REUEP: A CLOSER LOOK
Here it is again, the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle (my definition, for the purposes of this book), which, if you accept it as our ultimate ethical principle, makes you a Humanian:
WE SHOULD DO THAT WHICH WILL PROMOTE NOT ONLY THE SURVIVAL OF OUR SPECIES, BUT ALSO THE GOOD LIFE FOR EVERYONE, NOW AND IN THE FUTURE, "THE GOOD LIFE" MEANING AS MUCH JOY, CONTENTMENT, AND APPRECIATION (JCA) AS POSSIBLE AND AS LITTLE PAIN, SUFFERING, DISABILITY, AND EARLY DEATH (PSDED) AS POSSIBLE.
Our behavior consists to a great extent of that which comes naturally. It is our own human version of that which is produced by our basic animal nature. To a great extent, we do as chimps do, eating, drinking, playing, making love, exploring, fighting, struggling for dominance, rearing offspring, etc. And these behavioral tendencies have arisen through the process of natural selection, meaning that these behaviors have tended to promote the survival of our species.
However, natural selection has nothing to do with quality of life. Pain and suffering promote the survival of a species, just the same as pleasure, so behavior that causes PSDED may easily occur naturally, and frequently does. Chimps cause each other to suffer at times, just as we do. And I believe it is possible that we may do it more than they, for certain reasons. But whether or not that is so, we certainly frequently wish that we had done other than what we did, or that others had done other than what they did, because of the resulting PSDED, either our own or that of others.
But we have two special capabilities that no other species on this planet have.
Because of the above two capabilities, we can achieve a high level of cooperation and we can predict the outcomes of our behavior much more than can any other species. So, we can cooperate to change our behavior into that which maximizes JCA and minimizes PSDED. We can at long last rise above our basic animal nature and work toward attaining the good life for everyone, now and in the future.
Except that we don't yet do a very good job of it. We are talking, hi-tech chimps, often doing what comes naturally no matter how awful the consequences.
We can decide whether or not to eat saturated and trans fat, smoke, exercise, lie, steal, be unfaithful, save money, adhere to the terms of a contract, refrain from being hostile, ration our gasoline, carpool, invest, use diplomacy…. No chimp can make such decisions.
And in fact much of the time we do what is consistent with the REUEP. But much of the time is not enough. The amount of PSDED that we bring upon ourselves and each other is still enormous and tragic. Most of our PSDED is human-induced, the result of things we didn't have to do. And unfortunately, most people believe that such behavior is more or less inevitable. That's just the way we are, they say. But I say we can do better--MUCH better.
So we are talking about using our special human talents to, at long last, promote the good life for everyone, now and in the future.
And "the good life" is defined (by me, for the purposes of this book) as having multiple overlapping components.
Joy - the good feeling that is a part of all good experience, such as food, sex, music, dancing, warmth, intimacy, good grades, admiration, sacrifice, cure…. But the joy must not be with accompanying PSDED, as in one's using cocaine, suicide bombing, torturing enemies….
Contentment - the satisfaction with the way things basically are, security, comfort, abundance, equality…. But not with PSDED, as in one's contentment with one's wealth while others starve.
Appreciation - joy over the way things are, what has happened, what has been done…. But not with PSDED, as in one's appreciation of skillfully performed crime.
Pain - a basic form of suffering…. But not always bad, often necessary, sometimes welcome.
Suffering - whatever reduces the quality of life. But not always bad, as in sacrifice for a good cause.
Disability - a relative concept, in that it is on the same continuum as ability.
Early Death - sometimes easily recognized as such, but also on a continuum with timely or acceptable death.
So there will be times when it will be hard to tell whether what is sought is consistent with the REUEP. There will be uncertainty. That is the nature of the world.
But are there not many, many examples of decisions that you would be able to say were not consistent with the REUEP? Can you imagine many crimes, misdemeanors, mistakes, bad lifestyles, deceptions, infidelities, acts of meanness, retaliations, etc., that would be justifiable by virtue of being consistent with the REUEP? Could not most such acts be shown to be inconsistent with the REUEP?
What would life be like for us if we eliminated all acts that seemed obviously inconsistent with the REUEP?
To be sure, not all problems would be solved if everyone lived by the REUEP. There would still be unintended (unpredicted) consequences. And there would be imperfections in our decision-making.
But would we even recognize ourselves? Would we seem like a different species?
In the free textbook at HomoRationalis.com, the metaphoric term I use for us at that time is "Homo rationalis." They will look back on us with great compassion for our suffering, but also with great appreciation for those of us that worked to make possible their way of life, namely, you and me, to the extent that we are Humanian.
To the extent that we make our own and each other's lives better, we serve as models and promote the betterment of the lives of our progeny.
Is there an even better ultimate ethical principle? Possibly. I don't know what it would be. But we are about 2% along the way of globally living by the REUEP. When we get to about 95%, then maybe it will make sense to work on developing an even better ultimate ethical principle. So let's now get busy with this one.