Objective standards of conduct [was Re: Dyson (Was: Paths to

Mon, 11 Jan 1999 09:30:12 -0700

"Samael" <Samael@dial.pipex.com> writes:

>From: Dick.Gray@bull.com <Dick.Gray@bull.com>
>>If no objective standard is possible, how are we to come to any
>>Fortunately, most of us are able to get along reasonably well with each
>>other most of the time. Why is this, do you suppose?

>Because much of mankind shares similar wants/likes at basic levels (no
>organism likes being attacked, we all understand that being reasonable
>towards people increases the chance that they will be reasonable towards
>we like people to behave in trustworthy ways, etc.).

...and we like these things because of our evolutionary heritage. It's not a matter of personal whim at all, but an objectively verifiable nexus of instinctual responses. In humans, of course, these instincts are usually regularized by the application of reason, resulting in codes of conduct whose relative wisdom can be ascertained by observing the results with reference to our biological imperatives, i.e. objectively. Thus, we have both an objective basis for formulating ethical standards and an objective means of verifiying the worth (workability) of a given standard.

>>I'd feel distinctly uneasy around anyone who actually believes that not
>>conking me over the head to take my watch is just an arbitrary personal

>I felt the same way for a while. [...] When nothing nasty happens and
>people continue acting in a reasonable way, the feeling goes away.

You're begging the question of _why_ people continue to act in a "reasonable" way. (Note that you've just vitiated your own argument, since if it's reasonable, then it's not arbitrary, i.e. not subjective.)

The fact of the evolution of life provides profound insight into why we consistently, as a species, choose certain values and reject other things as "evil". As such, I consider it the only firm basis for ethical theory. Sort of the "missing link" in the natural law tradition.