Re: virus: Morality

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. (
Tue, 27 Feb 1996 11:41:40 -0700 (MST)

On Tue, 27 Feb 1996, Duane Hewitt wrote:

> On Tue, 27 Feb 1996, Lather. Rinse. Repeat. wrote:
> > I am an "amoralist" because I do not believe in the existence of a purely
> > objective standard of right and wrong. However, I do live more-or-less
> > according to a set of _subjectively determined_ guidelines which I call
> > "a code of ethics".
> >
> > As for atheism, I have a difficult time seeing how an atheist could
> > believe in an objective standard of morality.
> Why not?
> If an atheist believes that there are laws that govern behaviour like
> there are laws that govern physics then it becomes a matter of
> discovering what those laws are.

I suppose that I make a distinction between "morality" and "laws
governing behavior". Even if there are laws governing behavior and even if
those laws are subject to violation by human beings, then I would still
have a difficult time calling such violation "morally wrong". Unnatural,
perhaps -- but I see no need to invoke "wrong".

If such laws exist and they are NOT subject to violation by human beings,
then does a discussion of right and wrong still have meaning? If it is
not possible to commit a "wrong" action, then do "wrong" vs. "good" actions
still exist?

> Let me suggest that such a law is Natural selection. This occurs on many
> levels. It occurs on the level of genetics and on the level of ethics.
> Certain combinations are more likely to survive and propagate. Now if one
> is able to discover why these combinations are able to do so then you are
> uncovering "what is". Now "what ought to be" is not necessarily identical
> to "what is" but recognizing your constraints gives you apoint of departure.


But I still see no need to involve "what ought to be" -- morality -- in
the discussion.

I use the term "ethics" to describe my own guidelines for decision making
and personal behavior. My code of ethics is simply that I try to
determine and pursue, in any situation that I feel will have a significant
effect upon me, what is in my self-interest.

But I do not consider it "wrong" for me to act contrary to my self
interest, nor do I consider it "wrong" for anyone to act contrary their
particular self-interests. Foolhardy, perhaps, but not "wrong". To me,
this would be the equivalent of saying that the dinosaurs were morally wrong
for becoming extinct.