Column by tzo.
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Any rational conversation on ethics must begin with the following caveat:
If you, as an individual human being, are interested in creating and maintaining a society based on justice, cooperation, freedom, and equal human rights, then there exists a set of objective, ethical rules that can be discovered. Let’s explore them.
But if you, as an individual human being, are not interested in creating and maintaining a society as described above, then those of us who are, are not particularly interested in your point of view, do not invite your participation, and are, frankly, a bit perplexed by your apparent attachment to injustice, non-cooperation, unequal distribution of human rights, and subjective ethics.
You are free to create your own little coercive societies within the confines of your own justly-acquired plots of land, where you can have at one other. Of course, since you do not value the ethical principles that form the basis for just society, you will not be persuaded to confine your coercive activities to justly-acquired plots of land, because who’s to say how land is justly acquired anyway?
See how that works? Subjectivize ethics and anything goes. But arriving at subjective ethics is not some profound philosophical revelation, it is merely the excuse for the age-old Might-Makes-Right method of organizing society. If you are not interested in the rational ends that follow from the assumption of equal human rights and the desire for a just society, you simply do not believe in equal human rights and do not want a just society. This is not profound, or very clever.
The wicked cleverness lies in disguising the coercion behind a façade of benevolence. Herein lies some disturbingly profound thinking.
And if you subscribe to this deceptive doctrine, you will attempt to grab as much of the planet as you can through force, and you will hide behind grandiose tales that purport to justify your actions—a strategic, calculated appeal to the better angels of the masses, who will bend over backwards to believe such inanities if it means they can partake in the general plunder. Of course you will always have the iron fist underneath to fall back on in case the velvet glove doesn’t successfully persuade.
Eventually, you may even succeed in claiming ownership of the entire planet through this “offer you can’t refuse” bribery scheme, even if this monumental task has to be done through multiple regional coercive agencies. The same ideological basis of all these patchwork entities will unite them all into a single integrated quilt that will cover the Earth.
At this point, conversations on ethics will be, according to general consensus, subjective and quite moot. All of Earth's resources, at this point, will be yours.
But there will always be some people interested in discovering and understanding ethics in a logical and rational manner, and even if they have no real standing in the world community, they will be happy to converse with anyone regarding objective ethics, as long as the following caveat is observed:
If you, as an individual human being, are interested in creating and maintaining a society based on justice, cooperation, freedom, and equal human rights, then there exists a set of objective ethical rules that can be discovered….

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tzo's picture
Columnist tzo
Columns on STR: 64

tzo now lives in your head.


Samarami's picture

Clever, Tzo.

Anybody who knows me would be disappointed if I did not announce at this point that we've already organized society -- and declared statehood no less. I use "we" loosely -- so far I'm the only member but "we" have a sovereign state.

I am Head of State, as a matter of fact -- the most powerful man in the world.

Of course the world revolves around MY belly-button -- not yours.

My world.

What makes me the most powerful man in the world is the knowledge that YOUR world revolves around YOUR belly-button -- whether you admit it or not. That gives me a lot of power, because I can know with certainty if you disagree with me over a matter it's not because there is something wrong with me -- or that you got up this morning attempting to find a way to screw me over. It's only that in your world the facts are defined differently.

How's that for "objective, ethical rules..." Am I gettin' there yet???


tzo's picture

I think so. The belly-button thing covers the All Men Are Created Equal part, where everyone gets to interpret the "facts" of the world in his own way and draw his own conclusions. And I am happy to call all this personal interpretation subjective, as everyone will come to different conclusions about all kinds of "objective" things. The Just Society part is merely allowing each individual to live as he chooses and is able, as long as he does not hinder anyone else's ability to live likewise. This is the only way to preserve AMACE and to create a just society. So given the caveats, which I believe most people will agree to, then the entire objective ethics thing is done and done. It's that simple, and not really *subject* to much interpretation in any rational manner.

Glen Allport's picture

Wow! A terrific approach and VERY well done. (And so brief and concise! I'm impressed at the signal-to-noise ratio you've attained). I understand Samarami's point but disagree with it: civil society (that is, any society widely characterized by love and freedom, or compassion and liberty, or emotional health and laissez-faire -- depending on the wording you prefer) can be objectively described and does provide objective results that, as it happens, can be shown, scientifically, to be healthier and better (in terms of any number of important criteria) than what you get from a NON-civil society. So I'm in your corner on the objective rules thing, Tzo.

Millions of people THINK various Statist schemes are in the best interests of all, but they're wrong -- and you've hit the nail on the head about it. Those who are sincere in wanting "justice, cooperation, freedom, and equal human rights" would be well-served to read your column. Not many will, but those who do may actually learn something important.

tzo's picture

Yes, it's a bit like arguing that sunlight to a plant is neither good nor bad. Who can say? Everything is subjective.

Well, if you do a bit of objective science, you will discover that sunlight is objectively good for the plant. The need and desire for love, justice, respect, and cooperation are built into us, and just like a plant's chlorophyll, we have a mechanism to manufacture energy out of these ingredients in order to thrive.

And anyone who demands to see proof of this hasn't really looked at the world that surrounds him very closely, or can't evaluate the data accurately because he has been damaged by lack of love, justice, respect, and cooperation. If there are enough damaged people, then damage seems normal. Unfortunately, I think this is the case in this society and is what makes it difficult to get these kinds of points across.

Samarami's picture

Tzo (comment):

"...If there are enough damaged people, then damage seems normal..."

I've been rereading an essay, "Insanity As The Social Norm", by Delmar England:

It is 24 pages in a single space "Word" document. I've tried to edit my copy to produce more easily understood reading -- it does need work.

England's main critique is the tendency in those of us professing anarchy to ignore "is" individual (the subjective definition we all have) in deference to "ought" individual (the objective definition), creating a subservient mentality. For instance, where you might say..."everyone gets to interpret the 'facts' of the world in his own way and draw his own conclusions"...England would insist: Everyone DOES interpret the 'facts' of the world in his own way and draws his own conclusions" -- the problem being those "conclusions" are sullied by "the confused and complex lies" with which s/he has grown up.

England's very last paragraph:

...I do not propose to engage in such a futile effort (<== defining 'anarchism'). Suffice it to say, it is only by recognition of the truth of “is” individual without the subservient “ought” adornments of “morality” and “rights” that the real objective identity stands as a common frame of reference in unification, not division.
In seeking freedom, peace and harmony, all else is folly... by Delmar England

It's a good read for those wishing to expand this "objective, ethical rules" topic further. Sam

tzo's picture

You had pointed out this paper a few days back, and I buzzed through it rather quickly. I think there's a lot of good things there, and I agree that it needs some editing, but it will need a more careful reading on my part, which I plan on doing. I think I want to like it. :>

tzo's picture

The relationship between entities (cause and effect) is determined by the characteristics of the entities involved. This is no less true of human entities than any other. Even a cursory look quickly reveals that imposition upon personal preference by initiation of force and/or coercion produces the effect of resentment and hostility. It logically follows that if peace and harmony is the objective, refraining from initiation of force and coercion is the natural law means to achieve and sustain this end. How can any truth be more visible and irrefutable?

~Delmar England   

Suverans2's picture

"The science of mine and thine --- [the natural law of man] the science of justice --- is the science of all human rights; of all a man's rights of person and property; of all his rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is the science which alone can tell any man what he can, and cannot, do; what he can, and cannot, have; what he can, and cannot, say, without infringing the rights of any other person.
It is the science of peace; and the only science of peace; since it is the science which alone can tell us on what conditions mankind can live in peace, or ought to live in peace, with each other." ~ Natural Law by Lysander Spooner

"Nowadays, the study of natural law virtually has been banned from the training of lawyers. What remains of it in the academic curriculum of most law schools is no more than a little bit of 'intellectual history', which is devoted mainly to the works of a handful of ancient, medieval and early modern writers and philosophers. Often, students get the impression that natural law is something that can be found only in books (in the same way that statutory law, the verdicts of courts and international treaties are mere texts). They are led to believe that the natural law is nothing but a collection of theories of natural law. It is not. Nor, of course, is the physical universe nothing but a collection of theories of physics.

The practice of natural law also has been eliminated almost completely by the legal profession. Very often, the study and the practice of natural law are scorned if not ridiculed." ~ Natural Law by Frank van Dun, Ph.D., Dr.Jur. - Senior lecturer Philosophy of Law. [Emphasis added]

Samarami's picture

You've pulled out the essence of the lengthy article and used it as an excellent summary. Sam

Paul's picture

I know Molyneux has made an attempt to build a proof of natural law, but I am not entirely satisfied with what he has done and his critics are pretty convincing that he's not succeeded.

It's well worth the study, but the fact is, the world IS based on "might makes right". Always has been, right back to the dawn of life. We humans (some anyway) would like to get away from that, and it might even happen that some day virtually all will live by something better. But for now and a long time to come, it's merely a theoretical exercise.

I don't take it as a given that there "exists a set of objective, ethical rules that can be discovered". I think there might be, and life would be better if there were and if people adhered to them consistently, but I don't think life would end if it were not possible to prove them. Some obvious rules of thumb already exist (NAP, stuff Dale Carnegie has written for getting along with other human beings, etc.) and that may be as good as it gets. And that is pretty good, maybe good enough. Even if there is a proof out there, 99.99% of the human race will never understand it. They can grasp a few rules of thumb though.

Suverans2's picture

Paul, what is NAP? Having been in sales in my former life I am familiar with Dale Carnegie's training, but I can't recall the acronym NAP.

Tony Pivetta's picture

Non-Aggression Principle. I fully embrace the NAP, even if citizenship in the NAP territorial monopoly of non-force eludes me (even as coerced citizenship in the American territorial monopoly of force saddles me yet).

Suverans2's picture

Thank you, Tony Pivetta.

Suverans2's picture

Delete double-post.

Suverans2's picture

The primary practical objective of the juristic study of natural law is to propose rules or practical principles that, if followed by human beings, are likely to maintain, strengthen and restore respect for the natural order of the human world. They are the principles and rules of justice. ~ Natural Law by Frank van Dun, Ph.D., Dr.Jur. - Senior lecturer Philosophy of Law

Lawrence M. Ludlow's picture

Thanks again, Tzo, for hitting the nail on the head without bruising nearby fingers.