On Naturalism, Human Dignity Disappears

Charles Darwin at age 51, just after publishin...

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This isn’t too surprising, since matter and laws of nature are incapable of generating value, regardless of how they interact or what levels of complexity they achieve.  Value or worth is never the product of a chemical reaction or the movement of particles, or the conclusion of an equation.

On naturalism, man is simply one animal among many, with no special moral status, as philosopher James Rachels articulates:

The traditional supports for the idea of human dignity are gone.  They have not survived the colossal shift of perspective brought about by Darwin’s theory.  It might be thought that this result need not be devastating for the idea of human dignity, because even if the traditional supports are gone, the idea might still be defended on some other grounds.

Once again, though, an evolutionary perspective is bound to make one skeptical.  The doctrine of human dignity says that humans merit a level of moral concern wholly different from that accorded to mere animals; for this to be true, there would have to be some big, morally significant difference between them.  Therefore, any adequate defense of human dignity would require some conception of human beings as radically different from other animals.

But that is precisely what evolutionary theory calls into question.  It makes us suspicious of any doctrine that sees large gaps of any sort between humans and all other creatures.  This being so, a Darwinian may conclude that a successful defense of human dignity is most unlikely.

– James Rachels, Created from Animals (Oxford University Press, 1990), pp. 171-172.

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Philosophy Word of the Day – Laws of Nature

Within metaphysics, there are two competing theories of Laws of Nature. On one account, the Regularity Theory, Laws of Nature are statements of the uniformities or regularities in the world; they are mere descriptions of the way the world is. On the other account, the Necessitarian Theory, Laws of Nature are the “principles” which govern the natural phenomena of the world. That is, the natural world “obeys” the Laws of Nature. This seemingly innocuous difference marks one of the most profound gulfs within contemporary philosophy, and has quite unexpected, and wide-ranging, implications.

Some of these implications involve accidental truths, false existentials, the correspondence theory of truth, and the concept of free will. Perhaps the most important implication of each theory is whether the universe is a cosmic coincidence or driven by specific, eternal laws of nature.  Each side takes a different stance on each of these issues, and to adopt either theory is to give up one or more strong beliefs about the nature of the world. (Continue)

(Via Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

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