A Theory of Secular Ethics

It is my theory that morals and ethics are based on natural principles.  It follows then, that I believe such standards are developed and maintained by natural processes:

Morals and ethics are of course guideline’s for personal social conduct.  For the individual, such distinguishes that which is seemingly right from that which is seemingly wrong.  An understanding of the natural standard for proper social conduct is the foundation for the process by which natural morals and ethics are developed and maintained.  In this regard,  I suggest that the universally natural aversion for suffering is the logical standard by which conduct is generally deemed right or wrong.   I furthermore suggest that the natural effects of social experience and a raised awareness of the effects of suffering are means by which one’s morals and ethics are developed and maintained.

Our natural aversion for suffering of any degree is evidenced by most every decision we make throughout any given day.  The clothes we wear, the setting of a thermostat, and other such simple decisions we make on a daily basis such as whether  to open or close windows, when to eat, and when to relieve ourselves are but a few examples which demonstrate that the founding principle for each such decision is a seemingly natural aversion to suffering shared by us  all.  The baby cries when hungry and the dog seeks shade on a hot summer day for the same reason we make most every single decision of any given day:  A natural aversion to suffering of any degree.

Our natural aversion to suffering in general is demonstrated by the compassion which develops naturally from within most every person as we develop socially.  Few and far between are the people who are not internally distressed at the sights or sounds of the suffering of any sentient being.  It seems to me that the experience of being exposed to the suffering of sentient beings fosters an empathy for our fellow beings which is a natural guide for our social conduct.

Thus, matters of “right and wrong” are not judged by whether actions adhere to or violate a written doctrine or even a societal law.  Natural “right and wrong” are matters of effect.  The effect which assesses the rightness or wrongness of an act then being whether such action causes unnecessary suffering. I honestly cannot think of a single incident of “right and wrong” which is not based to some degree on the concept of suffering or discomfort.

Naturally moral and ethical conduct then is not referenced so much by what one does, but rather by how one’s decisions affect others. Moralists such as Confucius and Jesus reportedly encouraged their followers to practice principles of reciprocity in their social dealings, and rightly so.  For in so doing we of humanity maintain ethical conduct suited to our natural empathy for the suffering of others.

Such is the way of moral and ethical conduct based upon our natural aversion to suffering of any degree AND by anyone.

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