Jeremy_Bentham_by_Henry_William_Pickersgill_ (cropped)

Other ethical and meta-ethical philosophers.

With my little knowledge, I think that it is from the illustration that philosophers tend to be "humanists". Humanists in the Kantian sense of thinking that they do not need causal agents, external to Man, that tell him what his objective is or what he should do.

Because of not believing in external "Attractors" they remain without the Transcendent Supreme Good as objective. But neither they have nor they find a universal human goal. And in the absence of it, they tend to use happiness as a primary objective in its various material and spiritual versions. And they consider as goals exercising and cultivating the most convenient and useful qualities and virtues in order to achieve the primary objectives.

However, there is a very important advance: On Aristotle's and religions individualistic aim, the wellness and happiness of others is added. From the collective to which each one belongs. And of Humanity as a whole universorun, composed of all men. It is an enormous ethical progress. But they still do not know what the objective of humanity as singulorum (the Man species) is, because they do not even consider their existence as a subject.

In general, virtues and social qualities of believers and non-believers are the same. But non-moral-autonomy believers requirements as well as differential virtues of religions (mortification, asceticism, the denial of oneself...) have made it difficult, until today, to have common moral norms.

Down below I try to summarize some of the ideas that seem most significant to our questions, from the Enlightenment until now. I include Michael Ruse (1940) as the most representative current meta-ethical philosopher: "sociobiologist", evolutionist, materialist, humanist and non-belligerent atheist.


Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) is considered the founder of this school, although utilitarians are all philosophers who have tried to substantiate ethics. Everyone was looking for a utility for their goals, their virtues. To believers, the Supreme Good is also a very useful purpose for whoever achieves it.

In any case, we understand better the ethical principle of the utilitarians when they tell us that the objective to be achieved is "The greatest happiness for the greatest number" (during earthly life). Or the least questionable and something more concrete: "the maximum welfare for the maximum number ".

As it happens with the rest of the philosophers (the "good ones"), this objective coincides with ours since it is a means to try to achieve survival. We have repeatedly said that the most important partial objective for survival is adaptability. And the highest adaptability is achieved with the greatest welfare of the greatest number of individuals possible in each moment and circumstance. But without reaching maximum, and thinking of a "normal" situation, Darwin said that happy tribes survive better.

Utilitarianism has been widely criticized. Especially in its most atypical and extreme possible applications. But theoretically it is an excellent ethical principle. And it is not necessary, as critics say, to know the integral of the individual happiness or wellbeing of all the current subjects. Nor estimate the value of the possible sums at each moment of the next years or decades. To work, the normal estimates obtained with the measurement systems used in sociological works are sufficient. And any normal person knows if their acts and social omissions produce or can produce happiness and well-being, or pain and evil. And it is not difficult to assess, for operational purposes, both the global welfare and the differential of the different subjects and groups.

These problems are those of the concrete applications of any ethical principle. I'm not going to review Moore, the one with the naturalistic fallacy., but whoever does not know it and is curious can try to read his Ethics, published in 1912, nine years after his Principia Éthica, to see the difficulties of applied ethics.

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