With decline in religious belief some people
think there are no grounds for moral action other than mere whim. I strongly disagree. A person’s acts will be judged good or bad by their consequences and, if that person wishes the world to be a better place to live in, he will be duty
bound to make sure they have good consequences. Any act which satisfies our appetites and achieves our goals makes us happier and is therefore good for us. To expand on that whatever goes some way toward satisfying our appetites
and solving our problems, and thereby reducing the amount of conscious mental activity in the normally alert and aware human mind, amplifies the happiness in that mind because that is what happiness is. Such an event is described conventionally as "good".
However, the question now arises
whether or not a “good” act is always a “moral” one. “Good” relates to the individual while “moral” relates to the group of which that individual is a member. (That group is ultimately the human race.) We have
been used to thinking about moral concepts as edicts handed down from a superpower which we must blindly obey, when in fact they will turn out to have always been derived pragmatically, for our collective benefit. If we obey generalised, moral rules
we will feel happier because such rules have been derived with that outcome in mind.
What sets the scene for our
discussion is the observation that people who are members of a fully inter-dependent, co-operating group of specialists fare far better in terms of getting their appetites satisfied than individuals acting alone. Imagine having to sow, tend and reap
your own crops, herd your own stock animals, make your own clay bricks and build your own house with them, quarry the slates for your roof, not to mention being obliged to design and build your own computer; the list is endless. You would be a jack of- all-
trades, master of none. Your life would be one long round of back-breaking drudgery from dawn to dusk - and that just to stay alive.
However, being heir to the incalculable advantages of membership of a co-operating, specialising, interdependent group ensures that our lives are not like that. It is for this reason that no effort must be spared and no duty shirked
in supporting and sustaining the group.
Some groups fare better than others depending in part upon the quality
of the contributions of individual members. While analysing the activity of group members in order to discover the best ways of collectively satisfying their appetites, the concept of an ideal group member has evolved quite naturally.
The ideal member’s attributes have been defined to become the criteria by which other potential or existing members are measured, urged to conform to and perhaps even selected by. For a group to work well it has been discovered long ago that the ideal
group member must not lie, cheat or steal etc. He will be punctual, resourceful and reliable etc. His word will be his bond. The most efficient group members have been found to be mutually trustworthy, each able to rely absolutely on the other's dependability
in performing the specialised tasks allotted to them to the best of their ability.
In the ideal group (which
is the most efficient group), bonds of mutual trust and respect will arise. What each man earns will be guaranteed by all. What each owns will be safeguarded by all. An unwritten contract will have been established which guarantees each participating group
member a fair share of the results of his efforts and a fair allocation of the resources of the group, otherwise the incentive to act together would be weakened and ultimately vanish altogether.
Over many millennia, and probably through bitter experience, examples of fairly safe generalities defining attributes
beneficial to group performance have been derived pragmatically and designated as virtues. In this manner virtues, morals and ultimately a system of enforceable law have been developed. Each situation has been analysed to find the best way to act in
order to maximise the happiness of individuals in the group. This is why monogamy has been found to be good for one society, while polygamy is found better for another. What produces most happiness in one set of circumstances has been found not to be suitable
in another set. However, there are few exceptions to rules like, “do not lie, steal or murder.”
will gladly shoulder duties and responsibilities in order to conserve the priceless advantage conferred by group membership. Such an unquestionable advantage in the satisfaction of appetite will give moral (group) considerations absolute precedence over the
merely good (individual) ones. Saying that, raises the question of whether the word “good” has any separate meaning at all. Surely it is true to say that all acts must be moral ones because one can
rarely behave in a way that his actions effect himself alone. Most actions are social actions.
is the enormous value of group membership that in every case, the interest or survival of the group will take precedence over the interest or survival of the individual group member. For it is an incontrovertible fact that by contributing to the specialised,
co-operating, interdependent group, the individual can so much more easily achieve his own personal goals and be much happier
Considering the social constraints imposed upon us by being moral to be merely a personal whim with no logical support will ensure that the necessary cohesion of our
society dissolves - little by little. Moral precepts are common-sense rules which will, if adhered to, reinforce the bonds of the group and maximise everyone’s chance of happiness.
The best actions are moral ones.
When members of a group forsake virtuous action, the performance of that group will deteriorate until eventually there is no advantage to be gained from being part of it. Then
group members would have to be motivated by fear to carry out their duties. In that sort of nightmare society, such a turn of events would provoke social unrest, then riots and ultimately revolution.