Conversations with Angie: Internal conflict as possible evidence for moral knowledge
Last night I got to thinking about what you said--about our moral instincts being the result of basically social evolution or something like that. I guess it was sort of an accident that this thought came to my mind last night, because I was also thinking about a paper I had written on Friedrik Nietzsche a few years ago. I was writing about how Nietzsche rejected morality because it negated or suppressed the instincts. At the time, I was criticizing Nietzsche, because he seemed to be advocating total indulgence in our most basic animal instincts. It seemed to me that morality was a good thing precisely because it did negate the instincts. But that's when I got to thinking about what you said, and it all seemed interesting to me. It looks as though we have two sets of instincts, and they are opposed to each other. On the one hand, we've got these natural instincts to behave in certain ways, but on the other hand, we've got these moral instincts telling us we should suppress the other instincts. You can see this especially in children. Children have no qualms about lying, being selfish, and generally "bad". Parents make it their goal to train their children to develope better habits--moral habits--that are contrary to their natural inclinations. But these inclinations never go away. Even adults are constantly tempted to lie, to be selfish, and to do all kinds of things they know they shouldn't. But these urges are natural. Everybody has them. They are instinctual.
The reason I bring this up is that it would seem odd to me that if our instincts were all developed through a process of natural and social evolution, that we would develope instincts that are exactly opposed to each other such that one suppresses the other. Our sense of morality constantly opposes our natural inclinations. It's our sense of morality that prevents us from basically living like animals--giving in to every natural urge.
If these natural urges we have were developed through evolution, then I don't see how morality could have. Or if morality developed through evolution, then I don't see how these natural urges could have. If our behavior is the result of evolution, I would think there would be no difference between a moral urge and a natural urge. We would simply have urges to behave in particular ways, and then we would act consistently with those urges. There would be no internal conflict.
Obviously, I haven't given this a whole lot of thought, but I thought I'd run it by you to see what you'd think.
Conversations with Angie: Update on Alvin Plantinga