• Enrique
    155
    A brief excerpt from an essay I wrote, which makes the case that evolutionary relativism is essentially negligible in ethical significance. I'd be interested to get your opinions on whether you find these arguments convincing, and what kinds of opinions you guys hold with regards to this subject in general.


    Contemporary thinkers may have duped their audience and perhaps even themselves into the impression that harmonizing the epistemology of evolutionary relativism with universal ethics is much harder than it actually is. First of all, we can outline the most holistic conditions for behavior to be ethical. Every human being needs food, shelter, clothing, health, safety, and usually some kind of community: acts that purposefully diminish the satisfaction of these needs are traditionally immoral, and upholding them is moral across the board. This is the whole basis for an ethically “good” civic existence, exerting ourselves to sustain at least a minimum quality of life throughout the population so suffering is prevented or at least kept to a minimum and we can all experience moments of pleasure instead. The superficial modern question is whether some individuals, by virtue of majority status or superior ability, have the prerogative to regard their own pleasure and actualization as prioritized over even the degree of suffering in other segments of the population. Would unqualified helping of the unfortunate obfuscate humanity’s evolution?

    To start with, we should acknowledge that these basic needs are not mutually exclusive: lacking food, shelter, clothing, health, safety and community in any combination induces suffering, so consent to letting these conditions obtain is conventionally immoral, or at least a clear corollary of immorality. For example, the borderline case: offering starving individuals food while simultaneously trying to rudely offend them is fairly unethical, though not exactly an utter violation, and will make these individuals more likely to commit immoral acts themselves. By contrast, if we assist someone enough to meet all their needs, no doubt exists that we have been impeccably ethical, helping the collective far beyond what is necessary to our own personal interests, the whole basis for much of the economy, international intervention in political disputes as well as charitable aid and kind gestures wherever they happen. It is obvious that immoral acts spawn further immoral acts as humans more or less give each other what they deserve, so even unrequited ethical behavior would tend to gradually increase goodwill and lessen suffering in a population.

    Why should we care about the overall well-being of humanity in the first place? When we look at real science versus the exploitative rhetoric of status-centric value judgements that sometimes dishonestly represent it, this issue is incredibly simplistic. A distinctly human nature exists, molded by two hundred thousand years of more or less communal reproductive history subsisting under the almost constant social, technological and memetic selection pressures of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle modified in thousands of minute ways by environmental necessity, but more alike than different, consisting of roughly the same sized populations with approximately the same psychical profile, solving the same sorts of cognitive problems. Even more significantly, much of human physiology and behavioral compulsion has been at least partially formed by millions upon millions of years of biological ancestry. We all have on average the same nervous system, the same type of brain, the same intellectual and emotional profile, and when placed in similar conditions we will end up acting in exactly the same ways given enough environmental consistency, becoming reflective, aggressive, passive, generous, distrustful, and so on. Suffering is a complex cognitive experience, but its essential cause - pain - can be empathically or cognitively understood by virtually all human beings via analogy with our own experience: even if we like a certain type of pain, it is undeniably a disrespect to inflict it on others against their will because unwanted pain is the root of suffering for all humans.

    Of course the exact way justice should be administered using pain, deprivation, or some alternate means is a difficult issue to tackle. Making sure that populations are empowered by education to reach maximum achievement rather than hampered by an inadequate system is also an important concern. Enhancing medical treatment and technology in general is vital to the prospects for quality of life. Assuring we do not destroy ourselves with our own technological development is a salient dilemma. Restraining our drive to have sex and desire to reproduce is also key for the future well-being of the species. We must avoid the destruction of our way of life with war. Society faces many more or less difficult problems, but the very possibility of these being stated in a universalized way implies that human nature is substantially universal; we all depend on the same functional institutions and behavioral dynamics for our sustenance, so that what detracts from one life detracts from every life in approximately equal measure.

    Commonalities of need informing civilized social relationships and the mechanisms of institutions have obtained for roughly ten thousand years, while the window of time within which human decision-makers must exercise themselves to apply and augment social factors in institutional contexts is only a few generations at the most, a fraction of the single lifespan. So in terms of evolutionary relativism, we can express this as follows: human nature changes very slowly relative to the timeframe of human behavioral judgements, to such an extent that the evolutionary fate of the species is nearly negligible for appropriate ethical action and associated engineering of society. We all have a slightly different assortment of traits and different personal and cultural histories, but from a practical standpoint, fashioning utopian existence for the human race by generally non-oppressive methods while excluding setbacks such as warlike radicalization of culture would require commitments to ethical behavior over the stretch of perhaps several lifetimes, while the evolution of our universal need is comparatively almost static, as ten thousand years of selection pressure upon an at least two hundred thousand year old suite of pragmatically relevant trait profiles. Physical evolution is of paltry significance when contrasted with the absolute cruciality of appropriate behaviors, those most likely to positively effect any human life on a daily basis. It seems that big, bad evolutionary relativism is a mere footnote to the conceptualizing of apt human behavior, virtually meaningless as a critique of ethical reasoning’s universality.

    So an accurate, impartial, science-based outlook regarding human evolution instantly diffuses any quandary about whether ethical beliefs need to be adjusted. The theory of evolution is merely a dab of new fact addressed to the same old run of the mill human existence, and how could it be any different? Thousands of years of recorded history have finally been compiled in an analytical way to give us penetrating intuition into the character of civilized human nature, and much of what captured antiquity’s imagination is no less provocative today. A pity for some, who would have liked to justify the claim that their personal or subcultural pleasures, pains and potential should be put on a pedestal, lofted above the rest of the species.

    This gets at the very heart of the simultaneous benefits and dangers posed by theories of evolution and innovative theories in total: we can acquire a deeper understanding of nature by assimilating progressive concepts, but the novelty of this information allows it to easily be misrepresented and misused. Much of human civilization is starting to emerge from the 20th century darkness of Machiavellian exploitation it erroneously used the theory of evolution to advocate, with a contrary insistence on ideal rationality, factual fidelity and respect for uncertainty sprouting from analytical literature. Prejudicial disingenuousness is far from dispelled, however, as organizations everywhere still often try to twist knowledge into a form that serves their own interests at the expense of individual and collective well-being in the wider population. Online communication has the potential to counter this perennial doctoring of new fact-based truths, but realistic belief in regards to human nature is still very much at risk. Though all the information that would at least hypothetically empower human collectivity and self-optimization of the individual has been assembled, access can be restricted such that less apprised mindsets persist or even spread.

    The question of how we get billions of citizens to act responsibly such that goodwill can generally be relied upon is a huge conundrum. Even extremely small groups can endanger lives on a regular basis, strict law enforcement is necessary to prevent this rampant destructiveness, severely enforcing the law corrupts individuals and institutions dispensing justice or held accountable for the management of funds as they are obliged to cover their asses, and the aforementioned small groups may have a legitimate gripe in some sense, which festers as attention required to cooperatively resolve tensions is rare. The means to overcome these traditional discontents is simple enough: personal relationships in a structured institutional environment where the individuals involved commit within reason to their best effort at cordial, good-natured collaborating and educating, what can perhaps be called “consciousness raising”. But how to get everyone on board with the collective project is a gargantuan logistical and ideological difficulty, and real progress is hard to come by. It seems we readily jump on a bandwagon for the sake of an experience or a feeling of accomplishment, as well as shuffle by each other unthinkingly for the better part of our days while wisely repressing any dissatisfaction with culture, but truly convention-busting discourse in a safe community setting is far from easily accessible to most.


    A further issue: are conditions changing in the 21st century such that this analysis no longer applies for some reason?
  • Aleph Numbers
    49
    We all have on average the same nervous system, the same type of brain, the same intellectual and emotional profile
    What about mentally ill people and those with personality disorders?
    Making sure that populations are empowered by education to reach maximum achievement rather than hampered by an inadequate system is also an important concern. Enhancing medical treatment and technology in general is vital to the prospects for quality of life.
    This is exceedingly obvious and doesn't need to be stated in my opinion.
    This:
    Assuring we do not destroy ourselves with our own technological development is a salient dilemma.
    is somewhat interesting.
    what detracts from one life detracts from every life in approximately equal measure.
    You are really making quite a claim there. Being deprived of social media might be devastating to one person but not to another. I think you must mention privations.
    Commonalities of need informing civilized social relationships and the mechanisms of institutions have obtained for roughly ten thousand years, while the window of time within which human decision-makers must exercise themselves to apply and augment social factors in institutional contexts is only a few generations at the most, a fraction of the single lifespan.
    Are you saying that people have not acted within institutions to bring about changes in social norms or to change those institutions until less than one lifespan ago? I don't really have any idea what you're trying to say here.
    What is this:
    evolutionary relativism
    to cover their asses
    You cannot say this in a scholarly essay.
    prevent this rampant destructiveness
    Where did this come from? Why are you just mentioning it at the end of the essay?

    I tried very hard to understand your essay but it just doesn't make sense to me. Sweeping claims are made with no evidence, such as those about human nature, and the language is muddled. I would recommend sticking closer to a functional thesis. Sorry.
  • Tilla
    2
    Contemporary thinkers may have duped their audience and perhaps even themselves into the impression that harmonizing the epistemology of evolutionary relativism with universal ethics is much harder than it actually is.Enrique

    First I have a few questions:
    a. What exactly does evolutionary relativism mean?
    b. What does universal ethics mean?

    If you mean something along the lines of moral realism by universal ethics then there are some naturalist moral realists who have proposed an evolutionary realist (mind independent) account of morality. The papers that I am aware of are "Evolution and moral realism" by Sterelny and Franser and "Evolutionary moral realism" by Collier and Stingel. That is by no means a mainstream view but I hope that it will gain some more attention as we move to views that consider our best science. I believe that both biologic and social evolutionary processes are important to the understanding of morality.
  • Enrique
    155
    a. What exactly does evolutionary relativism mean?
    b. What does universal ethics mean?
    Tilla

    Relativism refers to the phenomenon that reality's appearance depends on a multiplicity of perspectives manifesting within an interpreting perceiver's frame of reference. In our case, the interpreting perspectives are those of human beings united into a progressing objectivity of technology and scientific knowledge, which cultural idealists strive to make universalizably practical as possible. Evolution is an important component of universalizable objectivity's scientific foundation, giving knowledge the universal form of chronology so as to make prediction of the future maximally rational and thus conceptually integrating for every individual. This enables mass behavior to be more effectively orchestrated.

    A universal ethic is emergent from the fact that conditions of human survival are nearly universal. Being able to at least minimally depend on survival is a prerequisite for any satisfying quality of life to be possible, so cultural idealists who want to better the general standard of living find implications of this effort more or less equivalent for all human beings. Working towards achieving basic standard of human living on a universal scale is justifiable because this is necessary for pleasure to be experienced, makes humans more likely to behave amicably, and gives a substantial amount of pleasure to the charitable individual practicing these values independent of politicized consequences. Essentially, a universal ethic is capable of enhancing community health. In actual practice many complications exist, but working towards the ideal is rock solid in its reasonableness.

    If you want a full dose of the rationale or merely a selection, these essays from my blog at WordPress.com thoroughly explain it.

    Human Motivation and its Place in the Development towards Contemporary Culture

    The Nature and Origins of Ethics

    Norms, Customs, Conscience and Power

    The Ethics of Progress

    Enjoy! lol
  • Tilla
    2
    you need to keep in mind that objectivity and subjectivity are mutually exclusive. Claiming that evolutionary processes are subjective to humans means that it is not objectively true. That means that you are claiming that evolutionary processes have not taken place. in that case, I believe you need to keep on researching the matter, preferably from reliable sources.

    "A universal ethic is emergent..."
    you make in that passage claims about survival of single people, and then jump to the pleasure of people depending on the survival of everyone in the universe. You have an huge gap there, why should anyone care about the survival of someone in some far away country on your account?

    You are on the right path, but you need to read more about the topic, the claims you make are not yet worked out properly.
  • Enrique
    155
    you need to keep in mind that objectivity and subjectivity are mutually exclusive. Claiming that evolutionary processes are subjective to humans means that it is not objectively true.Tilla

    My point of view is that objectivity is invented as a kind of collective subjectivity based on science and technology. Maybe that seems unorthodox, but while perception is somewhat independent of logically rational thought as a cognitive function, what might be referred to as so-called "external", it varies enough between individuals and is modified by the construction of truth at such a core level that even the concept of time upon which evolution is rooted proves extremely malleable, as reflections on spirituality and modern physics (theory of relativity, quantum mechanics) show.

    you make in that passage claims about survival of single people, and then jump to the pleasure of people depending on the survival of everyone in the universe. You have an huge gap there, why should anyone care about the survival of someone in some far away country on your account?Tilla

    The argument is somewhat lengthy to make. If you're super curious, I address this primarily in the "Norms, Customs, Conscience and Power" and "The Ethics of Progress" essays. Basically, the ideas depend on an analysis of history.
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