The greatest hubris of the theists in the 21st century, and all times, is to declare that their own creation is the dictator of morality. “That god is the only measure of what is good and what is evil is an absolute, as man cannot measure himself,” is how one person I’ve talked to about the matter put it. To speak this way, however, is wholly illogical and unnecessarily complex in terms of the mental gymnastics required so as to come to this conclusion. The premise that the conclusion is based upon comes from many failed atheistic moral arguments, which are far too complex and the counter arguments also too complex to go into now. What I would like to discuss, however, is how atheistic morality can be achieved by any rational person.
A lot of philosophy likes to make the assumption that existence is good. One could easily pose the question “what if existence is not good?” and oftentimes the religious simply tout the good of existence as axiomatic, but that’s intellectually dishonest, as one can prove existence is good. Start by declaring existence is. There are mountains, there are roads, there is you and I. One can refut this by declaiming that we cannot truly know of existence is truly extnant; however, this has no impact on the argument or any argument whatsoever. Our perception of existence is true, as we experience it on a day to day basis. Therefore, to the mind, existence is regardless of whether it truly is or not. For example, if I say there is an apple on my desk, I see an apple on my desk and all other individuals can see, feel, and taste said Apple, even if the Apple is a hallucination created by all individuals the world over, the cognitive impact is identical to that of a true apple. Therefore, to the mind, the Apple is extant.
Now we know that existence is, we can denote that it is good by attacking the counter argument that it is bad. To assume existence is bad assumes that there must be something other than existence. Now assuming that this is a possibility, from whence can the regard that this possibility is good derive? We cannot know a lack of existence because we, by nature, exist. As a result, to conceptualize a lack of existence is impossible because the lack of existence then exists and, as a result, what happens in the mind is an altered state of existence sans those accidents we believe are integral to existence. In other words, we cannot conceptualize a lack of that which is. Therefore, a lack of existence cannot exist inside existence and thus cannot be understood, impacted, or related to anything that does exist.
Now, positing that the reciprocal nature of the universe is true (that it undergoes crunches and expansions) then the universe always has been. We cannot say the universe “exists” without determining what we mean by universe. If we determine universe to mean the sum total of all its constituents, then the universe has always existed. If we suppose the universe is the container for the constituents, then the universe can not be described in terms of existence and a lack of existence as a result of the fact that the container is not bound by the laws it contains. Assuming the former definition and understanding, then there has never been, at any point, a fixed duration wherein there has not been. That is to say, lack of existence has not been extant at any point in time, nor can it be because that which it is not cannot be.
Herein lies the first issue with stating that existence is bad and, by proxy, that the only alternative must be good. There is no way to determine if a lack of existence is even possible, as it defies all that at present moment is possible. Such an idea lies outside of all present realms of possibility as a lack of existence can not exist in existence and, because we’ve established the universe will always exist, a lack of existence can, therefore, never exist because there is matter in all places and all times inside the universe. Or, without contradictory language, a lack of existence is not possible because it’s limiting converse always will be.
However, the question then arises, if a lack of existence does not exist, what is its nature? If we suppose that such an idea exists outside of that which can be and then assume that all that can be is, then does a lack of existence exist outside of all that is? That is to say, does a realm of existence (or rather non-existence) exist wherein the nature of existence is opposite to that which presently is? Does the fact that existence exists affirm a lack of existence because of the fact a lack of existence does not exist? Or rather, because a lack of existence lacks existence, does it exist in the realm previously described? Is non-existence, existence in the realm wherein existence exists in a manner converse to existence?
So put simply because that existential ramble probably went over a lot of people’s heads, what I just described essentially boils down to is existence subjective? Our traditional conception of existence is based upon existence as it presently exists and as it may be presently known. However, because a lack of existence lacks existence, it in and of itself is the embodiment of that which is described, it is. Or in other words, a state of non existence itself exists in a state of non existence. Thus, a state of non existence exists, but in an odd pseudo-existence that may only exist perpetually in the mind of men. The question at this point is to whether the conceptualization of a lack of existence is tantamount to one that is true. I suppose not, as the conceptualization of a state of non existence is substantially contained within the mind. It is a concept of a state and it is the concept, not the state, that exists.
What then must be asked is whether a state where nothing exists exists in itself undoes that which it is. That is to say, if a state of non existence exists within a state of non existence, then there exists something within the state and thus it is not a state of non existence. However one must then ask if the existence of the state within itself is equivalent in its existence to that of something else. To say that existence of nothing is equal to the existence of something, as to say the two are equivalent is then to say that something might as well be nothing. However, we can easily tell this is not true as we have already demonstrated that a state of nothing does not exist. Therefore, “nothing” does not exist whereas “something” as in “all things” do exist. Thus within the confines of the universe there is an inherent difference between something and nothing.
However, the metaphysical implications of a state of non existence, itself being non-existent within the confines of the universe, suggest that a such a state must, by definition, exist outside of the universe. I might even suppose that non-existence is what is, literally, outside of the universe. This, then, is paradoxical as the universe is infinite, but as with the properties of non-existence, this is to be expected. It is not as if anyone or anything could possibly go to this “state” and perhaps this is what is most confusing about it. People often surmise that nothing exists “outside” of the universe because the universe contains all that is. However, to suppose that a state of non-existence exists outside of universal confines denotes that it is not possible for a state of non-existence to exist within it, which has been proven. Thus, when I say that “a lack of existence is not possible” I mean to say that it cannot exist within the universe.
What does all this mean? One: existence exists. Two: non-existence cannot exist inside existence. Three: the existence of non-existence is not equivalent to the existence of existence. It is a pseudo-existence, as it can only exist within itself.
So as this relates to morality, to the individual that posits that a lack of existence is good, a number of questions arise. First, one must address the issue of contingency. A state of non-existence can only exist within such a state therefore denoting that such a state is contingent. That is to say, it is only possible given certain factors; factors which, given what I have previously rationalized, either cannot come into being at all or are in a perpetual state of non-existence that itself does not exist. Therefore, to claim that a state of non-existence is better than existence is to claim that something can never be is better than all things. However, assuming that the individual posits that the very matter of being is worse than not-being then their argument still holds weight. It is at this point that I would respectfully ask the individual to kill themselves, such that they could attain the state of non-being that they hold so highly in regard. Of course this wouldn’t get me anywhere, but the reaction would be interesting.
Then one must ask how this individual how they conclude that something that is inherently paradoxical is better than that which has no paradox. Let me explain this, as it took me a great deal of thinking to get here. Non-existence at this moment does not exist. Thus, the understanding of non-existence is as it is and the ideal of it being contingent upon it not existing is as it is. However, this truly means that non-existence is contingent directly upon existence as, if there is no existence, then there is non-existence. And thus, if non-existence is, then non-existence exists. This, therefore, is not non-existence but rather a different form of existence wherein there is nothing inside contained. As with the universe, it is a case of the container and that which it contains. This is fully understood when we understand what non-existence is: a state where nothing exists, even the state itself. In existence, the state of non-existence does not exist but is in the pseudo-existence as described wherein it is within itself thus fulfilling its own defining properties: the state of non-existence itself does not exist. Assuming there is no existence, what is, then, is a state wherein there is nothing. This state, however, does exist and, as a result, this single conceptualization of how things are in such a realm completely denies the realm of its own non-existence. This state, however, can not exist as the universe, existence will always be.
Thus: non-existence can only be possible when there is existence, and always will be. Therefore, how can that which is inherently dependent on that which is supposed, ie. alleged, to be bad, be good? How can an inherent derivative of bad, be good? This ultimately the paradox of the goodness of non-existence. Issues arise from here. How can that which contradicts itself be inherently better than that which does not: how can no conclusion be better than conclusion? Further, because non-existence is dependent upon existence, how can a dependent be better than that which it is dependent upon? Dependence denotes by definition inferiority.
All this in mind, the only viable conclusion is that existence is that which is greatest possible meaning it must be, by definition, greater than its inferior counterpart which is dependent upon it meaning existence is good. Thus, if existence is good we as individuals seek preservation of good, then individuals must seek the preservation of existence. Whence cometh morality. What a theist mask ask then is our reason for the preservation of good, and the answer is rather simple. All that is, all that ever has been, and all that ever will be is good. To go against all that is and ever will be is the epitome of evil. All things good and moral, than are those things that in no way harm the existence of another or the self. Existence being broad, of course, as a great many acts can be understood to be mentally and otherwise physically brutalizing without directly harming existence; however, such actions do harm against the existence that presently is. Conversely, all vice and “sin” consist of those things that work against existence. To commit such vice is to admit that not only that you are working against all of reality, but that you would be fine with someone killing you as well.