An Atheistic Ethic: A Concluding Thought

I’m going to cut short my defense of an atheistic ethic for now. I think I’ve already argued enough for people to get a rudimentary view of it. Let me sum it up so far and then conclude with a thought.

I previously said here that we need an ethic that is based upon some solid evidence about who we are as human beings and why we act the way we do. I also argued that the Christian ethic is practically impossible to obey, and the motivation for obeying must be judged to be based upon self-interest, which is basically the same ethic I argue for, without the barbarisms in the Bible.

Then I argued there is solid evidence that people want to be happy here, and that non-rational people do not want those things that make for happiness.

I dealt with the book of Ecclesiastes here, which claims we cannot find ultimate happiness without God.

I distinguished between selfishness and rational self-interest here.

I further argued there is an element of self-interest in almost every act we do, certainly with our over-all life-plan itself, which is the position of modified psychological egoism, better called "predominant egoism." To show this I took some of the toughest scenario’s and explained that there may be an element of rational self-interest in them.

I answered the Christian question of why we shouldn’t kill someone when we think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages by claiming there will never be such a scenario for a rational person here.

Let me just close this off by talking about the kind of character that rational self-interested people need to be happy. It must be a stable character.

The late Louis P. Pojman argued that it is reasonable to choose and to act upon an over-all “life plan,” even though there will be many times where I may have to act against my own immediate or short-term self-interest in keeping with that plan. “To have the benefits of the moral life—friendship, mutual love, inner peace, moral pride or satisfaction, and freedom from moral guilt—one has to have a certain kind of reliable character. All in all, these benefits are eminently worth having. Indeed, life without them may not be worth living.” “Character counts,” Pojman wrote, and “habits harness us to predictable behavior. Once we obtain the kind of character necessary for the moral life--once we become virtuous--we will not be able to turn morality on and off like a faucet.” With such an understanding “there is no longer anything paradoxical in doing something not in one’s interest, for while the individual moral act may occasionally conflict with one’s self-interest, the entire life plan in which the act is embedded and from which it flows is not against the individual’s self-interest.” [Ethics: Discovering Right and Wrong 5th ed. (p. 188)].

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