrichard.