Autocracy and democracy cannot determine good and evil, since the imposition of whatever the dictator -divine or not- wishes does reflect their power but not the righteousness of their values, and the opinion of the majority -by direct representation or indirect legislation- avoids conflicts but does not define a code of ethics ("Ten white guys lynching one black guy is a democracy.") Even worse is to base it on tradition: the continuance of a practice does not require goodness. In the science of logic, these appeals to the legitimate wisdom of force, the people and antiquity are ad baculum, ad populum and ad antiquitatem fallacies respectively.
Then, what does define morality? In The Moral Landscape, neuroscientist Sam Harris argues that morality is based on the well-being of conscious beings and that, therefore, a code of ethics based on the extremes of total well-being and suffering must be applied. The author pictures a 'moral landscape', a space of actual and potential consequences whose peaks correspond to the heights of well-being and whose valleys represent the deepest suffering:
"Different ways of thinking and behaving —cultural practices, ethical codes, modes of government, etc.— will translate into movements across this landscape and, therefore, into different degrees of human flourishing. I’m not suggesting that we will necessarily discover one right answer to every moral question or a single best way for human beings to live. Some questions may admit of many answers, each more or less equivalent. [...]To get to this rational and empirical model, Harris had to first demonstrate the link between well-being and morality, and for that purpose he achieved a possibly bigger feat than his central thesis: he put an end to the modern interpretation of Hume's Guillotine, the supposed wall of separation between facts and values whose breaking is usually -but wrongly- likened to the naturalistic fallacy. Although philosophers such as G.E. Moore misinterpreted it like so, that was not Hume's purpose: ironically, his argument run against those who tried to deduce a code of ethics from the mere existence of God. Harris approaches Hume's problem pragmatically:
If there are objective truths to be known about human well-being—if kindness, for instance, is generally more conducive to happiness than cruelty is—then science should one day be able to make very precise claims about which of our behaviours and uses of attention are morally good, which are neutral, and which are worth abandoning."
"Many moral skeptics... insist that notions of what we ought to do or value can be justified only in terms of other 'oughts,' never in terms of facts about the way the world is. [...] But this notion of 'ought' is an artificial and needlessly confusing way to think about moral choice. [...] If this notion of 'ought' means anything we can possibly care about, it must translate into a concern about the actual or potential experience of conscious beings (either in this life or in some other). For instance, to say that we ought to treat children with kindness seems identical to saying that everyone will tend to be better off if we do."This kind of evidence-based morality is faced with two adversaries which in turn are also hostile to each other: the supposedly absolute morality of classic religion and the moral relativism of Postmodernism. Both entail an abhorrent blindness from reality but they are quite distinct disabilities. Fundamentalists -blinded by absolute precepts such as "lying is a sin" which leave no room for a possible context that absolve them- cannot see any shades of grey. The consequences are obvious and dreadful.
Inversely, blinded in the name of the distorted view of tolerance offered by cultural relativism, postmodernists can only see shades of gray -and that is the only way that civilized and well-intentioned people could tolerate practices such as female genital mutilation and other forms of oppression, sexism and barbarism: "it is a different culture with an alternative code of ethics," they say. And they are right. But this code of ethics is not only alternative but also intolerable and an affront to human rights. As Harris himself points out, this intellectual tolerance is not just an academic issue -probably at this very moment there are girls getting their faces burned off with acid for wanting to learn to read or for the 'crime' of getting raped.
"If only one person in the world held down a terrified, struggling, screaming little girl, cut off her genitals with a septic blade, and sewed her back up, leaving only a tiny hole for urine and menstrual flow, the only question would be how severely that person should be punished, and whether the death penalty would be a sufficiently severe sanction. But when millions of people do this, instead of the enormity being magnified millions-fold, suddenly it becomes “culture,” and thereby magically becomes less, rather than more, horrible, and is even defended by some Western “moral thinkers,” including feminists."The false distinction between facts and values is the principle responsible for the fact that so many have embraced this distorted view among the progressive movements, for which seemingly any criticism towards the East is a case of Western imperialism. Considering their adversaries are a far-right obsessed with the cult of Yahveh to the point of violent fundamentalism, it is no wonder they have sunk to such a low level.
This third ethical perspective, based on evidence and not divine revelation or unconditional tolerance, aims to be the voice of reason between the psychotics who hear voices from a vengeful deity and the psychopaths who ignore the screams of little girls.
(Leer la versión original: El renacimiento de la moral)