Once we have understood that the nature of all living things is to compete, we must realize that all attempts to eliminate such competition in human societies will fail, because such attempts run counter to the basic nature of life itself. The best thing possible, therefore, is to civilize this competitive instinct, so that society as a whole benefits from it.
In order to see how competition can be civilized, we need to examine the various spheres in which humans compete. Humans, like all animals, compete for sex, resources and survival. All three forms of competition are inter-linked: We must survive, gather resources and reproduce in order to pass our genes.
Competing for survival:
Initiation/ escalation of force are considered acts of uncivilized competition for survival. Preparing for and acting in self-defense are considered acts of civilized competition for survival.
When a significant percentage of actors in a particular society engage in initiation of force, the nature of that society changes and becomes more violent. On the other hand, when a significant percentage of actors in a particular society are ready to act in self-defense, that society becomes more peaceful over time.
A neutral actor (an invalid who is not capable of initiation of force or self-defense) will benefit from living in a peaceful society, even though that actor is incapable of exercising self-defense.
Competing for resources:
Theft and fraud are considered acts of uncivilized competition for gathering resources. Trade and production are considered acts of civilized competition for gathering resources.
When a significant percentage of actors in a particular society engage in theft (violation of property rights) or fraud (violation of contract law) to gather resources, that society becomes less prosperous as levels of trust reduce. On the other hand, when a significant percentage of actors in a particular society engage in trade and production to gather resources, that society becomes more prosperous as levels of trust increase.
A neutral actor (a beggar) would benefit from living in a high-trust, prosperous society because such societies are more charitable.
Competing for sex:
Rape and cuckolding are considered uncivilized acts of sexual competition. Attracting higher quality mates for monogamous marriage through self-improvement is an act of civilized competition.
Consider a society in which the institution of marriage is not respected and all members of this society are left to reproduce naturally. Such a society will be barbaric with high levels of violence and low levels of trust. On the other hand, a society which respects the institution of marriage will be more peaceful.
Neutral actors (children) will benefit immensely from being born in a civilized society.
One one side of the coin is competition. On the other is cooperation. I think that ethics is better framed from the cooperation side of the coin.
Empathy is supposedly evolved in us to foster cooperation. In social animals like us, cooperation is a must. It has a high survival value. Coming from a perspective of cooperation, instead of competition, is a better approach to ethics and morality in as much as it's a positive approach instead of a negative one. At least, that's how it seems to me.
Atheist Exile, what's happened to your blog post "Survival, Morality and Religion"? I was just warming up to that.
I edited the OP and am waiting for the re-post to be approved by moderators. The last time I did this, the post and a dozen pages of replies simply disappeared . . . never to be seen again.
Noooooooooooo!!!! I thought it was an excellent post. I hope to see it again.
Co-operation does not involve ethics as such, right? It is a mutually beneficial relationship that all parties concerned should agree upon.
It is only competition that may get out of hand, so ethics are needed to restrain competition from becoming uncivilized.
You're free to share your thoughts on co-operation though, but I don't see how ethics becomes involved in mutually agreed upon relationships.