[ExI] Religions and violence.

Jebadiah Moore jebdm at jebdm.net
Thu Aug 19 06:29:08 UTC 2010

2010/8/18 samantha <sjatkins at mac.com>

> To be more precise, naturals come from the actual nature of the beings
> involved.  In other words they are based in reality.  I don't think reality
> requires God.   If in reality human beings have certain critical
> characteristics dictating that they best interact with one another (the only
> domain of rights) in certain ways and not others then these are rights
> inherent to their nature.  It will be difficult to claim that human beings
> have no particular nature in reality that is relevant to the proper way for
> them to act towards one another.

I don't think the term "natural law" can be applied to the system you're
proposing; it has (as far as I can tell) always been invoked as referring to
a natural law that is not derived from the nature of human beings, but
existing separately from them.

In any case, you still haven't rebutted my points from before regarding the
statement you just proposed, or backed yourself up with some logic or
evidence.  I'll argue my point again, though, specifically in response to
your claim here.

The first problem with your formulation of natural law (I'll call this...
derived universal morality, or DUM... heh, no pun intended) is that you're
looking for a way to prescribe the "best" way for humans to interact.  But
where does this standard come from?  We're assuming that there is no God
prescribing it, nor any physical law of the universe directly saying "humans
should do X".

If humans were uniform in their goals, then perhaps you could derive a
standard based on maximizing utility toward this goal, like you can try to
design the "best" algorithm for some purpose (e.g. sorting or spam
filtering) or the "best" machine for moving humans around or making pencils.
 But humans are not uniform in their goals, nor are their goals unitary or
simple.  Instead, there are a wide variety of complex goal sets, varying
from "raise a family in the country while learning to play the piano and
raise a garden" to "make as much money as possible and have lots of random

(If you can think of something besides goals from which to derived a DUM,
let me know.  For it to exist as you specify--not based on an arbitrarily
given rule, but based on the characteristics of humans--and also govern all
human behavior--so it can't just be things like "the most productive way to
hold a conversation is to avoid interrupting each other"--it must be based
in some characteristic of humans which applies to all their behavior (or at
least all voluntary behavior).  Voluntary [in the sense of "somatic nervous
system"] behavior in humans seems to be basically directed by a combination
of conscious goals and subconscious drives/programmed behavior.  [Of course,
you might dispute this, but I don't see how you can do something more
productive using a lower-level model.  If you do, do tell; it would probably
be quite interesting.]  Altering the drives themselves is one route to
behavior control, but I don't think it's what you're looking for in a moral
system.  Even if it is, altering them is only good if it's done toward some
purpose [whether fully understood or not], so I think it's safe to say that
goals are the only thing we have to base a DUM on.)

So, obviously you cannot design a code of morality which satisfies all human
goals at once (especially since some of them are mutually conflicting).  The
next idea is to simply derive a set of goals which everyone has.  This seems
plausible at first glance, due to our common gene pool, but alas, even the
obvious genetic goals are not universal in our species--surviving and having
kids.  So I think this is a dead end.

At this point, I think it's safe to say that it's not possible to derive a
universally acceptable and applicable code of morality based on shared human
characteristics.  In other words, you can't have a true DUM.  And
without universality, you don't have anything even remotely like natural

So, what's left?

You might relax the requirements and say the goals don't have to be
universal, but they should pertain to a vast majority.  This is the first
really feasible possibility, because there are a lot of traits/goals that,
while not universal, are extremely widespread.  I'll call this solution
"derived majoritarian morality".

In fact, a DMM is roughly what we have now; it is what a long history of
common law produces, and it is what democracy produces, modulo the skew
towards the ruling class.

DMMs can still produce the concept of rights.  In fact, I would expect that
most would produce some sort of similar mechanism, at least, based on the
principle that most people are non-majority in some way, and as they find
that their views clash with the common morality, they would want some way to
protect their ability to choose.  Plus, people seem to like to choose things
rather a lot, and would probably value that intrinsically, so would assert
in their code of morality that taking away choices is, in general, bad.

You do have to be careful with DMMs, though, because the majority sometimes
believes and values some crazy things.  Of course, these things only seem
crazy to people that don't believe them, so perhaps that doesn't matter and
we "ought" to let the majority have its way anyways.  But I am wary of
directly assembling a DMM based on opinion polls, etc., because it is not
too unlikely for atheists/non-heterosexuals/other minorities to be

The point is, you're not going to get something perfect or universal if you
try to derive it from human nature.  And whatever you do get you'll be
asserting/imposing, rather than "discovering", if you frame it as a moral
system.  But you can get something pretty close to what you describe (not a
system giving the best rules for all people, but a system giving good rules
for most people), and posit that as a moral system/as law.  That'd probably
be better than what we currently have (although what we have is an informal
approximation to what you're looking for), especially since you could try to
minimize conflicts with peoples' views based on poll data or some such
thing.  But it'd still be an instance of "positive law", not "natural law",
and it should be treated as such.

Jebadiah Moore
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