0.- Hypothesis - Presentation
The purpose of this website is to disseminate two biological ideas and a Universal Ethical Principle
Basic idea: As all known biological species, Homo sapiens, has the goal or purpose of surviving and the vital imperative for trying to.Without prejudice to the fact that the Man or men may have other purposes or goals: material, spiritual or transcendent.
2nd. The extended group altruism (instinctive, reciprocal, free, expensive...) is the most effective and efficient means to conserve and transmit life, to survive, in all social species. Especially it has been, and is, in ours.
3rd. From the above the following Universal Ethical Principle: It is good / better, what altruistically done, is good / better for the survival of our species. What is "altruistically done" could be omitted since, as said, it is implicit in the rest of the sentence.
The first of these concepts, or basic idea, seems elementary and obvious and its content is implicit and active in all living beings, but, except for a mistake, has not been enunciated so far with the scope of our proposal.
Analyzing its context, an originality of this idea is to consider biological species as real and active subjects. While, traditionally, biologists and philosophers have considered subjects to individual organisms, animals and men.
This introduction attempts to prevent some of the most frequent difficulties in seeing these new concepts. In the case of altruism, the main difficulty is to see and assume the proposed extended meaning for the term altruism: in our hypothesis, altruism is an extensive concept, not reduced to gratuitous actions. And the universal ethical principle is nothing else than making it explicit, for men, the vital imperative implicit in all of them.
1.- The Vital Imperative
Basic Concept: Like all known ones, the Homo Sapiens species has the purpose of surviving and the vital imperative to try it.
If this proposition is true, it follows from its own statement a universal ethical principle that can be expressed as follows: It is good / better what is good / better for the survival of our species.
Clarifications. The verification or scientific justification of the basic hypothesis can be done in several ways. But given the polysemy and the classical use of some therms, it is preferable to previously clarify the meanings in which the most significant ones are used.
Species. Even that the hypothesis is fulfilled for the more than twenty meanings of the term, it gets clear and sufficient if Mayr's is used for the biological ones ;" A species us a set of natural populations capable of crossing between each other...". And not in the sense of a class, or on the taxonomic level, but as the real and concrete set of the individual organisms that compose them in each moment. Individual organisms and their groups and populations also represent their species when they behave as such.
Homo sapiens or Man: It is the human kind or set of living human beings, of the biological and social species Homo Sapiens, exiting in each moment.
The man: as a living being, it is for these matters the individual, male or female, of the human species. And that is why the individual organism is similar -analogous, equivalent... -to the rest od the living beings, especially those of other social biological species of sexual reproduction.
Notwithstanding that man is or may be different, in essence or nature, to all other living beings. And also have own, unique and different characters, from the rest of the living beings.
The purpose: is to survive, to remain in time, to endure. In other words, to conserve and transmit, iteratively, the life contained in the living beings that constitute each species in each moment. Without prejudice to the fact that the final purpose is not to conserve the species as such; Species are means built to survive. That is to say, the vital objective would also be achieved if the species becomes, in orther to survive, in another or other species.
Other possible means: Men can have other material means (being physically taller, stronger, healthier, having a longer lifespan...) or spiritual (happier, wiser...) or transcendental (holier to live eternally happy).
To achieve these goals it is necessary that there are men, that is, it is necessary that the species man survives. And on the other hand, these objectives are excellent means for trying to achieve the basic objective. As it could not be less, assuming this, a virtuous circle is produced to procure the basic purpose and those other good possible means. And the partial goals that are not good for the vital purpose will be bad.
Recently there are those who think that Man has the possibility and / or the duty (internal or external) to transform into another type of transhuman man: supermen, cyborgs, minds or consciousnesses in different supports, pure spirits, ... It woul also be necessaty for any of these options, at least for the moment, the survival of the Man as such. And the vital imperative would remain valid until then. And it seems that, in his case, it would also continue valid for potential transhumans later on.
The vital imperative of trying to survive: it is the implicit primary duty at the base of the genetic programming of all living beings. This vital intention is what is seen in the behavoral patterns common to the organisms of each species.
Justification. The demonstration of the basic hypothesis can be approached in several ways:
a) The species as a subject: The justification is obtained by observing the common behavior of the known species: all try to survive as a priority through the iterative reproduction of their organisms or individuals. With different strategies according to their characteristics and those of their environments.
This hypothesis is reinforced by biologists representing the most recent theories on evolution. (Expand in the Context)
Ernst Mayr says: "Evolutionary biologists now know that the species is the fundamental entity of evolution..." and "A species, despite the individuals that compose it, interacts as a unit against other species with which shares the environment... "
Theodosius Dobzhansky: "A species of sexual reproduction constitutes a breeding community... and a Mendelian population..." "A Mendelian population constitutes a supraindividual evolutionary system."
And more recently Stephen J. Gould: "...many of the classical problems that concern species would be solved at once if we gave up our usual definition of species as classes (or universal categories that can accommodate objects) and reconceptualize them as individuals. Each species thus becomes a singular element, an evolutionary entity defined by a unique historical genesis and a particular cohesion in the present moment. "
In addition to these judgments, mainly biological, the species, specifically the animal, have common and specific cultural behaviors of each of them as survival strategies. According to their characteristics and those of their environment and with the natural population variants. As these same biologists advanced and the numerous and excellent works of ethologists confirm.
b) Living beings as subjects: This demonstration is based on the certainty that all known living beings live and reproduce iteratively. Through different methods and strategies. With easily justifiable exceptions.
It also seems clear that the objective of this common behavior is the conservation of life. And that, as a means to that end, some living beings "built" the biological species. With the different methods of speciation already well studied.
I think that this idea could be better understood if we consider that each individual and each group of individuals of the species "are" that species or represent it. As active subjects when they make or omit something that affects the species and as beneficiaries while they survive.
This idea can be illustrated by comparing the species with other sets. For example: when a soccer player scores a goal it is the team that puts the goal. And when the team wins the game, it is also the players, each one of them, who have won the game. And the objective of the team and those of the players, as such, is the same: to win the game. Regardless of whether each of the players has other specific individual objectives. Many other examples: police, army, companies... the "constructs" of Harari taking into account that natural species are constructs not built by men.
c) Genetic information, genes, as beneficiaries. This form is a variant of the idea of the egoistic gene. It can be stated by saying:
"All living beings have the goal and the vital imperative of their genetic information to survive."
The Dawkins hypothesis has successes. Especially after the clarifications made to the 1976 edition of The Selfish Gene. But for beeing compatible with this statement of the basic idea, I would need modifications. The differences are appreciated by reading the following paragraph: (see in Context: Dawkins)
"...the basic unit of natural selection is not the species, nor the population, nor even the individual, but the small units of genetic material that we agree to call genes."
In the aforementioned versions of the vital imperative, the objective is the survival of the species, represented by the individuals that constitute it at all times. And that survival of individuals, "gene-carrying machines," implies that their genetic information as a species is common to all their individuals.
It can be said, therefore, with Dawkins, that the genetic information, the genes, are the units or subjects, selfish beneficiaries, that survive through the survival of the individual organisms that transport them. And it is also the genetic information that has the instructions to do it. Information that includes in its base the primal vital imperative.
But the active subjects, the basic biological units acting in natural selection, are also the species. Species composed of individuals and populations according to the thesis of Dobzhasky, Mayr and Gould based on genetics. And according to the basic idea based on the common and universal behavior of all of them.
And in our hypothesis all living beings, at least the social ones, behave altruistically. Not only with the closest ones, according to Dawkins' idea, but with everyone with whom it seems convenient to do so: of their species and of others. It widens later.
In short, Dawkins's theory would be valid considering, rightly, his basic unit-simple genes or genetic information-as selfish beneficiaries. But leaving the task of surviving and evolving to the species; who, at least the social ones, have selfish genes ready. That is, altruistic for convenience, like everyone else.
d) Other, less scientific versions, that clarify or reinforce the idea.
A first intuitive, from the experience of our own living and what we see around us.
With perfectly understandable exceptions, men and women of all races and groups, live, have children and take care of them so that, in turn, they live and have children. And we take care of their current environment and we are concerned about life and the future survival of our children and their descendants. And of our neighbors.
It seems clear that this common behavior obeys an internal mandate implicit in all people, even if we do not have an explicit awareness of it. And this vital imperative, obeyed by our predecessors within their capacity and their great individual and group freedom, has made us live today more than 7,500 million human beings, which constitute the biological species Homo sapiens. And without falling into the naturalistic fallacy: what we do individually is to live and reproduce ourselves iteratively; The objective or purpose, although we do not know it, is the survival of life through our species.
As a sergeant explained to his recruits: "Things fall to the ground by Mr. Newton's law of gravity. And if Mr. Newton had not discovered the law of gravity things would fall under their own weight." So the species so far: trying to survive without a human and explicit law of survival to order it.
For the religions of the Book, the vital imperative is also in the Bible: In Genesis 1.22 (to animals) and 28 (to Man): "Grow and multiply and fill the earth." And in Gen, 8.16 and 9.1 to the animals of the ark and to Noah and family.
And for the Catholic Church, the mandate has recently been enunciated by the International Theological Commission, which in paragraph 48 of its 2008 document on natural law, says: "The second inclination (of the human person), which is common to all living beings, refers to to the survival of the species." And it adds later, "...if the perpetuity of biological existence is impossible for the individual, it is possible for the species...". ( see more at Context)
2.- Extended altruism
Extended altruism is the most efficient and effective element or way used by social species to attempt individual and group survival. And it is complementary with the idea of the vital imperative. The two concepts only make sense and are understood, if they operate and are seen at the same time. This aspect is very important.
Altruism has been much talked about and spoken and written more and more. But they deal with partial altruisms: instinctive, reciprocal, free, onerous... All of them are part of the extended group altruism. And it is clear that, in social species, some form of altruism is essential to survive. And it is also clear that the most altruistic groups and species survive better: ants, men...
In this broad concept, any action or omission that benefits another or others is altruistic. That also tends to favor the group and group coexistence. In this idea, altruism is not limited by its subjects, nor by its motivations, nor by its results.
In Man, altruism comprises the instinctive of some Hymenoptera, the reciprocal of many social species, and the very special altruism / love of our species / humanity (not to confuse this love with the sexual, also partial). This human altruism includes everything that benefits another or others and coexistence: productive work, trade, think, teach, collaborate, cooperate, take care of and improve oneself...
And human altruism is always rewarded, one way or another or several: materially; in the form of social appreciation; and through the self-satisfaction of procuring the good of others. And for believers, acts of altruism / love count to be rewarded. All this is well known to the wise and holy, believers and non-believers, who are the most interested altruists, since they always receive their greatest reward: to be happy in this life. And in the other if it exists.
Some people think that altruism is operative from the first forms of life: from the primitive cells that divide to give life to others. (See John Hands)
Altruism and its different forms have been written a lot. Darwin himself had to catch some of his followers and twelve years after "The origin of species" published "The origin of man", which highlights the importance of "sympathy" and welfare for happiness and human survival. And among other things he says: "man owes his immense superiority... to his social habits, which lead him to help and defend his fellow men".
Before and after him, many others have seen the importance of different forms of altruism. To cite some of different knowledge and beliefs: Dobzhansky himself, Mayr, Koprotkin, E. O. Wilson, Robert Trivers, Gerald Hütner, Edgar Morin, Michael Ruse, Antonio Damasio... And the most recent: Adam Grant, Stefan Klein, Donald W. Pfaff and other neuroethics. And the religions, wisdoms and "perennial philosophies".
Summarizing: The two ideas have been and are implicitly operating throughout our history. And, at least for our hypotheses, they must be seen and applied together.
3.- A Universal Ethical Principle
From these two ideas can be deduced a universal ethical principle that says:
"It is good / better what, altruistically done, is good / better for the survival of our species / humanity."
"Altruistically done" could be suppressed from the statement since, as stated in the previous section, it is implicit in the rest of the sentence.
This principle integrates and gives meaning to the partial ethics proposed in history by the philosophers and thinkers. And it solves its insufficiencies and discrepancies. The doctrines and problems of the three most significant ethical schools are summarized:
Aristotelian or Virtue Ethics.
Plato almost succeeds in thinking of a group entity, the State, as a subject; and in a unifying virtue, justice, as a means. But Aristotle doesn't like that that "ideal" idea equates the city with the individual (1). And on the other hand, although he realizes that: "the good of the city is much bigger and more perfect" (2), it equates the concept of individual Good with that of Good of the city. And also seeks an objective that is differentially human: not the simple living, which is common with plants; nor the feeling, which would be common with animals. And concludes that: "the good of man is an activity of the soul according to virtue and if the virtues are several, according to the best and most perfect, and also in a lifetime" (3)
These philosophical ideas, which are accurate when referring to individuals separatelly, have subsisted until today. And they have focused attention on individuals. They have prevented seeing the basic idea, making the self predominate over the us. That has been good for progressing but less good for living. Let us thank that the vital imperative has been and continues to be, implicit and operative, at the base of our moral conscience.
(1) Nicomachean Ethics 1096b,1-3 // (2) 1094b,7-8 // (3) 1098a, 16-18
kantian ethics, or duty and principles.
Kant and the Illustrated, Brentano included, do not accept that anything external tells them what they ought do. They believe that man, with his reason only, is capable of discovering a universal moral along with its foundations. That is true, but it is different to discover what is to establish the Kantian sense of moral autonomy.
Kant admits that Nature has a material purpose, although he accepts that he is not able to discover it. But it does not occur to him that Nature, something material, can fill his categorical imperative. And it leaves that empty so that each person fills it subjectively. And his ethics, which is accurate but undefined, remains in his good will to try to fulfill what the duty should dictate. Without saying what that duty is. That in any case, as for Aristotle, it refers to the spirit, not to the matter of man. It says (in small print in a hidden note of 1786) that: "...Nature has placed in us two different purposes, that of humanity as an animal species on the one hand and that of the same as a moral species on the other" (3) . And for him, although he admits that we are an animal species, only moral progress counts, eudemonism or chiliasm (4)
For Kant, as a good philosopher, the species as such (singulorum) does not count. It counts as "universorum", as the totality of men divided by populations (1). And he does not care about survival because he says that men are mortal but the species is immortal (2)
Although the categorical imperative is discussed for its ineffectiveness, many of the reductionist Kantian concepts remain valid, from the enlightened to today.
(1) Philosophy of History, 95 // (2) p. 46 // (3) p. 91 // (4) p. 98 (more at Context)
Utilitarian, teleological or good ethics.
The utilitarians, from Hume to Bentham going through Stuart Mill, Adam Smith and many others today, come closer. And they believe that the goal is to achieve the greatest welfare for the greatest number. And like the previous ones, that theory is a truth. They are saying, without knowing it, the basic idea. What they do not have clear is what or what is the greatest well-being or for what. Neither how is it distributed nor who are "the largest number" that enter the distribution, current or future. And that supposes enormous difficulties of application. Which are the biggest problem in our globalized world: poverty, inequality, unhealthiness, poor coexistence, insecurity, disillusionment, crisis of values, ecological problems, risk of slow or rapid self-destruction...
Corollary: All these ethics are good and well-intentioned. And they arose when there was no risk of self-extinction of Man. And maybe for that reason they lacked to see the good or vital purpose. Purpose that is prior and necessary for the welfare of the utilitarians, the eudemony of the Kantians and to exercise the human virtues of the Aristotelians. Knowing that in order to achieve this vital goal, the framework virtue of extended altruism is essential.
Addendum: Our hypotheses also frame and give meaning to the recent works on neuroethics of neuroscientists and philosophers who seek in the brain the bases and foundations of a universal ethics.