The Evolution of Ethics

Powerful Essays
The Evolution of Ethics

A goal implicit in human evolution is survival; thus, humanity directs some of its energy toward creating a state of peace to achieve the necessary efficiency and conservation of energy to survive in a hostile and sometimes unpredictable world. The foundation of the emergence of rule systems in the world is built upon centuries of reasoned insight and personal experiences that reveal which actions are better than others, which are productive, and which are disruptive and should be avoided. As efficient actions reveal themselves to an evolving society, its people develop the means to make productive choices between one type of action and another. Some choices are decidedly better than others. This prioritizing of human actions into efficient hierarchies establishes the foundations of rule systems which later refine themselves into more sophisticated systems of morals, manners and statutory laws. All these systems have a tendency to address the fundamental need of the human species to survive and avoid the common fate of extinction by conserving energy and directing social attention towards more productive kinds of behavior. It could be said that as civilization approaches the ideal of efficiency, the harmony that follows from efficient and thoughtful actions inspires a state of peace that exponentially increases the chances of human civilization surviving over long periods of time.

Social change has more or less followed the more reasoned logic and experiences of people. Change is not always perfect. However, as people experience more and learn more about their world through formal education, they have more resources by which they can make judgments about the behavior of their fellow humans.
Knowledge of the past lends to enlightened minds a knowledge of the future.
Common education and experiences inspire the emergence of informal belief systems, clarifying what appears to be acceptable behavior and what is not.
Observations that endure centuries of reasoned scrutiny integrate ultimately into the cultural ethic. As a rule of thumb, an action that contributes to the disorganization of society is often considered "wrong" and that which contributes to the organization of society "right." Behaviors that corrupt the peace, prosperity, and productivity of a society are generally discouraged as
"wrong," in favor of behaviors which contri...

... middle of paper ... Rule systems help keep people in their "right mind" instead of going "out of their minds" through excess. People who are repeatedly "out of their minds" have less chance of surviving and surviving well than people who remain true to their original personality. Some behaviors corrupt the efficiency and social compatibility of people more than other behaviors. Some part of the evolution of ethical systems monitors the growth of potentially harmful behaviors and looks for methods to suppress them.

Rules help to reign in human passion as progress demands finer and finer delineations of labor, resources, and authority. The visceral compulsions of humans to survive rather than perish commands intelligent people to try to hold their society together and to keep people and their passions from tearing it apart. Survival places an imperative to be sensible enough to stay above the threshold of extinction as a species. This evolutionary process inspires finer and finer details of order, and is first evident in the moral senses of reasonable people who push for better rules to keep society orderly. To do this they must look from past experience into the future.