Jul 18, 2013 · 7:00 PM
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Is the traditional definition of "morality" invalid or unsound? If so, ought it to be rejected, redefined, or what? (And how is this "ought" to be justified?)
Whichever option is taken, a puzzle remains regarding the enigmatic moral traveler:
- Is the moral traveler the bundle of genes, or is it the individual human being? Why? Why can't it be both?
- Can a society thrive if everyone therein realizes that when it comes to taking action, the self, not others, has primacy?
- Does a society thrive, alternatively, by having enough members mistakenly believe that when it comes to taking action, others have primacy?
- If the self has primacy, why pursue goals that are so far into the future that the self will not live to experience them (e.g., halting global warming)?
- (If others have primacy, how is the enactment of a selfish action to be understood, and is it ever moral?)
- (How is primacy to be understood? How is helping others to be understood respectively if each side has primacy?)
- Is it plausible to escape this puzzle by resorting to the bundle of genes as the moral traveler?
This metaethical puzzle was recently raised on the discussion board, here.
--- [More detailed description to come, if any, from Tim and Janice] ---
Tim, July 14: Whether the moral actor is the individual and/or the bundle of genes, I think it’s still self-based. If morality is a guide for man to achieve his goals:
• Can we further reduce morality as a guide for man to meet his needs?
• Morally, should we differentiate needs for survival and needs for thriving/flourishing? Why or why not?
• How do we prioritize these survival/flourishing needs?
Additional thoughts from Tim, July 14: A self-based morality is a radical departure from other traditional moral systems. For most people, action is moral if it benefits a super being, whether it be a god or society.
I don't think I need to explain why god is not a valid moral actor, but most atheists think it's given that society is the moral actor. Is this really the case? Why do we need to serve society? The only possibility I can think of is that we're biologically hard-wired that way (i.e. the bundle of genes), but we have the mental capacity to override this innate desire.
Sam Harris argues that science can answer moral questions by pressuposing that society is the moral actor: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hj9oB4zpHww
Alternatively, our bundle of genes could also hard-wire us to serve ourselves, and as a species, we climbed to the top of the food chain by realizing that trade benefits the self in ways that wouldn't be possible without cooperation, and thus societies were created.
I do think that to make the most of ourselves, we should serve ourselves (the self having primacy, as opposed to society having primacy). I also think that is only possible if we understand our needs (i.e. we know ourselves). But where do these needs come from and why do they exist? Obviously, it's part of our nature. But aren't those needs a result of our bundle of genes? So it seems that the moral actor is **both** the individual and the bundle of genes. Or perhaps most fundamentally, it is the bundle of genes, and the question is whether those compel us to serve ourselves or society (I think it's ourselves).