Righteousness is Adaptive Because the Cosmos Is Just

The cosmos is just because it is good; and it is good because it is the creation of God, who is the Good.

If the cosmos were not just, then righteous conduct could not be well fitted to reality, and would not therefore have proven to be adaptive. There could not then be such a category as righteousness. You can’t behave rightly if there’s no such thing as a right way to behave.

The fact that evolution has generated codes of righteous conduct – of formalized moral laws – does not then indicate that morality is nothing more than a happenstantial product of iterated memetic variation under selection pressures. On the contrary, it indicates that morality is an aspect of the cosmic landscape that is prior to biological evolution, and pervasively conditions it, *so that* iterated rounds of selection by the morally ordered cosmic landscape on memetic variations can occur in the first place, and proceed to generate in organisms moral sentiments that are more or less well-fitted to their world.

No cosmic order, then no selector, and no selection.

More generally, the naturalist suggestion that biological order is merely happenstantial, in the sense that the orderly structures of living organisms are nothing but what has for no reason happened to survive, is contradictory: for, mere happenstance is the antithesis of order. The naturalist suggestion then itself reduces to the notion that there is simply no such thing as biological order – nothing out there for biology to study, and nothing about living organisms that calls for explanation of any sort, or that could possibly be explained.

Finally, to say that a trait is fitted to the world is first to presuppose that its world is ordered, and second is to say that it is fitly ordered toward that world. And that is to say that the trait is intensional – is teleological.

21 thoughts on “Righteousness is Adaptive Because the Cosmos Is Just

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  3. ”The fact that evolution has generated codes of righteous conduct – of formalized moral laws – does not then indicate that morality is nothing more than a happenstantial product of iterated memetic variation under selection pressures. On the contrary, it indicates that morality is an aspect of the cosmic landscape that is prior to biological evolution, and pervasively conditions it, *so that* iterated rounds of selection by the morally ordered cosmic landscape on memetic variations can occur in the first place, and proceed to generate in organisms moral sentiments that are more or less well-fitted to their world.”

    One must bear in mind that this applies on a large scale on societal levels which over time select for righteous conduct and that should society tend towards wickedness either pruning or total destruction occurs.

    But individually one finds many instances of the successes of the wicked and the failures of the righteous as Ecclesiastes amply documents.

    • Oh, yes, indeed; to be sure. But that we can tell the wicked from the righteous in the first place shows that we are morally fitted to a moral universe.

      • Or is it we that decide what is moral according to our views of the cosmos. Basically, its a what’s good for me isn’t good for you sort of thing. Not that I believe in this idea, but it just seems to explain humanity’s current state in a world we do not seem to engage with. Since we can hide behind a online identity there is a lack of responsibility for what one says. Basically we suffer from a lack of standards because we stop interacting with behind universe which counts, our own and not an on-line one. We trade in a moral universe for an amoral one?

      • Or is it we [who decide] what is moral according to our views of the cosmos?

        That’s the sin of Adam. By it, we are all subject to the constant concupiscent temptation to idolize our own views. It is contradicted by the very category of the moral, which it necessarily presupposes. The category could not arise in a cosmos that was not moral

      • As I am not as steeped in philosophy as other commenters may be, I am taking your statement to mean the moral exists before our own desires and biases been develop.

      • Yes. Only in the context of true right and wrong might our moral evaluations be useful, or adaptive. We cannot be even wrong if being right is not possible. Nor likewise can we apprehend either wrong or right unless those categories of thought truly appertain to the world in the first place. All our desires and biases are toward some apparent good, that stands in some relation of verisimilitude to some real good. If there were no real good, then we couldn’t desire anything, as being better than some other.

        Put it this way: if morality were not real, then moral terms would make as much sense to us as the terms “jabberwocky” and “bandersnatch.” I.e., none at all.

  4. The notion of “happenstance” is an illusion of our own making.”

    Thus, Bergson argues that we take the ceaseless, living flow of which the universe is composed and make cuts across it, inserting artificial stops or gaps in what is really a continuous and indivisible process. The effect of these stops or gaps is to produce the impression of a world of apparently solid objects. These have no existence as separate objects in reality; they are, as it were, the design or pattern which our intellects have impressed on reality to serve our purposes.

    An imperfect analogy would be taking still shots from a motion picture or, more precisely, Dedekind’s creation of a new irrational number at every gap in the continuous number line at which there is no existing real number.

    • The notion of “happenstance” is an illusion of our own making.

      Aye. The Principle of Sufficient Reason rules happenstance out of court. Only if reality were thoroughly incoherent – which is to say, irreal – could there be such a thing as happenstance.

      Becoming is to be sure a ceaseless living flow, no part of which can make complete sense except in respect to every other part of it. But there are indeed parts; becoming is a process of integrating them into the flux. As Whitehead puts it, with each instance of becoming “the many are made one, and increased by one.” Each new occasion is an integration of all prior occasions in a new seamless web. And each new event, different from all its forebears, is in virtue of that difference disparate, and thus itself the occasion of a subsequent integration.

      Are there solids? Well; there are volumes of greater activity, and volumes of lesser. This is why “solid” works as a heuristic for minds tuned to notice activity.

      • ”Are there solids? Well; there are volumes of greater activity, and volumes of lesser. This is why “solid” works as a heuristic for minds tuned to notice activity.”

        Indeed even “solids” are in the state of becoming which in comparison with the living or the liquid differ only in speed.

        As a rock slowly weathers away while the water flows more rapidly.

        Is this accurate?

  5. The modern liberal mentality is attuned overwhelmingly to space and almost blocks out time except for the mechanical time necessary for logistics. It is useful to undertake the exercise of re-imagining oneself in a truly temporal way. When one does so, one necessarily dematerializes himself; he becomes something closer to the spirit that he undoubtedly is. In fact, on neither a purely mechanical model of human nature nor a purely syllogistic model (and the latter is simply the Twenty-First Century version of the former), is any such thing as adaptation possible. The stopwatch cannot change itself and neither can the syllogism. Only something living and at least partly spiritual hence immaterial can change itself behaviorally. I believe that this mental distortion is one of the keys to the intransigence of the modern liberal mentality. It explains why that mentality invariably resorts to pounding square pegs into round holes.

    P.S. The modern liberal mentality is also obsessed with pegs and holes.

    P.P.S. What do I mean by re-imagining oneself in a purely temporal way? Right now, I am in my house in Oswego, where I have lived as a permanent resident for fifteen years and a summer resident for thirty years. I was in my house last night, too, but the night before that I was in Old City Hall with Richard Cocks and the other usual suspects. Back in May, briefly, I was in California. In the 1990s I lived in Michigan. Etcetera. Even if I divided these individual instances, the list of which could be multiplied endlessly, into smaller and smaller segments, they would still constitute a continuum, whose organizing principle would not be my flesh, which, since my birth, has replaced itself entirely several times, but my mind, especially in its faculty of memory. The experiment need not end there, however. Let us add that in addition to being in Upstate New York now and Michigan between 1989 and 2001 — and before that in California, with various trips to Europe and elsewhere — I have been resident on an earthly globe that regularly orbits its sun and I have been a resident of a solar system that, itself, orbits regularly around the center of a galaxy, which, again, is moving in space. The trail of me, considered temporally, thus becomes increasingly complex, and increasingly ghostly, the more I visualize it as the peregrination, partly voluntary and partly involuntary, down a winding and chart-defying path. Yet I can, in any moment, recall it as a synchronic image. Again, the unity of this peregrination is entirely immaterial.

    • The human subject is not located in one particular spot. It moves, always; it travels. But then, the same is true for every career of particular events. The photon is never at rest except with respect to itself.

      Every sort of thing is then somewhat immaterial.

  6. One of the interesting “discussions” in the Darwin circles is the notion of “fitness” entailing teleology. Part of what is unsaid, and perhaps not even understood, is the 18th/19th century mathematical understanding.

    If you are dealing with a linear system (and therefore, a linear model of nature) then the system will converge on a static equilibrium. The idea of “teleology” has been conflated with the notion of a static equilibrium toward which a system converges (see Hegel and Marx). Also, the “supply/demand” curve represents a static equilibrium, proof of the so-called “invisible hand”. Note, most people assumed that unless a system was a linear system (or capable of being modeled as a linear system), then there could be no underlying order, it would be purely chaotic.

    If we look at natural history from a scientific perspective, you don’t see the world converging on a static equilibrium (I mean, you have a long age of dinosaurs, and then they completely disappear) so ergo, no teleology, no “invisible hand”, no creator (demiurgos or otherwise).

    Except that thanks to computers, we now know that complex nonlinear systems will converge toward dynamic equilibrium, even if these equilibrium states are unstable. These are so-called “strange attractors” in nonlinear dynamics. Evolutionary biology is perfectly consistent with a view of life as a dynamic system which has to potential to converge on a number of equilibria, thus nature has both an order and a teleology, and potentially a creator.

  7. “On the contrary, it indicates that morality is an aspect of the cosmic landscape that is prior to biological evolution, and pervasively conditions it, *so that* iterated rounds of selection by the morally ordered cosmic landscape on memetic variations can occur in the first place, and proceed to generate in organisms moral sentiments that are more or less well-fitted to their world.”

    Exactly, and this provides good explanation as to the admirable moral codes existent in pre-Christian society. Despite different paths in terms of the evolution of societies, morality has a rough correlation no matter the civilization. In the end even the utilitarian arguments for morality have to fold back into an essential concept of ‘the good’, and that good can be none other than the Author of the universe.

    • Yes. Utilitarian accounts of morality that do not refer back to an absolute transcendent Good are circular; are dormitive virtue explanations; for, “utile” is just another way of saying “good,” so that “things are good because they are useful” is only “things are good because they are good.”

      To avoid this absurd predicament, explanations of any sort must all terminate ultimately upon the Absolute. No Absolute, no explanation.

      This is why the child’s relentlessly reiterated juridical question – “But Daddy, why?” – must end, must rightly always end, with something like, “Because, sweetie, that’s just how God is, and he can’t be any different.”

    • That is why Aristotle insists that good and bad choices are no more equivalent than apprehension and misapprehension, truth and error are equivalent species of an identical genus; rather, bad choices are paralogisms (παραλογισμός = Unreasonable or fallacious).

      The good choice, “This – being such – is to be done,” is intelligible, because intelligent; the act of the bad will is, ultimately, unintelligible. True enough, we can often trace its causes to instinctive or dispositional factors, but it remains logically incoherent.

      • As a defection from the moral imperatives that derive ultimately from the Absolute (which as such, either abstractly or as manifest in concrete act, are throughly intelligible) bad or immoral choices are unintelligible to the exact degree of their defection – incoherent, and inexplicable except under their own defectively logical terms (which is therefore an illusory and merely superficial intelligibility, NB).

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