I have already said on other occasions that my only official title in philosophy is the approved of this subject in the first course of Economic Sciences, in the distant year of 1963. It consisted in the foundations of logic and ethics and a summary of the contributions of the main philosophers. Then I read a lot (see bibliography), first by hobby, and in recent years in the line of my ideas. But I have worked as a system analyst throughout my professional life and that job is very similar of doing philosophy. With these credentials I am going to talk about philosophy and philosophers. I ask the experts to see the meaning of the ideas without despising them by the form they are expressed.
In August of 2017 I made a extensive comment to the Brief history of ethics of Victoria Camps in which I tried to summarize the possible causes by which the ancient and current philosophers did not see my ideas. For philosophers the objective of Man, of men, is the Good or something equivalent to the final aristotelian cause. They do not think or pursue a material goal, a vital goal, since they count on the existence of men, as a fact. And no philosopher, as far as I know, has been concerned about the possible material extinction of our species. Nor have they noticed that, consciously or not, men are, perennially, trying to avoid it.
The philosophers have taken care of looking for a Metaphysical Good that will serve as a base to a universal ethical principle. And since they did not find it, they tried to replace it with different partial ethics that Victoria Camps groups into three types: of duty or principles, teleological or of good, and virtues as a necessary complement. The author says that: "In the combination of all these elements -the Kantian, the utilitarian and the Aristotelian- we have the framework from which applied ethics should be developed".
All these partial ethics are true. They ideas are, mostly true. But they contain partial truths that have been used by partial human groups: vertical (family, clan, tribe, state...) and cross-cutting (cultures, religions...). And all the philosophers who have discovered and disseminated them have succeeded. Although they have partially succeeded. Each one has seen, from his perspective, an aspect of the basic idea, of the universal ethical principle.
Our universal ethical principle includes the three types of ethics: Teleological, based on the priority objective of the survival of Man. Of duty, since it affirms that all men have inscribed in their nature the imperative to try to achieve the vital objective. And the ethics of the Aristotelian virtues since the method chosen and forced by the species itself is the broad altruism that includes all the virtues developed by Man for their coexistence: industriousness, peace, prudence, solidarity, justice, honesty, benevolence, harmony , friendship...
With this broad and universal vision of ethics the doubts, contradictions and reductionisms that are reflected in the writings of the philosophers who have tried to find a universal foundation for a universal ethics are resolved. The partial ethics encountered by their own partiality and contingency, present contradictions and leave holes to be covered or excesses in their application. Although they have been the ones that have allowed us to get here.
Some causes of not seeing the idea
I will now summarize the main causes that, I believe, have prevented the very wise philosophers who have worked on these issues from seeing the basic ideas.
1.- The first cause that comes to my mind is that they are biological hypothesis. Which have become more visible recently thanks to the modern theories of evolution.
In general, philosophers seek a spiritual goal, since they start from the fact that man is, differentially to the other living beings, what he has as a spirit. The material life, the body, for a philosopher almost does not count. And until very recently nobody questioned the possible extinction of our species. And at least as a predictable horizon, the physical life of Man was a fact.
The clearest example is Kant himself, whose third principle of his "Idea of a universal history in a cosmopolitan sense", Speaking of human progress, says: "...if an animal species is endowed with reason, as a class that is all mortal rational beings, but whose species is immortal, must reach the perfection of the development of its provisions". The italics are mine. (Corral: 2015, 282).
In any case, it seems that the philosophers have dealt little with these questions. In recent times the philosophers of science and nature are more interested in the aspects related to the subject. But in many cases they prioritize physics and cosmology, which are sciences that seem more accurate and fashionable, compared to biology, which has too "soft" or flexible laws and are not very rigorous.
The above is more evident among the agnostics and atheists, since the believers have solved the problem of the purpose, or of the Supreme Good. And for that reason they do not worry too much about the physical survival of Man since, in any case and whatever men do, their existence depends on the will of an external maintainer agent.
As far as I know, the current philosopher who has approached these questions the most, has been Michel Ruse, from the self-described sociobiologists with E. O. Wilson. But Ruse is a militant evolutionist and as such he believes that man's purpose is evolution itself. Although he has doubts, because as a materialist philosopher he finds it difficult to think that matter has been able to impose an objective on living beings and the moral imperative for man to try it. And I think that, as an atheist, he does not like the idea that there can be an external Principal. Therefore, it accepts, as inevitable in this case, the naturalistic fallacy. that the goal is to evolve because we evolved. And according to the evolutionists, by evolving one can progress, although he doubts it. And he realizes that we also do not know what progress is. (Corral: 2015, 195-216)
This also happens to all the philosophers and biologists that I have read, since they admit that they do not know what the goal is to progress towards. The Ortegan goalkeeper also does not know where to aim his arrow, what is the circumstance to save.
It seems that it would have corresponded to anthropologists, generally framed among philosophers, the discovery of the basic ideas. They are still on time since the universal ethical principle is based on the behavior of Man, which seems to be the main subject of Anthropology. And the basic ideas, as we will later see, involve analyzing and ordering the norms, uses and customs of Man, of individuals and human groups.
In this regard, I believe that my ideas provide material and work to convert Anthropology into the most important science of this 21st century. Since anthropologists, multidisciplinarily, are the ones who should best see and think all the human aspects related to the behavior of men - individual, group and global -aimed at surviving with greater well-being. Supported by other thinkers: biologists, sociologists, philosophers of nature, humanists... And all those who do things.
2.- Another important issue is to consider the species as subjects that are able to have objectives and standards to try to meet them. Philosophers work with individual people. This is the hardest concept to "see" for everyone, including biologists. The idea of species as units or evolutionary systems is very recent. And Darwin himself does not consider it despite the title of his most famous book.
We will return to this idea of the species as a subject because it is fundamental to "see" it in order to understand the basic idea. But until now and especially philosophers, have worked and still work with individual people. A clear case is the one of Kant, in which when he talks about the progress of the species, takes care to clarify that he does so as universorum, (the totality of the men gathered socially on the earth distributed by towns) and not as singulorum (the species as a concept). (Corral: 2015,285).
3.- Throughout philosophical ethical discourse (both teleological and deontological) is a latent or expressed question that difficults thinking and produces errors of substance and of understanding with each other. Thinkers try to find the ethical foundation from the nature of man, from what the human person is. I think it's the biggest problem. As far as I know, philosophers "see" the man in three basic ways: materialist, spiritualist and transcendent. And its combinations.
Willingly or not, consciously or not, philosophers tend to adopt ethical grounds according to their beliefs, or their theories, about the nature of man. The problem is that we do not have a universal truth or certainty about the what is the man, resulting on biased and partial ethics. We must accept, as many "neutral" philosophers do, that, at least for the moment, we can not base ethics on the nature or essence of man. The basic idea is based on behavior.
4.- Deepening on the above, multiple partial and contingent purposes_ have been proposed in the history of philosophy: individual living, happiness, the common good (in some of its many meanings) wisdom, dignity, evolution itself, moral or material progress....
All of them seem to be good and useful goals and objectives. But they are partial means and objectives, generally means for the primary objective of life. Which is hidden by them, among other things due to its obviousness. And because these partial means and the virtues that come with them are valid means. Especially, if as usual in many cultures, they are presented together as a global ethic.
5.- On the other side, for some there can not be a Universal Ethics, a universal ethical principle, because if it existed it would be out of this world, it would be transcendent. Which is possible, that is to say, it seems possible that it exists and we do not know that Ultimate Purpose. But the existence of one or several unknown transcendental purposes is not incompatible with the vital imperative that "commands" us to try to survive materially.
6.- On the other hand, the basic idea supposes a hard material command. It supposes, as the first partial objective, the struggle for individual existence. And therefore he understands good and evil. Life and death. Peace and war between living beings: from itself and from different species. Selfishness and altruism. Love and hate.
It seems that many philosophers do not understand these contradictions of Man. All of them are explained by the basic idea in which they have their grounds and immediate foundation. We do not know scientifically if there is an earlier efficient cause. And another final cause of a superior level to the vital objective. But not knowing these causes, nor their possible agents, does not prevent us from knowing that there is a primary vital objective. That gives meaning and unifies the apparently contradictory feelings and behaviors of men. That every time we understand better, at another level, in many animal species.
7.- The similarities with animals is another of the big problems that does not let seeing the basic idea. Not only philosophers, anyone instinctively dislikes the idea that the foundation of our ethical standards is the same as that of spiders or rats. And that our virtues of solidarity, justice, courage, filial love..., are of the same functional nature as the social abilities and customs of ants, monkeys, wolves... We have a hard time admitting our resemblance to animals. Especially philosophers. And more those who believe that men are made in the image and likeness of their Creator. Although some ideas do not refute the others, but complement and reinforce them.
8.- And there is a huge philosophical mess with the concept of freedom. Which is a common capacity to the species of living beings, especially to the "superior ones". The difference is in degree. And in the case of man, this capacity, huge and growing, is another factor that has made us and makes us different. Together with self-awareness and the ability to coexist in increasingly larger groups.
These capacities made it easier for us to get here, but suppose great danger because men, like all living beings, have the primary mandate to live, and to live as best as they can: individually and their group. And that freedom that has served to invent, dominate and survive, if exercised badly, is and has been deadly for individuals and groups. And now it can be for the species itself.
These biological truths have been little taken into account by philosophers, especially regarding group behavior. And they have not been well understood and assimilated by the biologists themselves. I believe that the basic ideas clarify the concept of freedom and allow to delimit and improve its use. Task that seems to correspond to social anthropologists and other ethics, moral standards and behavior experts.
I think it is appropriate to remember the "biological ethics" controversy between some philosophers and biologists. Professor Ferrater Mora in his Applied ethics (1981-11), accepts with various shades the phrase of E. O. Wilson that "the time has come to take ethics for a while from the philosophers and biologize it" Also Dr. Francisco J. Ayala in the "Evolution of an evolutionist" deals with the possible biological origin of ethics. (See Corral: 2015, 167-183). The discussion has been and continues to be broad, with many nuances and confusions about subjects and about the concepts biological and ethics.
For my part I think the task is for humanist thinkers, that is, of anthropologists. That they must know and take into account, as such, the man in everything that significantly affects his group behavior.
As I said in the presentation of the context, since 2000 when I wrote the first note with the basic idea, I have been looking for someone who had already said it. So far I have not found him. But I have seen that many and very important philosophers and thinkers have been very close to my ideas. Throughout these years I have been commenting on the writings that have seemed most significant to me (See in Corral 2015, 111-297 and on the website). I summarize below, updated, some of those comments and others that seem to me now of interest.
Of the many possible I have selected the philosophers and texts more oriented to the search of the purpose or objective of the man and to base the moral norms. And that they are representatives of different beliefs and doctrines. I repeat that my language and training are amateur so there may be errors and flaws in form. But I believe that what follows is valid and sufficient to justify and frame my ideas.
Marbella, 12.15 on 19.8.18 Revised on 1-10-18. Adapted for the website on 29.12.18