Appendix. Utilities and tasks.
This appendix was written as the last chapter of "Survival and Altruism" but the author decided not to include it in the book because he considered it too subjective.
However, the author believes that it would be suitable to share it now on the website, maintaining the original intention and colloquial language of the document. The contents of this document are as follows:
I. The basic ideas and their application
II. Tasks for thinkers
III. Tasks for doers
IV. Tasks for all
. General ideas
. Some ideas to be a better, happier person
I.- The basic ideas and their application
Let me recap the three ideas I talk about in the book for you:
. Our species, mankind, has the priority vital imperative to survive
. Broad group altruism is the most effective and efficient method to achieve this imperative
. The universal principle of ethics is as follows: It is good / better, that which, done altruistically or with love, is good / better for the survival of our species.
These ideas do not give us an answer to the big existential questions: who we are, where we come from or where we are going. They do respond to the equally important question of what we should do and how to do it, within our capacity as animate, rational living beings.
Now, dear reader, I ask you to consider what you have just read, and, using your best judgement, decide for yourself if the ideas are true or false. If you believe them to be false, do not continue. But if you believe them to be true, you will see that they can also be extremely useful. Below, I summarize their possible uses:
1- Let me point out again that the what we should do – survive – and how to do it – altruistically – are not mere inclinations or tendencies. These are priority vital imperatives, the basic and natural norms for human beings since the beginning of time.
2. These ideas can serve as a common foundation for all of mankind, especially important in this era of globalization. Though the world is 'smaller' now than ever before, mankind still does not have an explicit, collective and globally accepted set of codes or benchmarks that delineate a common objective and the means to try and achieve it.
3. These ideas are universal and neutral. They can be utilized and applied by believers of all religions, by agnostics and atheists, without any of them having to renounce their particular beliefs.
4. Following from the previous point, these ideas can serve as a basis for people of different faiths to work together, especially to develop a global ethical standard.
5. These ideas reinforce the teachings of the religions of the Book, confirming the “be fruitful and multiply” of the Genesis and the mandate to mankind to use and take care of creation. They also complement other doctrines (Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, etc), and emphasize the precept of “love thy neighbour”, extending it to “neighbours” both near and far.
6. These ideas confirm and complement the theory of evolution, providing the foundation and purpose which the theory previously lacked. They also avoid falling into the naturalistic fallacy, and clear many doubts that the theory of evolution was unable to do up till now.
7. They provide a framework and justification for human freedom and liberty by presenting a fixed, common criterion to which one can resort at the moment of planning, deciding, and judging the full array of human actions.
8. At the same time, these ideas reduce relativisms, preventing those who dictate norms, laws and customs from committing errors, abuses or injustices.
9. They also confirm that altruism/love is the most effective and efficient tool available to human beings to try and survive as individuals, as groups and as a species. This method is postulated by the physical sciences, in its various partial aspects, and by different religions and belief systems.
10. They confirm the recommendations of ecologists, humanists, the UN, papal encyclicals and other entities.
11. These ideas clearly advocate universal brotherhood. Man is a member of a single collective or 'humanity' with a common goal – that of practicing, in all its scope, broad group altruism.
12. They provide a basis for the equality of all people in terms of basic rights and obligations. I further develop this point below.
13. These ideas indicate that the first thing we have, as human beings, are obligations – the imperative duty to contribute to the vital objective of the survival of our species.
14. In order to fulfil the above obligation, and as a result of it, all people have the right to live as much and as best as possible, and the duty to help their fellow men do the same. Individual and group wellbeing improves the survival capacity of the individual, the group and the species.
15. So, it would follow that, in order to pursue the vital objective, we must at an individual level try to improve ourselves: to become healthier, wiser and kinder. All individuals carry this implicit obligation within themselves, and must be allowed to exercise it explicitly.
16. Consequently, all natural and legal persons, groups and collectives, public and private entities, religions, civic movements and so on, have the moral obligation to incorporate and act towards the priority objectives. Each entity is to act in accordance with its particular activity and possibilities, and help others to do so as well.
17. These ideas, if true, can also allow us to rethink some of the theoretical issues regarding good and evil, purposes, values, virtues and vices, kindness, love and so on, in terms of man as a living being, without entering into the realm of 'ultimate' or transcendent purposes.
18. From what has been said in the previous point, it does not seem that these ideas have any theological implications.
19. To sum up, if these ideas are true, they are also practical, politically correct and easily 'sellable', being equally compatible with current scientific doctrines and the teachings of most religions. To that end, they can serve as a common foundation to improve the structures and systems of coexistence for individuals, groups and the entire species.
Globalization is accelerating the sentiment of universal brotherhood, of belonging to the same species, and also promoting the development of universal ethical standards: customs, trends, social relations, laws and trade agreements, doctrines and theories, applications of science, etc.
The vital imperative, implicit in the issuers and the receivers of the new norms as well as the old, would serve to ensure that these norms are in accordance with with the universal principle of ethics. Unfortunately, certain issuers of norms – such as powerful political leaders and groups – may try to block or oppose the growing sentiment of brotherhood for personal interests, harmful to the objective of the survival of the species.
Hence the urgency to manifest and put into action the universal principle of ethics. For this reason, I feel obliged to request the help of those who may be reading this. Let me also venture to share with you a list of possible tasks for each of the three groups of readers I mention in the introduction of the book.
II Tasks for thinkers.
My main intention in publishing this work is to verify and disseminate my ideas, so that they may be beneficial to those who want to use them. Each of my three main ideas may correspond to certain kinds of experts:
. the basic idea can correspond to experts in evolution, anthropologists, ethologists, sociobiologists... And then to philosophers of nature and science ...
. the broad altruism is treated by a range of specialists: ethologists and anthropologists again, neuroscientists, as well as philosophers and humanists.
. the universal ethical principle originates from the basic idea, which is a natural norm of life. It seems that, once this is affirmed as the basis of the behaviour of all living beings, including man, it will become a moral foundation. This area may correspond to anthropologists and specialists in meta-ethics.
I would ask the experts who are reading this to discuss, debate and verify my ideas in public and private forums, using their academic authority. I would also appreciate their comments, both positive and negative. Additionally,
I would ask readers to suggest to me potential experts or organizations who might be interested in the task at hand, to whom I could send copies of my book. (Please see the “Contact” section on my website.)
III. Tasks for doers
These ideas, if indeed true, are not just abstract theories that serve to exercise the intellect; they imply action. They entail things to do, criteria to take into account. Some of these criteria are already in operation, through the partial ethical standards of people, groups and collectives around the world: employees, freelancers, private companies, public bodies, cities, states, unions, the UN, and so on. Above all, these criteria need to be taken into account by all the creators and disseminators of norms, such as philosophers, politicians, religious institutions, civic and humanist movements, and the powers that be.
I now address the people who engage in the above activities, both the leaders and the led: if you have understood my ideas and believe them to be true, you can and should use them as criteria in you daily activities.
In general, this would involve doing the same thing that you have been doing in much the same away, unless what you have been doing – or the strategy employed – does not contribute towards the survival and wellbeing of our species
In the case of doubt, you can apply the rule of “Love and do what you will”, and the usual deontological ethics, applied teleologically, with the objective or goal being the wellbeing of your fellow man. We know recognize this to be an excellent strategy of survival for the species.
The world has always been divided, in one way or another, into individuals, collectives, countries and so on, that compete with each other within the laws of individual and group survival. Hence, in any given situation, an altruistic person, surrounded by various self-interested individuals, could potentially face problems. This subject has been extensively studied by ethologists and business schools as well. One has to make a choice, but it should be an informed choice, knowing now that the foremost duty of the individual, as a member of the human species, is to do what they do well.
So, to all the doers out there – I implore you, think about these ideas and their application to your daily life, and use them freely if you think they will be beneficial for your organizations, your community, or for the species as a whole. I would also appreciate your comments on the subject.
IV.-Tasks for all.
This section gives a broader view of the possible individual uses of my ideas. What follows resembles a “casebook of counsel”, comparable to the advice imparted by wise men or tribe elders. These pieces of advice are not norms nor confirmed criteria; they are simply a personal, subjective example of how the ideas could be applied.
To refresh the memory, the universal principle of ethics for the individual goes as follows: “Do, with altruism/love that which is good/better for the survival and wellbeing of our species”.
If you have come this far, dear reader, and consider the ideas you've read to be true, you'll have realized that, like all other living beings, you are programmed to collaborate with your species in the goal of transmitting life. In reality, your life is a vital link in the chainmail that comprises mankind's evolution. It may seem a small part, but it is vastly important. And, whichever way you look at it, you have the responsibility to preserve and transmit the life you have received, directly and/or by helping others. You may not know it, but you are already engaged in the task.
Note: These duties are natural and correspond to all living creatures, based on the vital imperative. If you are a believer or a religious person, you may have other, transcendent goals, in addition to the duties that your belief system imposes upon you. In general, however, the natural duties coincide to a large extent with the other duties you may have as a believer.
At this point, I'd like to mention an idea that you do not normally hear, so that you don't feel misled later on: first you have obligations, then you have rights. As a human being, you have the obligation to try and fulfil the universal principle of ethics, which consequently obliges you and gives you the right to seek to improve your life. Seek whatever you may need to feed yourself, protect yourself from the cold and heat, take care of yourself when you are sick, defend yourself from danger, and so on. For that end, you can choose any number of means. You are an animate, rational being, free and exceedingly intelligent – much more so than other living beings, for better or for worse.
You can and must be proactive. You can find the means to live, here and now, and you can try to accumulate extra resources and save them for future use, as do the moles, squirrels and ants. The more resources you gather, the better, as long as you procure them honestly and put them to good use.
Honesty is important, because you are a social being. Therefore, you must adhere to some social rules, the foundations of which are already programmed in your nature. You have come to the world possessing the basic knowledge of how you should behave in society. You are designed to live with others, and to depend on others; you are designed to be altruistic, for your own good, and so that it may be easier for you to fulfil your obligations to live and help transmit life. This vital imperative was already implicit in your nature; now you know it and recognize it expressly. This also means that you need some basic rules of your own, with which to judge the external norms of your environment.
Note: From experience, I can tell you that it is very interesting and entertaining to observe the world and its people through the lens of these ideas. Try it. With a little practice, you will be able to better see and understand all that happens around you and far from you.
– Ideas to be a better, happier person
As you probably already know, you are happy when you do what you think you should be doing. The problem was that, until now, you perhaps did not know the basis of the natural law which tells you what you should do and how to do it. Now that you know it, it really shouldn't be necessary to tell you much else. But you are also very free, for better or possibly for worse. Therefore, for what it's worth, I will take the liberty to give you some advice. These are not dogmas of faith, but the thoughts and recommendations of an old man. They might serve you in some way, as a complement or corroboration of your own knowledge and beliefs.
1. You are an animate, rational, free being, a specimen of the human race, male or female, who desires to be happy.
2. Let's assume that the imperative to help the human species in its struggle for survival is inscribed in your nature, and with it the conservation of life. The imperative is not about achieving the above, rather about trying to achieve it, which you are in all likelihood already doing, and doing well.
3. Assume also that, being a social creature, as all humans are, you are tasked with trying to fulfil the previous point by being altruistic – that is to say, by living together with your fellow human beings in love and goodwill.
4. Once you have understood and incorporated the above, you will need to check if your current, implicit moral standards match up. This internal review will take time, so do it when it's convenient for you, or when the need arises.
5. If you find yourself in a state of happiness and contentment, you are probably already following a good, implicit moral code, whether you know it or not. Additionally, you may have had the good fortune of belonging to a group (family, friends, religion, workplace, city, country, etc) which espouses positive explicit norms (commandments, customs, laws, and so on). Keep doing what you are doing – do not change.
6. However, if you are not sufficiently happy, you will have to study yourself and do an internal review of your moral standards, in light of the universal principle of ethics, and act accordingly.
Possible courses of action to take as a result
7. The first thing is to accept yourself, in all aspects, material and moral. For our purposes, it matters little if you are tall or short, rich or poor, white or black, believer or non-believer, young or old, healthy or sick, man or woman. However you may be, accept yourself and accept your environment and circumstance. It's the best option you have at the moment.
8. Once you have recognized and accepted yourself, in your environment, think about the implicit norms that you know you need to change in order to comply with the universal principle of ethics, within your individual capacity.
9. If you have any doubts about the norms that you need to adapt or change, first consult yourself, at a deeper level. Then, consult the rules and norms of your religion, if you are a believer. Then, if you still do not have an answer, ask someone that you trust who might know. And in the end, you can consult me, and I will try to answer you to the best of my ability, or ask an expert for advice.
10. It is possible that the norms you come up with as a result of this exercise – in accord with the universal ethical principle – are not compatible in some way with the external norms of your environment: family, friends, work, society, religion, etc. In this case, follow as well as you can your own norms, and when you cannot, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar”.
11. In short, the aim is to be as effective as possible with regards to the survival of the species, and do what you can within your personal limits. Go about it slowly, but surely.
12. It is also important to be efficient and good at what you do or don't do, and to act with broad altruism, goodwill and love. This is a prerequisite to being happy, as well as to being effective. That is not to say that you should start equating goodness or happiness with simplemindedness, lack of character, or poverty. You must be good, but you must also try to be cleverer, stronger, and more affluent that you are. The more you have, tangible and intangible, the better.
13. It has often been said that to do good deeds and do them well, you must try to be better in every way – to be wiser, healthier and kinder. I would add two more comparatives to the list: try to be happier and more affluent.
14. If you are ready and willing, try and work towards these 5 characteristics. The idea is not to be 'perfect'; on the contrary, doing so could be a serious mistake that would make you unhappy and ineffective at the same time, as Saint Teresa used to warn her novices. In most cases, it's enough to avoid doing something bad or wrong – with that, and living positively, the basic objective is already fulfilled. This is a very important point: experiencing life and fulfilling the vital objective should not be a chore, or an uphill task. It should be comfortable and enjoyable. So always try to improve yourself, but don't try to do or be something or someone you cannot.
15. Above all, love yourself. If you lovingly accept yourself and your circumstance, you will be happy, and you will be able to love and make your near and dear ones happier too.
16. To finish up, I'd like to tell you something that one good, happy woman used to say to another woman, also good but unhappy: “The best cure for sadness is vitamin P – people. Occupy yourself more with others and less with yourself. Paying attention to others takes away all your own troubles.”
I believe that Mother Teresa of Calcutta and many other saints, religious and lay, shared this sentiment. As I often say, these people are normally the cleverest and the most 'selfish'. Why? Because, while hoping for reward in another life – if it indeed exists – they invariably obtain the greatest possible reward in this life. They obtain happiness. Reaching this kind of happiness does not mean you have to be perfect. Making an honest effort and having good intentions and a positive attitude is usually enough. Thank you for reading this far.
JC Madrid, 4.10.2016