- A “bad state” is a state that an organism would want to change.
- A “good state” is a state that an organism seeks to achieve.
- A “bad action” is causing an organism to enter a state that they would want to change.
- A “good action” is helping an organism achieve a state that they don’t want to change.
Unfortunately, sometimes the good state of one organism depends on the bad state of another (or of the same organism at a different time). So for any organism (and we are probably the only ones on this planet at this time) with the capacity to weigh up actions on the basis of cui bono? (and when?), there will be frequent tension between competing claims. I suggest that our methodology for resolving these claims are what constitutes what we call our “morality”, and that our methods of agreeing on this methodology are what constitutes our justice systems. I also suggest that both arise directly from of our capacity to weigh up alternative courses of action on the basis of competing claims to the right to a “good state”, and need have nothing to do with whether or not there is a God or gods who care either.
Man of all creatures
He of all creatures alone
Raiseth a stone
Into the stone, the god
Pours what he knows of good
Calling, good, God.
Away melancholy, let it go.
Speak not to me of tears,
Tyranny, pox, wars,
Saying, Can God
Stone of man’s thoughts, be good?
Say rather it is enough
That the stuffed
Stone of man’s good, growing,
By man’s called God.
Away, melancholy, let it go
Stevie Smith, “Away Melancholy“
Although of course, if there is such a God, and that God is good, she might care very deeply.