Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Elohist, Feb 12, 2017.
I think this addresses the question in a interesting way:
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The question is why are they good to themselves, just for survival?
Is survival not a good enough reason? What better reason is there?
IMO, fundamentally, hoarding or stocking up for winter is practised by many animals, such as squirrels.
OTOH, nature itself selects for apparent superior physical abilities. Peacocks are but one example of natural opulence as a breeding advantage.
Apparently, in human terms, along with intelligence and the ability to store more than one needs, greed and opulence brings status and power. And we seem to crave power for its own sake, so we keep collecting more and more stuff and making more and more money and replacing strip-mined mountains with mountains of useless junk.
But in all fairness, there are many humans who will share their abundance with less fortunate individuals . We have many non-profit organizations which are dedicated to doing good.
But that does not address the question "Why be good" which is a philosophical question.
Only humans know the difference between good and bad. The survival argument does not hold.
It does though .
To be good , allows thinking beyond instinct.
I don't think survival is a good enough reason.
Our existence comes and then goes. We want to hold on to it even though we know we can't.
We, as reasoning beings, don't want to accept our mortality, we need TRANSCENDENCE. In other words, we want to be sure we are more than what we do while we are alive.
So, no. Survival is not a good enough reason.
Animals survive, we want more.
I think that there are two different issues here.
1. What accounts for human beings having ethical intuitions? I think that the answer to that one is probably biological, the result of the evolution of social organisms. Members of coherent social groups probably survive better than solitary individuals or member of broken and fragmented groups.
2. What do human beings want? What do they dream of? What do they imagine is the purpose and goal of their lives? I think that's where ideas like transcendence make their appearance.
Doesn't the biological process you mention in 1. accounts for why we human beings want (2.) to be good?
It's the reason altruism arose in the first reason. Because it helps us to survive. It is the best possible answer to the question. Why should we not behave in ways that help us survive?
Being good comes with a whole package of perks. It does help us to survive. It makes us and others happier. It bonds us to each other. And it alleviates stress and suffering. What more reasons do you need?
Yes, probably. (If I'm right about the origin of ethical intuitions at any rate.)
But I'm not convinced that wanting to be good is whatever it is that most people most want out of life, or that it has a whole lot to do with transcendence. It seems like more of means to an end. People often feel the need to tie being good to something more significant, such as getting right with God, being more in tune with the fundamental principles of reality or making themselves more suitable for salvation somehow. But being good isn't usually conceived in and of itself as being the goal. (Maybe Plato thought that way with his sorta-divine 'Form of the Good'.)
Edit: on second thought, people do value feeling loved very highly in their hierarchy of life-purposes. If feeling loved is in part a function of being lovable, of being deemed good by significant others, then there may be a stronger connection.
Do honey-bees have a sense of being good or altruistism or is it simply a matter that a symbiotic reationship is essential for survival of both the honey-bee and flowering plants.
Flowering plants do not prduce pollen for the survival of the bee and bees do ot produce honey for humans. Yet both species combined to feed about 70% of all animals on earth. There is no altruism in this survival behavior, but can be held up as proof that cooperation and sharing of resources is a natural outcome beneficial to both.
Human intelligence has removed us from natural imperatives but natural examples of cooperative (good) behavior provides a moral human imperative.
I doubt bees have a sense of altruism, but being altruistic certainly helps them and the vast majority of them survive. Altruism creates functioning societies, whether it is morally or instinctively driven.
The herder ant is another example of selfish altruism (survival technique)
The ant will protect its aphid herd, much as a sheep herder protects his flock.
They are social insects that instinctively function in coherent groups. Ants and termites are as well. Their evolutionary advantage is less a matter of individual success than success of the entire hive/nest. Many other insects are solitaries, whose evolutionary advantage is more individual.
I'm not sure how much conscious awareness and individual bee has. They aren't behaving intentionally as humans typically do, with conscious goals and motivation so as to maximize values and achieve purposes. They are behaving like biological machines, displaying innate behaviors that have evolved over time.
If bees could think about their actions, I doubt if they would be motivated by any intention to help plants. They seek out pollen and nectar because they are seeking raw materials for their honey production. That's what would be motivating the bees.
It's just that plants have co-evolved to attract pollinators like bees with their colorful sexual displays (flowers). They feed the bees and the bees unintentionally spread the plants' pollen. None of it is the result of thought or planning. None of it is motivated by what humans would call 'moral values'.
I'm less sure that we are all that far removed from our natural imperatives. Individual human success is still a function of the success of our social groups, just as it is for the ants and bees. And just as it was for all the pre-human hominids during human evolution. We are dependent on the supermarket to feed us and on the police and army to defend us. We have jobs doing what other people want in order to get money, and we spend the money to get other people to do what we want. (The post-apocalypse movie theme kind of explores what happens when that human social support system breaks down.)
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