I’m ill, so I’m not going to spend too much time trying to explain myself.
The problem with Pookie’s answer is that it boils down to a Thrasymachan argument that justice is the interest of the stronger. The group or community is simply used instead of a powerful individual. Further, this argument leads to the idea that justice and ethics are all matters of convention, or relative, rather than absolute or based on the nature of man.
Let me qualify: any people will have its own needs as a people, will have its own particular circumstances which require laws and ethics particular to them. But this is not to say that all morality is relative, but that there are certain minor things in which we may differ.
If Pookie’s argument holds, then the interest of the group may conflict with my own interests so completely that it is no longer to my benefit to adhere to the rules; that is, I will dissolve the social contract.
Because pookie’s argument really is about a social contract - one without natural restriction, and one that has no well-defined point of termination or abuse. Rousseau is too complicated to go into right now; but suffice it to say that he understood that for this kind of arrangement to be legitimate, there were a number of conditions that would need to be satisfied first.
And further, the social contract was not a method of determining ethics or morality, but rather of determining law and living together without being shackled and oppressed.
Certainly, morality implies that there is some community; that is, ethical violations occur interpersonally rather than inside oneself, or when they do occur inside oneself, it is with relation to an external object.
But arguing that ethics is dependent upon consent and convention immediately introduces the problem that those born into such a society are incapable of consent, and yet are held to those standards. Certain situations preclude any reasonable notion of consent. So we are left with convention.
There is an alternative, however, which is that there is a best way for human beings to live, and that this way is based on what human beings are and how they are made. We needn’t make a religious appeal, but rather only accept that human beings are not so radically different from one another that we cannot be led to common happiness by shared moral principles.
But now I’m coughing up stuff, so that’s the end of my contribution.