Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Moral Order

The Cato Unbound discussion of spontaneous order is continuing, with Bruce Caldwell finally chiming in, pointing out that Hayek on ethics was in fact a postmodernist. And, as an antifoundationalist, he most certainly was. He argued that spontaneous orders were separate from our instincts -- something I have argued against at the FSSO conference. I think Hayek was right to a great degree, but I think he went to far in separating one kind of evolutionary system (mind and biology) from another (ethics, economics, etc.). Caldwell's observation that Hayek wasn't so much a bad moral philosopher as a postmodern one caused Hasnas to retract his argument that Hayek was in fact a bad moral philosopher, which I argued against below. Of course, I also argued that Hayek's ideas don't have to remain antifoundational to have a certain validity, that his explanation of morals can easily be mapped onto a naturalistic explanation of morals as moral instincts. More, I still think that moral reasoning, which Hasnas and Sandefur seem to think is foundational, in fact is emergent from the evolutionary logic of the moral spontaneous order.

Thus, the map should be understood as such:

moral instincts --> moral spontaneous order --> moral reasoning

Of course, once moral reasoning emerges, it in turn informs the moral spontaneous order. The moral instincts remain as a tether, keeping the spontaneous order within bounds. It may not be impossible that after a while a moral spontaneous order would affect the moral instincts, as those whose moral instincts allow them to fit well into the order in question might have a selective advantage (and those who do not would of course have a selective disadvantage). In fact, we would expect a changing environment to have a biological, evolutionary effect on those living in and making up the environment. But that's on a longer time scale, of course, meaning slower, and acting as a foundation in relation to the faster-evolving spontaneous order.
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