Why do we need ethics and morals?

This is an interesting question, so I’ll try and provide you an answer from the perspective of evolutionary science.

1.

Firstly, from an evolutionary perspective, it isn’t the survival of the individual or the transmission of an individual’s genes that is most important, it is about the gestalt survival of the species, first and foremost. Competition and individual drives for procreation are a good way of having that happen. But let us remember that evolution is not just genetic, or physiological, but also occurs at a social level. Social strategies for evolution are wildly successful in the natural world, just look at ants, baboons, and Canadian geese. All of these animals have developed social strategies to help with the task of survival and propagation of their species.
In a similar vein, humans have developed social constructs in a dizzying variety that has made us wildly successful as a species as far as survival goes; we live in a vast variety of environments. Cooperation has demonstrated its survival value countless times in our history as a species, and from that we’ve developed some formalized standards of how to go about cooperating in a society. Some of these are expressed in abstracts like justice, good and evil, or examined and debated as ethics and morality. These values also change as our societies and civilizations have changed, and we continue to evolve as a social species.
Clearly, there are differences between cultural ethics and morality in our world, as we are in a state of experimentation and conflict that has be brought on by globalization, information technologies, and the shifting political demographics of various regions of the planet.

From this perspective, if everyone were to go and murder each other in competition, the survival of the species is far less certain than through cooperation. Imagine 7 billion people suddenly no longer working together and instead turning on each other, when general cooperation has been so incredibly advantageous for some 200,000 years or so.

2.

We live in a universe where everything and everyone is connected, at the deepest levels; but have not been properly taught about that.

Here on planet earth, we humans survived and became a powerful species by cooperating in ever-larger groups, ‘groups of groups’ and then ‘Groups of Groups’.

Recently, a perversion of the ways we interact, called competition, has some Fear-driven ones trying to control all of the rest of us by keeping us just barely surviving in the many weak states of Fear; so they don’t have to face retribution for what they have done, and are doing, to get and keep their power and vast riches.

Unless we learn how to live Love-focused lives, and to cooperate with each other again, we will continue to destroy those parts of life on the planet which allow us to survive.

In the end, the planet may no longer be able to allow us to survive as a species.

So, do you want you, and any of your descendants, to be forced into extinction; or do you want to choose to go back to Love-focused living, with a chance to even improve existing ethics and morals!

3.

Literally, because your life depends on you being moral according to the Objectivist Ethics derived from observations of the nature of reality, the nature of man, and the nature of life by the philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand. In other words, using morals and ethics as the same referent in reality, man needs a code of values because he needs values in order to sustain his own life and a code of values accepted by choice is a code of morality. What Ayn Rand observed was that all living things are capable of self-sustaining, self-generative action, and that they do this in order to live a successful life — and man is no different except that man has a volitional consciousness (free will) and must therefore *choose* to live ethically to sustain his own life, which is the standard of morality. That which benefits a living being is good, that which is detrimental to it is bad, by its own type of life as the standard. It would not be good for you to get high on drugs, go up to the top of a skyscraper, and jump off, because you would die; on the other hand, choosing to eat nutritious food is good, because you will remain alive.

Here is what Ayn Rand said about values and ethics and the need to have them:

“Ethics is an objective, metaphysical necessity of man’s survival. . . .

I quote from Galt’s speech [in her novel Atlas Shrugged]: “Man has been called a rational being, but rationality is a matter of choice—and the alternative his nature offers him is: rational being or suicidal animal. Man has to be man—by choice; he has to hold his life as a value—by choice; he has to learn to sustain it—by choice; he has to discover the values it requires and practice his virtues—by choice. A code of values accepted by choice is a code of morality.”

The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics—the standard by which one judges what is good or evil—is man’s life, or: that which is required for man’s survival qua man.

Since reason is man’s basic means of survival that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys it is the evil. Since everything man needs has to be discovered by his own mind and produced by his own effort, the two essentials of the method of survival proper to a rational being are: thinking and productive work.”

-Ayn Rand Lexicon

And part of what she was talking about was teleological measurements that is what living things do to remain alive — they get more out of an action to obtain values and to use them than it takes to get those values, as I wrote about in my essay on teleological measurements:

“Within Objectivism, the term “teleology” refers to the fact that some things that exist are alive and capable of acting towards sustaining their lives by a process of acting towards a goal (the means) to further promote their life (ends). It does not apply to the universe as a whole, since there is no evidence the universe is alive and acting towards anything, and it doesn’t apply to some sort of historical force in man’s life as if all of history is aimed at achieving some end. The term teleology basically identifies the fact that a living entity must act in a manner consistent with its nature in order to gain values so that it can continue to live its life. Ayn Rand gave the basic identification of life as self-sustaining, self-generative action; in other words, a thing is alive if it is capable of acting in a manner to promote its continued existence. At this time, this only applies to biological entities, as no one has come up with any sort of artificial life, like a self-repairing robot of some sort. By the very nature of life, to stop acting towards the goal of living one’s life is to begin a process of decay, at least for man. While some living beings can go into a state of suspended animation or hibernation and metabolic shut-down, man is incapable of doing this and must continuously act towards the goal and purpose of living his own life by pursuing those things which are life-promoting.

In her discussion of teleological measurements – the method of measuring if something is promoting its own life or not – Ayn Rand settles on one fundamental means or standard by which to judge teleological processes: Does the living entity gain more time to live its life by doing what it does? Because life is self-sustaining and self-generative action, and because time is a measure of motion or action (from Aristotle), she integrates the concept of life and of time and realizes that time is the most fundamental way of measuring if something is alive or not. So long as it still has time to promote its life and can go through the process of generating the actions necessary to live its life, then it is still alive.”

Teleological Measurements — Life is the Key

4.

I once attended a lecture by Objectivist philosopher Tara Smith, and at the end of it she said, “Close your eyes. Think about everything you love. All the things you value and make you happy. What you want to achieve.”

“Think about them for a while…”

That is why you should be moral.”

To explain. Ethics and morals are not rules imposed from above for the arbitrary desires of a deity or society. Fundamentally, we need ethics because we are thinking beings, who have to decide how to behave: and we need principles by which to decide.

And just as our nature sets our need for ethics, it sets their content. Our lives (and for the same reason, our happiness) depends on us acting in accordance with reality, including our own nature. That is the link between reality and ethics. Or to put it another way that is what makes ethics objective, not subjective (personal whim) or imposed from above.

To cut a very long story short, because we are thinking beings, the effective use of reason is our chief tool of survival, and therefore rationality is our primary virtue. And that can be expressed in other specific virtues, all to do with consistency with reality: such as honesty, integrity, justice, productiveness and pride.

So we need ethics and morals not for some arbitrary purpose outside us, but for our own life and happiness.

5.

Ethics are nothing but Morals with societal perspective, and vice versa, Morals are nothing but ethics in personal capacity.

Morals and ethics are hypothetical constructs that serve as the instrument of behavior regulation.

As man is a social animal, who prefer to live in society. To regulate the behavior of man we give legislative support to some explicit ethical norms which are called laws. While, some implicit ethical norms are responsible for our behavior. But laws cannot be complete in itself and where law ends, ethics begins. These values are necessary to bring about social integration, and control the deviant behavior.

Now u tell me, would you prefer to live in a society like Syria or Iraq where moral and ethical values are at their lowest, or in a society like Australia or Norway?

Without the ethical issues, society would result in chaos. Charles Darwin gave the evolution theory, ‘survival of the fittest’ which proved the point that competition is good for the society as can be seen by comparing Indian society in pre and post liberalization period. Although this competition should be in good sense to give positive results.

It is to make the behavior of men more acceptable on society’s level that we need ethics, which derive itself from Morals. By keeping the moral fabric of society intact we are increasing the survival rate of its members.

  • Ethics and morals are necessary for civilization because without them people as a whole would descend into chaos. They give people guidelines to live by so everyone isn’t running around killing and stealing to get whatever they want. Even though evolutionary theory says we can just take what we want they’re other things in society that we’ve grown to require that make ethics necessary. For example discoveries of all kinds benefit from cooperation between people, if there were no morals and ethics people wouldn’t be able to come together and create new technologies because we would be singularly focused on what we need by evolution standards. To sum it up morals and ethics are necessary for societal progression if we are only focused on what we want we would be nothing more than animals and would live as such.

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