Weighing Without a Scale: Duty, Honour and Dignity

Jacques-Louis_David_-_Oath_of_the_Horatii_-_Google_Art_Project

What is duty? – A dictionary will let us know it is a moral or legal obligation. Legal obligations we can make unambiguous sense of. One is obligated in the sense that failure to comply will lead to persecution in a clearly defined manner. The obligation of law is not an invisible bond, but a simple statement of consequences – do this, or else…

Moral duty, on the other hand, is a mystery. Indeed, we have done legal duty a disservice, for the law is not in truth meant as a statement of consequences; if it were, what then when there are no observers, no one to enact the promised consequences! The law states, as the moral duty does, that one should. Here the moral duty sets a period while law, perhaps in admittance of should’s obscurity, adds a tangible motivation; a because. You should; if you do not, then… Law made the astute observation that handcuffs are more certain to be binding than should.
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The Highest Payoff

Evolution follows a very simple rule: genes live on only if passed on. Clearly then, the organisms that prevail in nature are those who are able to pass on their genes; those that are best able to protect themselves and their offspring. Since all the creatures are the result of such a harsh process, they are adapted to serve themselves – or, rather, their genes. This is interpreted as meaning that we measure the payoff of actions in promoting oneself and one’s position. And, as much is true, we always try to maximize the payoff of something. But, from a simple rule one can get a complex system. Continue reading

Evolution, Religion and Society

Recently I started to read the book “Natural Justice” by Ken Binmore, and in his introductory chapter he talks about the evolutionary basis for morality. For his part this is meant only as an introduction of sorts, and therefore the exposition is shortened and simplified, and so it would be unfair to criticise it too harshly for avoiding some issues. But, it did get me to think about some common presentations and arguments from evolution that I feel are too much of a simplification – especially if the goal is to make ethical and political claims based on human nature. I will in this article raise some general questions considering how one argues from and presents evolution, and in particular I will present important concerns about the focus on religious beliefs, that is beliefs containing deities or the divine, by certain atheistic groups. Continue reading

The Weight of Freedom

For most of humanity’s existence, our goal has been to stay alive, and for this outward struggle for food, shelter and security, against disease and nature, we are well adapted and well experienced. This endless toil has been like the boulder of Sisyphus for us – but this toil has ended. We have created societies and states in which all this is provided, from birth, in great abundance compared to even the very close past. But our bodies are made for working, and our brains for thinking, and so we will always struggle against something. And in the modern day this struggle is not for staying alive, but with living, and for this, we have no experience and the education and social structure of our societies leaves us wholly unprepared for it.

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