- The inherent value of life to the ones who lives it. Self-value, self-preservation, self-love.
- The bond of shared humanity. Recognizing that others share the same humanity as ourselves.
- The fragility of life and the corollary of compassion for ourselves and for those who share our humanity.
Beyond life's value, its shared nature, and its fragility, there are other intrinsic facts of life that can lead us to recognize further reason for shared values. I should be clear, when I speak of "morality" here, I mean some very basic things: that causes have effects, that people are interconnected, that we do things that affect ourselves and others for good or bad. This post develops some of the ways in which each life affects others, and the values that most people acknowledge as a direct result of the nature of the world in which we live:
4. The passing of life and the need for children
In natural occurrence, human life continues to each new generation of children through biology's natural process of a man and a woman coming together in a heterosexual act. In general, people need very little encouragement to perform the act in question. (While technology has developed some expensive alternatives to natural conception, they are not a practical replacement at the large scale.) The act of producing a new child creates an intrinsic biological relationship between father, mother, and child.
Long-term survival depends on new children to continue each new generation; we have a unique dependence on productive heterosexual relationships.5. The vulnerability of children; the vulnerability of mothers in pregnancy and childbirth
Human children begin life helpless and vulnerable. The mother also is vulnerable, especially during pregnancy and childbirth. Decency requires that both the father and the mother share the responsibility for the new life, and help through the vulnerable stages of life. This is not a new principle, but a new application of ones we have already seen. Here we are applying the bond of shared humanity and the corollary of compassion to the vulnerable states involved in bringing a new child into the world.
The quality of life is higher for the mother, the child, and the father if there is a trustworthy bond of mutual support, affection, and respect. There is an inherent value in supportive family relationships, and in stability through committed relationships.
From this inherent value, we derive principles to promote not only marriage but the kindness and self-control necessary to make that relationship supportive and healthy for those who participate. From this we also derive principles to discourage unkindness, divorce, abandonment, or unfaithfulness. When these principles have been denied or disregarded, the most vulnerable have been women and children, who carry an over-sized share of the burden of isolation and hardship because of the intrinsic vulnerability of how children are brought into the world.
The well-being of a community across generations depends on promoting long-lasting, stable family relationships. This involves kindness, faithfulness, and self-control.6. The general value of community
Human life is safest and most prosperous when people and groups live at peace within their homes, at peace with their neighbors, and at peace with neighboring groups. This requires that people in general develop principles of self-control, and recognize the value of both self and others. This further requires the development of boundaries, and methods for resolving disagreements.
Norms against trespass and theft recognize that we physically need territory, home, and safety, and involve the community in safeguarding the people within it. Norms against physical attack, slander, malice, and provoking strife all recognize the destructiveness of badly-handled conflict or inciting division. Rules of privacy, courtesy, manners, and civility all recognize the value of respecting each person, and the value of building and strengthening harmonious relationships. Shared celebrations and observances are a means of building and strengthening community.
For community-building purposes, the norms and rules vary in content but not in function. That is to say, to promote the prosperity that comes from a large-scale, culture-wide common bond, the "universal" here is not the content of the norms but their function in establishing community. This function goes beyond having norms for the sake of something to share or a component of identity; it also involves taking care of the self-regulation and self-care that are necessary for a society to continue. It is the intrinsic value of life extended to the intrinsic value of the life of the shared community.
Human life is safest and most prosperous when there is a well-developed, mutually respected system of both courtesy and law. Those who respect their own stake in the community will generally adopt the norms that function to preserve it.