The Ethical Dimension of Human Nature

April 2006
International Journal of the Humanities;Apr2006, Vol. 3 Issue 8, p79
Academic Journal
The interaction amongst individuals and their emergence in larger human organisations such as a community or a state are intimately bound to the reality of the human being. Thus, individuals do not exist simply as servants of a collective, but on the other hand, one cannot delude oneself into thinking that one lives in a private reality. To take the most basic point, all sentient beings feel pleasure and pain. This is not optional or negotiable and is not just a social construction or a product of an ideology. It follows from the simple fact that sentient beings must take action to avoid harm or promote benefit. The further particular properties of the nature of any particular species of sentient being such as humans are similarly mandated by the situation of that species within the total bio-sphere. Again, this is not optional. However, the human species has a flexible mind and a language capable of communicating subtle or abstract thoughts. As a consequence, humans can ask that basic question of how to promote benefit and avoid harm on a level and with a depth that is revolutionary in terms of existence on this planet. This is the genesis of ethics and morality and it follows from the fundamental nature of our reality. This revolutionary new capacity must not be squandered by denying the objective and universal nature of the ethical discussion undertaken by individuals, groups and societies. To a unique extent, human goods are frequently intangible; this is the primary source of all human studies: economics, history, literature, law, ethics, and so on. Their intangibility should not mislead us into thinking that they are infinitely malleable according to our whims and preferences. A theory of economics or a law may be workable or otherwise in just the same way as a tangible good such as an electric motor. For this reason, the humanities have legitimate claims as fields of science and engineering. But they must not betray the responsibility that comes with this realisation by departing from the spirit of the scientific enterprise, which has as its foundation accountability to the truths about universal reality. In this analysis, ethics is the realm that connects individual human nature to societal realities such as laws. It does so in various conceptual dimensions. In the domain of willed action it recognises that human beings are neither infallible nor omniscient, and therefore cannot give effect to all their plans; and so, there must be a realm of unenforced obligation between what is compulsory (law) and what is completely free (personal preferences). In the realm of planning and understanding, ethics is the connective between the realities of individual human nature and those of social organisation. These are processes of mutual influence and feedback determined by reality, whether we understand that reality or not. But if it is understood, or understood better than before, new possibilities are opened for positively influencing human social and individual evolution. The Principle of Goodness is a new realist ethical theory which acknowledges these truths about human nature and the vast web of interactions within which humans live and exercise their wills. It has a great deal to say about how people should act, and in turn be treated by others. It shows that contemporary socio-political theory is wholly inadequate as a suitable basis for human flourishing: in particular, the fashionable compulsion to reduce the variegated uniqueness of each of the six billion human individuals to generalised properties based upon categories within which they are placed, such as race, class, and gender. Not one of these categories stands up to a critical analysis of its usefulness as a means of dividing people from each other.…


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