I agree here. What do you mean by Natural Law theory? As a Secular Humanist, I first observe what causes humans emotional stress in the context of the situation they are in towards a goal of a better life. “Better” would be longer life, emotional needs met, food, shelter, etc. all met. These can come into conflict, like choosing a job that doesn’t pay as well as another so you can’t afford better healthcare, but on a daily basis, the quality of life is better though. Daily quality of life supersedes investment for say future cancer treatments for example. All this is observable in reality to everyone. From what I’ve experienced, the Venn Diagram of what people use as their reference point of good and bad quality of life is “Human Well-being” regardless of culture, race, sex, time, etc.
Okay, here’s where I’m stuck. If you are following a deity’s commandments, regardless of your moral assessment of them, that is Divine Command Theory. You have shelved your ability to assess anything it does and just assume everything it does is morally correct. But how can you know if it is morally correct if you never assessed it to begin with? If you did assess it to be morally correct, then what standard did you reference to determine what your deity pronounced was good or bad? If you do morally assess anything, including your deity, then you are using a reference point of “good” and “bad” that is outside of your deity. If you don’t morally assess your deity, then you are not being a moral agent and are just following orders since you never morally assessed your deity. You’re jumping off the couch just because you are told to but never understanding why standing on the couch is wrong at all. It’s wrong just because the boss says so.
The transcendent quality, as I understand it, is the universal overlapping human experience. Fire=Hot=Bad and go from there. I get more food working with a group than by my self. I get a better quality of life when my social group is emotionally healthy, so I’ll console my friend when they are depressed. The experience of being human when all of our emotional and physical needs are met is Human Well-Being. Just that there is no perfect solution to this for everyone, just like there is no perfect solution of nutrition for everyone. Or perhaps good enough is the perfect solution. Such as giving up a well paying job for a better quality of life on a day to day basis will out weigh someone’s need to pay for healthcare in the future. But when they get cancer, their priorities shift and they’ll go back to the better paying job to help pay for the healthcare. Both are perfect for that person since that is good enough for them out of all the solutions they can try. We as a society can observe that conflict and then write our laws to fix this conflict. When we have good health we want a better quality of life, so we should write laws that socialize the cost of healthcare for everyone so we can keep picking careers for a better quality of life over pay for example. All this is observable and can be referenced by anyone.
That is what a “transcendent quality” is to me as I understand it in reference to the human experience. Its the most common overlapping human experience regardless of time, culture, race, sex, social status, etc. If this is not the same for you, then what would you use?
I was talking about human well being is referenced to humans. It’s a process that you observe towards a goal of better than before. What ever the better is each of us may be subjective, like my nutrition example. Eating nutritiously is a process that is observable that increases the quality of life. It’s subjective to eat apples or pears today, but no one is saying that eating Fruit is bad or that drinking battery acid is good in reference to Nutrition as the goal. That’s my point. So is that still moving the goal post?
As to using a deity as the reference point for morality, I was pointing out that the idea of a deity is what people are using and its imagined character is what they are using as good or bad. Only problem is that no one can actually demonstrate this entity’s actual existence. So it’s like reading a comic book and then imagining what actions we would take that would upset spiderman. However, we can like spiderman as an example to live by, but that is because we are referring spiderman’s actions towards the goal of Human Well-Being. All our heroes that rescue us are rescuing us from the powerful that are taking away the betterment of humanity for others. they are not rescuing us from things that are irrelevant to human well being are they?
In a way that is objective and able to be reproduced?
If by this you mean good and evil are determined by what is good or bad for you personally, then I would agree. Without a god I don’t see that there is a reason for ever doing anything not in your own best interest.
Contrary to popular belief, people aren’t rational. The drivers of human behavior are nature and nurture, not reason. If reason is a factor at all, it’s a very distant third.
Thus if you examine why people do what they do, it may appear that they do things for a logical reason, and indeed they may claim to do them for just such a reason, but for the most part they only use reason to justify their actions, not to actually elicit them. There are exceptions, but they’re not the norm.
So to think that without a God, people are simply motivated by what’s in their own best interest, is a mischaracterization of human behavior. People are motivated by nature and nurture. Nurture is malleable. It can change. It’s affected by one’s social environment. By one’s culture. By their experiences. And by any number of external factors.
Nature on the other hand is much more difficult to change. It’s that element of your behavior that evolution has predisposed in you. And it’s here that the line between subjective behavior and objective behavior blurs. For these evolved behaviors aren’t subject to anyone’s personal ideology. They aren’t determined by what any group, or individual, thinks or believes. Thus it’s difficult to categorize them as subjective. Rather they’re the product of one simple and uncompromising process. Survival of the fittest. And this process doesn’t care what you think, or how you feel, or what you believe. It’s universally and objectively indifferent.
A morality born through the process of survival of the fittest isn’t subjective, but then again it isn’t technically objective either. But what it definitely isn’t, is simply a matter of what’s in my own best interest. Morality goes deeper than that, but it doesn’t depend upon the existence of a God.
I didn’t characterize human behavior. What I asked was why I should ever do anything not in my own best interest? That is, isn’t whatever is good for me also moral for me to do?
We act in the interests of others than ourselves because of empathy. Empathy is what fires morality.
But what is in your own best interest is a blend of what’s good for me, and what’s good for the group. Because to some degree these two things are related.
But it’s impossible for you to sit down and reason out what the balance between these two things should be. Fortunately however, survival of the fittest has ingrained in you a natural tendency toward social behavior. It’s nature’s way of deciding for you what that balance should be. And we, as conscious, self-aware, reasoning individuals describe it as morality. But it’s simply a combination of nature and nurture, and the direct result of survival of the fittest.
I’m trying to make a simple point here: what is the argument that I should ever do something that is not in my best interest, and if something is in my best interest, why shouldn’t I do it? If you want to say I should help people because it makes me feel good, fine, but this only supports my position: I do it because of what’s in it for me.
My first point would be that what makes you feel good is not the same as what is in your best interest. Split the two and you may be getting somewhere.
Human morality evolves, many times quite slowly as people learn more about the Human experience.
The religious will say the morality doesn’t change because it is controlled by God, or that morality is God, it is the human’s understanding of it that changes. What they are reluctant to admit is that this new “understanding” begins to stretch the original meanings of the ancient writings and fills it with “modern interpretation” which is just a fancy way of saying that some of that stuff was wrong and it makes sense to act differently now.
The nonreligious will say that indeed morality evolves due to this learning and the consensus of humanity itself.
However each of us imagines it, and ignoring the situations where it is difficult to choose between option A and option B, is there any argument against doing whatever I perceive to be in my personal best interest?
Well said. The atheists I know have morals without believing in God. If you have empathy, I will contend that you can have morality with or without God. It may be a different kind of morality, but it is morality nonetheless.
You post has a tone of disrespect. You wouldn’t like it if someone called the god you bellieve in a sky fairy.
I think there is misunderstanding here about atheists. Atheists don’t worry about what the purpose of life is, or about what will happen to “them” once their human body dies. Most don’t believe in an afterlife. They still live moral lives, just the same. Their justification for living a moral life is to keep the “here and now” as good as it can be. True, that can mean different things to different people. However, a common thread runs through the atheists I know. Basically, living by the golden rule and, at the very least, doing no harm is how they live. It is morality at play, just a different morality from religious people. Morality truly is subjective much of the time. We even see it here at CAF.
The argument that you might make against it, and that I might make against it, would be that we have a responsibility towards others (if that responsibility in the case in question runs counter to your personal best interest). That responsibility comes from our sense of morality, which is produced primarily by empathy.
The point you are making, Ender, would be just as unconvincing if make to a Christian. He/she also considers personal best interest in making moral decisions — including, of course, the pleasure in carrying out God’s will, and the hope of eternal life hereafter.