Arbitrary moral values

By Serge Kreutz

There are no genuine, logical moral values . It’s as simple as this. All moral values are perceived values. They are highly arbitrary. The moral values of current democratic societies are no more correct than the moral values of slave-holding ancient Rome, or of a cannibal Melanesian society 200 years ago. They are just different.

The moral values of current democratic societies may be of a more gentle kind than those of slave-holding Rome or Melanesian cannibals. But we better be prepared that the moral values that are commonly accepted today will feel as outmoded to humans who live a few hundred years from now as the moral values of slave-holding Rome or Melanesian cannibals feel outmoded to most people now.

Comparing the complexity of the law applied in modern societies with the relative simplicity of the law of primitive societies, we can conclude that today’s moral values are more sophisticated. But the more sophisticated moral values become, the more difficult it becomes to recognize that they are just as arbitrary as simple moral values.

With no quantity of arbitrary moral values, and not by creating ever more complex ethical and legal systems, will we be able to overcome the most basic dilemma: that there is no philosophical or biological basis why any kind or form of ethics should be preferable in principle to any other kind or form, or, for that matter, to the absence of all kinds or forms of ethics.

But while there may not be a philosophical or biological basis, there may well be a practical basis for prefering a complex and gentle ethical system over a more simple and brutal one: many people rather live in a peaceful society than a violent one.

The nihilistic negation of all values is, among other grounds, based on the fact that the individual lives of each of us will definitely end with each of our individual deaths. No rebirth, no afterlife. Each of us just occupies the surface of this planet for a moment in time. When we are dead, we are gone forever.

It doesn’t matter whether we were “good” or “bad”. When we are dead, there will be no reward and no punishment. But for as long as we do occupy the surface of this planet, it makes sense to stay out of trouble. It is only natural that we do not want to become the victims of so-called crime, and that we do not want to become the victims of so-called justice, being incarcerated by authorities, or murdered by the institutions of states that do believe in ethical values.

There is no philosophical reason why we should not just commit suicide. Actually, it would be a wise thing to do, if only we could be guided by what we consider wise. But we are not built to commit suicide; it contradicts our genetic make-up, and would negate the biological reality that only those forms of life that strive to be alive will propagate.

As a product of the eternal fight for survival, we have a psychological barrier against terminating our lives, a psychological barrier that is very difficult to overcome even by those who are guided by the nihilistic recognition that being dead at this very time would be preferable over being alive.

In our indefinitely short lives, I can see only one occupation, which is worthwhile to be pursued: optimal sexual satisfaction. Every other endeavor really is but a ridiculous waste of time.

I am basically free of criminal inclinations as related to sexual conduct. I do not rape women.

I say that I am basically, with emphasis on “basically”, free of criminal inclinations as related to sexual conduct, because such an assertion obviously depends on the laws of specific countries; my numerous sexual relationships outside of wedlock would be considered criminal conduct in much of the Muslim world.

But while I am basically free of criminal sexual inclinations, my sexual inclinations do contradict that part of the ethics of Western democratic societies that is not coded in law. Sometimes I like to have a different sexual partner. Now, even if I can solve the logistical problem associated with such desires without overstepping the boundaries of the law, I will not be able to fit such behavior into the body of modern ethics (the ethics that, at least publicly, guide Western democratic societies).

Furthermore, I am more open towards using the leverage afforded by a difference of wealth between a sex-seeking male and a sought-after female than mainstream Western ethics would consider polite.

Would I change my sexual inclinations if they were outlawed? This question is essentially wrong. I am committed not to break any law, as I do not intend to waste my life in a prison. On the other hand, I do everything to settle at locations where my sexual conduct is not in conflict with the law.

Based on what I believe to be a conclusive, nihilistic view of the world, my sexual desires, and their optimal satisfaction, are the only thing that is absolute in my life.

I am aware of the philosophical dilemma of a person who has sexual inclinations that are considered criminal in the country were he lives. His (or, theoretically, her) sexual desires may be of a nature that, by current common definition, produces victims. If no violence is involved, and there actually is consent, the same sexual conduct probably wasn’t considered criminal in his own country’s past.