The Banana Morality

How is something morally valuable?

There is nothing less than the potential for everything within the null space of the void. This is to say that both questions and answers appear as meaningless if there is only unlimited potential and nothing actual. Thus, when we consider the question, “how is something morally valuable?” we must do so within the context of some set of actualities. In other words, at the very least, those things which are morally valuable must be those things that occur in a space which is populated by “real” things. This is not to imply that all these morally valuable things are themselves objective in the same way that the chair you are sitting on is objective; rather, it is to say that anything that has the property of being morally valuable must have this property in some way that is contingent upon those things that we commonly, and freely, label as objective. As an aside, this might allow us an approach to morality which includes some form of empiricism; however, we shall let that sit as-is for now”?as a train which is still at rest in the station! The train that we are now boarding is a locomotive that shall take us through a tour of morality and metaphor (or perhaps synecdoche) with respect to the crime of philosophical smash and grab. The shattered window of the storefront we have looted bears the grand title of “Evolutionary Psychology” (hereafter referred to as “?EP’). To cut to the core of the apple, part of this article intends to get at those morally valuable things by examining the notion that the human species has primates for ancestors, and that our descent from these ancestors lends certain structures (to speak loosely) to our consciousness. In the spirit of metaphor as a pointing to:, this article shall attempt to establish that how a thing is morally valuable is, in part, a function of our primate ancestors’ attitudes towards bananas. A further result might be that, while we can pick out some things which appear as morally valuable, we cannot make a single static criteria which will always pick out all those things (the criteria will be dependent upon the individual and his or her grasp of selfhood).

It is important to understand that we are using “?bananas’ in both a real sense and a metaphorical sense. The real sense involves bananas as the primary food source of certain kinds of primates. Obviously, as our brains have evolved from these (or similar) primates, the source of our sustenance must play an important role in our attitudes towards morality: at its base (if indeed we can even point to a foundation) morally valuable things will include (but are not limited to; i.e. the following is not a necessary condition) those things which work towards a continued existence. Thus, to our primate ancestors, bananas certainly were a key factor to their continued existence, and so, their primal attitudes towards bananas as a source of life, under the EP view, must play a role in influencing and shaping more complex structures within the mind of the modern human qua those things which are morally valuable. In other words, evaluating attitudes towards bananas seems to play a role in our getting at an answer to our question regarding how something is morally valuable. If our primate ancestors had certain attitudes towards bananas, then these attitudes appear to lend structure to our own attitudes to things in such a way that reflects how something might be counted as morally valuable.

The metaphorical sense of “?banana’ is broad and, perhaps due to its intended function as a Zen koan-like device, is not able to be fully nor comprehensibly spelt out. Here is where the reader is left to do some work on his or her own. What can be hinted at is that we can easily substitute, under the guise of satire (a parody of EP), notions of “?good’ or such with notions of “?bananas.’ Put differently, we can think about the set (or class) of those things that are morally valuable as falling under the synecdochic umbrella of the name “?banana.’ Thus, in an opaque and sketchy sense, all and only those things that are morally valuable are to be understood as bananas. Put differently, how a thing is morally valuable is a function of whether or not it falls under the category of “?banana:’ there can be no things that are morally valuable which do not occur within the set (or class) of bananas.

We can postulate that the attitudes of a single primate towards bananas are such that these attitudes reflect a sense of self-interest. This is to say that, while some of us may not consider primates to have a sense of morality, we can at least say, from our EP perspective, that these primal attitudes which assist in creating morality in humans arise from, in part, a sense of self-interest. The primate has, even if only subconsciously, a drive to live and this drive concerns the animal’s sense of well being. In other words, part of our story regarding how something is to be counted as morally valuable hinges on whether or not that thing is involved in contributing and/or satisfying certain self-interested motives. This is not to say that all those things which are tied to self-interest generate moral value, but only to recognize that any banana that we attach moral value to is likely a banana that fulfills (or works towards fulfilling) some set self-interested criteria. As we have noted earlier this criteria can include things which pick out bananas that are life sustaining and contribute to our well being. This not a necessary requirement of how something becomes morally valuable, but rather a part of our answer. A further part of the answer lays in self-interest, and this in turn feeds into and/or generates the importance of autonomy in the life of the individual.

Here we have a feed back/forward loop of self-interest qua autonomy qua self-interest: we have that old symbol of the oroborous raising its scaly head only to swallow its own tail. Put differently, we can recognize that the autonomy of the individual reflects that individual’s self-interest, and this self-interest is a function of the individual’s autonomy. In still different words, we have, with respect to self-interest and autonomy, two notions which are distinct but, to borrow from Siddhartha (the man who became the Buddha), share an interdependent co-arising”?one necessarily feeds the other, and neither has much meaning in exclusion of the other. If we are sceptical of this relation between these two notions, then we need merely ask ourselves how it would be that any individual could attempt to fulfill self-interest without also having some degree of autonomy in deciding what his or her self-interest is: if the individual is not free to decide what he or she desires, then that individual has his or her self-interest removed by whatever it is that is also limiting his or her autonomy. Again in different words, it is hard to imagine a person who has much self-interest if he or she is unable to decide the course of his or her life”?he or she would be living for some external structure, and this structure would not only dictate the course of the individual’s life, but it would also assert what that same individual should and shouldn’t desire. Thus, self-interest and autonomy appear to be complements of one and other. This leads us into a position where we are now required to make some progress in our understanding of what it is to have a sense of self.

NEXT WEEK: The rest of the trip through the Banana Morality

b.e. hydomako is not sure whether his parents were human, and sometimes feels that the sun and the moon are his father and mother respectively (or vice-versa). He doesn’t have a belly button, and the operation to remove the alien implants is forthcoming. Sometimes he thinks that the world is a projection of some malfunctioning machine.