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Ayn Rand claimed that morality is a "code of values to guide man's choices and actions - the choices and actions that determine the purpose and the course of his life. Ethics, as a science, deals with discovering and defining such a code." But then she asked: "The first question that has to be answered, as a precondition of any attempt to define, to judge or to accept any specific system of ethics, is: Why does man need a code of values?"

For example, why choose to act rationally, or to think at all for that matter, if there isn't any "right" answer? Is it a contradiction to claim that morality doesn't exist while still approving the idea of having a "bounded code" as this author suggests? Is the author's claim correct - that group cohesion is the primary purpose of morality? Is there a code of ethics or nature (realized or unrealized) proper to "man qua man" (i.e., man in the capacity of man - what distinguishes man from all else)? Do we really need a moral code? Can we survive without it?


Morality's main reason for being is group cohesion, without which most personal endeavors could not even get off the ground. All of us depend on the viability of our group; hence we must imbibe very strong motives 'with our mother's milk' to favor the group over our personal ego, if only for our personal good in the long run... My denial of moral relativism, however, rests mainly on the unintelligibility of the charge. 'Moral relativism' seems to me an oxymoron; for morality in its very concept and essence is supposed to be universal and absolute. Thus, even in the example I just gave regarding killing, morality's defenders would say that a single imperative underlies the differences due to circumstances, namely, "Thou shalt not kill the innocent" or something of that sort. Moral relativism, therefore, is a strawperson to begin with...

I claim that morality does not exist. But what is morality? It is not possible to settle any dispute about whether something exists without knowing the nature of the entity in question. Clearly there is a sense in which morality does exist; for example, defined as a code of behavior whose violation is considered to merit punishment (legal, social, or psychological), morality is to be found in every society. So when I assert that morality does not exist, I must have something else in mind. And certainly I do, namely, morality conceived as a universal injunction external to our desires. Thus, for example, even if the code of our society deemed homosexual behavior as such to be morally permissible, and even if you personally wished to engage in it, Morality might pronounce it Wrong. The morality I now reject is therefore a metaphysical one, as opposed to the sociological kind; the latter is a fact of our empirical environment, while the former is a figment of our wishful or fearful imagination...

I am still for the elimination of morality, even though I approve the idea of bounded codes...

An Amoral Manifesto (Part II)


Original posting by Braincrave Second Life staff on Jan 10, 2011 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=429

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