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  • Nic Nak
  • Louisville, KY
  • United States

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Can naturalism support a universal, moral code?

If nothing exist beyond the material universe (naturalism), on what epistemological footing can naturalists claim a universal, moral code? For example: can naturalism say that genocide and rape are inherently evil or merely culturally inappropriate? Do laws protecting against such injustices simply ensure the propagation of the human species or is there something more fundamentally wrong with rape, murder, and theft?


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  • Dec 15 2012: It depends on how you define universal moral code. I would say no, if you are considering a "good and evil" definition of moral.

    The symbiosis and golden rule arguments are pointing to a world that is defined simply by sociological benefit. We act a certain way because it helps humans as a species survive. This concept can explain many different things that we consider basic rights. (We dont kill because it hurts the species and also because we dont want to be killed. We hope that by outlawing murder, we will reduce the chance of murdered.) This type of thinking can explain many things that we consider moral, but, once again, it depends on your definition of moral.

    Another possibility is that through evolution humans have some of this golden rule concept built into our genetic makeup. Humanity is a social species. We could have some of these traits (such as empathy) built into our DNA and that is why we consider things "right and wrong." It does raise the question of sacrifice though. Why would evolution ever lead to selfless sacrifice as a good thing if it hurts oneself?

    If you believe there is a true "good and evil" or "right and wrong," it must be asked where did that come from? Is it beyond scientific understanding (aka supernatural)? Could it simply "just be?" Is it just a complex form of evolution? If all morality is a complex form of evolution, what does that mean to one's personal worldview? (Random fact, this was one of the questions that C.S. Lewis wrestled with when he was examining his spirituality. Since he believed that there was a true good and evil, he concluded there must be something more than just the physical world.) It is a great question to think over.

    I got really distracted in that last paragraph. I do not believe that naturalism can support a universal moral code because a universal moral code seems to be in a more philosophical realm. Naturalism can however support a society of people that are kind and overall nice people.
    • Dec 15 2012: Are the laws of mathematics supernatural? Did they come from somewhere? No, they just are, the same goes for things like the golden rule and ethics.

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