Summary

Survival and Altruism.

The meaning of life

Introduction

Man, our species, knows many things about matter and spirit. But we still do not know what we live for, that is, we do not have a universal and common concept of what the meaning of our life is, about what our vital purpose is. And for this reason, we also do not explicitly have a universal ethical principle that would base the moral norms that must govern our individual and collective behaviour.

Philosophers have given different answers that we can group into three types: happiness as a Good and virtues as Aristotelian means; Kant's categorical imperative; and utilitarianists greater well-being. Also, religions and laymen have contributed with laws and moral doctrines. But all of them have been and are partial and contingent norms applied in a group and temporary way.

In any case, with these wisdoms and with their enormous capacities, Man, men, have come this far. And we are a young and successful species, since in a minimum time we have dominated the Earth and multiplied our population in an exponential way. But as we do not have an explicit common objective or goal as humanity, we have acted and continue to act as a group with partial objectives. And that means that at this moment there is an increased risk of slow or fast self-destruction. And that there are imbalances and enormous problems of all kinds: pollution, overpopulation, millions of marginalised people, anxiety and confusion about the future, the risk of terrible weapons, ...

Despite that, the solution is obvious and has been acting implicitly since the beginning of time. It only needs to be seen, assumed and applied by those who have the capacity and authority to do so. Its global implementation may take some years and therefore it is urgent to start as soon as possible.

The author of this article discovered it by intuition as Popper says it can happen. Then he developed it in Survival and Altruism (Look Books) Here is a summary of the basic ideas and their possible uses and applications.

 

The basic idea or vital imperative. It consists of the following:

It seems that, as a means of maintaining Life, all living beings, including men, have implicit in their genetic information the vital imperative to seek the survival of the evolutionary entity of which they are a part. Usually through iterative sequential reproduction.

Without prejudice that men can have other transcendent ends.

To try to fulfil this imperative, some living beings of sexual reproduction "created" the social biological species. These social species have, since their origin, the purpose of serving as a means to attempt the survival of the species itself through the action of the individual organisms, groups and populations that compose them at each moment.

In our hypothesis we consider the species as a subject. Not the organisms and groups that compose them individually, nor to the genes. The concept we use is that biological species in general and the species Man in particular, are the active and beneficiaries subjects of their own evolution.(Look Biologists: Dobzhansky, Gould, Mayr, Monod)

And at the same time, to emphasize that survival is their end or priority vital goal. Not happiness, nor well-being, nor reproduction, nor growth, nor evolution, nor peace, nor the dignity of its organisms. Which are good but partial objectives. And that those are means used by the species itself, represented by its individuals and groups, to try to achieve the priority vital objective.

The demonstration of this hypothesis is done empirically and by historical causation as is usual in biology. In this case: all the biological known species have tried, and are trying, as a priority, to survive. And from this it can be deduced that this is their vital objective or purpose, matching that of their organisms. Although it seems that only about two million known species have succeeded and many others still unknown, that make less than 2% of those that have existed. See: "Proposal")

And the hypothesis is falsifiable according to Popper's idea since, given the possibility, there has not been nor is there any known biological species that has stopped trying to survive, either as such or by evolving into another or others that are better adapted to the environment.

 

Broad altruismThe basic idea needs, and has, the complement of a second idea. Which is also natural and scientifically verifiable, and which is already partially said. We are talking about altruism. But about the wide altruism that includes the instinctive one of the ants, the reciprocal one of many vertebrates, and the free, onerous, interested, pure one, ...of Man.

In this broad concept everything that seeks the good of another or others is altruistic: work, thinking, producing goods and services, commerce, teaching, complying with laws, charity, loving thy neighbour... in general, everything that seeks the good of others and improves coexistence. Furthermore, altruism is always rewarded: in a material, immaterial or moral way.

It seems clear and empirically proven that some form of altruism is necessary to live together in all social species. Also that the most altruistic groups and species dominate and survive the less altruistic ones. Darwin himself had to go out of his way to some of his disciples, dedicating a third of  The Descent of Man to these questions. Where he says: "Man owes his immense superiority... to his social habits which lead him to help and defend his fellow men". (Look Darwin)

Altruism/human love -not to be confused with love/desire- is the best of all altruisms since it is self-rewarding, not exhaustive, and it feeds back into the implicit ethical norms of the altruists, their environment and the species. And it also makes those who practice it happy. The wise and the saints know this better than anyone else.

The concept has many facets. But in summary it can be said that altruism/love is the most efficient and above all the most effective means of trying to fulfil the vital imperative. That is why our species has adopted it as the best means to survive by living together. There is also the fratricidal struggle and pure selfishness as excesses of fair competition, of the necessary care for one's own life and the indispensable love of self. But struggle and pure selfishness are inefficient and less effective. (Look John Hands)

 

A possible universal ethical principleFrom these two ideas a universal ethical principle can be deduced that says, more or less:it is good/better what, altruistically done, is good/better for the survival of the species and its welfare.  

This principle is implicit in all people since the basic idea is a universal imperative for all living beings and some form of broad group altruism is a mandate, also universal, from the species to all men.

These biological and natural norms are the same as Genesis: be fruitful and multiply And the calls of the Bible to love one's neighbour, of Jesus and of all the prophets and saints that have existed in all religions and wisdoms.Look Religions)

The universal ethical principle includes and bases the partial ethics of the main philosophers: Aristotelian virtues; Kant’s duty; the most modern Hume’s and utilitarianists; and the recent research by the neuroethicists. (Look Philosophers)

These scientific and religious coincidences mean that there is a universal ethical basis for reviewing, and confirming or establishing, group norms and values. Norms and values that, applied locally in different environments and cultures, help to improve people's lives and their chances of survival. Without the different religions, cultures and groups having to change their basic beliefs.

The universal ethical principle can be applied with all political doctrines: liberal, conservative, socialist, communist... And in any of its possible forms of application: democracies, dictatorships, tribalism, ... All doctrines are valid if in their application they comply with the universal ethical principle, a principle that facilitates the development of all good policies.

Tasks and applications (look). These ideas are operating implicitly from the beginning of the life of the species. And they continue and will continue to do so: just as things fell to the ground before Newton discovered the law of gravity. But it seems that, having seen these universal laws, it would be wise to think about and make explicit global solutions. Many of them are urgent given the situation and perspectives of our Humanity. 

Considering the list of the great risks and the positive and negative factors, natural and human, there are many possible applications to be considered. Among others:

Global policies: strengthening the idea of Humanity, establishing a possible World Authority, reviewing the model of society and the size of the population and its quality of life, human ecology, crimes or misdemeanours against humanity, universal virtues…

Social policies: sexuality and the family, genetic and environmental engineering, social engineering, educational policies, economic and social policies, treatment of the marginalised, religions, nationalism... And individual ethics.

Things to do. (look) . These and many other applications are already operating locally or in groups, and increasingly globally. It seems that the "new" ethics could be used in two ways: reactive, that is, answering the doubts that may exist about what is already being done in these matters. And in an active way by proposing new actions, partial or global, and by promoting the current good ones. And this should be done by all men, but especially by those who think (humanists, scientists) and direct (political and religious leaders, communicators, leaders of companies and institutions, ...). We had and we have implicit in us the mandate. And now it is also explicit.

 

Endnote

 

The vital imperative is common to all living beings. The increasing adoption of altruism/love for the greater good has been, and is, characteristic of our species. It is a means that is already both an end and an objective and that possibly "justifies" our present and our future existence. And that confers a specific and proper meaning to each man/person and to humanity.

If these ideas are as true as I believe them to be, they are implicit in all men and therefore:

  1. There is a growing sense of belonging to humanity and of the duty to see that it does not become extinct. And this idea will increase even if mine are not spread.
  2. Companies, institutions, political parties, religions, ... that firstly adopt the universal ethical principle as their guideline of primary value will have an advantage in their activities and in their internal and public image.
  3. Individuals who assume and apply the universal ethical principle in their lives will be better and happier in their life. And in the other life if it exists.

 

José Corral. Madrid, March 8th, 2020

 

For a more detailed overview, please look the Contents For other questions or clarifications, please contact survival@corralforum.org