Posts Tagged ‘Mores’

What Is “Moral” To A Lion?

February 13, 2017

What Is Moral To A Chimpanzee?

What is the Origin of Human Morality?

Individual Morality May Vary, But Social Morality, Which Also Varies, Is Absolutely Dependent Upon Circumstances:

Natural scientists will say that one has to start with human ethology, the behavior of man au naturel. However, that’s a bit delicate, as there is nothing natural about man, since the genus Homo wages war and uses weapons and tools, to the point man cannot do without.

Nevertheless, morality has stabilized in the last 25 centuries in most ways (especially now that women are treated with natural equality).

The mos maiorum (“way of the elders”; plural of mos, behavior, is “mores”).  The unwritten code of the Republican Romans, comprising: Fides, Disciplina, Pietas, Gravitas, Religio, Cultus, Dignitas, Auctoritas, Virtus…  

This is where the concept of “Moral” comes from.

These behaviors, as a set, enabled the Roman Republic to survive for 5 centuries (or more, if one considers the empire and the subsequent “Christian Republic” as an extension of the Republic, as the Roman did; de facto, we are still under basic Roman secular law, 25 centuries later).

This gives a philosophical hint. Philosophy is the art of guessing what could be, may be, could well be, ought to be, etc. For morality, it is beyond a guess:    

“Mores”, “Morality” has to do with survival. Morality is the set of behaviors which insures survival. 

Temple of Baalshiman, Palmyra. Insulted by the Bible in Connection with Human Sacrifices. Its Destruction by Islamists in 2015 (right).

Temple of Baalshiman, Palmyra. Insulted by the Bible in Connection with Human Sacrifices. Its Destruction by Islamists in 2015 (right).

There is a continuum between natural and (epi-)genetic ethology, and cultural ethology: the study of chimpanzees shows this. The very Christian Jane Goodall found, to her dismay, that the chimpanzees she studied made, over many years, a systematic war of extermination against another group of chimps.

The origin of morality is survival. The set of all moral behaviors (“mores”) is the set which enables survival. Survival of the individual, the group, a society, even a civilization.

Carthage was, in its times, 25 centuries ago, one of the most advanced societies. Its sailors captured gorillas, and circumnavigated Africa. Trading with Black Africa for fish was intense. Carthaginian agriculture in semidesertic conditions was so advanced, Roman preserved the book (while destroying all others). However, Carthage practiced childhood sacrifices extensively and routinely (archeologists seem to have demonstrated, confirming the stories already found in the Bible, Leviticus).

Another example: Polynesian societies needed to corral strongly behaviors and human population on their delicate islands. Hence taboos (don’t fish there, don’t go into that valley, etc.) and cannibalism (often entangled with religion, as Captain Cook experienced).

The Aztecs, deprived of massive proteins aside from a giant salamander (differently from other civilizations around Mexico, which had access to large quantities of fish). The Aztecs made a religion centered on human butchery, up to thousands eaten in a few days… (This made the Aztecs unpopular in Mesoamerica, and enabled Cortez to rise an army of 80,000 natives to fight the Aztecs, enormously amplifying his very small army of few thousands Spaniards).

Astrophysics professor, and proud principal investigator Coel Hellier states:  If “it is morally good” doesn’t mean “I approve of it” then what does it mean? When Stephen Law says that science cannot tell us “what one ought or ought not to do”, what does the phrase “ought to do”, as used there, actually mean? These are fun questions to ask a moral realist. We ought to do it because it is morally good … and it is morally good because we ought to do it, and … but so far I’ve never come across an actual answer.”

A society determines what it ought to do to survive, and derives a morality from it, that all individuals “ought” to obey (“mores”, social morality). However, to survive, or lessen pain, a given crazed, or, simply, distressed, individual may well decide that she/he needs to violate the social morality, and follow her/his own ways of doing things.

Hence morality is relative between societies, and between individuals and society. However, given a long-established society, morality is absolute.

Roman Republican morality cracked around 150 BCE, due to Roman globalocracy (which enabled Roman plutocrats to come into existence, and ever grow in power). The collapse of that morality proximally brought the non-enforcement of anti-plutocratic laws (although the assassinated Gracchi tried to reinforce them). Soon plutocrats were at each others’ throats, as they dominated the Roman world (contemplate the situation today!). Massive and continuous civil wars ensued, followed by Augustus’ Principate in 27 BCE, as that wily youngster was able to muster the declining strength of the moribund Republica to his command.

However, the basic Roman Republican morality was embodied by Republican Roman law, whose basic framework survived even the Christo-fascism of the Fourth Century. Roman secular law was refurbished under Roman emperor Justinian (529 CE to 565 CE), and separated from Christian Sharia. Roman secular law was transmitted by the Imperium Francorum: it fit well with the Salic Law of the Franks. Roman secular law survives to this day as the basic legal framework of the present civilization. (This partly explains why the present civilization is not Christian: it does not fllow Christian law, but Ethological Law, also known as Roman Law.)

That morality is time-tested. It’s also the morality closest to natural ethology. So it’s not relative. It’s pretty much absolute. Hence a very good foundation on which to wage war in its defense.

Patrice Ayme’

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