The fetishism of morality

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One of the most intriguing questions about morality, it seems to me, is what happens when it changes. What happens, for example, when the subordination of women to men, or their exclusion from higher education or the professions, ceases to seem innocuous or natural, and starts to be regarded as a grotesque abuse? Or when corporal punishment goes out of style, and homosexuality comes to be tolerated or even respected, or when cruelty to animals arouses indignation rather than indifference, and recklessness with natural resources becomes a badge not of magnificence but of monstrous irresponsibility? There is of course room for disagreement about such alterations of moral opinion. But no one could maintain that they are devoid of discussible intellectual content. No one would claim that – like, say, changing fashions in moustaches or skirt-lengths – they simply reflect the unaccountable gyrations of taste. Indeed it seems probable that moral change, over the long term, involves something like an expansion of horizons, a process of learning, or even – to use a dated word – something you might call progress.

more from Jonathan Rée at TPM here.