How do you get to be thinking, breathing, (apparently) functioning adults without this basic knowledge?
Put that way, however, the error becomes somewhat clearer. What too many of you fail realise is that being a thinking, breathing, fully functioning adult is the most important key to morality.
Let me explain.
The purpose of morality -- of objective morality -- of morality on this earth -- is not to teach ourselves how to suffer and then to die; it's to understand how to enjoy yourself and live life to the full. Morality is necessary because we if we are to live well we must learn how to live, and how to live successfully: we need to determine principles of good living to guide us (virtues) if we are to acquire what we need and want most (our values).
Morality -- objective morality -- is not the sort of thing that you and and your friends agree to vote on based on your feelings de jour; or that you find by examining your soul -- or your navel; but neither is morality handed down to us by someone's imaginary friend, a list of edicts all starting with the word "don't". (And just remember as Richard Dawkins points out, "The fact ... that people pick and choose among the scriptures for the nice bits and reject the nasty [suggests] we must have some independent criterion for deciding which are the moral bits: a criterion which, wherever it comes from, cannot come from scripture itself and is presumably available to all of us whether we are religious or not.")
Principles for good living are not found in any of these ways. Objective morality -- a system of principles to act as guideposts on our way to success -- is not to be found carved in stone somewhere or by just 'going with the flow' or by unthinking examination of our feelings or of what might feel good this moment. Instead, objective principles for good living are discovered based on the nature of man and of human life and on the very nature of existence itself, principles that lead to long-term success.
It's often asked if one can have morality without religion. Fact is, you can only have morality when you drop religion, when you focus on on existence and life on this earth instead of on the non-existent or the supernatural .
Now the first question of morality is not: "Which particular morality?" but "Why morality at all?" And the answer to that is that morality only pertains to a particular class of entities: to living beings; and specifically to living beings capable of choice for whom actions have consequences -- and the most fundamental and irrevocable consequence in the universe is living or dying. Not much is more irrevocable that that.
Hence the reason that proponents of objective morality (or more specifically of Objectivist morality) say that life is the standard by which all moral principles are judged. As Ayn Rand explains in her own introduction to Objectivist morality:
Life or death is man's only fundamental alternative. To live is his most basic act or choice. If he chooses to live, a rational ethics will tell him what principles of action are required to implement his choice. if he does not choose to live, nature will take his course...So, to come back to where I started, being a thinking, breathing, (apparently) functioning adult means that you've already mastered some basic, rational principles for good living. That's a start. Most people recognise implicitly in their daily life that basic, rational principles are required to live well -- all that objective morality requires is that you recognise that explicitly as well, and start to plan long range.
Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man -- in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself which is his own life.
MORE ON OBJECTIVIST MORALITY:
- 'The Objectivist Ethics,' by Ayn Rand, in her book The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism.
- Audiobook excerpt from the introduction to The Virtue of Selfishness.
- Religion and Morality - a free talk by Onkar Ghate at the Ayn Rand Institute web page.[Free registration is required. Once registered go to the Registered User Page and scroll down to 'Religion and Morality]
- Is-Ought? Not a Problem - Not PC