After an extended absence (due both to vacation and my misplacing my Purpose-Driven Life book :-), I’m back. While his hero debates naturalism vs. theism
, I want to focus on Alan’s last post
, particular his definition of norms:
Ernie previously brought up the idea of a “universal, transcendent standard of virtue” and I replied that
… there may be some elaboration of “universal, transcendent standard of virtue that I might find reasonable, …”
What I had in mind here were more along the lines of a small set of abstract guidelines, like the Golden Rule, and I think of them as being very helpful advice rather than a standard against which we will be measured. (The word “norm” implies, to me at least, the idea of a standard that I would not include.)
I would not go so far as to say that these guidelines are sufficient for either individual happiness or social welfare. They may not even be necessary; perhaps there are multiple sets of guidelines that could provide the same or similar benefits. And I would not state happiness and welfare as being absolutely attainable states, but things that can be present more or less, with ethical behavior leading generally to more.
So if I wanted to restate (1), I might say something like
1. There are a few general principles that underlie most ethical behavior, leading to increased individual happiness and social welfare.
[Read more] for my reply…
Actually, I’ll make this really brief. I would rephrase Alan’s statement as:
“Most ethical behavior can be derived from a fairly small set of general principles. These principles are not transcendent or grounded in divinity, but are (like natural law) discernible and achievable through human effort. We may not know them perfectly, but (like science) we can know them well enough to make useful decisions. Failure to understand and apply these ethical principles properly will jeopardize both personal happiness and social welfare (just like failing to understand the rules of sanitation will jeopardize public health).”
Is that an accurate rephrasing, Alan?
In addition, could you post a concise summary of your [current understanding] of basic principles? I presume you’ve already seen mine.