Natural urge to survive

September 6, 2002

Olivia Judson says we cannot look to nature for moral guidance (Why I..., THES , August 30). Yet we learn from every organism that has existed over the past 4 billion years that the primary moral directive is:

"survive". How we do this depends on our age, wealth and situation. We, on occasion, do this as individuals while other times we value group survival more highly. Herbert Spencer discusses this in his Data of Ethics of 1883.

The more common argument against acquiring moral direction from nature is that of G. E. Moore ( Principia Ethica , 1903), who defined the "naturalistic fallacy" as an inability to acquire knowledge of what is good from what is natural. This principle is now under question and many have found this wanting.

Ray Spier
University of Surrey

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