Other doubts and clarifications

Other doubts and clarifications

Still in Marbella. After writing about the difficult issue of the Species as a subject, I’m going to try to answer to other observations that have been raised to me.

I believe that the inquires that I’ll try to clarify now are softer and fun to answer than the ones of the species as a subject. I´m going to try to answer them one by one. I don’t write the name of the senders. Each one of them will identify them as he reads.

1.- Reproduction as an objective.- A prolific American writer, expert in psychology, biology and zoology, appreciates my work and effort and encourages me to continue, but points me to what he calls a technical failure. He says, according to the translation that I have been made of his mail:

At an strictly technical and scientific level, I believe there are some theorical problems with your idea, in particular the implication that the surviving is the principal evolving driver of the behavior; each time it is clearer the agreement in which reproduction, not survival as it is, is fundamental and that survival is not more than a mechanism that it’s at the same time adaptative to the extent that it facilitates the reproduction. Secondly this reproduction is overwhelmingly achieved at a gene level, more than individuals, groups and specially species.

ResponseI believe that my objector is right about the individual objectives of the individuals, I don´t know about genes but it do seems that they have as an individual objective their own reproduction. And that the self-survival is “just” a means to it. I believe that it’s also true that the genes have an overwhelmingly capacity of reproduction.

In addition to the genes, I understand that my caller refers to the reproduction as an individual objective of all the reproducible beings or subjects. For whom own life, their survival, is a means to reproduce. And many of them, only live until they reproduce: The salmons, ephemeral flies, the males of praying mantises…

But it also seems clear that the objective is not only to reproduce, namely having one or many descendants. It seems that the objective includes that the descendants are capable, in turn, of living and reproducing iteratively. And for that, reproducers have developed many genetical methods of behavior. I write down three of them: the ones of the bacteria’s, who unfolded reproduce in thousands or millions in minimum timings. The ones of some animals that place thousands of eggs with more or less previous and after care. And of other animals, specially birds and mammals, that have one or few descendants each time, but they take care of them later until they can stand on their own. The same strategies of many plants are also pretty curious and varied for their descendants live and reproduce in turn.

What I want to say is that the important, the vital primary objective, is not only to reproduce, but to iteratively reproduce, namely, that there are descendants with their same basic genetical information that live successively and iteratively, namely, that their group, collective or species, remains time and endures: survives.

Scholium: On the other hand there are many individuals that for one or another reason don’t reproduce: worker ants, some mole rats, the week among the species where the survival of the fittest works, the ones who cant get or pass the fertile age… But all of these individuals also have the commandment of trying the survival of the species. And normally they meet it: Helping their mothers and their offspring, defending the group still at the cost of their life, collaborating in the search for food…

And I have remembered the 28th point of The Way, from my countryman Saint Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, where he says the following: Whilst eating is an exigence for each individual, engender is an exigence only for the species. A whole biology lesson in an spirituality book.

Summing up: I believe that, with the above, it seems true what my caller says for the individual level of the reproductive living beings. But these is a partial objective of the vital individual level or stratus. Likewise, the objective of survival of the species, that for the level of the species is priority, surely is a partial objective within the total vital objective of the survival of life.

What we don’t know is surviving for what, neither what kind if life could be the final objective; superman, vital colonization of the universe, Omega point, the planet of the apes or the ants… But meanwhile, what comes by observing to the human beings is that all of them try to priority live and reproduce iteratively. Using different strategies, among them speciation, where the species, above all, the social ones, are the indispensable means for trying to transmit the vital information of the genetic populations, namely to endure time, to survive.

2.- About survival. Other experts in various wisdoms raise me doubts about survival. I try to group the answers so I don’t extend too much. They tell me:

2.1 The universal ethical principle is to wide. We don’t know more than a posteriori what is what is better for the survival of the species. And knowing it doesn’t guarantee anything.

2.2 Survival of the species is a metaphor, raised after the fact. It seems that the problem is to know “what is the good/better that not only supposes the survival for the members of our species, but also, Survival in terms of dignity, justice and life quality”.

2.3 What does survival of Humanity means?

2.4 What does good for the Survival of humanity means?

2.5 I it always good what is good for the survival of the humanity?


This questions may already be answered, at least partially, in the previous point but I try to widen those remarks up. In summary:

As for the terms Humanity and Surviving I use as synonyms the terms species, Homo sapiens, Homo sapiens sapiens, human genre, men, Men, person, humanity, Humanity… I usually use one or another according to the context, but in essence I use them as synonyms. And surviving is the same as survive: remain in time, endure.

I try to utilize the terms with the principal meanings from the DRAE, the Royal Accademmy Dicctionary. And I try not to use very specialized terms because there exist many differences of use according to the schools or trends where the specialists belong to. In Survival and Altruism I explain the meaning with various words. And in Surviving. Ideas for a universal ethics (download here) I added at the end a general glossary. And a special for the term ethics, which is very polysemic and that the DRAE itself has changed in his three last editions.

Answering to the question 2.3.When I refer to the  survival of the species, or of the Men, or of humanity… I mean that a fertile group of men (normal men, as defined by DRAE, or biologists, philosophers, or Gaudium et Spes, or other authorities) remain on time, endure. 

And I refer to the time as the temporal space where that group of men of our same or similar nature exists or can exist. If they change to another species, the new men would have to rethink this hypothesis from their circumstance.

I believe that for the basic idea, the normal meanings of the language are enough. And I don’t believe to be necessary to talk about the possible differences of what may the men be, or humanity, as for if its nature is material, spiritual or transcendent. I’ve widely discussed that in other moments. See, in its case, in Surviving. Ideas for a universal ethics, the notes about the International Theological Commission, monsignor Ladria and other authors, specialists on this matter, quoted between pages 111 to 288.

On the observation 2.1.  My caller is completely right when he says that the ethical principle is very broad. See in Survival and Altruism (pages 80 to 84) the point 1. About reviewing the explicit partial ethicsThe universal ethical principle regulates or tries to implicitly regulate, since our origin, all moral actions or omissions of men. Which are all or almost all the conscious one. More or less. And its application has allowed us to get here.

Scholium: I can’t resist to quote here to Mr. Tomás Trigo, who in the presentation of his resent work: “moral of the person: virtues”, EUNSA 2017, (page 8) says: “All Moral is social moral, because there isn’t personal action, however intimate it may be, that has no impact on others.

And I also agree that having the made the principle explicit and assuming the ethical principle does not guarantee the future. Because the man, the Men, can disregard it. Or even they want to mind it, it is possible, as my caller says, that we don’t know what is what favors the survival of the species. Or that, knowing and wanting, it is not possible to do what is wanted to do.

With all of that, I believe that by signifying, assuming, and applying the universal ethical principle, is good, and surely the best, indispensable and urgent, for the survival and wellness of the men and Humanity. I believe that as more people, more wiser and influential people, get to know and assume it, the practice of the activities that currently seem good for the survival of the species and wellness of men, will get better. And I believe that they could be thought and applied, sooner and better, some or all of the actions that I enunciate in pages 73 to 111 of Surviving and Altruism. Or some better.

And even I agree with my caller that trying it doesn’t guarantee anything, I have reminded me that the commandment is to try it. Even if the objective can’t be achieved or we don’t get to know if it gets achieved. I’ve just comforted a friend who regrets that the man can not get the objective of survival. And I have reminded him that our individual objective is not to survive, at least physically, but to collaborate in the transmission of life. And I gave him the example, and he liked it, of the relay race. And I also have told him to read the appendix in the Web page about out duties and about Aristotelian happiness that could be achieved if we try to accomplish them well. In addition, we are contributing with this to the general intent of surviving loving.

To the observation 2.2.-  Its first part is already answered, I believe. As for the dignity, justice and quality of life, I believe it corresponds to the deontological part of the universal ethical principle. That has its foundation in the basic idea. I remember that Darwin in the Descent of the Man he said that happy tribes survive better.  

The objectives of dignity, justice, and quality of life, along with other values and virtues, are objectives and necessary means. And they’re included among the extended altruism as a basic means of the species for individual and group survival.

I have developed this ideas in the commentary to “A short history of ethics” by Victoria Camps. Included in the Blog.

To question 2.4.-  I believe that part of it is answered but we can add something:

I understand that it is good for the survival of the species everything that allows and eases the adaptation of man to the changes of their environment for they to keep on living and iteratively reproduce. 

In pages 78 to 80 of Survival and Altruism I deal more widely this matters.

To question 2.5.-  This is an easy question to answer and difficult to implement. The answer is that it is not always morally good what is good for the survival of humanity. And the difficulty of knowing what is good to do, or omit in each case, is similar to the difficulty for applying any ethical principle. If someone doesn’t know this, can read the Ethics Ethics of 1912 of G.E Moore for better appreciating this difficulties and its possible solutions.  

But different from the current historical situation, with our hypothesis there is a concrete and explicit universal ethical principle with which to compare every possible action. Common principle that until know doesn’t exist. There are the principles of each religion, cultures, etc. And Kant’s categorical imperative is empty… And the classic formulas of doing what’s good and avoiding evil, without knowing what are the good and the evil. At least on a vital level.

In any case and for giving a response, I have said somewhere that: “its good whatever is good for the survival of the species and whose cost is lower than the benefit it produces…”It’s a known method. What’s new and important is the objective. And I could add “…and done altruistically”, but it’s already implicit on the cost and benefit. What is hard is knowing what is the total benefit and the total cost since some of these concepts are, apart from intangibles, future’s expectations. This is the normal difficulty already said in observations 2.1 and 2.2 and in others.

This issues are a concern for who look for laws and universal answers, exact and rigorous. In real life is usual to work with probabilities, with expectations of “a little more or less”. I believe that for what we have to do: trying to survive, we have no choice but to work with expectations. Analyzing everything with the best goodwill, wisdom and prudence possible, assuming the risk of not getting it right. We are not requested for more. Nor less. In the appendix, I tell to the possible objectors that can ask me the questions you may have on the concrete cases that may arise and that, after seriously trying, don’t know how to resolve.

In my work as a banker I have experienced times of prosperity and crisis with many types of risks, specially the credits that are always of the future. And if you act with good principles and professional technics, the results are usually good. Or at least the better possible among every circumstance. As in medicine, or in teaching, or in management, or in war… We are not requested for more. And if the result could be absolutely predictable it would be another world. Very boring and not human. We aren’t requested to get it right always. But we do are requested to try it. C’est la petite difference…! And we have no choice but to take it. Without taking that for an excuse.

3. About altruism.-

I include here several inquiries related to altruism and duty. An informatic engineer and philosopher tells me:

Observation 3.1. It is not clear the passage from the instinct to the duty, from the “natural” tendency to the freely assumed purpose.

This is a very interesting issue. But I see very easily its answer if I understand the doubt correctly. Besides, I believe that it is a question that is framed within the human behavior and, at least in some of the animals. I’m nor an ethologist expert but as a kid I had a dog and a horse. Who “knew” what they had to do: by routine, instinct or by an express order from me. And exercising their freedom, they did or not, what they knew that they have to do.

I suppose they used their almost animal consciousness to evaluate what was good and wrong, their intelligence or judgement for valuing the consequences and their will to decide. I say all of this because, if instead of me it was my father who gave the order, the resulting action was another one. And if t was a routine action they will do it according to the circumstances: if they were more or less tired, if they were happier as they currently were than what we had to do, if they catch me more or less distracted...

As I say, I’m not an expert on behaviors, nor animals or humans, but my idea is that every living beings has/ we have in the base of our programming the commandment of trying to transmit life or helping to do so. Commandment “enriched” by the norms and instructions of our species and the populations where we come from and where we belong. And of our selves as humans. And the resulting one is our duty. Not the instinct. The instinct is a way of doing our duty without thinking, judgement, and consciousness. (pages 18-23 of survival and altruism). And each living being, “knows”. And “skips” that duty to his actions according to his possibilities and its degree of freedom.

In the case of man, it would help a lot to go from the implicit vital imperative duty to the universal ethical principle as a freely assumed purpose, if this duty was known. That is what I’m trying to do. As now man have this basic duty deeply inside their consciousness but is not expressed nor rationally assumed.

As additional information, it seems that this duty is physically “written” in the brainstem, according to the experts in this matters. (pages. 152 to 157 of Survival. Ideas for a universal ethics. But “on top” of that original commandment there’s a bunch of norms and commandments of the species, group ones and of the self, that make the human brain a mess of commandments, tendencies, sensations, desires… And almost all of that is good for the basic objective, but the “rational” and free part of man doesn’t know: because it doesn’t “know” expressively which is his basic purpose. That’s our situation. And that’s the point of this thing. Of making it explicit and let it be known. And that every man decide later, freely, if he takes on it an tries to accomplish it.

Observation 3.2.. You don’t prove that altruism benefits the species, not even that it is necessary (or inversely, that altruism isn’t harmful: I’m afraid there’s infinity of counter examples).

This is also an important issue. To approach it it’s necessary that we talk about altruism itself. My use of the term is new and broader than the ones I know. I define it and express that on pages 39 to 54 of Survival and Altruism. That altruism, some sort of altruism inside my extended altruism, not only benefits but its essential for the life of all the social sexually reproductive species. And naturally, the non-altruism is wrong and harmful as long as the prejudice it causes is bigger than the benefit to the survival of the species. More or less. We’ve seen that in point 2.5.

The above can be proved by the direct observation of any sexed social species, included specially the man. For the altruism of this and other species, see in the Blog the commentary to John Hands’ Cosmosapiens.

Observation 3.3As it is a multi-purpose function, the “best” is not computable, therefore it doesn’t work as a practical rule of action. That without taking into account that it tries to measure intangible goods (not measurable).

This is also an observation from the informatic engineer- philosopher. But it is also easy to answer. Even, naturally, difficult to apply in difficult cases. I elaborate:

I believe it is not a multi-purpose function. The purpose is one. More or less tangible. It can not be touched but I believe that in point 2 has been stated pretty much clear. Or at least it seems to me that is clearly enough to work with it as a good to reach.

What it do is multiple, is what could be done, or not done, for trying to achieve it. And deciding what is good and better in applied ethics has the difficulties we know. I believe the answer is similar to the one on observation 2.5.

And for adding something, to me is clear that the vital objective is one: survival. The rest are means: reproduction, evolution, the species, extended altruism, natural selection… All of those are means, More or less important. And are and will be “better” the ones that are better for the vital primary objective: the survival of life.

Observation 3.5. A good friend brings me an idea that is often heard. He says:

From what we see every day, the man is more selfish than altruistic.

And he is right. And it is natural and good thing that it is like that. And with this, the man fulfills the vital imperative command. And it is good that so be it if that man is a "smart" man. I have said it in all my writings and especially in Survival and Altruism (pages 40 to 54). Although it may be not completely explained. I clarify some concepts:

Selfish, according to the DRAE: that (or who) puts the self-interest before others, which usually brings harm to others.

My concept of "clever selfishness" is different. It would be more or less: that, or who, for self-interest, procures the good of others. That is to say who, by the account that you have, seeks to behave altruistically. With my concept of altruism the same definition also serves for "clever altruism"

I remember that behaving altruistically, in my concept, supposes: any action or omission that benefits another or others. That is to say: working to produce goods or services, buy, sell, take care of the house and the children, teach, come along with, be a friend...

And it is also altruism to take care of oneself: to try to be healthier, wiser, holier, more smiling and solvent. Insofar as each one is, that is to say alive and better, he can give more to others, to his groups and to the society in which he lives. And through it to all men. To all our neighbors. To humanity, to the species. I remember a famous mandate: love your neighbor as yourself. To love the other, alter, to be altruistic, you have to love yourself first. And another classic that is usually put as a universal ethical principle: do not do to another what you do not want for you. Or positive: do to others what you want for you. In all cases it means that you want or should want the good for you so that you can give it to the others later.

And in my idea, altruism is always remunerated: materially or spiritually. And therefore it is interested. But it is clear that the definitions of altruism and selfishness should be modified to adapt them to the natural law. To the universal ethical principle. That's what it is about.

In any case, and to prevent my caller from telling me that I am cheating using my neolanguage, I am going to tell him that using the terms altruism and selfishness as they are used today, he is quite right. There are many men, except the clever and holy, who are, at least apparently, more selfish than altruistic. And they are because they apply the two types of selfishness: mine - selfish altruism - for their moral satisfaction when they do something good. And the DRAE when he does, or omits, something that satisfies him to the detriment of others.

This is so because of the predominance of the self over the us. It is already well studied although it is not fully understood without seeing it in light of the basic idea. Man was a "we" before being a me: Adam before the fall. The good savage of Rousseau. The primitive souls of Lucien Lévy-Bruhl. And the good and natural selfishness of being and being better for the group - because the group demands it like that and thus also suits the individual - becomes the excessive selfishness of the I-self.

By the "I-self" the Man becomes freer and with that he skips the norms of the group and "is like God" and creates and invents new things: the bifaz, the wheel, the cattle ranch, the cities, the tower of Babel, the skyscrapers of Manhattan, mobile phones... It is individually selfish, but in a group it is still more altruistic than selfish because otherwise it would have been extinguished. As have been extinguished many other social species and human groups, tribes, clans and nations that have not "coexisted altruistically" with their own group and with neighbors...

To men, who are and have been group altruists and that is why we are and are as we are and are, we have one last level in which to be altruistic: the level of being group and selfishly altruistic with the whole species, with all the Humanity. Because of the account he has for us. To us and our descendants.

Marbella, 10.59 on 27.3.2018. Last revision on 5.4. at 19:13