What are some moral principles that a secularist can base a moral system on?



What are some moral principles that a secularist can base a moral system on?

Additionally, is there a coherent reason to adopt these principles?

For example, anyone regardless of religion, philosophy, or lack thereof can realize it is good to be kind to their friends. Most people like to help out others to one degree or another. Most people would rather be kind than cruel. What sort of principle underlies these moral observations, e.g. do unto others what you would have them do unto you? Why should someone live consistently with such a principle, as opposed to only doing so when they feel like it? For example, a person may believe that moral relativism is not a good thing, and they are being a moral relativist if they are not principled.


Posted 2014-05-04T18:17:21.987

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The mid 20th century Euro existentialists (Camus, Satre, etc.) seem to me to be mostly concerned about how to build a moral framework without supernatural help. – obelia – 2014-05-06T04:06:58.273

@obelia Recursive confusion. Supernatural is not needed even in religion, since everything is anyway a reflection of man. Supernatural is needed only to affirm or to seal the dogmas of moral as correct and accepted. But the ideas are all human. In existentialism those who exist have to do this dirty job of gods and boldly set the rules of moral. Simple, do not need gods be god yourself. – Asphir Dom – 2014-05-06T17:08:38.960

@Obelia: Sartre seems, from what little I know, to advocate the creation of new values from the self following Nietzsche; but Camus, if the Outsider, is any clue, seems to doubt that as a real, self-sustaining possibility. – Mozibur Ullah – 2014-05-07T03:38:56.753

Why do you want there to be a secular moral system? What good is it, why is it needed? Do you believe that there are things people ought to do or not do, and if so, why? Your own answer to that should be the start of discovering such a foundation for morality. – ErikE – 2016-03-12T17:59:49.763



I think you have to look at it by different schools of thought:

1) Ayn Rand is a well known for believing in an objective moral truth while not believing in a higher power. From the Wikipedia article:

Objectivism's central tenets are that reality exists independent of consciousness, that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception, that one can attain objective knowledge from perception through the process of concept formation and inductive logic, that the proper moral purpose of one's life is the pursuit of one's own happiness (rational self-interest), that the only social system consistent with this morality is one that displays full respect for individual rights embodied in laissez-faire capitalism, and that the role of art in human life is to transform humans' metaphysical ideas by selective reproduction of reality into a physical form—a work of art—that one can comprehend and to which one can respond emotionally.

In such a world view, it is not obvious that "to help out others to one degree or another" is necessarily the moral thing to do.

2) Closely related would be a morality based on the two works of Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Together, they argue for a laizzes-faire that acknowledges what many observe: that we generally want to see others be better off:

How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it. Of this kind is pity or compassion, the emotion we feel for the misery of others, when we either see it, or are made to conceive it in a very lively manner. That we often derive sorrow from the sorrows of others, is a matter of fact too obvious to require any instances to prove it; for this sentiment, like all the other original passions of human nature, is by no means confined to the virtuous or the humane, though they perhaps may feel it with the most exquisite sensibility. The greatest ruffian, the most hardened violator of the laws of society, is not altogether without it.

3) A utilitarian might come to a similar conclusion as you (that it is generally good to be nice to others), but it would depend on an individual's perceived utility curves. For example, depending on those curves, a utilitarian may come to the conclusion: "Do unto others as others would do unto you up until this point".

4) Marx is an obvious example of a secular morality. In that world view, it's not so much "Do unto others..." as it is looking at what sort of things are owed to different people based on their class (labor is due certain things, current owners of capital are due their come-uppance, etc.)

5) I haven't read too much Richard Dawkins, but from what I have read he seems to present a world view that is different in some ways but related to the above. He believes in a very empirically based view on everything. Something exists if (1) you observe it with your senses, (2) you observe it through something that heightens your senses (such as a telescope or microscope), or (3) you can create a model for it based on (1) or (2). From that as a starting principle, you can deduce your world, including moral principles.

6) Descartes is a potentially interesting example as well. In his statement "I think, therefore I am," he does not take a higher being as his initial principle, but rather he takes his own cognition as the starting principle and derives God. This makes it, in some sense, a "secular" morality, in that traditional theological moralities (such as that of Augustine, Aquinas, etc.) take a divine power as the starting point, not the person.

So, I think these are few different schools of thought of a secular basis for moral reasoning.

James Kingsbery

Posted 2014-05-04T18:17:21.987

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I'm not a Randian, but I have gone quickly through her virtues of selfishness, and she does make the point that there are situations where one must help - so though not obvious, it appear that there is that component to her thinking. – Mozibur Ullah – 2014-05-07T03:35:38.187

As far as I can tell, none of these principles you list provide any basis for compunction. The fundamental nature of something being moral is that one ought to do it. How can any of these be a true foundation for morality without positing a compulsion to follow them? – ErikE – 2016-03-12T17:44:33.590


The driving forces of sympathy and desire can transcend human-made rules and principles - and may take their place in their absence.

A human being stripped of religion and philosophy is left with desires. Desires can be constant in their presence and they can also be impulsive in their intensity.

Desires are self-centric and fan outwards. Independently of moral strictures the self will tend to benefit the non-self in gratification of the self. This is amplified in a context where the non-self is either inherently attractive to the self or where the assistance of the non-self may be of benefit for the self (selfish altruism).

(A few classic examples. A male going out of his way to assist a female in distress (a flat tyre for instance). A restaurateur going out of his way to please a table of clearly affluent guests. The acts provide personal satisfaction and/or improve the odds of gaining the favour of the person(s) in question.

The human being is a social being. To gain the approval of one's peers one will at times contradict principles that one holds to be true and/ or desirable. Perhaps halfheartedly, perhaps not. Perhaps driven by fear of rejection or ridicule. Perhaps driven by a greater trust.

Humans, particularly those of a more mature age or inclination, are more at home with the familiar - with stability - and this is where consistency can be practiced as a means of satisfying this desire. However you will find that even those who live by consistency will at least desire to make exceptions.

(An example of such is a person who may consistently advocate a particular penalty for a particular transgression - but who desires to make an exception for a familiar person - in such cases it may be desirable to review the proposed penalty in question if it be so harsh that one would not feel at peace to apply it universally)


Posted 2014-05-04T18:17:21.987

Reputation: 469

Not bad. By "principle" I don't mean something people arbitrarily come up with, but more like how we learn scientific rules and try to live consistent with those rules so our lives work better. – yters – 2014-05-05T07:51:56.647

OK - so (if I am not misunderstanding) you are seeking further variables (building blocks - individual principles) with which to formulate a moral system of sorts independently of established religious and philosophical systems. Does this sound about right? – Avestron – 2014-05-05T09:12:44.453

Would 'selfishness' and a fear of 'disappearing forever' ( after death) prompt someone to steal to get 'luxeries' and 'live it up' before the 'inevitable'? – user128932 – 2014-09-30T04:38:54.933

@user128932 Not necessarily, although such a fear might cause a person to stop thinking clearly both about their predicament as well as their place in the universe. – Avestron – 2014-10-01T18:46:47.347

That's true but might a fear of disappearing forever and the ever present motive of greed cause one to make all sorts of plans ( or potential plans) about how to aquire 'luxeries' and the ability to use luxeries to live it up before 'disappearing forever'. Thus abandoning attempts at 'secular' morality. – user128932 – 2014-10-02T02:59:21.633

@user128932 In the same way that fear can inspire despicable acts in individuals of supposedly 'religious' morality, so too can it inspire such acts in persons without a belief in grand overseers. The greatest difference is where a 'secular' moralist chooses to invest his or her energies - formulating a truer morality (independently of overseers) or simply winging it as one might when subscribing to a religious following. There is a difference between understanding the foundations of a rule (the whats & whys) and simply following it (especially if out of subconscious fear). – Avestron – 2014-10-03T05:26:53.077

So a secular moralist who chooses to invest mental energies formulating better secular moral principles in the light of an ever present fear of disappearing forever ( which could happen at any time) instead of 'winging it like religious people do ; if the person is really fearful even on an unconscious level they are not going to worry about the 'integrity' of the 'structures' of secular morality , they like anybody , secular or not,are going to be worried about being limited ( legally or otherwise ) in how choose to live life. – user128932 – 2014-10-03T05:42:02.773

@user128932 I think that it would be best to better understand the purpose of fear. Fear is a mechanic designed to aide survival. Likewise it is adapted to react to impending loss. In the face of a certain demise (which we all are, unless one were to be open to the possibility of elongated (possibly indefinite) lifespans) the purpose of fear is lost somewhat - and while the less connected of us might be inclined to resort to unchecked self-indulgence, even here there is hope as the economic (humanity-acknowledging) law of diminishing returns applies. – Avestron – 2014-10-03T05:52:41.777

Furthermore the independent moralist is never truly done. Humanity is evolving, not only in terms of our genetics but also in terms of our knowledge and social structures. In the meantime 'religious' institutions are relatively static - slow to react to the world and sometimes unable to do so (because "it is written that..." and it would undermine credibility to backtrack). Finally - the independent moralist (of adequate connection to his or her understanding) is simply less likely to fall to base temptations. Its not subconsciously fearing the consequence of a broken rule (or commandment). – Avestron – 2014-10-03T05:56:13.143

In spite of an independent moralist trying to maintain the great integrity of their ever evolving rule-system of behavior your saying even with a fear of disappearing forever ( assuming they have this fear) they will not fall into base temptations like unchecked indulgences. Such secular moralists would limit their behavior even if they were in a depressing situation in life they wouldn't be tempted to self-indulge. Yet why would that be? Just knowing they are a great secular-rule follower would be reward enough? – user128932 – 2014-10-03T06:09:37.363

@user128932 I am proposing that a secular/ intellectually-independent moralist who succeeds in gaining a better understanding of any elements that make up a stable ethic (trying is the first step) is better equipped to act morally in such a fear-inspiring situation than a person who simply follows a doctrine (secular or not). Would such a person resort to violence or theft? Under trying enough circumstances (being attacked, starvation, etc.) - I am certain that many would. Incidentally I do think that you are assuming self-indulgence to be necessarily bad. Not necessarily. – Avestron – 2014-10-03T07:47:21.993

Someone who can follow any type of moral rules ( secular or not) even in the face of the 'great' fear of disappearing forever is great; that is if the 'rules' they use don't harm others in some way. But my proposal is because of this fear and the thought any 'behavioral' limitations would limit any 'living it up' before one 'disappears' , therefore one could be inclined to ignore any rules of behavior. – user128932 – 2014-10-03T19:44:05.837

1@user128932 I have been seeking to work within the example context provided but I trust that you are aware that not everybody of a secular background fears death. Granted, an optimistic view of one's relationship to the universe beyond life is helpful - but even in the absence of such, behaviour that undermines personal value sets (lets call alcoholism/ addiction an example of self-indulgence) is far from guaranteed. However I will readily concede that losing reasons to behave appropriately (fear of consequences to one's actions for instance) would increase the tendency of immorality. – Avestron – 2014-10-03T19:52:10.143

The problem with your answer is that it isn't moral. The definition of morality is compulsion or "oughtness". It isn't enough to describe what works, or what is self-interest, or what society wants, or what genetics program one to do, or what is the norm, because those have no necessary compulsion. Without compulsion there is not morality, because one is free to do anything at all based on purely arbitrary whim. There has to be an objective foundation on which to rest a statement such as "you ought not do that." – ErikE – 2016-03-12T17:38:22.143

@ErikE thank you for your feedback. It did make me ponder your criticisms levelled. One thing that I feel is inaccurate in the definition of morality that you posit is that it permits for situations that are either compulsive 'or' exhibiting "oughtness". It is quite easy to demonstrate that compulsive acts are not 'always' moral (fear or desire often fueling such cases). – Avestron – 2016-03-19T10:46:38.880

With regards to "oughtness", the main difficulty it faces is the same as that which faces "ethics". It is not easy to simply say that "'X' is moral" as the more that one strives to set boundaries there arises the possibily of a "'Y' is moral" argument arising. In my view it is perfectly acceptable for there to exist multiple paths of morality and the ultimate yardstick for such is Consistency. Any moral system that lacks consistency also lacks stability, perhaps even credibility. – Avestron – 2016-03-19T10:53:11.680

However to return to the spirit of the answer provided, it is my perspective that what I provided was an outline of that which underlies human morality. If you will, kindly consider such an outline also of the interface between humanity and the most fundamental value systems upon which a consistent model for morality may be based. – Avestron – 2016-03-19T10:56:16.803

Thanks for the thoughtful response. I agree consistency is a necessary condition for a moral system, but it isn't a sufficient one. Consistency, though, is a very low bar to clear, because it's just a side-effect of rationality and acceptance of non-contradiction—unless a nihilist, it's quite difficult to reject rationality. "Oughtness" is another necessary but insufficient condition: the source of the compulsion matters. Mere compulsion by an external force that lacks moral authority (say, a thief threatening to kill you unless you comply) isn't morality. – ErikE – 2016-03-19T15:00:28.087

I agree that desire is the—or one of the most—fundamental human problem(s)—and the subsequent selection of, and mode of, denial or fulfillment of such desire. The compulsion morality must have is required in order for it to not be conditional. "You should help people" isn't moral if it has a condition like "... if you want them to like you" because it gives no support that there is valid compulsion to want people to like you. "Torturing babies is evil" is absurd without a claim that one owes avoiding that action and that this duty is not conditional (like, if you want acceptance). – ErikE – 2016-03-19T15:09:31.057

@ErikE thank you also in kind. Consistency would seem to be a low bar to clear and in some circumstances it is so. Let us take the simple example of a hired maid working for two persons - a successful businessman and a senile senior. We would both agree that the integrity of the maid's moral character is more validly tested in the later scenario, being more able to pinch cash and get away with it. Similarly, in times when the maid is in greater need of the money. In both circumstances consistency is tested. – Avestron – 2016-03-19T16:10:55.257

The measure of consistency is also important when applied laterally, and a close kin to this is the saying that one should do to others what one would have done to the self and to one's near and dear. So if one should be a masochist but would not apply that measure to one's mother then a question arises as to which path to apply to others. The exceptional case being when one would apply an unacceptable activity to others indiscriminately - including to self - as one would technically remain consistent in one's ethical failings. Fortunately such cases are almost non-existent. – Avestron – 2016-03-19T16:16:02.040

On a different note, the notion of acceptance and the implied peer pressure can work both in favour of as well as against moral choices. Not all choices are easily made and I do suggest that an increased valuation of consistency in considering moral questions would ultimately lead to an outlook of improved morality. Interestingly though, consistency also requires that one perceive what one considers to be base human desires in a new light - not inherently immoral but perhaps suggestive of an alternative norm. – Avestron – 2016-03-19T16:20:15.320

There's a potential conflict between "base human desires" and "not inherently immoral". What is base, then, to you? – ErikE – 2016-03-19T16:27:25.700

@ErikE We live in a World where the human body is considered obscene in the flesh yet sublime in stone. We are socialized from birth with regards how to interpret our bodies, emotions, impulses and more. Suppression is a norm practiced throughout much of the Human World - and yet such is difficult to reconcile with the natural World. There exists an inconsistency and I suspect that it cuts through human civilization to cause fissures of unrest... but I deviate. – Avestron – 2016-03-19T16:37:49.997

If I were to peg my perspective on the matter than I would say that it is tentatively akin to the structural approach of Emile Durkheim. I attempt to draw stucture - conceptually quantifying all in the process, or at least attempting to. I feel that a structured approach lends itself to seeking out consistency and basing morality upon such may not be a simple process - but it seems to be a compelling place to begin. Such is the theory anyway. – Avestron – 2016-03-19T16:58:11.043

Duality, where the body is considered evil and spirit is considered good, is an old Greek notion that is completely rejected by many modern religious philosophers. At the same time, people possess innate dignity that makes them peculiarly uncomfortable to be organic beings that eat and excrete. A coherent system to handle this would indeed seem to be part and parcel of a thorough and consistent moral system. I still maintain that mere desire cannot be a foundation for anything called "moral". – ErikE – 2016-03-19T17:17:10.077

@ErikE I find it interesting that you specify as religious the modern philosophers who rejected the body being considered evil and the spirit good. I would be surprised if secular philosophers were to draw the opposite conclusion (although perhaps the question here is whether secular philosophers would be inclined to consider the spirit as an existing entity in the first place). – Avestron – 2016-03-19T17:30:36.630

As regards the role of desires - I would suggest that through observation, interpretation and internalization of the nuances of desire one would be better-placed to formulate a moral system that compliments rather than works against our humanity - desires being closely linked. – Avestron – 2016-03-19T17:45:17.003

I don't work against the body, and I think my personal philosophies are definitely nuanced in the area of desire. But mere desire, as you discussed in your answer, doth not morality make. – ErikE – 2016-03-19T17:57:28.630

P.S. My use of religious wasn't restrictive in the sense of saying only religious philosophers reject that. I merely specified the philosophers of which I was aware, who have definitely rejected that. There are still other philosophers, some religious and some not, who still see body as base/evil and thought/spirit as noble/good. – ErikE – 2016-03-19T18:05:27.777

@ErikE thank you for the clarifications. I trust that you realize that it was not ever in any shape or form my intention to throw your personal philosophies into question (nor any religious or secular perspective at that). While we may be in mutual disagreement about the level of importance and the nature of any relationship that might or might not exist between desire and morality, as I hinted earlier multiplicity is a concept that I personally embrace. – Avestron – 2016-03-19T20:39:15.810


My answer is going to cover Objectivism, which not sufficiently explained above, and point out some problems with what you have written that weren't picked up in other answers. Objectivism, as explained by Ayn Rand, provides a secular moral philosophy that answers your questions. Objectivism claims that morality is a set of values that should "guide man’s choices and actions".

You say:

For example, anyone regardless of religion, philosophy, or lack thereof can realize it is good to be kind to their friends. Most people like to help out others to one degree or another. Most people would rather be kind than cruel. What sort of principle underlies these moral observations, e.g. do unto others what you would have them do unto you?

What you have said here is very vague. People "like to help others"? Most people would also recognise you shouldn't help others indiscriminately. For example, if you are in a DIY store and a person asks you which is the strongest brand of duct tape, you might help that person if he is doing home repairs. But if the person starts explaining that he needs the duct tape to keep quiet the small children locked in his cellar, then you shouldn't help him.

Also, "do unto others what you would have them do unto you" is hopelessly vague since it doesn't explain what counts as similar treatment. For example, suppose a woman wants to get an abortion. An advocate of abortion might say the abortion should be allowed since she wouldn't want to be forced to carry a baby she doesn't want. An anti-abortionist could say that if she were the mother, she would want to carry the baby to term and so the abortion should not be allowed. There is another problem: the question of whose interests count here. Anti-abortionists would say that the foetus has interests that should be respected by forbidding abortion. Pro-abortionists would say the foetus is not alive in the same way as a person and so should not be treated as a person.

According to Objectivism, you should try to judge what to do by the standard of what will benefit you. You should work out what values can be achieved in reality, and act on them. This leads Objectivism to advocate the Trader Principle: you should only want to deal with others on the basis of offering value for value. Objectivism holds that a foetus is not a person, so you can't deal with it for mutual benefit. In addition, pregnancy places heavy restrictions on what a woman can do for several months. So pregnancy doesn't benefit the woman or her partner unless they are undertaken voluntarily to get a baby that is considered of greater value than the inconvenience. So abortion should be legal.


Posted 2014-05-04T18:17:21.987

Reputation: 6 821

The problem with objectivism is that it can't offer any "oughtness" and so is not a moral framework. It merely claims by fiat what one should do, but it is far from supportable that there is actually any compunction on anyone to do so. It may make good arguments about rationality, but those really amount to nothing more than self-interest. And where is the compulsion to never act against one's own interests? – ErikE – 2016-03-12T17:41:58.367

Objectivism does not claim by fiat that you should act in a particular way. It explains why you should act that way: http://aynrandlexicon.com/ayn-rand-ideas/the-objectivist-ethics.html. You say Objectivism moral arguments "amount to nothing more than self-interest". Most people are extremely bad at acting in their self interest. To get to the point of acting in your self interest is a major achievement. You ask about "compulsion" never to act against your self interest. Acting under compulsion isn't acting in your self interest, so your question contains a contradiction.

– alanf – 2016-03-12T21:18:50.317

Wait. Does not objectivism boil down to "you should act X way because you'll like the results more"? Isn't it an instruction manual in what self-interest consists of? I fail to see how the degree of difficulty of truly acting in self-interest pertains to whether one ought to act in self-interest. On the contrary, your own comments contain a contradiction because you use the words you should, but deny acting under compulsion. Shouldness is compulsion! Where does that come from? Why should anyone act any way? There are lots of hard things in the world that no one should do. – ErikE – 2016-03-12T21:27:28.060

You are assuming without argument that morality requires compulsion, and you are wrong. Morality is just about how to make choices. Making choices doesn't require compulsion. – alanf – 2016-03-13T01:16:21.983

"Morality is just about how to make choices"? You make choices by picking something and then acting toward it. That isn't morality—morality is saying what choices you should pick. If you have a different definition then news flash: you're going to have some serious communication problems with others. Think about good vs. evil —those words are defined by what you should and should not do. Something cannot be called evil without the implication that there is a burden of duty to not perform that action! This is philosophy 101, man... – ErikE – 2016-03-13T01:20:48.273

If good and evil don't come with "oughtness" to perform or avoid them, then they are rendered meaningless. If I am just as free to choose evil actions as good ones, with no compulsion on me either way, what do those words mean any more? What if your good is my evil and your evil is my good? If you say it's evil to torture children, but by this you do not mean I ought not do it, what at all do you mean then? Simply that you don't like it or something? That's not morality. I don't like walnuts, is that morality? – ErikE – 2016-03-13T01:24:46.860

Plus, "how to make choices" to what? To achieve what end? "How to make choices" to cause the most pain possible to others? To increase world population? To achieve the most pleasure, power, and leisure for self? You have presented nothing to guide one toward which choices one ought to make, and thus you are not presenting moral principles. – ErikE – 2016-03-13T01:29:26.343

@ErikE A choice involves picking between two or more options. You could say that morality is about what options you should pick, but to say it is about what choices you should pick is not idiomatic English. Now, you say that you have a burden of duty not to do evil stuff. I disagree. You shouldn't want to do evil, and so refraining from evil should not be a burden. If you want to torture children, then you're a bad person already even if you don't do it. And if an action is evil, it may be reasonable for me to stop you from doing it by force. – alanf – 2016-03-13T12:36:20.693

You ask about the end to which choices should aim. One of the choices you have to make is what ends you should favour. I don't think there is some finite set of ends among which you should pick. Rather, you can and should aim for unbounded improvement, including improvement of your ends. See http://curi.us/1169-morality.

– alanf – 2016-03-13T12:44:47.930

You're completely missing my points. 1. The burden here is not about a feeling of internal resistance, but the external obligation. 2. Compulsion here doesn't mean you have no choice but that you ought to or should. 3. Bringing in actions vs desires is just muddying the water—I mean both by "do" or "act". 4. It's contradictory and thus nonsense to keep using "should" in your own comments, while denying the oughtness of morality. I think you completely fail to understand the issues here! – ErikE – 2016-03-13T15:36:28.550


"you say ... you have a burden of duty not to do evil ... You shouldn't want to do evil, and so refraining ... should not be a burden." A burden of duty to not do evil is identical to "you shouldn't want to". Please try harder to understand my meaning! By what standard do you judge what ends are improvement? if I want to torture children more effectively, that's improvement of my torturing skills. The moment you deny "oughtness" (variously: should, duty, burden, compulsion, requirement, demand) you lose all meaning of "evil". Morality requires "you should do good and you should not do evil."

– ErikE – 2016-03-13T15:47:14.543

There are acts you ought not to do. If you prefer to perform one of those acts you should change your preference. In some cases, e.g. - torturing children, if you don't change that preference others can and should use force to stop you implementing that preference. But it is not in your self interest to do bad stuff like torture children. A child is a person who may create new knowledge in the future from which you could benefit. Your torture gets in the way of that. It may result in the child being worse at knowledge creation, and in the child hating you. And there are other problems. – alanf – 2016-03-13T16:43:21.987

So you DO agree that morality without some kind of "shouldness" isn't morality? – ErikE – 2016-03-13T16:44:31.873

Also, it's a bad idea to attribute lack of understanding to me when you have not changed my mind on some issue. You could be wrong and assuming you are right gets in the way of you potentially learning, and takes up space that could be used for argument. I suggest you e-mail me at alanmichaelforrester at googlemail.com if you would like to continue since comments are not optimised for extended discussion. – alanf – 2016-03-13T16:45:21.567

I meant no disrespect to you. We're having trouble with terms and it's frustrating. – ErikE – 2016-03-13T17:39:21.893


Any moral principles a secularist may come up with will be purely subjective, so there would be no reason for all people to adopt them.


Posted 2014-05-04T18:17:21.987


This is wrong in so many ways. For example, the deduction of the Categorical Imperative by Kant in GMM itself works without any terms of or connection to religion. It in fact has to, because the objective reality of the ideas of God (kantian sense) and eternal souls are based on it and Garve made him see his petitio pricipii in CPR. And this is only the most famous example. Kant had to overcome the dogmatic stance Aquinas had regarding rationality. – Philip Klöcking – 2016-01-08T13:27:56.967

The original question didn't even mention Kant. – None – 2016-01-08T18:05:50.660

He is the most famous example of a philosopher with an objective moral principle not based on religion, i.e. who can be read secularistic. What is there not to be understood? – Philip Klöcking – 2016-01-08T21:10:43.990

Understood why you mentioned him. However, nothing in Kant precludes someone from rejecting the categorical imperative. Why should anyone adopt Kant's view instead of someone else's? – None – 2016-01-09T00:01:11.650

Why should I accept Christian morality instead of Hinduistic? With this argument, subjectivity has nothing to do with secularity. That's why I think your point is totally meaningless. – Philip Klöcking – 2016-01-09T07:09:57.787

Perhaps this is where the disconnect is. The definition of "secular" matters greatly here. The OP asked for secularist principles on which to base a moral system. One can strongly argue that secularism, by definition, does away with any obligations one person might have to another -- especially moral obligations. – None – 2016-01-09T15:57:14.237


To make empathy is a primary moral principle, then comes social rules. As human is a social being, you need to stuck to society in order to survive and satisfy your instincts. Empathy, respect, and developing social requirements create developing rules. Goodness is a result of empathy, evil is a result of selfish survival needs, source scarcity. In physics, the cause of both is entropy; the tend to decrease the energy and increase the disorder. Everything in universe tends to increase its entropy in order to settle to its steady state. In earth, the sun gives energy and to loose this energy the cycle goes on and feeds the change.


Posted 2014-05-04T18:17:21.987

Reputation: 1

1Those are interesting definitions, but your answer doesn't address why one ought to have empathy. For something to be moral requires compunction: one ought to do, or not do, something. While most agree that empathy is good, what is your proposed objective foundation for saying that people ought to have empathy, and ought not be merely selfish? Without that, you haven't answered the question! – ErikE – 2016-03-12T17:56:53.693

There are philosophical positions claiming what you seem to say here, but we are not here for writing our own philosophical thoughts. Please read this meta post for clarification.

– Philip Klöcking – 2016-03-22T14:43:56.000