Monday, August 28, 2017

This weekend's post was pre-empted by a hurricane ...

My power is now back on, & I hope to be back posting next weekend.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Intrinsic Need And Intrinsic Morality

This post builds on earlier material, where I present the case that there are intrinsic principles of morality based on the intrinsic properties of the reality in which we live. The earlier material includes the following foundation:

  1. The inherent value of life to the ones who lives it. Self-value, self-preservation, self-love. 
  2. The bond of shared humanity. Recognizing that others share the same humanity as ourselves. 
  3. 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 involves a new application of principles we have already seen. We apply the bond of shared humanity and the corollary of compassion to the vulnerable states involved in bringing a new child into the world. We also recognize the intrinsic bond to the parents when a new life is created, and the long-term benefits to the children of having responsible, caring parents.
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.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Intrinsic value and intrinsic morality

This continues last week's thoughts on whether there are any moral certainties, or moral values that can be held as universal. This includes a recap of last week's thoughts, and lays out three of the most basic steps in exploring human universals, human values, and what that means for morality.

1. The inherent value of life
Life in its natural and healthy state is inherently valuable to the one living it.
The most fundamental value is self-value, self-respect, or self-love.
2. The bond of shared humanity
If each each human life is inherently valuable to the one living it, and others share that same humanity as ourselves, then we can derive the general bond of humanity: the regard for others as having lives that are inherently valuable to them in the same way.
The first social value is recognizing that others have the same humanity as ourselves.

As mentioned before: from this, we can derive all laws that protect life and the quality of life. Even traffic laws are, in the end, about not deliberately endangering a life. The culture-specific laws towards those ends derive from the culture-transcending, intrinsic recognition of the shared value of human life.
3. The fragility of life: the corollary of compassion
During the life cycle, we each experience inherently vulnerable states. When young, before the age of self-sufficiency, we experience a vulnerability that is intrinsic to that state. There is a vulnerability in pregnancy that is intrinsic to that condition. There is a vulnerability in injury, sickness, and old age that is intrinsic to our mortal condition. From our self-value, we will develop self-compassion towards our own vulnerability. From our recognition of others' shared humanity, that compassion extends to others. 
The second fundamental value is self-compassion.
The second social value is compassion and mercy for the vulnerable.
This list is meant as a beginning; there are several other values that I believe are human universals because they are intrinsic to the human condition. However, it's a topic shift between this group and the next, so this seems a good place to pause.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Is there a basis for moral reasoning?

If there is no basis for moral reasoning, then nobody has ever done wrong. Consider the usual examples about how evil the past has been: if there is no moral right or wrong, if there is no good or evil, then it would follow that the Nazis were not wrong and the slave trade was not wrong. It would follow that there is no moral reason why a serial killer or sex predator should be brought to "justice"; what is justice? If morality is an artificial construct, society may come to agreements about rules, but does society have a right to pass judgment on dissenters or conscientious objectors?

"Is it natural or artificial?" is a complicated question, even if we look for a simpler topic than morality. If we get milk from the store, is it natural or artificial? Was the cow given hormones? How about antibiotics? How much selective breeding was involved to produce the herd? Was the milk pasteurized? An artificial process may be applied to a natural thing, and there may be difficulty in attaining an absolutely natural state; that does not imply that there is no natural state. When all the arguing is done, mammals produce milk whether anyone has given them hormones or antibiotics.

So what about morality? Is there a natural state? In tracing its roots, I have not found more basic than this: Life is good. To explain that more fully: Life naturally comes with the beauty of the natural world and the enjoyment of that, with an intrinsic bond to those who gave us life and those who share it. Our original sense of good seems to be our innate sense of the worthiness of life itself. And if anything is good, then opposing or attacking or sabotaging it is not good.

From that, we can derive all the laws that protect life, protect freedom, and promote quality of life. Even traffic laws are, in the end, about not deliberately endangering a life.

If life is good, if it is intrinsically valuable to the one living it, then there is an objective basis for morality.

Next I hope to explore whether there are other intrinsic and natural bases for moral reasoning.