|I notice reason does not figure into this schema, and you have not postulated a method for determining what happens if an action causes a conflict between a) and b). If an action is in accordance with a recognised moral (survival advantage-giving) code of conduct, making it good, but is repugnant to the conscience, making it bad, how is one to determine the goodness or badness of the action? Does conscience trump societal codes of conduct, or vice versa; and why?
Wait a minute, you are slightly changing my definition here. I did not say that the moral codes of conduct that are created by humans necessarily give a survival advantage. I said that the instinct
for creating codes of conduct gives a survival advantage. Based on that instinct, humans create all sorts of moral codes, some of which may or may not give a survival advantage. Do you get the distinction? A moral code that requires the stoning of a woman who has slept with a man before marriage probably doesn't confer any survival advantage on the group. However the reason why that particular cultural group came up with that code at all is because as humans they have an innate tendency to make up social codes. This tendency generally leads to codes which are conducive to group harmony (can you think of any universally-accepted moral value that is not?) but not always.
So: let's say the moral code you were raised with requires the stoning of women who have premarital sex. But your conscience doesn't sit right with that, and you have a conflict. How is it resolved? An individual might use any number of ways to resolve the conflict. They might decide based on the feeling that stoning women is repugnant to their conscience. They might apply reason to the issue. They might squash their pangs of conscience and go with what society sanctions. Now, I know I am not really answering your question because you want to know how, in this worldview, one figures out what is the *true* right or wrong. But that question again assumes a universal absolute for right and wrong, and so is meaningless under my presupposition. In my worldview, if there is a conflict all I can do is decide what *I* think is right or wrong and then try to persuade others to agree with me, because while we all have common ideas on morality due to our common humanity, there is no absolute RIGHT or WRONG.
Reason definitely has a place in this worldview. We have this innate ability to create codes of conduct, in particular codes of conduct which are conducive to group survival, but we also have reason. They both play a part. Let's go back to an analogy of another abstract concept that is based on a physical process: beauty. Beauty can be defined as that which is pleasing to the senses, right? We have an innate tendency to classify things as beautiful or ugly. There are certain things that pretty much everyone considers beautiful, without having to apply reason to it. However they are many other things that people may start out thinking are ugly or just plain, and after applying reason or gaining knowledge about it they may come to the conclusion that it is beautiful. Modern art, for example, or dissonant modern music. Note that people do not reason that the modern art or music is somehow closer to an absolute standard of beauty and so decide it is beautiful. They just learn more about it, or apply reason to it, and as a result of this they begin to feel that it is pleasing to their senses whereas it wasn't pleasing before. In the same way, humans apply reason, or empathy, or additional knowledge, or any number of other factors to things that they used to feel were moral/immoral and what once was felt to be pleasing/repugnant to the conscience may change. For example, the case of slavery, which was once thought to be morally pleasing because it was believed that the slaves came from an inferior race and so benefited from their subservient relationship to the superior race. As humans have gatherd more knowledge, learning that all races are equally intelligent, and applied empathy, realizing that "they" are "us", this feeling has changed until now slavery is almost universally condemned. So reason plays a huge role in determing moral codes of conduct, and in changing codes of conduct as society changes.
There are limits however; no one will every think that a steaming pile of dung is beautiful. Likewise, I can't imagine that we could ever use reason to convince our consciences that, say, mass murder is a moral thing.
|So, codes of conduct, based on conscience, based on codes of conduct. What were the second (original) codes of conduct based on, then, if not conscience?
This is a good point. The distinction between the former and the latter, I think, is that there are instinctual codes of conduct and then there are consciously created codes of conduct. We can observe instinctual codes of conduct in all social animals from wolves to ants to apes. As far as we know, humans are the only animal that developed self-awareness, so they became aware of these instinctual codes of conduct. They became aware that certain actions make them feel bad (=repugnant to the conscience) and others make them feel good ( =pleasing to the conscience). Based on this, along with multiple other factors such as reason, power dynamics, etc, they then consciously created codes of social conduct.
If your question is where did wolves and ants and apes and humans get those instinctual codes of conduct, then my answer is what I have said upthread: millions of tiny accidents. Natural selection.