On Conscience

Oftentimes the argument that ‘moral imperatives are proof of god’s existence’ comes up. Now, it’s been addressed many times, but here I’m going to try to provide a short, coherent explanation of what these moral imperatives are and their possible basis.

The following is entirely conjecture based on observation and subject to revision.

All of our moral ‘imperatives’ can be subdivided into three categories:

1. Instinctive imperatives — imperatives we take for granted through our entire life. These imperatives would be the simple category of ‘don’t hurt or kill other members of your species’ and ‘listen to your parents/guardians’. While these imperatives may be reinforced through the other two categories, they are widely held to the point where evolution has virtually ingrained them into our psyche.

2. Social/cultural imperatives — These are the imperatives we are taught, usually by our parents, that apply on the level of individual society or culture. Examples would be things like following the law, treating all people as equal, trusting one’s education, not running out into the street without looking both ways, standing behind the yellow line on the train platform, et cetera.

3. Personal imperatives — These are the imperatives that vary on a personal level and may either be self-imposed or accepted from other sources, including parents. The morality of abortion is probably the best example of this.

I challenge anyone to provide me with an imperative that would not fit into these categories and thus be assigned a cause other than evolution or social/personal imposition.

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