David SimsEssays

The Group or the Individual?

by David Sims

IT IS OFTEN SAID that the well-being of the individual organism is the highest moral goal of any organism. But that is false. Rather, the well-being (survival, enhanced prospects) of the particular group of organisms that made his own existence possible is the highest moral goal of any organism.

The rules that pertain to a proper morality are universal, but they are essentially meta-rules: rules by which the particular duties/prohibitions of the moral system are made. Those particulars may vary because the capabilities of one individual differ from the capabilities of another individual. And, generally speaking, one race of people might deal with a challenge quite differently than another race would, simply because it has a greater or a lesser degree of the relevant abilities, and hence a greater or a lesser range of options.

But always the survival of the practitioner group — if it is a group whose members can replace their losses with new individuals of the same or better quality, such that the group’s prospects for continued survival may never diminish — is the highest value in a proper moral system. How that gets done might be different for different groups, but that fact never changes.

Stefan Molyneaux speaks of one highly important goal for all organisms:

When I speak of a universal preference, I am really defining what is objectively required, or necessary, assuming a particular goal. If I want to live, I do not have to like jazz, but I must eat. ‘Eating’ remains a preference — I do not have to eat, in the same way that I have to obey gravity — but ‘eating’ is a universal objective, and binding requirement for staying alive, since it relies on biological facts that cannot be wished away.

That’s true as far as it goes. But what that quote does not observe is that not all particular goals are equal. Some particular goals are more important than others, and Stefan undoubtedly knows it, since he went for a relatively highly important particular goal, namely, the individual’s goal of his own survival. Now, that isn’t the very highest particular goal: The survival of the individual’s race is higher, for the same reason that the apple tree is more valuable than any of the apples that come off its branches.

Nature rewards right action with continued existence. Nature punishes wrong action with the death of individuals and with the extinction of races. That’s the objective metric by which to judge the worth of moral systems: how well they conform to the requirements that Nature puts on the survival of races primarily, and of individuals secondarily.

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