I have been writing a series of posts answering a series of questions on my basic moral philosophy. This post does not come from any question. However, it does come from some of the things I wrote in the last post on the value of communities.
In my last post I wrote that it is unlikely that communities have any interests because communities do not have any desires. Individuals within a community have desires, but not communities themselves.
However, what if communities had interests (desires) emerging from their complexity that were independent of those of the people within that community?
Even if this were true, this would be one set of interests among many. There is no reason to give the interests of this entity any greater weight than the interests of any other entity within the community. The community itself would still count as one entity – one “person”.
The same type of answer applies to the question, “What if there was a God?”
Let us assume that there is a God, and that God has a set of beliefs and desires. What implications would this have for morality?
This would imply that there are a set of values in the sense that there is a set of relationships between states of affairs and God’s desires – just as there exists a set of relationships between states of affairs and my neighbor’s desires. God would still be entitled to the moral weight of one entity in all moral calculations.
There is no justification for the claim that an individual must make his interests (desires) subservient to those of God, any more than there is justification for the claim that God must make his interests subservient to those of any human.
In the realm of morality, God and humans are equals.
Instead of having intrinsic value, the value of God’s desires would still be determined by the value of all other desires. God’s desires are good to the degree that God has desires that tend to fulfill other desires.
Similarly, God is evil to the degree that God has desires that tend to thwart other desires. If God has a desire that tends to thwart other desires – a desire to cause pain, or a desire that leads to a great deal of thwarting of desires, then this does not make suffering good. This makes God evil.
The claim that God created humans would be morally irrelevant. If a being creates another being with desires, then that being creates a moral equal. If a man and a woman act so as to bring a baby into the world, this does not make the baby a slave to her parents, obligated to putting their interests above her own. The baby comes to the world as somebody of equal moral weight, whose interests are on a par with the interests of her parents.
Just as the infant is the moral equal of her parents (even though the parents have far greater strength, intelligence, and wisdom), people would be the moral equivalent of Gods.
The only reason that parents have authority over a child is because the parents, we assume, can make decisions that more reliably fulfill the present and future desires of the child than the child can. The child’s duty to obey her parents, insofar as such a duty exists, comes from the fact that it is generally in her interests to do so.
As soon as the parents begin to command things that are not in the child’s interests (particularly if they command that the child act in ways that fulfill the desires of the parent while sacrificing her own interests), the duty to obey disappears.
The same would be true if there were a God.
If that God commanded things that were truly in our interests (that would help to better realize states of affairs that fulfill our desires), it would be prudent for us to do what that God told us to do.
However, at the first sign that this God is commanding that we act in ways where we are not fulfilling our own desires, but instead sacrificing our interests for his pleasure, our duty to obey goes to the same place as that of the child of a parent who would abuse her for his own pleasure.
As it is, there is no God. There are the beliefs of a bunch of pre-literate tribesmen scribbled into books and stories when they finally learned to write. People who obey the bible are not fulfilling the desires of any deity. They are following the instructions of substantially ignorant human beings who have been dead for hundreds of years.
When those beings died, their desires died with them. When those desires ceased to exist, so did the value grounded on those desires. So, people who act so as to please a group of pre-literate tribesmen are not realizing any value at all, unless (by chance) those actions also tend to fulfill current, real, and good desires.
Yet, even if I were wrong on this matter . . . even if there were a God . . . the moral implications would be nothing more than to note that the moral universe is larger by one person – a person who has no more rights than any other person – a person who counts as one person in all moral calculations – a person that is good to the degree that he has desires that tend to fulfill other desires, and evil to the degree that he has desires that tend to thwart other desires.