Sunday, 27 February 2011

Evolution of moral understanding

This is a simple logical point. Even if we could give a completely
correct and exhaustive naturalistic account of why "most people in
society X believe that they ought not to do Y" (which I don't think we
can BTW) that could tell us nothing about whether people ought to do Y,
unless you also had an axiom from which you could infer "if most people
in society X believe that people ought to do Y then people ought to do

Recently, I met another poster who used a similar argument in an online discussion. A "free thinker" responded, most of which was a mindless rant about how atheists can't be bigoted and other nonsense, but he raised an objection I would like to hear your thoughts on.

Namely, the two points (compiled a bit):
a) "Behavior is grounded in evolution and this includes the establishing of societal rules (i.e. morality) long before there was such a thing as a system of moral philosophy. Genetic predisposition towards cooperative behavior is passed on and reinforced within the tribe using words and a system of rewards and punishment. Morality is functional; it exists to maximize survival of the species. You seem to think that morality’ is just a concept."


b) If, as you say, every culture has differences in the details of the “innate concept of morality”, this demonstrates that morality IS relative to the culture and thus NOT absolute. There is some form of morality in all cultures and they all vary slightly. Morality serves a practical purpose, not an ideal to be maintained just to please a deity. BTW: You have yet to prove that there IS such a thing as "innate morality". FUNCTIONAL MORALITY LONG PRECEDED MORAL PHILOSOPHY (emphasis mine).All your talk of ‘universals’ and ‘sensibility’ is pretentious nonsense. It may be helpful in understanding the nature of morality but it is not essential to it. What IS essential to morality is that it enables society to function cohesively and productively. Morality exists for man, NOT man for morality. Your mini-rant about “needing a moral grounding for moral axioms is empty rhetoric."

The fact that our moral sense evolved has nothing to do with whether there are objective moral truths.
Our sense of vision evolved - does that mean that there are no objective truths about things we see?

Equally the fact that there are cultural variations in morality does not show that there are no objective moral truths, merely that not all claims of moral truth are equally valid.

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