The following is a portion of an email conversation (reposted with permission) I had with Dan Barber regarding the foundation for morality.
Morality is only objectively grounded when you have an object to ground it upon. which object? A single, solitary human with a mind. Without humans and his mind, there is no need for morality.
Ask yourself do we need a moral code at all? What for? The answer is yes! Because man has not the automatic instincts like all other animated life forms do. We have to learn about our nature and the space that we live within, Using our creative mind. All things related to how the mind works most effectively has to do with morality. All things that destroy the mind are against human life.
The individual is only moral if he is acting in his own rational self interest to foster the continuation and flourishing of his life using his healthy mind to do so within the knowledge that is available to him ~of course. (and absolutely he is best served by having many kind and loving relationships all around to help him – this the system of trade as his only moral means to relate with anyone else and still be non-contradicted. (remaining moral)
Not relying on the corrupted minds of a collective. Who tell him to hope and pray for knowledge received from the heavens or elsewhere. (the collective always works to destroy the individual minds. It has to. How does a healthy mind function? Compared to a dysfunctional one? One is moral the other is not. Why bother making the distinction if there is no objective morality.
Consider Fred Phelps and his “God Hates Fags” campaign. By what objective standard is he wrong about God killing those people in Arizona? He has Bible scripture that proves his point! Subjective as hell! Either Fred’s mind is good or not good. What makes it not good?
How would you destroy a healthy mind? In my opinion, “faith” is by far the greatest tool known to man. It says pay no attention to reality. live and think by an alternative method. A method in fact that we “the faithful” do control
But, alas, I stand in no mans way to destroy his own mind, after all it is HIS to destroy. As long as he does not also think he has a right to destroy mine. I will after all always act morally in my own self defense and do what is needed to stop him. He is certainly suicidal when he attempts that behavior. History is full to the brim with those kinds of deaths!
There are no conflicts of interest concerning , rational; self interest and any other individual’s RSI. within the conflict lies the irrationality, every time!
There is only a conflict when one or many attempt to enslave the efforts instead of trade for the efforts of any given individual. Suicide again. When you deal with the moral man who loves and honors his own life!
And here is my response:
We are in agreement with regards to the assertion that morality is rational and objective. I spent some time yesterday and today listening to the Ayn Rand lecture you posted on your Facebook page and reading up on objectivism.
For the most part I agree with your position regarding the ontology of ethics, that is, that they simply exist as part of the furniture of the universe. However there are a few problems I believe exist when the attempt is made to ground such ethics in rationality or the human mind.
The first problem is, whose mind are we grounding these in? One of the problems of being contingent beings is that we cannot be 100% sure of our thoughts and thus anything we come up with on our own has the possibility of being flawed at worst or non-optimal at best. Its easy to consider an insane person’s rationality as flawed because we are making such an observation from a more or less neutral position. But what happens when two apparently rational people, like you and I, disagree over something like the rationality of homosexual behavior? Whose view of rationality should we consider to be the most correct? How can we objectively determine which one should win out?
I would be prone to arguing that we can’t unless we posses Cartesian certainty or knowledge of all things (omniscience).
That brings me to the second flaw I see in what you’ve proposed. How do we go about knowing, with any degree of certainty, what this ultimate rational standard entails? It would seem that without the completely rational knower from our first dilemma giving us special revelation as to what is and is not rational, we would have no way of knowing what is and is not rational with regard to our self-interests.
So I would propose that your view of rational self-interest is incomplete without an ultimate rational mind who reveals to contingent rational minds like ours what is and is not rational, particularly with regard to self-interest.