We are at the position where somebody thinks a rule, law, or stricture, or the lack of the same, is fair or unfair. The justification for this belief must (eventually) rest on an innate sense of right and wrong. This sense must be innate—or, if you like, instinctual—and not based on calls to, say, the utilitarian or some other external principle. (Totalitarians always argue from the utilitarian premise.)
Suppose a call is made to support “same-sex marriage” based on the argument that homosexuals should be treated “the same as” heterosexuals (they cannot be, obviously; if they were, homosexuals must marry heterosexually). Yet the moral principle that gives rise to this argument is believed to be true by the proponent. Why? If pressed, many will say, “It’s just true,” or “It’s obvious”, or similar words. This shows directly that either the belief is innate or (more likely) adopted without thought.
Incidentally, the argument from “equality” (in same-sex “marriage” or anywhere) also is fallacious because it assumes what it sets out to prove. This fallacy ordinarily would be easy to spot; that it isn’t says something profound—and frightening.
Many moderns, if they are not “outraged” at having to explain themselves when asked “Why?”, will sense that the argument should have some objective basis and will perhaps say, “It’s for the good of society”, or similar utilitarian words (did not Justice Kennedy do this?). The more articulate will give several reasons why this itself is true (“Prejudice hurts us all and here’s why”, etc.). But this merely pushes the problem back one level. Why is it important that society not be hurt by prejudice? Why should I care if anybody is or isn’t hurt? These beliefs, or others still further back, must be innate.
Sensing trouble, an intellectual will seek to push the problem back to what appears to be an unassailable position: showing his opponent that he himself will be harmed or will benefit if the intellectual’s definition of fairness is rejected or accepted. Even if the intellectual’s argument is sound—it may be true that his opponent will benefit in the way explained given the premises—this does not make fairness objective. It merely begs the question why the opponent believes why it is fair that he benefit.
No moral belief can ultimately rest on observations or on empirical evidence of any kind. But a moral principle can be true conditionally, but only given another or other principles that are first assumed true. This chain always leads back to the same starting point. For example, assume that the propriety of “same-sex marriage” follows from the principle “Prejudice is bad”; still, that principle itself had to be innately justified, or it was based upon other principles that were eventually innately justified.
Note very carefully that most of our moral principles and most of our notions of fairness are derived principles, arguments which are only true given that other, deeper beliefs are true. The number of base or bedrock moral principles we hold are actually very few.
All beliefs in fairness are ultimately “groundless” in the modern, scientistic sense, because they must all point back to something deeper, something built in, principles which just “feel right.” These cannot have come from evolution, because then we’d still have to justify the principle that principles based on evolution are moral, etc., an infinite regress. It is true and painful that what feels right to some does not feel right to others, and that these differences have accounted for spectacular events in history. But that does not mean that what felt right to any side was objectively justified.
There is only one solution. And that is if a set of true moral principles exists. These can be “aimed” at and true fairness found. Never mind how these arise or how these are true. Besides, if they are true, it is impossible to explain how they are true. As David Stove often said, you cannot explain how something that is necessarily true can be otherwise.
Don’t fall into the fallacy that because there are many disagreements on principles, that therefore all morality is relative (a self-negating statement). And don’t say that because some choose evil that there is no good (which is self-defeating counter-argument).
Many moderns feel extreme discomfort at asking these questions. They might be inclined to agree that true moral principles exist, but they don’t like where that notion leads.