Which I’m happy to do, but that requires me to back to the roots of Reason, Morality and Evolution. [Read more] to see just how far back I’m willing to go…
Evolution does not operate by pure chance on inanimate objects, but on replicating lifeforms under selective pressure.
I (unlike my disputants on FoRK) agree, and I hope that Alan will allow me to rephrase this as:
“Evolution acts by selectively rewarding organisms that best conform to the Laws of Survival.”
since he already concedes that he:
“find[s] nothing particularly surprising or noteworthy in the idea that inorganic and organic processes are governed by the same general laws.”
Let me go one step further and assert that evolution:
In case it isn’t obvious, (II) simply implies that we “naturally” feel good — i.e., happy — when we:
and that all these behaviors are essential for survival. Well, (a) and (b) are essential for all animals, though (c) is only relevant for social animals.
I hope that all these seem equally “unsurprising” and obvious to Alan, though I should point out that many post-modernists disbelieve (I) while objectivists categorically deny (II). I believe this also addresses the “incompleteness” Alan noted in Ebon Muse’s formulation of UU, in that it recognizes and assigns a constructive role to (b) antipathy, not just (c) empathy.
Given that, let me assert that the “Laws of a Survival” describe “General Systems” in the same way that the “Laws of Physics” characterize “Natural Systems.” Since we’ve defined “happiness” as the goal of ethics, then I believe we can say that:
Again, I hope this is all fairly obvious and non-controversial, but nonetheless illuminating. It is neither rational nor virtuous for, say, a prisoner of war to devote himself to the happiness of his captors; conversely, it is both foolish and vicious for a criminal to weaken the society he parasitically depends upon (and wise and just to punish him for it). Perhaps more impressively, this works equally well to explain non-human “morality” among birds and mammals
Still with me, Alan? If not, let me know where/how I lost you.
If so, though, this then begs the following practical and theoretical questions:
I would assert that the simplest and most powerful way to answer these is to assert that:
As best I understand it, this is compatible with most forms of humanism I have seen, so I suspect Alan doesn’t fundamentally disagree (even if he is new to this formulation). However, I would argue that believing in (1-4) is tantamount to believing:
5. The present System exists as the result of a benevolent Purpose
I realize this is not the only possible assumption, but I assert that it is the simplest and most comprehensive explanation for everything above, and that to deny (5) leaves a complex welter of unjustified beliefs in its place.
Agree? Disagree? If so, where and why? If not (5), what superior axiom could you propose in its place to justify (1-4)?
Over to you, Alan.