On Natural Ethics In An Existential Reality

The moral nature of the human being has long been a topic of debate among the vast variety of philosophers. The fact that most every person has a natural sense of right and wrong is widely accepted. But the implications thereof lead to differences of perspective as to a possible source of such instinctive feelings, and as to whether there is a natural moral standard for all human kind.

Some religious philosophers cite our moral nature as evidence for the existence of a moral god, who created us in her or his image (usually the latter). Others maintain that our existence is that of an unintended separation from a realm of multiple deities, and that each of us has a spark of divinity within, which serves as a moral representation of who we truly are and from whence we actually came. Then again there are secular philosophers who regard the moral nature of humanity as a natural development of the human experience.

The question as to whether there exists any deities in a celestial realm seems irrelevant to the matter of the moral nature of humanity, if in fact our sense of right and wrong does not regulate human conduct to peacefully coexist in the here and now. For what difference would the existence of a god or gods make if humanity chooses to either defy our moral nature, or at the very least discriminate as to adherence to such? So long as humanity opts to give in to hate rather than be guided by indiscriminate love and concern for each other, then the speculations of a celestial superior seem both incidental and irrelevant to the existential state of the human experience.

This is not to imply that faith is a hindrance to a peaceful coexistence. But the point being that faith seems irrelevant to the matter one way or another if believers in a celestial superior live in social conflict in this existential reality. Discrimination, hatred, and collective murder are social wrongs regardless of whether those so involved are people of faith or mere humanists. The effect is the same either way, and amounts to a defiance of our natural sense of right and wrong.

For the moral code which is innate to our very being reveals itself by way of our natural and indiscriminate sensitivity to the suffering of others. The Chinese philosopher Mencius used his theoretical example of most people’s instinctive reactions to a child who falls down a well to illustrate this very point. As Mencius observed, most people will feel a spontaneous and indiscriminate concern for the well being of the endangered child immediately, and most will rush to the child’s aid regardless of whether they know it’s identity. The instinctive concern and spontaneous reactions in such a scenario are universal, and therefore seemingly natural to all human beings. And thus the theory of a natural moral code innate to us all.

Yet if we choose to bicker, hate, and collectively kill; then nothing short of actually adhering to our moral nature will ever save humanity from ourselves. In essence we have the potential to live a peaceful coexistence, because our instinctive nature is to be indiscriminately concerned for the well being of others. But so long as humanity opts to defy our innate moral code by giving in to hate and greed, then both our moral nature and our lives are quite frankly woefully wasted.

Dave Henderson
Denison, Texas

2 thoughts on “On Natural Ethics In An Existential Reality

  1. Hello Dave. I do not think morals or moral behavior is innate in humans. I do think it comes from the human experience we learn as we grow up from the societies we are in. A child has no sense of right or wrong until they pick it up from those in authority around them. It even takes a years before a child even learns empathy for others. If you have a bad moral community, you will accept things morally deficient until you have reason to question your positions. Hugs

  2. Morals seem to be social constructs designed through usage to help us get along. This is why we have moral codes that promote female genital mutilation and mercy killing and others that find those practices deplorable. I recommend the book The Moral Animal by Robert Wright if you haven’t already read that as one approach to plumbing the depths of morals.

    I tend to believe that morals have been hijacked by religions, which are in the practice of showing leadership by finding parades and walking out in front. Their claim of ownership instills a sense of gratitude on the receiver, and then they as “What have you done for me lately?”

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