A moral journey…
I am always striving to follow the dictates of reason, and not falter from the consequences of logical premises. The path of pure reason has been a challenging, grueling, startling and joyous adventure, since it turns out that just about everything I have ever been taught – or imbibed through modern culture – is pure fantasy. Reason can be utterly counterintuitive, just like physics. Sensually, we experience the world as flat, the sun as the same size as the moon and both as rotating around us. I grew up believing that we need a government, the police and armies. However, none of this is so.
Morality is like science and medicine, in that it is both incredibly powerful – and completely optional. We do not have to be moral, just as we do not have to be rational, scientific or follow healthy habits – but rejecting morality always results in misery and failure. If we fail to follow the dictates of science, the physical world remains a deadly mystery to us – and if we fail to follow the dictates of morality, the social world remains a deadly mystery to us.
Any system of rational thought requires that principles are derived from entities (‘gravity’ from an apple), and then extrapolated to all related entities (all objects with mass). Empirical validation and theoretical consistency must go hand in hand.
Thus if there are any preferred forms for human behaviour (i.e. negotiation versus violence), then they must be preferred for all people. Morality does not change for a man just because he puts on a uniform; theft does not become moral just because it’s called taxation. Calling the sun ‘the moon’ does not make it stop burning.
The principle of non-violence must be at the root of any system of morality, since all human interactions are based on either violence or non-violence. Violence and violence are opposites, like attraction and repulsion. In the realm of gravity, objects with mass either attract or repel one another – they cannot do both simultaneously. Thus any principle which describes an interaction cannot approve both one action and its opposite at the same time, for the same entity.
Morality describes the ideal methods of human interaction. Either human beings should deal with one another through violence, or through reason – both cannot be condoned, since that would be blatant contradiction, and so both illogical and anti-scientific.
Any moral theory must then either be for violence, or against violence. If a moral theory is against violence, it must be against violence under all circumstances. There can be no situation under which violence is an acceptable solution to human interactions.
The principle of self-defense raises no problems; since violence is evil, it must be opposed. Self-defense has the same relation to violence that surgery does to random stabbing. If health is the goal, destruction (e.g. amputation) may be the means under certain circumstances. If a person has declared himself cancerous by attacking those around him, he may be retaliated against.
Through my articles, I explore the logical consequences of a morality which bans any individual from using violence – as well a scientific epistemology which forbids any elevation of concepts above instances. What the latter means is that if the principle of gravity is derived from the observation of physical entities, no principle of gravity can contradict the properties of any single physical entity it describes. Concepts, in other words, are always derived from tangible instances. In any conflict between the properties of physical objects and a theory which describes them, the theory must always give way. If your theory says that all apples fall down, and one apple falls up, your theory must be amended, or rejected.
What does this mean in the realm of morality? Well, if morality is a principle, it must be absolute and universal – just as scientific theories are. Morality must be derived from the desired actions of individuals, and then abstracted to apply to all individuals. In other words, if you do not use violence in all of your interactions with others, you must choose which path to take – should you use violence or non-violence in all your interactions with others? You can continue to ‘mix and match’, but you cannot claim morality as your justification, just as no pseudo-scientist can claim the support of the scientific for his contradictory and unverifiable claims.
If you choose non-violence as your moral absolute, then all human beings must be subjected to such morality – with no exceptions. Since concepts are always derived from instances, no aggregate of people can escape the moral absolute of non-violence – any more than a bushel of apples can escape the gravity that each individual apple is subject to.
What does this mean in practice? Here is where things get really fascinating. Since concepts such as ‘government’, ‘army’, and ‘police’ do not exist in reality – just as a ‘bushel’ does not exist – then all individuals these concepts describe are subject to the same moral absolutes as everyone else. The only alternative to this view is to say either (a) that all people should have the same rights as government representatives, or (b) there are no moral rules whatsoever. In either case, creating special rules for certain people is both illogical and immoral.
This brings us to the following principle: whatever is allowed to one, is allowed to all. Whatever is disallowed to one, is disallowed to all.
Are individuals allowed to carry guns? If one person is, then all are. If one person is not allowed, then none are allowed. If no one is allowed to carry guns, then policemen and soldiers cannot carry guns. If policemen and soldiers are allowed to carry guns, then everyone is allowed to carry guns.
(Although it is not essential, the argument from absurdity does help here. If the police are not allowed to carry guns, how are they supposed to arrest armed criminals?)
What about nuclear weapons? Remember: there is either only one moral rule for all individuals, or there is no morality at all, and everything is whim, fancy and brute short-term desire. Since there is no such thing as the ‘government’, if you say that the ‘government’ can own nuclear weapons, then what you are really saying is that individual ‘A’ (some leader) can own nuclear weapons, but that individual ‘B’ (some citizen) cannot own nuclear weapons. Why? How can two rules exist for the same species? It’s like saying that one apple is subject to gravity, but another is not.
A corollary of the rule that what applies to one must apply to all is that whatever judgments are applied to one, must be applied to all. If you say that some apples are fruit, then all apples are fruit. If you say that gun use must be restricted because people are hot-tempered and will shoot people indiscriminately, then your judgment also applies to policemen, since policemen are people too, and you have not solved the problem. Similarly, if you believe that governments must regulate businesses because businessmen are greedy and destructive, you must then accept that government bureaucrats will also be greedy and destructive – and with the power of the police and army to boot! Again, you have not solved the problem.
Regarding property rights, again, it is a simple binary proposition. Either property rights exist, or they do not. Since property rights regulate the use of physical objects, this means that either physical objects can be used, or they cannot be used. If no property rights exist, the no one has the right to use property of any kind – including food or shelter – since any use requires ownership. If property rights do exist, then all individuals possess them. Since aggregates do not exist, no aggregation of human beings can possess the ‘right’ to violate the property rights of any other individuals. Taxation, therefore, is immoral – the unholy combination of theft and propaganda. The very concept of ‘government’ also becomes immoral and illogical, since it is a conceptual entity which claims ‘rights’ for certain individuals which are not possessed by other individuals. I can call an apple a pear, but changing its name does not affect its nature and properties. I can call a man a ‘policeman’, but that does not change one atom of his being. The act of putting on certain pieces of clothing does not eject a man from objective reality and his common humanity.
Does this mean that all policemen are evil? Well, to the degree that policemen act to support the self-defense of others, they are moral – but they are no more moral than any other individual who performed the same actions. And if they perform any other actions, they are as immoral as anyone else. A policeman who drags you off to jail for tax evasion is as immoral as a Mafia thug who breaks your legs for failing to pay ‘protection’.
This should be enough to give you a good understanding of the nature and content of my articles. There is only one other aspect of my writing which I should warn you about, however, since gaining a true understanding of morality is not for the faint of heart – as anyone who knows the story of the life and death of Socrates can well appreciate.
Those who advocate separate ‘moralities’ for different groups of humanity are corrupt – even more so than those who advocate prayer as the only effective treatment for cancer, since those who advocate prayer do not demand that those who disagree with them are shot. If those among your friends and family advocate violence in any form – support for the State, taxation, social programs, the military, wars etc. – then you are duty-bound to exclude them from your lives. This is often the hardest pill to swallow from a personal standpoint, so I wish to warn you fairly up front. Living with integrity is not easy, since we are all social beings, but it is the natural and logical conclusion of rational morality. If you are committed to opposing violence, you can make the case to your friends and family, but if they continue to resist your arguments without reason or evidence, then they must be discarded, since a moral man’s loyalty must first and foremost be to rationality, truth, morality and the health of his own soul.
We cannot ask the world to reject irrationality in general if we are not prepared to reject it in our own lives. It is a hard road – as both my wife and I can testify – and all we can say is that there are near-inexhaustible joys on the far side! The truth is the greatest challenge – and the acceptance of it the greatest reward that life has to offer.
I wish you all the best, and look forward to hearing from you. Enjoy.
Sunday, July 31, 2005
Stefan Molynuex, is the host of Freedomain Radio (www.freedomainradio.com), the most popular philosophy site on the Internet, and a “Top 10” Finalist in the 2007-2010 Podcast Awards.