Natalie Vania, Ph.D.
A Gathic Moral Vision
Meta-ethics and Morality
Normative and Moral...
A Life of Learning
Address to the Human...
Open Matters in...
A Reading List
A Gathic Moral Vision
Understanding substantial positions in moral
philosophy and ways in which the Gathas resonate on these positions can deepen
discussion of morality and the Gathas.[i]
Opportunity exists to connect, or deepen, people's understanding of morality
amenably with their acceptance of the Gathas as a source of moral vision.
If Zoroastrian Youths
happen to study a course in moral philosophy or ethics as taught in North
American universities, this discussion helps them consider the Gathas in
relation to contemporary understanding. Our discussion explains itself on the
subject of Contemporary Moral Philosophy, so any interested party, reading from
a Gathic orientation, can develop lines of thought on its puzzles. Thereby, a
thinker who would like to reflect more upon the Gathas can be guided by useful
points of departure for reflection.
In this overview, we
sketch an outline of Contemporary Moral Philosophy as a useful tool for
approaching moral philosophy and we place Contemporary Moral Philosophy into
position for more sustained learning: Contemporary Moral Philosophy is vast and
this sketch provides a simple framework of its rich resources.
|What is Contemporary
Philosophy is both a field of study and an understanding offered by such study.
As a formal field of study, it is commonly available in many places of the
world. One can readily find an undergraduate university course for which it, or
some part of it, is the subject matter. Departments of Philosophy will generally
offer courses in Moral Philosophy. It assists us to take some departures on the
matter of what Philosophy itself is.
Philosophy again is both a field of study and such understanding
as offered by the study, or understanding that is "philosophical". Its
most basic definitions explain it as "the love of Wisdom, Knowledge;
Truth". "Philosophy" itself is a word tracing back to Ancient
Greece, whereby "philos" is Love and "sophia", Wisdom. In
its widest sense, it is the capacity to reflect and think abstractly, generally,
with depth, and profoundly on all aspects of the human condition and the World.
|Zarathushtra as with many
prophets, serves philosophically, as original and profound thinkers are
exemplars of Wisdom and sources of learning. Zarathushtra is especially
a Philosopher in that A) he advocates that life be directed towards the
very Wisdom encouraged by Philosophy and B) is the most vociferous
advocate for Truth.[ii]
Subject matter in the formal
study of Philosophy is often divided into such categories as,
Metaphysics and ontology
(the study of what there is and its nature, the nature of existence, God,
Epistemology (the study
of what knowledge is and how it is acquired),
Philosophy of language,
Philosophy of history,
(inquiry dealing with values and the topics of art, morality, law, politics,
Innovation occurs inside the
Academy and one also finds formalized studies in areas such as Women Studies and
Cultural Studies inside Philosophy Departments.
distinctive metaphysical and epistemological positions. Its professed
“worldview” conceives the universe as an interplay of grand cosmic
vectors of light and dark, with the human task to uphold and develop
Rightness, or the force of Light and Truth or Asha.[iii]
A benevolent God is revered for granting humans the capacity for free
and informed choice of Rightness and for a relative security that Right
action contributes towards the path of Light and Truth, producing
discipline of Philosophy touches many other disciplines in the Academy. One can
find philosophical issues and Contemporary Moral Philosophy treated in divergent
domains. For example, one might find a medical ethics course taught by a School
of Medicine. Law schools will offer political philosophy and legal ethics.
Computer departments may offer units dealing with issues in the Philosophy of
Mind. Indeed, Philosophy was once regarded as the "Queen of the
Sciences" and thus is prevalent in all areas of study. Doctorates commonly
reflect this outlook by their formal stipulation being Doctor in Philosophy of
such and such specialized field.
As Philosophy is a
most general and abstract field pertaining to the human condition, it has a very
long history. Methods and styles of thought pertinently considered philosophical
have varied over millenniums as Philosophy has spanned historical developments,
most notably, the invention of writing, books, and printing.
like the Homeric odes and ancient Chinese thought, were conveyed orally
for generations. These chants offer an impressively tight poetic
structure useful for consistent oral transmission. When the Gathas were
first set into written form, they were not recorded on paper and books
as we know them today. Rather, the innovations of cuneiform script, clay
tablets, and papyrus scrolls came prior to treatment as standardized
text. Linguistic science of 18-19th century Europe provided
revealing and fresh understanding of our texts. With the challenges of
both close translation and expansive interpretation, no single text of
the Gathas prevails right now. We are usefully served by several better
translations that provided insight into Zarathusthra’s vision.
of our scripture and text not being conveyed in several forms is a
problem faced by many cultures drawing upon Antiquity. Problems often
present opportunities, and we have a pleasing challenge as inquirers of
our scared texts. We can use all the resources of study and learning and
our lived, collected Wisdom as Zarathushtis to respect and extend
understanding of the textual heritage. Understanding the difficulty of
translation widens our perspective, making us aware of crucial human
issues in the use of language: We can be better for our epistemic
challenges, rather than eroded by them.
is due respect. Humans evidence great variety in their styles of
mentality, in thought. In medieval times, European monks would commit to
memory texts of hundreds of pages of length. And, their powers of memory
were exercised to the extent that access and recitation of text
word-by-word backwards and upon referenced line number was attained. In
order to accomplish such feats of memory, long text was analogized to
great castles whereby Chapter One may be this room with its furniture
and Chapter Two that room: In imagining the castle, the monk could
access the memorized text analogized to the castle's structures.[iv]
One can appreciate the human effort, ingenuity and striving so invested
and the efforts of our priests in their commitment to memory.
pertains to the time after which Europe began to emerge from its Dark Ages and
Medieval times. Modern Philosophy emerges with other dynamic forces which
present social change from medieval feudalism, such as the growth of science,
commerce, and new political systems. Philosophers of the modern era, such as
Descartes, were both "men of science", "Natural
Philosophers", as well as major figures in Philosophy. Descartes pursued
science, extending Calculus and inventing Cartesian method in mathematics and
geometry, and he pursued philosophy, developing arguments for the existence of
God and elucidating the nature of perception and knowledge.
The last hundred or so
years begin the time of Contemporary Philosophy and it may be considered part of
both Modern Philosophy and even later developments, such as Post-Modernism.
Contemporary Philosophy being an outgrowth of Modern Philosophy, certain styles
of thought and certain methods are at the forefront of what it offers. The
Analytic style of Philosophy, especially predominant throughout the 20th century
in Western Philosophy, is especially valued. It asserts the preeminence of
clarity of thought, achieved by precise argument, careful language, and
conceptual analysis. Positions are best supported and debated by offering
deductively valid arguments (i.e., those for which the conclusions must follow,
if asserted premises are true, on pain otherwise of logical inconsistency).
Standards of critical reasoning emulate the virtues of deductive argument.
Explicit, open, and clear argumentation is pursued. Less rigorous and more
diffuse rhetorical styles, offered by Continental Philosophy (of the continent,
Europe) are partially available in North America.
recommends to us clear thought. While Zarathushtra especially advocates
clarity about morale choice, the epistemic force of his recommendation cannot
be overlooked. Choice is dependent upon inner mental, mindful, states of the
agent. She is to choose with a clear and informed mind. Learning which readies
the mind for such clarity of purpose is then welcomed. Analytical sharpness,
used to facilitate right choice and in cohesion with right choice is of a par
with it. The epistemic challenge to develop knowledge is evident,
“…Wise One, may
[the beneficent person’s] knowledge grow throughout the days of his long
life of joy …” (8.2, Jafarey).
expects the Wise One himself to attend to careful, skilled use of language,
“ … instruct me
…through the eloquence befitting Thy spirit …” (Y28.11, Insler).
Zarathushtra is a model
inquirer of the causes and reasons of everything and the most basic of things,
as shown throughout Yasna 44.3-9,
“ … Who made the
sun and the stars in their paths?
Who makes the moon wax
I am, Wise One, eager
to know all this and more. … …
Who creates the waters
and who the plants?
Who lends the wind and
clouds speed? … …
Which artist planned
sleep and awakening? … …
Who made the child
lovingly attentive to the parent?” (9.3-7, Jafarey).
paradigmatic Philosopher position, provides an answer with a simplifying
Ockham’s Razor quality,
“ … You [the Wise
One] as the Creator of all by Your progressive mind.” (9.7, Jafarey).
and ceremonial life pattern and enrich our activities and are a vital part of
creating communal depth as a people or as worshippers. Achieving excellence in
analytic thought should not deter other human capacity, but mutually assist
an agent exercises choice, he is as Zarathushti, responsible for the choice.
He is especially responsible, for he is responsible at the moment of choice
and throughout time. Unlike J-Christian tradition, no alternative agent such
as Christ exists to take upon himself the agent’s unwelcome responsibility.
While our God is benevolent, the abiding grace of full forgiveness is not
ours. Therefore, choice need be careful choice. Sharpness of mind, or
discernment in the confusing array of issues and perplexities, is a capacity
to be sought.
When Contemporary Philosophy
draws upon insights from other times, it often isolates and presents those
insights in the style of analytic argumentation.
|Contemporary Moral Philosophy
Contemporary Moral Philosophy
spans three general areas, Meta-ethics, Moral Theory, and Applied Ethics.
Meta-ethics and Morality
Morality itself at its most abstract level offers puzzles. These puzzles may
also involve differing metaphysical and epistemological orientations.
Meta-ethics lies between metaphysical and epistemological concerns, and
substantive alternatives on what constitutes right action.
The Gathic Vision
provides a host of meta-ethical indications.
Questions at the metaethical
is the paradigm of normative concern in the Gathas. The agent at all times and
for all situations is obliged towards right choice between good and evil. This
charge is joined with the normative injunctions to pursue Justice (a social
and political objective). Moral injunction prevails in political endeavor, and
thus the normative domain of morality extends over the normative domain of
normative force of Morality is strong in the Gathas. While the songs, the
chants, are expressive, they are action-guiding as well.
Morality’s force comes
to Zarathushtra prophetically through inspiration, veneration of the Divine
and by choice,
… Zarathushtra describes how he came to select Ahura-Maza as Lord of Wisdom
and light. He makes it very clear that this was a selection he made; it was
not made for him …”[vi]
is convicted enough in his praise of Morality that it rests not on ground of
his particular benefit or the benefit of humanity alone: It is a larger
matter, carrying the force of its justification itself.
“ … … the clarity
of Truth requires no additional mechanism to generate its acceptance …”[vii]
The normative force is
presented as strongly as it might be and is not constrained. Indeed the very
metaphysics conveys Asha and Truth as a normative vector, that which moves the
World in the direction it “ought” to tend towards: Truth is constructive
of a life-giving, growth-oriented telos,
“And may we be those
who make this life Fresh!” (3.9, Jafarey)
“And may we be those
that renew this existence!” (Y30.9, Duchesne-Guillemin)
“Thus may we be those
who make existence brilliant …” (Y30.9, Humbach and Ichaporia)
“… Let the Giver of
Existence promote through good thought the making real of what is most
brilliant in value.” (Y50.11, Humbach and Ichaporia)
find these in opposition. Rather his own self-worth and self-regard hinge on
“ … For as long as
I can and am able I shall look out in (my) search for truth.” (Y28.4,
Humbach and Ichaporia)
failing is due to incorrect choice fostered by ignorance, a confused mind or
to cases of moral incontinence. As moral excellence has an epistemic component
in Zarathushtrianism, moral failing leans in part toward default of the
episteme necessary for correct choice. The responsibility for choice is a
finality for the agent and she does not have the recourse of Grace wiping
clean the slate of responsibility for one’s acts.
harshness of the agent’s responsibility is balanced. Unlike some J-Christian
tradition, moral failing is not wedded with a notion of the entrenched
sinfulness of the human condition. While the imperfection of human choice
manifests itself in an original sinful nature for many Christians, in the
Zarathushtrian tradition, moral imperfection is not a necessary and entrenched
aspect of our natures as human, nor do we inherit the condition of shame due
sinfulness. In the case of moral failing, the pertinent, first and best
recourse to that failing is not to repeat the mistake. The genuine nature of
one’s corrected awareness and remorse for incorrect choice is manifest in
improved future conduct.
Zarathushtrian moral agent has capacity and responsibility for free choice as
an individual. The Mind develops and nurtures this capacity.
“Hear ye … my best
teachings, ponder over them with bright intellect, for each one for himself
… “(Y30.2, Kanga)
the Zarathushtrian, skepticism is entailed in choosing wrong when one has
awareness of right choice. In such case, one’s choice is a perversion of
one’s agency and of the grander role the human has in the Zarathushtrian
cosmic scheme. Since Good triumphs over Evil in Zarathushtrian metaphysics,
the willfully immoral agent is bucking a trend, achieving futility and
self-destruction through amoral endeavor.
“From Evil Mind do
all his acts proceed,
His evil deeds darken
and cloud his Soul.” (Y47.5, Taraporewala)
“ … a deceitful
person will miss the reality of the straight (path) … … for he has strayed
from the path of truth by his own actions and those of his tongue.” (Y51.13,
Humbach and Ichporia)
Moral agency requires
steadfast character. Gathic Moral Vision helps in the skeptical challenge to
maintain steadfastness to moral law and not waiver at the point between
thought and action,
“Thus may we be those
who make existence brilliant … … with truth, while (our) thoughts are
concentrated on the place where insight waivers.” (Y30.9, Humbach and
One’s standing as a
moral agent, one’s repute, comprises one’s personhood and identity.
“The living, the
departed, and the yet-to-be born … ….
The souls of the
righteous shall eternally be strong.” (10.7, Jafarey)
of human nature are more and less kind to the human. If we adhere to a most
lovely view of human nature, that it is good and offers unlimited potential
for good, then such a view supports the understanding of moral failure that we
have offered. Moral failing is far from irremediable and we can act in hope of
its self-sustaining justificatory force, and its eminent command upon humanity
in the Gathas is strong in extra consideration of its theology. Rather than
Morality serving as an imposition upon Zarathushtra in the Gathas, it is
rather the gift which makes him whole. His songs are praises and venerate the
kind provider of our light filled material World, God. The theology arises in
an intimate context of a tripartite between the Divinity, Morality and the
agent with integrity,
If indeed, You are so,
and good mind, then grant me guidance through all the goals of this life,
So that I happily
return to You
with veneration and
praise.” (7.6, Jafarey)
a gift through which one has integrity, offering self-sustaining appeal,
enjoins the agent despite the assertoric standing of the Divinity. Theology
then serves the spirit as best and chosen hope in the striving on account of
Gathic vision relies upon clear mentality, thereby suggesting that Moral
demand is intelligible to the agent. The J-Christian scenario of God testing
Abraham’s faith beyond reason, runs contrary to such intelligibility. The
Zarathushtrian God does not demand action as a matter of sheer obedience to
his moral decree nor to God’s force/eminence as a powerful authority. Our
God is kind and entrusts to each of us willful choice.
theory an unending attempt to uncover and understand moral demand is an
employment of intellect consistent with our epistemic obligation towards Asha.
Moral knowledge is not
unlike other knowledge. Cognitive demand is emphasized as a component of moral
Rightness is the best
good for the Zoroastrian. Right action honors and is steadfast to Morality and
allows for the integrity of the agent.
central virtue and tool of action is Truth. Zarathushtrianism places firm
preeminence on this virtue and metaphysical vector. The singularity of the
vision and it optimistic teleological thrust towards a World of brilliant
renewal suggest that encountered dilemmas are not the final or utmost
expression of reality.
Zarathushtrian outlook is optimistic. A progression towards Freshokareti (the
living World made fresh and new) is aided by human effort. This happy
perspective leans in the direction of luck – our efforts should be
fortuitous in the path of Asha.[ix]
Normative and Moral Theory
Normative concerns are
about how things should or ought to be. Normative assessments pertain to what
evaluations are justified and legitimate. Many areas, not only morality, have a
normative aspect. In logic, the normative concern is over whether an argument is
valid (conclusion follows if premises are true). Epistemically, our normative
concern centers on how certain we are of some item of knowledge. Artistically,
our normative concern may center on how skillful an artist has been, whether an
item is beautiful, or even is art. In law, normative concerns raise matters of
the application of correct and fair procedure in the course of securing Justice.
In etiquette, the normative concern centers on whether standards of politeness
predominate for morality. Indeed, Morality is the paradigm, the best example, of
normative assessment. Morality's normative concerns pertain to at least action,
intent, character, and people. When is an act right? When is our state of mind
good? What character is best cultivated? Who is a good person?
And, these questions
have their corresponding negative appraisals. When is an act wrong? When is
one's intent bad? What character traits are immoral? Who is a bad person? Why?
Moral Theory addresses
morality's normative aspect with the aim to offer, support, and advocate
positive substantial views. In Contemporary Moral Philosophy, three leading
contenders for moral theories are utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue theory.
Utilitarianism is the
view that the right action maximizes the expected utility of a future outcome.
Let me use a simple example. Suppose you are deciding what to do for a Friday
evening after a long week of studies. Your options may include reading two
chapters of your biology text, listening to CDs, going with a group of friends
for pizza and a movie. If these choices exhaust the possibilities for action,
then as a utilitarian, one assesses each act, asking about its likely
consequences. One ranks those possible outcomes according to which produces the
most utility. For the utilitarian, the utility in question is the overall
utility produced for everyone. It is neither the utility produced for oneself,
nor for a group (you and your friends), but for all. It is commonly understood
by John Stuart Mill's phrase, "as the greatest happiness for the greatest
number", or the most good. Once you have assessed possible outcomes with
respect to utility, the utilitarian standard mandates that you choose the act
that leads to the best outcome, that with the highest utility.
The Gathic Vision offers a utilitarian perspective
in its stress on the welfare of communities and people, beneficence,[x]
attending to the consequences of chosen action, and impartiality.
“ … [Wise God]
You have ordained that actions and words should have consequences: bad for the
bad and good for the good.” (8.5, Jafarey)
We've elaborated the
most direct utilitarian position. Even in this small example, one notes many
aspects indicating that many positions may be taken in further elucidating a
utilitarian orientation. Should one be assessing single acts or assessing
behaviors or policies for collections of acts? How good is the tie between act
and consequence? Since the connection between act and consequence will not be
perfect (we can only anticipate expected consequences), is the right act
the one expected to produce best consequences or the act which actually produces
best consequences? Is the universe of possible acts broadly enough enumerated or
does one have reason to assess every possible course of action for the evening?
If one performs the right act as utilitarianism indicates, does poor intent or
poor character enter into assessing the agent? If one fails the utilitarian
guideline, are "backwards-looking" considerations or regret in order?
theories ground the notion of right action in obligation, duties, rights, or
rules rather than the production of utility. Obligation and duty place the focus
of moral appraisal on motivation and intention. Considering intent goes more
quickly to an agent's inner state of mind than to action's utility. Consider
again our simple example of deciding what to do on a Friday evening. A
deontologist would likely assess her obligations and have them direct her
activity. Had she obliged herself with a promise to meet a friend for the
evening? What other obligations exist? Could a person have duties towards
family, say to share time together? For the strict deontologist, acting from a
motive of duty, to fulfill a duty, and acting only from such motive, is the
right thing to do.
intrinsic to Gathas; A) Rightness is the obligatory objective of action and B)
makes for goodness. C) Rightness originates in Good Thought. D) Love of Moral
choice is action from a motive of duty, or obligation towards Morality, rather
than choice coincidentally in accord with duty. E) Rightness insures integrity
and wholeness. F) Distributive justice is evident in all persons, rich or
poor, being morally enjoined and having moral capacity.
A-B “ … … good deeds lead only through
righteousness to happiness … “(7.13, Jafarey)
B “ … radiant happiness is for him who
upholds righteousness.” (16.8, Jafarey)
C. “Tell me about the better (part) which you
have assigned me through truth, that I may discern it and that I may learn
through good thought … … and note in my mind which things will not be, and
which will be … “(Y31.5, Humbach and Ichaporia)
C. “Bright things are … who already
possesses them in his thought. [And then through Vohu Manu, Good
Mind]/(Through good power he holds truth) in word and action.” (Y31.22,
Humbach and Ichaporia)
D “The Path , O Ahura, of Vohu Man’ …
That good deeds done for their own sake lead far: This teaching leads mankind
to [True] Wisdom … “ (Y34.13, Taraporewala)
E “ … [The Wise God] grants wholeness
…” (10.10, Jafarey)
E “ … do enlighten my inner-self …”
F “ … A person of very small means can be
kind to a righteous person … “(12.4, Jafarey)
As with the
utilitarian view, deontology admits of many aspects through which a variety of
deontological moral orientations exist. What are the duties and obligations to
which one must adhere? How are they determined? Can they conflict with one
another? If so, which have priority over remaining duties? How many duties do
people have? Does this differ for different people and why? What do we make of
inner motivation that seems not to match external act? What kinds of inner
motivation do deontologists not include as morally worthy?
Virtue theories center
upon character traits exhibiting moral excellence in some aspect or another and
appraise the agent based upon good character. If the character of our agent in
the Friday evening example is best, we grant admiration, even praise, to the
agent. If during the course of Friday evening activity, the agent displayed
virtues such as kindness, courage, truthfulness, and bravery we would think of
the person as someone to emulate.
The first virtue
recommended by the Gathic Moral Vision is Truth. Other virtues and
applications of ethical striving are further emendations of this prevailing
ethic of Truth. For example, the
Amesha Spentas fill out a picture supplementing the fulfillment of Truth. Its
virtues, Creative Spiritedness (Spenta Mainyu), Comprehension (Vohu Manah),
Wisdom (Ahura), Regulating Order (Asha Vahishta), Strength (Khashtra Vairya),
Devotion (Spenta Armaiti), Completeness (Haurvatat), and Unendingness (Ameretat)
provide a host of excellences consistent with the exercise of Truth.[xi]
Moral theories provide
substantive positions on morality. As might be discerned from the example of
what action to undertake for a casual Friday evening, different moral theories
do not easily converge upon the same answer. Different theories construe right
action in different ways. This has proved most vexing and led to questions about
the use of theoretical approaches to morality. Some virtue theorists have gone
as far as to renounce the use of moral theories and to recommend approaches to
learning of virtue and virtues more discursively. For example, one might read
literature elucidating virtues. We find stories in Aesop’s fables and the Shah
Nameh in which virtuous conduct is displayed.
emphasis on good thoughts, words, and deeds suggests an order of priority
between moral standards that are more geared towards assessment of inner
intent, and those more set for assessment of externally observable act, with
intent leading to action. Thus, the deontic aspect of Zarathushtrianism is not
overcome in dilemmas of contingent circumstance or utilitarian claims. The
largely fortuitous cosmos suggests that existence is not ultimately tragic and
that unpleasant circumstances of conflict in moral obligation do not reflect
ultimate reality. The ultimate reality, things as they ought be, in the
condition of Freshokareti, serves as a regulative ideal of action.
In applied ethics, we
find contemporary practical issues treated with the tools of philosophical
analysis, casuistry (the special and detailed study of some ethical quandary),
special fields of ethical inquiry (such as legal and medical ethics),
professional ethics, and codified ethics.
Moral theories may be
more fully applied and developed in the context of a contemporary issue. For
example, animal rights proponents offer utilitarian arguments in support of
better treatment of animals. Rights-based, deontological arguments, are also put
forward by animal rights advocates. The intriguing problem of moral theories
providing differing, even conflicting grounds, for moral claims arises in
discussion of contemporary issues to which moral theories apply. Proponents for
humane treatment of animals have differing foundations and corresponding
differing implications in their fine-grained implications for the treatment of
While this is a
problem, it is useful to develop moral views and theories in conjunction with
their application to real-life contemporary issues. Theory can be informed by
practical experience. As well, transition from the generality of theory to the
particularity of applied issues enriches moral understanding. The challenge of
developing a consistent moral position across diverse applied issues (as the
Catholic Church attempts in its unified opposition to the death penalty and
reproductive rights) also presents the theoretical challenge of coherence and
The Gathic Moral
Vision offers points of departure for the development of applied ethics,
substantial place exists for Professional Ethics with so many of our people
serving at high levels in the professions. Many of us are noted for
distinctive ethical concern in professional life. Isolating this strength
and undertaking a coordinated appraisal across different professional roles
would produce fruitful material.
mentioned, we can extract moral insight from our literature, as in the case
of reflecting on the virtues conveyed through the stories in the Shah Nameh.
Such extraction can extend the Gathic Vision.
can use the straightforward understanding of our Gathic Vision to re-examine
and appraise items which we have understood on other terms. For example, the
gem of a novel, The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis, is very useful
in conveying the Kantian insistence that action be done from duty rather
than in accord with duty.[xii]
When Gathic imports are added to the interpretation, the obligations to
acquire and act upon knowledge are also conveyed. One sees a sublime example
of Truth obliging action. The agent’s righteousness outstrips his own
unfortunate contingent situation and his right choice secures unending good
applied ethic of Gathic Moral Vision should be useful in more readily
enabling us to distinguish Zarathushti outlooks from engrained
non-Zoroastrian cultural presumptions. Without distinction, these
presumptions, on their own terms benign, can be corrosive to an alternative
offered by the Study of Contemporary Moral Philosophy
The advantages offered by the
study of Contemporary Moral Philosophy are many.
Moral Philosophy is especially able to provide clarity for two reasons. First,
in seeing matters of moral concern treated, one is given more information.
Greater information increases understanding. For example, we may wish to provide
instructions for end of life treatment in the case of our incapacity. A moralist
who can guide one through a discussion of euthanasia gives a person
contemplating signing a Do Not Resuscitate Order a full range of
information about the subject of euthanasia. Thereby, one's understanding of the
moral concerns at issue is enhanced. One has a deeper view, and a view which is
more insightful in how much it can foresee.
second reason why Contemporary Moral Philosophy provides special clarity is due
its reliance on sharp, clear philosophical analysis. Analytical strength is
gained by the study of Contemporary Moral Philosophy. One acquires the capacity
to think in a sustained, rigorous, publicly accessible, rhetorically simple,
non-manipulative, and deductively strong manner. One acquires a capacity to
analytically support one's points of view. Such capacity is vital to any person
who wishes to provide reasons and considered judgment for their views and to be
able to persuade others of their views. The strength of the analytic approach is
that another person accepting the premises of one's valid argument is
epistemically obliged to accept the conclusion entailed by the premises. One
acquires the capacities of responsible judgment, i.e. the weighing of various
considerations and development of a balanced position among diverse factors.
one does not accept an argument's conclusion, one is a fair step along in
diagnosing why and can offer counterargument, another result of clarity of
thought. Through argument and counterargument, understanding can be mutually
enriched in fruitful discussion.
analytic process of reaching consensus through clear argument may be directly
suggested by Zarathushtra,“…Let each of you try to win the other with
Truth, for This shall be of good gain for each of you.” (Y53.3-5, Insler).
one has studied a subject, one’s depth for that subject grows. This means that
an agent can foresee more cases, more sorts of cases, associations and analogies
between varieties of cases, and more fully into a case. Implications of the
features surrounding a case are clarified and the agent is more readied and more
attuned to discern factors affecting a situation. One’s positions become honed
by real-world complexity and less shrill or dogmatic. One achieves a resonance
and has judicious and temperate outlook.
depth, the discourse of our community is hurt. Scholarship in a less knowing
community results in its use as a tool of status and the real force of
thoughtful ideas becomes obscured.
third need for the depth achieved in the study of Contemporary Moral Philosophy
is its aid in achieving cultural currency. The concerns of moral philosophers
arise in many cultural venues. One’s sophistication in grappling with the
culture is aided in knowing the substance of Contemporary Moral Philosophy.
A Life of Learning
advantage of Contemporary Moral Philosophy is that its study entrenches one in a
life of learning, a life of the mind. We are often rushing to acquire
credentials for professions and managing the practicalities of our immediate
livelihood. In this, we require the sustaining methods of contemplative learning
and study as a counterpart to practical living. The tools of scholarship through
which one's mind is nurtured as an inquirer provide forceful input when used in
ordinary and professional life. Contemporary Moral Philosophy itself provides a
basis for study in other disciplines such as law, anthropology, psychology,
religious study, public policy, history and more. Through an active and
sustained approach to learning, one attains a connection with thinkers who are
not of our era but by whom one becomes excited and rues the temporal distance
placing them beyond ready engagement with us. One becomes a student of Moral
Philosophy for life, for one can never exhaust the wealth of what fine authors
offer in understanding the moral life. Thereby, the student of Contemporary
Moral Philosophy welcomes learning throughout life, joining an eon-spanning
human community of respect for learning.
Moral Philosophy fascinates an inquirer. Moral concerns can be troubling,
persistent, draining, and raise anxiety. But they are also astounding in the
perplexity, significance, implication, depth, intrigue, connection and
enlightenment which they provide. Just as the artist is consumed by Art, the
moralist too is struck by Morality. As the paradigm for normative inquiry,
Morality offers this special feature of itself to us. Since its normativity
always belongs to Morality, the inquirer can be assured that Morality's capacity
to fascinate always persists.
the history of humankind, people have wondered and been concerned with the
perennial issues of their condition. The cave dweller, the forager, the hunter,
the king, the worker, the bureaucrat, the slave, the tormentor, the healer, all
face the challenges of their human existence. For each, questions common to all
of us as human beings arise. Humans cannot resist asking whys and wherefores of
their situation. For those whose questioning and wonderment is constrained, we
fear some great damage to their personhood, whether by self or society.
Contemporary Moral Philosophy is a good way in which one today can enter into
the great and unending process of wonderment and engagement with the
perplexities of humanity.
Today, in Brazil, small
children perish unloved, in Africa a corrupt warlord amputates the limbs of
civilians, in America an innocent person awaits execution on death row, in
Russia a ruthless criminal force takes the assets due the populace, in China,
the Youth are denied information of disease transmission, in Afghanistan,
tubercular women’s dress does not allow their bodies sunlight to make vitamin
D, the South Asian foes devote resources to the weapons of mass destruction, the
list is endless and it is so for the entire length of recorded
history. And in the same moment, we live in the best era of startling promise
and opportunity unlike any the world has seen or might see ... Contemporary
Moral Philosophy provides a capacity to embrace the human condition in its
fullness and to make one's way in our singular time amidst hope and despair. The
Zoroastrian proceeds with unflinching awareness of promise and waste.[xiii]
does not have an easy time in the Academy or in society at large. In a formal
sense, even the American Philosophical Association, long adverse to any
professionalization of something so fine in vision as "the love of
Wisdom" is confronting the limited understanding North Americans have of it
with an initiative. It will engage Philosophers with the larger public, offering
it the rare wealth of its best proponents.
is prudent in a time when even the position and role of the Academy itself is in
flux. The institutions of higher education, developed throughout North America,
as an acme of world research and achievement, tremble in a fierce climate of
market demand for the resources of, and the resources to make, the best
moved his audience to stunned ovation in reinforcing the role of the
professoriate in society: The sacred role is as is said, "to profess",
to critically assess and stand in professing to the larger society. This social
role is endangered and the Academy itself wrestles with its positioning for
Moral Philosophy has been an outgrowth of Modern Philosophy and that has been so
much the Philosophy of the West, of Europe, Britain, and the US. Surely it
offers much in the global era, just as it is itself enriched with the
understanding from cultures once far-off.
Globalization itself, of what measure does it leave for Philosophy and erudite
concerns such as represented by Contemporary Moral Philosophy? Won't the methods
and styles for human accord go beyond skilled argument and be dominated by the
play of markets? It may be maintained that in the development of markets,
critical thought and judgment, Reason, must at the boardroom table, and it is
the hope of liberalism that freedom too is in the making of the new world order.[xv]
are especially attuned for the Global era. By our history, we have cause to
embrace a global outlook and understanding of peoples, as the religion has moved
throughout continents in its long impact upon global culture. By our current
occasion, we confront a challenging task of globalization drawing upon the
gentle skills of diplomacy between older cultures from Iran and India, the new
World in North America, and Russia and Central Asia. Thirdly, the Gathic creed
is singular in advocacy of beneficence for the World and the World-Soul. Asha,
Freshokareti, Truth are of an extensive cosmic dimension, going beyond
communalism. Forth, rational and analytic thrust in world development, in
correspondence with the Zarathushti demand for clarity of thought, has a fragile
status. Zarathushtrians often have cause to know this more personally than many
in a more protected North American culture. The protection of Reason is
requisite if Hobbessian resort of all against all is to be diminished in a world
offering many occasions for upheaval.
profound Gathic vision offered by Zarathushtra is unknown inside Contemporary
Moral Philosophy, indeed in the larger North American society as well. If
obscurity is not to be our inheritance on this continent, we have a special
task. Each of us lives here as more than a private individual. We each have upon
us a special office, a duty. We are the ambassadors of Zarathushtrianism,
diplomats, in the New World. Whether our style of life is quiet or large,
limitedly or privileged, who and what Zarathushtis are will be understood by the
behavior and graciousness of each of us, taken together into the social
stereotype that will emerge of us. Gentle ambassadorship will go no further than
will our competence and contribution. People resist what is different and
strident, and no advocacy for Zarathushtrianism should work better than one by
which people are already won over by the model of one's subtle diplomacy before
the name of Zarathushtra is even put forward.
institutions, local associations and the larger organizations, can move us
forward by continuing to develop their member’s understanding and appreciation
of Contemporary Moral Philosophy, and by alerting Moral Philosophers to the
Zarathushti vision. Local associations can build connections with Moral
Philosophers in their locale and can sponsor short series of instruction on sets
of contemporary moral issues. A special interest group can be formed for
discussion at American Philosophical Association conferences, a major venue of
gain cultural currency by Contemporary Moral Philosophy, while being assured in
offering a singular and valuable philosophical orientation aiding the external
culture and aiding internal Zarathushti culture.
Natalie Vania, 2000, all rights reserved, permission given Vohuman.org for web
Tom L., Philosophical Ethics: An Introduction to Moral Philosophy, New York,
Philippa, Virtues and Vices, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1978.
Shelly, The Limits of Morality, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1989.
Immanuel The Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals Thomas Abbott, (trans.),
Bobbs-Merrill, Indianapolis, 1949.
After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, University of Notre Dame Press, 1984.
John Stuart, Utilitarianism, with critical essays, Samuel Gorovitz, editor,
Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill, 1971. Also, Mill, On Liberty.
George Edward, Principia Ethica, Cambridge University Press, 1903.
A Theory of Justice, Havard University Press, 1974.
W.D. The Right and the Good, Oxford, 1930.
Beyond Optimizing, A Study in Rational Choice, Oxford University Press, New
James, editor, Contemporary Ethics: Selected Readings, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.,
Prentice Hall, 1989.
Amartya, Development As Freedom, Knopf, 1999.
[i] The Gathas appear in the
Yasna 28 to 34
Yasna 43 to 46
Spenta Mainyu Gatha
Yasna 47 to 50
Vohu Xshathra Gatha
detailed bibliography compiling translations of the Gathas, offered over the
Internet, would be helpful.
See The Love of Truth in Ancient Iran, Professor Stanley Insler, Vohuman.org,
Fall 2000 for a fuller elaboration.
The Vision of Zarathushtra, Professor Kaikhosrov D. Irani, Vohuman.org, Fall
Friedman, Michael, lecture, 1984/85, The University of Illinois at Chicago,
The Humanities Institute.
This listing is not exhaustive nor meant to do justice the metaethical
questions, each of which is due lengthy treatment.
The Freedom to Choose and the Moral Responsibility to Make the Right Choice,
Dr. Mehrborzin Soroushian, Vohuman.org, Fall 2000, page 1.
The Vision of Zarathushtra, Professor Kaikhosrov D. Irani, Vohuman.org, Fall
2000, page 2.
See Van der Linden, Harry, Part One, “Kant’s Highest Good as a Social
Duty”, Kantian Ethics and Socialism, Hackett Publishing Company,
Indianapolis, 1988 for discussion on assertoric theological standing, hope,
duty and world Justice. See Epilogue, Ignoring The Good and Deontological
Rationality, Natalie H. Vania, Doctoral Dissertation, The University of
Maryland at College Park, 1991 for treatment of teleos and assertoric
This position is distinguished from a claim of certainty that a Perfected
order comes into phenomenal existence and from security that religious life
provides one personally with sure boon.
Beneficence in the Gathic vision entails several foci; Ahura Mazda is
loving, Zarathushtra has loving concern as he spreads the Gathic Moral
Vision, the good people imbibing Asha form a beneficence social order, the
Cow-Soul and its pastoral/Shepard associations (which we also find in
Plato’s treatment of Justice in The Republic and in Jesus’s
stewardship), and in the overall kind lovingness of the Gathic outlook. See
Dina MacIntyre, Love in the Gathas, Vohuman.org, Fall 2000.
Professor Farrokh Mistry provides thoughtful discussion on the virtues of
the Amesha Spentas and practical guidance for developing them in ordinary
and familial life.
Constantini Humberto, The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis, Norman Thomas di
Giovanni, translator, New York, Harper and Row, 1985, ISBN: 0-06-015391-1.
See Mistry, Rohinton, Such a Long Journey, Vintage Books, June 92 for a
novel with unflinching social insight. Mistry receives accolades from
reviewers as “another Tolstoy” and indeed the assessment is prescient as
Tolstoy’s novelistic creations are Truth telling in their social insight
and in their descriptive power.
Stanford Presidential Address, 1999.
See Sen, Amartya Kumar, Development As Freedom, Knopf, 1999 for a view of
economic development advancing the moral terrain of humanity.