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« on: August 25, 2010, 12:01:58 pm »

Mr. Bovard is, of course, correct in saying we must not blame “the people” for crimes committed by a corrupt government. At the same time, however, we must recognize that it’s not actually government itself that is waging literal “war” against us, but rather the criminal, parasitic, ruling-class oligarchs who’ve hijacked that government; and that the solution, therefore, is not to mindlessly throw the baby out with the bathwater (as anarcho-capitalists from the Austrian School would have us do under the false guise of “liberty”), but to reclaim from these oligarchs our rightful control over our own government.

And, as I explained earlier in this thread, the only way to do that is to unite across both party and ideological lines at the grassroots level for the purpose of exerting AGGRESSIVE, NON-STOP, ROUND-THE-CLOCK PRESSURE on Congress (and, when applicable, our state legislators) to implement urgently-needed and long-overdue public policy reforms.

In addition to uniting across both "party" and "ideological" lines, it's imperative that we unite -- to the greatest extent possible -- across religious lines as well, particularly since differences over religion so often keep people who agree on virtually all political issues needlessly divided into opposing factions.

The question is: when thorny questions about morality and ethics come up, how do we prevent the usual counterproductive flame war between religious fundamentalists, on the one hand, and atheists, agnostics and/or religious moderates, on the other, from erupting as it usually does?

IMHO, there's only one answer to that question, and that is to achieve mass awareness of, and general agreement with, the Universal Ethic (UE).

With that purpose in mind, I'd like to repost here what I've posted elsewhere concerning the UE:

If an "ethic" is a system of arbitrary moral standards by which certain people subjectively measure the rightness or wrongness of human conduct, is there such a thing as a "univeral" ethic by which all of us can objectively measure such conduct?

To understand what I mean, consider the following scenario.

Imagine that a mother and her 4-year-old daughter are walking in the woods, and that a masked bandit jumps from behind a tree, grabs the child, holds a knife to her throat and exclaims to the mother, "Prove to me your child has the right to physical life! And don't lie to me, because I can read your mind, so I'll know if you're saying something you don't think is true!"

The mother (whom I'll call Jane) asks, "Why should I have to prove this?"

To this the bandit (whom I'll call Amschel) responds, "Because if you cannot prove she has the right to physical life, then it does not matter if I cut her throat, does it?"

Jane: "She has the right to physical life because both she and I believe she does."

Amschel: "But I believe she doesn't have this right. So prove to me that what you two believe is right and that what I believe is wrong, and I'll leave you in peace."

Now, if Jane were one or the other of two types of people I've known over the years, her daughter would probably be dead within five minutes -- not because of an unwillingness to save her daughter, but because of (a) her unwillingness to accept (or inability to understand) Amschel's premise that either of them could be "right" or "wrong" about anything in the first place, or (b) her unwillingness or inability to "prove" her case with anything other than empty appeals to authority (e.g., "because the Bible says so").

On the other hand, if she had read Fred Folvary's The Soul of Liberty, then she'd likely succeed in proving Amschel wrong by defining and explaining the "Universal Ethic."

If my hunch is correct, a reader is now thinking: "Huh? The Soul of Liberty? The Universal Ethic? What are you talking about?"

Allow me to answer with the following excerpts from said book (some of which are lifted from a fictional dialogue, similar to the one above, between a "bandit" and a philosopher):


Page 7:

"It is morality that gives us the right to exist, by forbidding murder. But as you stated, the right to live cannot stem from just the ethics of social custom, law, or religion, which can be arbitrary and changing. If it is absolutely wrong for you to kill this man, it can stem only from an absolute standard of right and wrong, a permanent and universal standard for all men, from which custom, law and religion derive whatever justice they may profess."

"And what is this absolute and universal standard?" asked the bandit.

Page 8:

"Good and evil are not abstractions existing by themselves. If no living beings exist, there would be no good or evil. Something can only be good or bad to someone or for somebody. 'Good' is a person's reaction and feeling that something is beneficial or agreeable to him, and 'bad' is the reaction that something is harmful or disagreeable.

Page 9:

"So far we have only shifted our terms from 'good' to 'beneficial and agreeable' and from 'bad' to 'harmful and disagreeable', but by doing so we have identified what good and evil are. We have already begun to crystallize the blurry abstractions of good and evil into the benefits and harms that affect our lives....

"Now the question arises, that if good and evil are whatever a person feels pleases or displeases himself, how do we resolve the cases in which something that pleases one person displeases another? And how can the subjective determination of good and evil be an objective, universal ethic?

"Surely our individual pleasures alone cannot determine an absolute right and wrong. But the recognition that good and evil consist of individual reactions to the conduct and existence of others is the beginning point of the Universal Ethic, or U.E. It is not the conclusion, or the ethic itself. It is the springboard from which we will dive headfirst into the waters of the Universal Ethic. For what else can there be except what each of us feels harms or benefits himself?"

Page 10:

"...we can now state the first principle of the Universal Ethic: only acts that affect others are designated as good or evil. Those actions of a person which affect himself or herself alone cannot be called good or evil by the U.E., since each person determines individually whether such actions are good or bad."

Pages 10-11:

"How can our individual perceptions of good and evil, our reactions to whatever pleases or displeases us, determine an objective, universal standard of good and evil? Not all conduct that displeases us may be called morally wrong, even if it does touch us, for the Universal Ethic must transcend our individual values. How can this bridge be crossed?

"Let us consider injury, harm and disagreeableness. We will define 'injury' in a broad sense as any act that makes us feel worse off than we were before. I am not attempting to linguistically define this and other commonly used words, but simply to give them specific meaning so that we can use them with precision.

"Now, let us define 'harm' in the more specific sense as any injury that does not depend on our personal prejudices, opinions, attitudes, or values for its effect. We define harm as an injury independent of such personal ethical views. Those injuries that do depend on our personal views we will call 'offenses.'

"To illustrate this, suppose you shoot me with your gun, and the wound injures me. Has it also harmed me? The agony does not depend on my religion, my politics, or my personal convictions. It depends on the physical pain that I feel, and therefore it is harm.

"Now contrast this with the action of someone who walks down an alley and sees a gambling casino. He detests gambling, and this place offends him. The sight of all those people throwing their lives into the wheels of fate nauseates him, and he is irritated, shocked, and upset.

"He is emotionally injured, but why? Because of his prejudice or personal views. Someone else may **** frequently and like it. The anti-gambler's injury is due solely to his personal views. Since harm is, by our definition, independent of such views, the gambling has not harmed him."

Page 12:

"It is evident that we are morally prohibited from doing anything wrong or evil to others, or from inflicting our notion of good on others. Are we then morally obligated to do good unto others?

"If the Universal Ethic were to compel us to do good, then it would be wrong for us not to do good deeds. Thus, it would not only be wrong to harm another, but also wrong to refrain from doing good! But we concluded previously that only those acts which harm others are morally wrong. Therefore, no other acts can be wrong, including the avoidance of doing things that benefit others. If I donate my time and money to help a museum or provide toys for poor children, it is morally good, but doing good must be voluntary, rather than mandatory obligation. If we were compelled to do good to others, then we would become their slaves. The Universal Ethic is the ethic of freedom, not of slavery."

Pages 12-13:

We have traced the basic outlines of the Universal Ethic. We have spoken of injuries, harms, and benefits. Now we can bring all these concepts, these components, together and present a summary, a concise formulation of the standard we have derived. For this is the Universal Ethic:

1. Harm is an injury independent of personal ethical views (an injury being any act that makes someone feel worse off than he was before).

2. A benefit is what increases another's well-being, by his values.

3. All acts, and only those acts, that coercively harm others are wrong.

4. Acts that benefit others are morally right, but not an obligation.

Pages 23-24:

"Ethics comes from the nature of whom we can designate three levels of existence.

"The first is the physical level, that of matter and energy. It is the level of man as a collection of chemicals. Inherent in material substance are laws of physics and chemistry that describe and govern its behavior: the laws of conservation, attraction, and motion that are the basis for the physical existence of living beings.

"The second is that of life, made of matter yet possessing features so distinct from raw physical substance that some people have postulated some kind of 'quickening' agent in life apart from matter. Life contains self-generating materials and processes acting under self-oriented internal forces. It is programmed, designed and directed by genetic codes that make it behave much more 'purposefully' than the random thrashing about of non-living matter directed by external or non-programmed forces. And when a living being becomes so aware that it can direct its own life self-consciously, then a third level of existence becomes possible.

"The third level is that of intelligence and sentience beyond a certain threshold. It is the level of awareness and consciousness that enables a living being such as man to control and direct its own actions and responses beyond the calls of automatic instinct (unlearned genetic programming); the predominance of learned, changeable and flexible behavior over automatic, genetically controlled reactions to stimuli; and the highly developed capacity to reason, which man is endowed with as a species. 'Intelligence' alone seems too lean a word, too cold and too narrow for this level of existence, and yet also too loose. Coyotes are said to be intelligent animals, and intelligent humans are contrasted to those who are not, yet humans as a whole exist on this third level of existence and coyotes do not....

"Very well...let us do as we did with 'harm'; let us appropriate a word a give it a special meaning. Let us use the word sentience with a meaning beyond its purely sensory definition. Webster's Third New International Dictionary gives 'consciously perceiving; aware' as one definition of sentient. Let us expand this into feeling, perceiving, and thinking with a conscious, intelligent, and self-controllable awareness. Sentience! The third and human level of existence! It may exist in beings other than human, but we are concerned here with man.

"Sentience is a matter of degree, but then so is life, and there is a threshold beyond which sentience gives rise to an existence that has its own distinct behavior, governed and described by natural laws that do not exist in other forms of life, just as biology has no counterpart in raw matter. Among the laws of sentience or intelligence is ethics.

"If life is 'quickened matter', then sentience is 'conscious life.' Good and evil are inherent in sentience or intelligence, just as good and ill health are in life, and positive and negative charges are in matter. Sentience has benevolence and malevolence just as life has pain and pleasure, and physical substance its matter and anti-matter.

"Some people have pointed to animals chewing and clawing one another and have sneered, 'There is no morality in nature, and therefore none in man, who is but part of the natural scheme.'

"That is like saying there is no pain and pleasure in physical matter, in the atoms, and thus none in life. Moral right and wrong do not exist on the levels of matter or life, but on that of sentience."

Page 33:

...just as the existence of gravity does not depend on whether we believe in it or not, neither does the existence of a permanent, objective ethic.

Pages 56-57:

The U.E. is like the law of gravity, which is fixed by nature; but our measurements of weight depend on the scales we use and on our observations. How much things appear to weigh depends on our measurement system, the accuracy of measurement, and our location and altitude. We can disagree about exactly how much things weigh, even though philosophically we agree that gravity exists equally for all. Just as physical weighing depends on gravity rather than our personal views, ethical weighing depends on the amount of harm to be measured.


« Last Edit: January 22, 2011, 09:39:29 am by Geolibertarian » Report Spam   Logged

"For the first years of [Ludwig von] Mises’s life in the United States...he was almost totally dependent on annual research grants from the Rockefeller Foundation.” -- Richard M. Ebeling
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