2. Utilitarianism is prevalent now, due to its being a historical artifact,

Utilitarianism is prevalent now, due to its being a modern historical artifact, rather than it simply being the most reasonable non-supernatural basis for a meta-ethos.

To put our civilization’s current ethical philosophical situation in context, please consider how “enlightened” thinking has evolved in the last couple hundred years:

- Champions of the enlightenment believe that by using reason, and a scientific understanding of the natural world, we can make the lot of humanity better.

-  Traditional enlightenment philosophers believed that by studying the natural world, we could derive “natural law” fundamental values from which to build our social contract.

-  Thus, as science progressed so did, or should, natural law enlightenment values. And, after Darwin older natural law values, such as “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”, were no longer understood or valued in their older teleological way as naturally derived rules for coming into accord with “God’s will” over nature, so much (post Darwin) as examples of archetypal values of the human psyche, that simply arose out of natural selection. From an evolutionary perspective, the consciousness’s desire for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, is merely a manifestation of natural selection that leads to survival. So, survival really took hold in the West’s zeitgeist as the top value of the enlightenment hierarchy. And survival of the “fittest”, after Darwin, was an assumed corollary value, that was then all too often mistakenly followed. This social “Darwinism” wasn’t always the explicitly worked out moral system of Herbert Spencer (although it often was: although he is generally maligned today, during his lifetime Spencer enjoyed unparalleled respect as a philosopher), rather it was/is an implicit fairly amorphous value that stood/stands behind a lot of disastrous 19th and 20th century moral philosophy, and the resulting zero sum game political and economic experiments:

Eugenics was paired with “meritocratic” capitalism,

Marxist systems where “reactionaries” were “rightfully” weeded out (murdered) in the dialectical inevitable “progress” of history towards socialist utopia,

Fascist experiments where “superior” races worked to subjugate or exterminate “inferior” races.

- That obviously led to some profound negative consequences. And, by the 1960s, after two disastrous world wars, the holocaust, the dawning awareness of the evil dysfunctional irrationality of racism and sexism, and the insane threat of global nuclear war (all started by the “enlightened” West), there was an understandable global questioning of what were felt to be the implicit (at least) core values of “enlightened” Western civilization. So, it was in the 60’s that the world saw a counter enlightenment resurgence, of supernatural religious dogmatism among those disposed to a conservative mindset, and a new age grab-bag of  super-naturalism and hedonistic sensual-ism from those of a liberal mindset. There was (and is) also a vacuous hedonistic default valuing of rampant consumerism that arose from both sides. The affects of the conservative and liberal counter enlightenment are still being felt today.

So pursuing happiness (or well-being), because of the deeper value, that it is a biologically evolved mechanism that tends to lead to survival, has fallen out of fashion. Because in the zeitgeist “survival” is irrationally and unscientifically associated with the zero sum game biological evolutionary “survival-of-the-fittest” “scientific” social experiments of the 19th and 20th centuries. And so secular folk have assumed they been left with utilitarianism, kind of by default, even though it isn’t really in natural harmony with hard science.

 

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