I’ve been reading a lot about morality, ethics, and whether or not there’s a universal moral code. Another way of stating this, I have been delving deep into the philosophical approaches concerning morality, most specifically, moral realism, skepticism, nihilism, and existentialism. While I have always been interested in philosophy, especially moral philosophy and ethics, this new spark of interest grew from an article that I recently read, which led me to Sam Harris’ Moral Landscape, and essentially his assertion that neuroscience can – and indeed, should – prove the existence of moral facts. I’m of the opinion that moral facts don’t exist. Given the arguments in support of their existence – being “facts” that aren’t the same as other “facts” – I find myself on the side of the fence that says, “maybe they aren’t really facts to begin with.”
In any case, I have been reading a neat little book called The Three Failures of Creationism: Logic, Rhetoric, and Science by Walter M. Fitch. As I learn more about the concept of morality, as well as evolution, I have indeed grown more skeptical of the notion that there’s a universal moral directive. Sam Harris suggests that as humans (or other species for that matter) evolve, they become more in tune with moral facts.
I’m at the precipice in which I want to make two arguments: 1) Moral Relativism is the more accurate assertion on the concept of morality, although it could use some fine tuning. What moral realists, cognitvists, or moral universalists perceive as universality may simply be a result of cooperation, which is an evolutionary trait among many other species. Humans have had a long time to determine what’s best for themselves individually and in a greater societal sense, and as such it may be error to suggest that there’s a universal moral fabric because of a perceived universality. Morality, as a construct, be the inevitability of consciousness, but that doesn’t necessarily prove the existence of a “moral fabric”. 2) Moral Facts don’t exist as some universal directive that can be “proven” with science, but suggesting that moral facts exist, however impossible it may be to imperially prove the existence of, is a benefit to society in a great many ways, but may also be a detriment (Social Darwinism).
Although these thoughts are not as well constructed on this post, it is an endeavor for which I am continually pursuing. Regardless of all of that, there is an excerpt I would like to share from the aforementioned book:
“There is no evidence that nature or the theory of evolution demands any specific moral code. Evolution requires only that species survive long enough to reproduce. Nature should not be personified as someone who is anxiously wringing her hands, watching events unfold, hoping that the “good” side will win, that the “bad” side will be defeated, and that “progress” will be made. Nature has no grand teleology: it is not working toward any ultimate goal. Nature makes no judgments as to the particular method of survival that species employ. Many strategies are employed by various species, and no particular strategy can be considered paramount in the attempt of species to survive. Many social Darwinists (e.g., Herbert Spencer) emphasize the competitive aspect of nature, but such writers as Peter Kropotkin have noted that many species survive by means of cooperation. … It is pointless to arbitrarily select one trait from nature to be used as a guide for society’s oath, because it is impossible to know which particular trait will ultimately be most important in the game of survival – to say nothing of the injustice of imposing such a questionable decision upon others.” (Fitch, W., pages 35-36).
The quote above, in many ways, expresses my thoughts on morality. All of this is, of course, food for thought. Although I express no authority on this matter, I believe it to be wise that individuals such as Sam Harris, and other moral realists, refrain from doing so as well. It may be possible to say that something is good, but that doesn’t mean that because it is “good” it must also be “factual” in some grand universal sense, akin but also not-akin to other facts, like gravity (if you jump off of a building, you will eventually hit the ground).
Feel free to comment.