Recently I asked an atheist philosophy professor at a respected university this question:
In a strictly material world, what is your basis for ethics (moral obligation)?
He replied, “A high percentage of human beings share a common feeling of empathy for their neighbor. This commonality forms a basis for treating others with kindness and respect.”
“Ethics based on feeling,” I said.
“Correct. I’m not even saying this feeling represents an objective ‘good.’ It’s just normal. It’s what we do. It’s who we are.”
“This empathy — it’s a trait formed by evolution?”
“Right. A statistical norm of the population. Anyone who deviates from it is acting unethically.”
* * *
What do you think of the professor’s idea that ethics is based on common feelings of empathy for others?
I’ll share my thoughts next week.