Posts Tagged ‘morality’

The Important Focus of Ethics: The Consequence

December 11, 2011 3 comments

consequentialismI am currently focusing my first book on the lack of free will. This is for a number of reasons. One important reason is that I want my next philosophical book to be on the topic of ethics. Understanding the lack of free will is an important base understanding for any ethical system. It needs to come prior.

In this post I want to briefly talk about why the consequences of our actions should be the primary focus of any ethical system. Ethics that focus on the consequence are called… take a guess… you guessed it… consequentialist ethics. The consequence is the output of the action. In other words, what will happen if you do something. It is this that needs to be the focus.

Some would think this obvious, but there are different types of ethics with different focus’s. Some are “rule based” ethics (called deontological ethics), in which rules or “duties” are the focus, regardless of the consequence. Some are virtue based ethics, where as the character of the person is the focus (and what an action means for that character), regardless of the consequence. These ethical systems, for the most part,  place the consequence as secondary.

I am certainly not suggesting virtue is unimportant, or that rules and duties should not be part of an ethical system. I am saying that those should always be contingent on the potential consequence of the action. On our predictive ability and output of what may or will happen later given a certain action.

I would argue that rules or duties make no rational sense outside of what they lead to. Outside of the consequence. One might say that it is always unethical to lie. That may be their rule: One ought not lie. And in general, this may be a good rule. What makes it a good rule is the consequence. A world of constant liars is a world where trust is impossible. But when something happens where the consequence outweighs the rule, such as a Nazi asking a person if another person is hidden and if so where, certainly it is not the ethical thing to tell the truth.

The consequence should always trump any rule based system. Likewise with virtue, it may be a virtue to tell the truth, but the consequence should always trump such “virtue”.

This simplistic example makes the point. The end output is more important than if someone is “virtuous” or if someone  holds a rule or duty. Rules, duties, and virtue should point to action that lead to the best consequence. This is by no means an elaborate argument for consequentialism and my second book will go into great detail about this. This is just a lil’ something to get a person thinking about where their own ethics are focused.

The question to ask someone that gives you a moral or ethical rule is, why is such rule ethically important? Or why is an action virtuous?  I bet they will have a hard time justifying it without pointing to an actual consequence.


Evolution Worship

June 6, 2011 3 comments

First thing first – I hold to a naturalistic worldview. I believe strongly that we came about via a process of evolution. It is a scientific fact. It matters not to me if you are a naturalist, spiritualist, theist, or atheist. If you do not believe in evolution, you go against one of the strongest scientific theories in existence. One with mounds and mounds of evidence (The genetic ERV evidence alone is undeniable proof  of common ancestery).

Evolution explains how we came about from the simpilist of lifeforms, and knowledge of evolution is an important key to most if not all biological and medical sciences. For this reason we should learn as much as we can about the process. It is also an important fact about our history.

But that is where my appreciation for evolutionary processes ends. History is riddled with horrors, and evolution is one of them. And unfortunately for animals in the wild it is a process that continues.

The fact of the matter is that evolution is a terrible process. Survival of the fittest is sloppy, unintelligent, and harmful. It does not care about pain and suffering. It does not care that it is a process of elimination in the worst possible ways.

That is why it bothers me when fellow thinkers and scientists who hold a naturalistic worldview do what I call “evolution worship”.

They might, for example, say that moral intuitions have come about through the process of evolution – as if that is a worthy process for morality that we should continue to adhere to. As if such a process is where we as intelligent humans should continue to derive our moral understandings. I have seen this type of attitude first hand, and it is used to trump logical conclusions of ethical systems.

I don’t deny that our ability to be social animals who worked together and helped others within our community was a trait that was an evolutionary advantage. But what of the actual process. Well, those that were less social were killed off before they can procreate. And they were usually killed off in the worst possible ways. Eaten alive, injury, and starvation are just a few of the many ways to go.  We as survivors tend to ignore the actual process for the benefit of the survivors.

Another way they might grandize evolution is to point to the beauty that they subjectively feel within nature – as if such “beauty” trumps any of the problems that an unintelligent process of evolution causes. Seeing only the beauty allows them to close their eyes to the horrors or minimize the concern for such horrors. And it propagates that sort of meme on to others, making it easier for them to close their eyes on the problems as well.

The worst part about survival of the fittest is that it is still happening in the animal kingdom. Sure, we humans are the top of the food chain and do not have to worry much about survival in the wild any longer. Instead we have replaced that with war, destroying the environment, putting chemicals in our bodies, factory farming, and a slew of other harmful activities. Another time, another blog entry.

But as you read this a baby elephant is being ripped to shreds by lions. An elephant that is still alive. As you read this there are masses of animals in pain, suffering long dying processes, sometimes days, sometimes weeks. As you read this there are animals feeding off of other animals. Large birds swooping down grabbing cute little defenseless herbivores. If those little herbivores can bear enough babies before they are snagged by carnivores, that is their survival mechanism. Sheer numbers so that some of those numbers can produce more before they have teeth or claws stuck in them.

Some scientists suggest that we should launch organisms into outerspace, so that, if they can get on to a planet where they can thrive – the process of evolution can start all over again on that planet. We can increase the number of planets that have to endure such a nasty process. If that is not evolution worship then I do not know what is.

No, evolution is not a process that we should bow to the alter of. It is a constant stream of blood, pain, and suffering. It should disgust us. It is something that we should be very concerned about fixing, for all life that has to endure it.

What types of “evolution worship” have you experienced?