Introduction to Secular Ethics

. 2 min read

By no means will this be a comprehensive essay on how one can establish good and evil objectively. That is certainly out of the scope of this blog. If you'd like to get more detail I recommend Universally Preferable Behaviour by Stefan Molyneux. This is merely a short post with the goal to open your mind to the possibility that moral rules could be objective.

This will be done by proving that a moral rule: "Thou shalt steal" is irrational.

There are a few parameters that must be applied to a moral rule (something which labels what people morally ought or ought not do) in order for it to be objective:

  1. There cannot be a scenario in which it is impossible for someone to be good. For example the moral rule: "Thou shalt help those in need"[1] is invalid as the moment that one stops to sleep or eat they are not good. Not to mention all the people who may otherwise be physically unable to help - not being in proximity, physically disabled and so on.
  2. Moral rules must be applied impartially to all moral agents[2]. The rule "Thou shalt not murder" is true for terrorist and marine alike (all things being equal). It is logically inconsistent to assert your moral rule over another and claim it as rational as you would need to accept that it would also be rational for the other to claim their's over your's. Arriving at an impasse.

If you've made it this far you've got through the hard part.

Now let's apply these to the rule: "Thou shalt steal" and see what we can learn.

This rule violates the first point as the moment one takes a rest from stealing - even if in a coma - you are not good. It may not be clear but this rule also violates point two; stealing is defined as taking without permission, thus under this rule you must simultaneously accept that others can take your stuff while not giving them permission to take it... you are giving permission to take without permission. Which is no longer stealing! (I expect you can see the loop this puts you in).

Thus I hope I have convinced you beyond a shadow of a doubt there is no conceivable way that stealing is moral; that "Thou shalt steal" or "It is good to steal" is as irrational as saying "This number, one, is the same as two".

We have successfully filtered out a (albeit juvenile) moral rule! This is huge!

Secular ethics are so important because they eliminate manipulation, you don't need a priest, politician, or even a philosopher to tell you what is right or wrong.

What were you're thoughts on this post? Have I convinced you there is potential for good and evil to be objective?

  1. This could be read as "It is morally good to help those in need" or "It is morally evil to not help those in need". ↩︎

  2. In this case meaning anything that can conceptualise good or evil. ↩︎

Graeme Russell

I created this blog as a way to reach people about topics I care about: ethics, self-improvement, and lifestyle. I hope you can find something of value here.