On "The Logic of Moral Discourse"
11. Supplementary Remarks
In this additional chapter I want to make a number of
remarks that are relevant to the topic of the logic of moral discourse.
I do not aim at completeness or precision here, but only
want to raise a number of points and make a few remarks that, I think,
should be made in the context of discussing "The Logic of Moral
Discourse". Also, for those who care for it, there is a
summary of the foregoing review in section 1.
Finally, the present chapter is somewhat looser in
organization than the previous chapters, and also is less strictly
argued: To work out the suggestions I make in this chapter would need
quite a few additional chapters. There is a survey of all sections in
1. Summary of
points in the review
2. On some points not raised by Mr.
3. Considering the moral evidence
4. On human nature
5. On naturalistic ethics
6. On Natural Philosophy
7. On different ethical principles
8. On the problem of hypocrisy,
9. On the real capacities of real
What are good and bad in clear English and not too many words?
11. The two basic
between human beings
12. On civilization, art and science
13. On basic freedoms and rights
14. On power, democracy and bureaucracy
1. Summary of points in the review
For the convenience of the reader, here is a survey of
the more important points and remarks in my excerpt of Mr.
Edwards' text, including brief descriptions and links. I list both
points of Mr. Edwards and remarks I made. The links will show who said
what and why.
- Motivations: On my own motivations to produce this review.
Statistics: Some of Mr. Rummel's statistics that concern moral
- Muller's Question: A moral question by a survivor of Auschwitz' Krematorium-kommando.
- Milgram's Experiments: Experiments about the obeisance of authorities.
- Kohlberg's Theory: A psychological theory about the morals of human beings.
- Three basic
questions about morals: The three questions Mr. Edwards seeks to
kinds of meaning of a statement: The distinction of three
meanings a statement.
- Social Relativism: The social relativity of moral judgments and the sign-shift of
- Totalitarianism: The importance of totalitarianism for moral judgment.
- Post-modernism and
relativism: On the reasons for post-modernism and
- Three kinds of
statements: Fundamental distinctions of sorts of
- Agreements: On the kinds of agreement between humans.
- Beliefs and
desires: Judgements of fact and judgments of value.
- Objective and
subjective: Senses of "objective" and "subjective".
properties and relations: On the definition of "non-natural".
- Intuition and
conscience: Moral intuition or conscience.
- Judgment and
appraisal: Feeling, judging, believing and desiring.
- Three senses of "p implies
q": On kinds of implication between statements.
private and Politically Correct Definitions: On kinds of
definitions of terms.
- Using and
mentioning terms: Difference between using and mentioning terms.
Explanation of metaethics.
- Types of metaethical
theories: Four basic kinds of metaethics.
subjectivism: On the definition of naive subjectivism.
- Human cooperation: On the importance of human cooperation.
- Tastes and
values: How tastes and values differ.
- Human needs:
On needs human beings share and appeal to.
- Human ends: On
ends human beings share and appeal to
human feelings: On what enables human understanding.
- Egoism and
altruism: Whether all men are egoists.
- Facts supposed by
moralists: On a kind of facts often morally appealed to.
- Human nature,
human desires, human plans: Relevant human facts for moral
relativism misses: What many relativists don't see.
absolutism of relativists: On when relativists turn into
- The error theory: Whether all moral theories are in fundamental logical error.
- On ethical
predicates: The error theory and ethical predicates.
- The Pathetic Fallacy: On whether a supposed fallacy really is one.
- Polyguous expressions: Definition of the term "polyguous".
- The main practical
ethical difference: On what usually makes moral judgments
- On the freedom of the
will: On the conditions in which there may be free will.
- On metamoral
questions: The supposed difficulty of metamorals.
- General remarks
about intuitionism: Intuitionism defined and discussed.
- Summary of the view
of Mencius: Ideas on morals and men of a Chinese philosopher.
- Moral insanity: What moral insanity and moral blindness are.
and Protestant inquisitors: A dilemma for sincere Christians.
- The Ovidian predicament: A fundamental human difficulty with morals.
- Human nature
versus moral intuitionism 1: Opposing parties of one human kind.
- The exercise of free
will: How to pervert one's free will.
- Human nature versus
moral intuitionism 2: Human nature as factual assumption.
- How to base the
assumption of a common human nature: Some relevant evidence.
- On Mackie on morals: Mackie's theory considered.
- On Strawson on prima
facie judgments: Strawson's objection considered.
- Two senses of the
assumption of a common human nature: Explanation of 2 senses.
- Summary of Conclusions about making "nice-judgements": Judging
that something is nice.
- On "De Gustibus" and on supposedly simple moral qualities: Two
- Social relativism and the grounds of judgment:
"On what grounds are the grounds of judgment?"
- The difficulty of summing in moral judgments:
Part of the difficulties of agreements.
- Moral and other experts:
Experts of various kinds.
- Evolutionary reason for free will in animals:
Why - human - animals can use a free will.
- Imperatives as supposed basis of morals:
Are imperatives the basis of morals?
- Imperatives, requests and statements of fact:
Various kinds of sentences.
- Two kinds of persuasives:
"Blind imperatives" and "persuasives".
- Two kinds of reasons:
"Good" and "bad" reasons.
- Rational desires:
On when desires are fairly called "rational".
- Reason and rationality relative to community:
"Good reasons" and communities.
- Categorical imperatives are quite normal:
On the normalcy of ordering people about.
- Should-judgments: On
when one can say "Person x should do Y".
- Ought-judgments and "follows from":
How to deduce "ought" from "is".
- Fourth sense of meaning:
Another meaning of statements. (See
Three kinds of meaning).
- Mr. Edwards' six features:
Summary of important points of the theory.
- Naturalism versus intuitionism:
An important difference explained.
- My comments on Mr. Edwards' six features:
Agreements and differences.
- Good, groovy, cool:
Fashions in ethical predicates.
- Tastes and morals contrasted:
Why these judgments are different.
- Nine features of morals in society:
A list of important factual features of human moralizing.
- The pretensions and delusions of leftists:
Not all leftists are as good as they say they are.
- Totalitarianism, Conformism and Orwell:
Basic human weaknesses.
- Mr. Edwards' central thesis:
What Mr. Edwards holds is central in his treatise.
- Three fundamental questions:
Goodness, human nature and human ends.
- Moral and other kinds of judgments:
What makes moral judgments moral.
- Moral terminology in real life:
About using negative moral terms.
- Logic and morals:
Moral judgments and logic.
- First- and second-order reasons: Reasons and their reasons.
- Torturing, suicide-bombing and relativism: Some relativistic problems.
- On religious and political belief and moral judgment: Important
- The appeal to
religion: Whether appealing to some divinity makes sense morally.
- Settling moral disputes in a scientific way: Some moral differences
can be settled rationally.
- Common human moral ends: Human beings share quite a lot of ends.
- Human societies are for human benefits: Human societies serve human
- Fundamental and non-fundamental moral judgments: Two kinds of moral
- Reasonably serious moral judgments:
What is involved in serious moral judgments.
- A logical problem for Mr. Edwards' theory:
A real or apparent inconsistency.
- Descriptive meaning in fundamental moral judgments: Metaphysics and
- A possible reason for Mr. Edwards' confusion:
Intuitionism and Naturalism confused?
- Evidence-based moral judgments about national socialism: Relevant
- What fundamental moral judgments really tend to be:
Basic moral appeals.
- Axiomatic moral judgments:
What tends to be basic.
- About happiness, human nature and the real situation:
On some moral fundaments.
- What fundamental moral judgments are about:
- The role of human identifications:
Identifying oneself with others to an extent.
- Fundamental moral judgments and naturalistic ethics:
A weak point of Mr. Edwards' theory.
- The marks of seriously considered moral judgments:
A summary of marks.
- The reasons for adopting axioms:
Why one really adopts axioms.
- On things one does for their own sake:
The directly valuable things in life.
- Fundamental beliefs and ends in moral judgments:
On real moral fundaments.
- Moral judgment as judgements of beliefs and desires:
Simple elements of morals.
- Making judgements about good and bad:
Precisifications of what is meant.
- On the Naturalistic Fallacy: Discussion of a basic purported
fallacy in moralizing.
- Proposed personally relativized definition of "good": My good as
what I believe is good.
- Hypocrisy and happiness:
The intimate relation between hypocrisy and morals.
- Happiness and moral judgments:
Most men want to be happy in their own way.
- The good of a person: What satisfies the person's serious ends.
- Higher and lower moralities: A contrast that's usually
- Moral blindness, posturing and moral insanity: Various
- Moral fanaticism and human history: Human history as made and
wrecked by fanatics.
- Making ought-statements depend on facts: How to deduce "ought"
Moral emotions as intellectual emotions: A precisification of
- Theoretical and practical charges against some moral ideas:
Some bad objections.
- Social relativism and shared human needs:
A common human nature in all humans.
- The last resorts in moral
judgments: Human nature, serious ends and philosophy.
- On the good the Nazis did in their own terms:
Speaking good relatively.
- The paradox of morals:
Video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor.
- Naturalistic ethics and human nature, human needs and human societies:
- Voltaire's summary and Coster's promise: Two old
sensible moral diagnoses. Sections.
2. On some points not raised by Mr. Edwards
There are quite a few problems related to moral judgments and moral discourse
that Mr. Edwards did not treat at all in his book. There are at least two good
reasons for this, namely that he wrote not a book on ethics but a book on
metaethics, and that he quite consciously restricted his aims to the answering
of three questions.
I make a few remarks about some of these points, not to settle or
exhaust them but to stress their importance for morals and moral considerations.
A. hypocrisy and social role-playing: This is a fundamental fact about humans: Much
social action and public discussion and stance-taking is pretension, phony,
posturing or role-playing without much or any sincere belief, though it happens for a good and easily
understandable reason, namely
self-interest. This should be addressed when addressing moral questions, and it
should be made clear that as a rule moral leadership is hypocritical
role-playing (more so
than not) and moral followers, even if sincere, tend to be mostly external
conformers who "when in Rome, do as the Romans do" because this is safest and
serves their private interests best.
Besides, there is Kohlberg's
point that the majority of men are not moral heroes and are mostly and
usually conformers, who will cheat if they believe they will not be found out or
punishment for cheating is low. One of the problems of moral discourse, accordingly, is that
much lying goes on, much deceit and delusion goes on, and one's own interests
tend to be served by the public pretension of principles one neither feels nor
cares for, but professes as a matter of course, because the majority of one's
neighbours do the same in public.
To conclude this remark, it may be emphasized that what moral rules seek to
govern is (mostly and usually) the behavior of human beings, and that for
this end it doesn't matter in practice whether one behaves according to a moral
rule from conviction, from conformism, or, as usual, from some mixture of
motives, as long as one does externally follow the rules - just as when
following the rules of traffic.
B. The law and rewards and punishments: These are also highly relevant and in fact the standard terms that guide
moral behavior in modern society. Indeed, both the law and the normal economic
rewards and punishments tend to be elaborate systems of payment and retribution
worked out over the course of generations, often involving many conflicts and
In time, part of the moral code and ways of behaviour of a society, for
various reasons, ends up as part of the law - a public code with paid keepers
and standard punishments for transgressing its rules.
C. Economy and payment: This overlaps but doesn't coincide with (B).
In any case: Much good and bad,
however defined, is done for payment and in jobs, and the standard reward since
Croesus tends to be monetary. Besides, it concerns the goods human
beings care for, in part because they are the necessities of life, and in part because they
are their desired luxuries of life, and it concerns what they consider to be
rightfully theirs in reward or as property, and tend to have a lot of related
moral judgments about, and indeed these mostly though not all concern such
valuable goods as have some market price.
D. The actual values and ends people have: These tend to differ from those they publicly pretend. One pertinent
difference between pretension and practice is that the actual ends and values of
most people really care about tend to concern themselves and the members of some fairly small group
which they are member.
E. Power and influence: When discussing moral problems and acts rationally, one must discuss
since this is the main practical factor that enables or disables human actions
for human ends. Above I gave quite clear definitions of power and influence: One
has power over another in some respect if the other - tends to - do as
one desires in that respect, and one has influence over another in some
respect if the other - tends to - believe as one tells them about it. (And
incidentally: Every human being has been for years quite powerless and with
little influence when a child.)
F. Ideology and religion: An ideology may be defined as a religion
(which under this usage is a kind of ideology): A system of ideas and ideals
what human beings and reality are like and should be like. It is
the social and popular counterpart of a philosophy or theology, which are in
their turn intellectually reasoned out ideologies or religions. What happens in
any society, apart from moments of great crisis or total collapse, depends most
on its ruling ideology or ideologies, and the actual relations of power and
influence in the society, and the men who wield and have them, and their
moral systems are part of some ideology or religion and also do not
exhaust these, and usually the popular ideology believed by millions - whether
Christian, Islamic, Marxist, Hindu or otherwise - is far less
sophisticated and reasoned out than the theology, philosophy or politics they
are derived from.
G. Totalitarianism and relativism: There is, it seems, a very strong
tendency in the average human heart towards
totalitarianism - Our Group Good,
Their Group Bad; Our Leaders Great, Their Leaders Mad etc. - which also helps to
keep the faith, to keep conforming, and helps one's own side in battle. Also, it
are interesting observations that
relativism tends to be totalitarian and is
adopted either for totalitarian or egoistic reasons and as an easy excuse for
being totalitarian or for being a conformer, and that the majority of the
holders of any religious or politicial creed tends to hold the creed in a
totalitarian way. (Few human beings are individualistic enough and of sufficient
intelligence and independence to think and feel in fundamentally
non-totalitarian ways. Alas!) Sections.
Considering the moral evidence
I started this review with some
quotations that may be regarded as properly researched scientific evidence
concerning the moral ideas and actions of average men.
about the number of civilians killed by their governments in the 20th
Century, which sums to onehundredtwentyfour million sevenhundred thousand
Muller's question, after he
"How was it possible, I often asked myself, for
a young man of average intelligence and normal personality to carry out the unspeakable
atrocities demanded of him in the belief that thereby he was doing his
patriotic duty, without ever realizing that he was being used as a tool by
perverted political dictators?"
Milgram's experiments, that
showed that 99% of human beings appear willing and able to give another person
severe electrical shocks on purpose, even if their victims are in evident great
distress, merely because some authority tells them so, while 99% of human beings
who do not know this evidence believe quite sincerely that humans will not do
what 99% turn out to do.
And there were
Kohlberg's empirically based
theories about the moral levels humans reach or fail to reach, which showed
that most humans never get further than Level II. Morality of conventional
role-conformity, where they try to maintain
"a good image in the eyes of other people" ("if
in Rome do as the Romans do": if among cannibals do as the cannibals do) and
only a minority of people, presumably mostly rather intelligent, reach Level III. Morality of
self-accepted moral principles while the rest does -
loyally, patriotically, religiously - do as they are told to do by their
leaders, in the firm belief they are doing good if they do as they are told to
In short, the evidence about the moral acting and the moral
gifts of average human beings is not apt to make one an optimist about average
human beings, though it seems fairly adequate to the task of explaining the
facts of the many mass-murders of the 20th Century, supposedly an age of
science, democracy and freedom. And it would seem also as if the most important
cause of the low moral level of the majority of human beings is their low
intelligence: Ceteris paribus, intelligent persons are more capable to imagine
how it is to be someone else; less prone to being deceived by propaganda; more
able to understand the real consequences of their acts and those of their
leaders; and both more able and more willing to engage in rational argument.
There is also some contrasting evidence: It would seem that
democratically governed states with a rule of law are far less prone to warfare
with other states than are non-democratically governed states, and it would seem
that a rule of law as developed in Europe and the U.S. much reduces the risks
for civilians to be arrested by their government and be killed, tortured or
locked in some concentration-camp. (Note 1)
It should be remarked in fairness that
although the 20th Century was blighted by political philosophies -
communism and fascism - that
persecuted and murdered many millions, earlier centuries were similarly
plagued by religious philosophies, though the number of deaths was not as
large, mainly because the technology to kill and persecute was not so
And it makes also sense to compare
earlier centuries with the 20th century, and note what is and was common, say the
last twenty centuries or so, when we speak of ordinary men and women:
1. In great majority human beings have
been equally totalitarian in emotions.
2. In great majority human beings have been equally ignorant and
fanatical about their own religious or political ideologies.
3. In great majority human beings have sincerely believed in absurd religious or political ideas.
4. Human beings tend to commit the greatest evil in the name of the
5. Whatever the propaganda, the great majority of human beings believe and
practice that anything is permitted to whomever does not belong to Us.
To conclude this section:
These very common "human-all-too-human"
shortcomings, that so well illustrate Voltaire's "If we believe
absurdities, we shall commit atrocities", are mostly due to a combination
of innate lack of intelligence and curiosity and of egoistic conformism.
In brief, it comes to this: For the great majority of the untalented, it
is safer, more rewarding, more convenient, much easier, and socially much
more popular to try to appear - to act, to speak, to dress, to look, to
feel, to think - like the great majority of the groups and societies they
belong to. ("Video meliora proboque; deteriora sequor" is the normal way
of the human heart - "If in Rome, do as the Romans do; if among cannibals,
do as the cannibals do.")
The very many millions murdered and
persecuted by their fellow-men may have been murdered and persecuted
because of the instructions of some obviously psychopathic leader - but even so the
very many millions murdered and persecuted were usually murdered and
persecuted by quite normal, ordinary, decent patriots, party-members or
faithful, of some country, party or faith to which the victims did not
Their best excuse is not the
psychopathology of the leaders who they revered and whose orders they
followed, but their own innate lack of intelligence and courage.
4. On human nature
I have in my remarks to earlier chapters several times complained that Mr.
Edwards did not refer to human nature, which seems a mistake to me both for one
who seeks to establish the foundations of a
ethics and for one who addresses fundamental moral problems: Even if one wishes
to maintain that there is no common human nature all living human beings share
to a considerable extent or that if it exists it is irrelevant to the moral
judgments humans make and argue about, then this should have been explicitly
maintained and argued.
And it would seem to me that especially someone who proposes and defends a
naturalistic ethics should be prepared to seriously consider human nature, since
it seems both relevant and involved, and quite an unproblematical assumption for
those who like their philosophy to be natural and scientific. Also, the fundamental reason to consider or assume some shared human nature
in moral judgments is that it seems a fundamental assumption that nearly all
human beings make:
Whoever seems like them is supposed to have a similar form of
experience, similar feelings, similar needs and similar desires - which is,
it should be noted, in fact a metaphysical if natural assumption, since
no human being ever has access to the private thinking, feeling and experiencing
of any other human being.
Next, I should make clear that while I am quite willing to make the
assumption of a shared human nature, first because it seems to be a very widely
shared assumption of humans, and secondly because it seems to me the natural
basis to found moral judgments on, I am quite aware there are
great differences in the sort of shared human nature different people - such as:
Christians, Mohammedans, Hindus, Marxists or Liberals - in fact presuppose.
Likewise, I am quite aware of the fact that I disagree with many theories of
human nature I know, and that most of these seem to be mostly ideological or religious
rather than based on a solid knowledge of the relevant natural, historical and
cultural facts, all of which are relevant when thinking about human nature.
Hence, it should be clearly said how I think human nature is relevant to
morals and ethics. It seems to me relevant in two basic ways:
A. The vast majority of human beings in fact assume other human beings are like them in
experiences, feelings, needs, capacities, and desires, and need to make such an
assumption to understand the acts and appearance of others. (In fact, if one
does not and cannot the probability is that one suffers from a disease or innate
disability called autism.)
B. Assuming there is in fact a shared human nature that all human
beings share, if perhaps in an individual way, it seems to me that nearly all
the best evidence for what it is or could be is scientific: Medical, biological,
anatomical, bio-chemical and psychological, and that besides there is relevant
evidence from especially literature and human history, of which the former may
give some insight into what human individuals may be, and the latter gives
insight about how large groups of men have behaved.
Finally, to conclude this section, it should be remarked that it is
especially (A) that is of fundamental importance for the actual moral acting of
humans, if only because humans tend to not treat others in a humane way if they
do not believe they are human like they are themselves, and that (B) has the
consequence that I reject most or all of the religious and political versions of
human nature that are part of the known religious and political ideologies, and
that I reject these in part because I think they are simply false on the basis
of the existing scientific evidence, and in part because I think that such
religious and political construals of human nature tend to be based on
thinking or hypotheses about human nature that have been long since shown to be
factually mistaken rather than on good scientific evidence. Sections.
5. On naturalistic ethics
An important part of
Mr. Edwards' motivation
to write the book I have reviewed in
the previous ten chapters
was, I take
it, that he wanted to state a naturalistic ethics that "combines
features of objective naturalism with features of emotive theories" (p.
He explained the difference between
non-naturalistic or intuitionist theories of (meta)ethics thus:
"The direction of many of my discussions will be clearer
if I pause here to say a few words about the naturalistic character of
my theory and the way in which it differs from other forms of
Let us call a situation in which a moral judgment is made a "moral
situation." Now, according to intuitionism, four types of entities enter
into most if not all moral situations:
(1) Attitudes or emotions on the part of the person who makes the moral
(2) Attitudes or emotions on the part of the person to whom the judgment
(3) Natural features of the moral judgment;
(4) Non-natural features of the moral judgment.
As against this, naturalists of various types have held that only (1),
(2) and (3) enter into the moral situation. In this, I think they have
been entirely in the right." (p. 140)
In this I agree with him - for which reason I was
somewhat amazed to find no serious reference to human nature in the book
of Mr. Edwards. And indeed, that is one of my fundamental criticisms of
his naturalistic ethics: That it does not include a reference to and
version of what human nature is supposed to be and how it is relevant
for moral judgments and in moral discourse. Sections.
Ethical judgments and naturalism
I mentioned my wonderment about Mr. Edwards'
not considering human nature in his arguments in favor of a naturalistic ethics
and I mentioned my agreement with his wish for naturalistic ethics.
Beliefs and desires: All moral judgments are based on ordinary
personal beliefs and desires, such as every human being knows from his or her
own experience. All human experiences seem to come in the form of some
presumptive fact that is currently believed in that inspires some feelings based on one's current needs and desires, that may be simple and
superficial or complex, manifold, deep and of opposing tendencies.
Assumption of shared human nature: It seems that all human beings that
are raised in society make an assumption to the effect that the experiences and
kinds of experiences they have are very similar to the experiences and kinds of
experiences of other humans, and indeed their social education tends to be much
based on such an assumption, whether it is right or wrong in specific points.
Evidence for shared human nature: There is excellent evidence that there
is such a thing as human nature i.e. properties that all human beings have,
whether innately or culturally or both, since all are built on the same pattern,
from similar genes, fed by the same foods, harmed by the same poisons, moved by
the same passions, held together by the same physics, biochemistry and anatomy,
and susceptible to the same sorts of pains and pleasures, and moved by the same
needs and motives.
Basic human ends and needs: Moral ideals tend to be based on on assumptions
about (1) human ends (2) human feelings, desires and needs and (3)
philosophical and factual ideas about the nature of reality, humanity
and society. Normally, such fundamental beliefs will concern the
nature of reality, human beings and human society; the place of the law and the
kinds of rights and duties it holds; the freedoms of various kinds for men to voice their opinion or be elected to an office,
and so on - in short, they concern the general conditions in which one
believes one's ends, including doing the things one likes to do for
their own sakes, will be realized or mostly realized.
What is involved in - somewhat - rational moral judgments of humans:
This seems to be at least the following sorts of assumptions, that may be
named and listed thus:
human nature: assumptions about characteristics of human beings
social ideals: assumptions about characteristics of human societies
metaphysics: assumptions about characteristics of the presumed real world
science: assumptions of values of presumed and real facts
probabilities: assumptions of probabilities of presumed and real facts
human ends: assumptions of characteristics of humans one desires to
philosophy: assumptions of some philosophy (logic, epistemology)
plans and proposals: ideas and means to realize moral ideals
Note that one of the points of this definition is not that all people
who make moral judgments, seriously or not, are right (or mostly right)
in their assumptions, but that I do claim that assumptions of all mentioned
kinds are involved in such moral judgments as they do make, when they
make them seriously, as one usually soon finds out in any serious moral
Another point that should be made here is that one cannot reason without
making assumptions: It is not a valid objection against an assumption
that it is an assumption; it is a valid objection that it deductively
entails a falsehood if indeed it does.
Ends and morals: One way of characterizing morals, assuming the general point that people
tend to call good what they desire, is to note that all men have desires and
beliefs and that their moral desires concern the characteristics of others and oneself that one desires to further.
These are one's personal ends based on one's personal desires, but in any case a
lot of this, whatever it is, will have been learned mostly dogmatically or by
example in one's youth, and in any case a lot of this, usually, is of a
philosophical or ideological nature and is shared with others.
Definition of ends: Ends are reasonably defined as:
The characteristics of oneself and other human beings that one seriously desires
to further. Formally, a good definition may look as follows (Note
the characteristics F such that a desires that all b in society
$ have F.
a's ends =def |F:
Note the two dimensions along which this varies for a person: The
characteristics desired (riches, beauty, fame, health, intelligence, knowledge,
power ...) and the people or society these characteristics are desired for
(oneself, family and friends, persons one loves, members of the nation,
fellow believers, Leaders of the Party, all of humanity ...).
Here there is very much space for variety, yet the same definition of
personal end will cover it, which suggests that it is adequate.
One reason the given definition is helpful is that it suggests useful factual
questions of various kinds about a given person ends for a certain society or
(1) How capable, informed, honest and rational is person
(2) Who are the members of society $ and why these and not more, less or other people?
(3) Why these characteristics F rather than others?
(4) What evidence-based plans or proposals exist for these ends?
All of these are important questions.
Re (1): It may be that one is an honest follower of a moral, political or
religious creed, but even so one may not be very informed or rational about the
alternatives to what one believes, and indeed this seems to be the norm: Normal
believers of moral, religious and political creeds hold these in a totalitarian
and dogmatic way, and with little relevant knowledge, though possibly also with
great sincerity or fanaticism.
Re (2): Major religions and major political creeds are said to be addressed
to and meant for "all members of the human race", though there is no religion or
political creed that is believed by the majority of men, and there is no
religion or political creed that is rationally believed by the majority of those
who believe it. Furthermore, in spite of this universal pretension, religions and
political creeds, tend to be held in a
chauvinistic way, in the interests of the
leaders of the religion or political creed, at the cost of others.
Re (3): As under (2), what a political creed or religious faith says its
members desire to further is revealing, as is usually the ways in which they further
it, if they really
do, and often also what is really furthered by those who say they
believe in it, for this is often quite different from what is publicly professed and
taught. Interesting examples are socialism in the Soviet Union and China, and
Catholicism in the Renaissance.
Re (4): One highly relevant question to ask of someone defending a political
creed or religious faith concerns his practical plans and proposals to
realize his ideals, and the extent to which these plans and proposals have been
researched and are based on real and objective evidence. For very much
harm has been done in human history by moral fanatics, faithful believers, and
designers of utopias.
Definition of cooperation: As a relevant aside, here is a set of minimal
logical conditions for cooperation:
tries to do q iff b tries to do r and
||aCq IFF bCr
desires r and b desires q and
||aDr & bDq
a's value of doing q is less than for r and
||v(a,aCq) < v(a,r)
b's value of doing r is less than for q
||v(b,bCr) < v(b,q)
This covers cooperations of many kind, including mutual backscratching, doing
work q for reward r, exchanging goods, buying and selling, and barter: In either
of these cases all that is necessary in terms of personal values of the
participants are the above conditions, for these assure that each - believes he
- benefits in
his own terms from the cooperation or exchange.
Definition of hypocrisy: As another relevant aside, here is a minimal definition of hypocrisy
including the usual main reason for it:
tries to cause b to believe that a has F and a does not believe
a has F but a believes that if b believes that a has F then b
will have G and a desires that b has G
aB(bBFa --> Gb) &
This is an obvious minimal definition of hypocrisy: Intentional deception of
another because one hopes to profit from the deception. As stated, it is not
subtle enough to catch something Nathaniel Hawthorne saw quite clearly:
"No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and
another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be
true." ("The Scarlet Letter", p. 246)
Definition of power: And here follows a simple definition and an axiom of power.
That axiom may appear, perhaps, a little cynical or Nietzschean, but seems
mostly adequate in fact for a reason that follows
has power over b in respect of q iff b tries to do q iff a
desires that b tries to do q
bCq IFF aDbCq
Everyone desires power in every respect over every person
This definition of power, it will be noticed, amounts to the claim that power is
the ability to make people do as one desires in a certain respect.
That respect (formalized by some proposition q) may differ and may depend on a lot, but
almost always is there: No one has full power over anyone in every respect,
Even so, the desire for power tends to be comprehensive in humans, which is
what the axiom states. Of course, if something like the axiom claims is true,
what must be expected are compromises of power in very many respects,
which is what one tends to find as soon as one finds humans who are not capable
or not willing to enslave each other - and note that as the axiom and definition
are formulated power need not derive from force at all, but may derive from more
authority, more knowledge, more intelligence etc. and may be quite benevolent,
as one supposes the power of parents over their small children usually is. Also,
as the last example indicates, the desire for power over another may be quite
legitimate and quite benevolent, and indeed having or lacking power is not
itself good or bad, for this depends on the ends one desires to use it for.
One reason to formulate the axiom as I did is that it seems mostly adequate
in fact in so far as human desires are concerned
another is this immediate consequence of it: While the desire to hold power in
every respect over every person is very hard to practice successfully, there is
something to be said for desiring power in every respect over one's own
person (i.e. formally:
(q)(aD(power(a,a,q)) To a certain extent, this is feasible, and in so far as one has
power over oneself one may claim to be happy, since to the extent one has
it one does as one desires to do - which is what tends to make people happy.
Incidentally, one can define influence similarly:
a has influence over b in respect of q iff b
believes q iff a desires that b believes q. Similar remarks may be made as for
power, and it should be noted that e.g. the media, the clergy and politicians have
considerable influence over their publics. Sections.
section I will sketch the fundaments of what I call natural philosophy,
namely natural language, natural logic and natural realism. The last
contains an assumption of a shared human nature.
It is a slightly reworked part from
of Leibniz's "Nouveaux Essays".
Philosophy, so the Shorter
Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles tells us is
the original and widest sense.) The love, study, or pursuit of
wisdom, or of knowledge of things and their causes, whether
theoretical or practical.
more advanced study, to which, in the medieaval universities,
the seven liberal arts were introductory; it included the
three branches of natural, moral, and metaphysical philosophy,
commonly called the three philosophies.
natural p.) The knowledge or study of natural objects and
phenomena; now usu. called 'science'.
moral p.) The knowledge or study of the principles of human
action or conduct; ethics.
metaphysical p.) That department of knowledge or study that
deals with ultimate reality, or with the most general causes
and principles of things. (Now the most usual sense.)
used esp. of knowledge obtained by natural reason, in contrast
with revealed knowledge.
of: The stude of the general principles of some particular
branch of knowledge, experience or activity; also, less
properly, of any subject or phenomenon.
philosophical system or theory.
The system which a person forms for the conduct of life. b.
The mental attitude or habit of a philosopher; serenity,
resignation; calmness of temper.
This is as
clear a definition as any, and we shall presume it for our subject. It
also immediately poses a problem we have to give some sort of initial
fundamental problem of presuppositions
It is clear
that any human philosophy is the product of people who already know
and suppose something, in particular some Natural Language to reason
and communicate with. So any human
being concerned with philosophy uses and presumes in some sense some
If we want to know or study "ultimate reality"
(whatever that will turn out to be), what may we or may we not
presuppose? This is a relevant question, if only because it
seems that whatever we do presuppose will have some influence on
whatever we come to conclude while also it seems we cannot conclude
anything without presupposing something: To reach any conclusion one
needs some assumption(s).
Hence we start with
presuming some Natural Language
purpose of doing philosophy, in the sense seriously attempting to ask
and answer general questions, some natural language must be considered
given, for without it there simply are no questions to pose or answer.
And indeed, all philosophy, including any philosophy that concludes there
is no human knowledge, in fact presumes some natural language.
consisting of words and
statements (both sequences of letters) that enable its
speakers to represent things to themselves and to other
speakers by pronouncing or writing down the words or
statements that represent those things
in which, at least initially, we
can frame philosophical questions and provide philosophical
answers, where we take "philosophy" in the sense just given,
or in brief as: The search for rationally tenable explanations
for all manner of things;
and it is also clear that each
and every human being that speaks a natural language therewith
has a means to claim about any of its statements that it is
true or not, credible or not, necessary or not, and much
more ("probable", "plausible",
"politically correct", "sexist",
"morally desirable" a.s.o.)
itself a fact of some philosophical importance that is often
disregarded. One of its important applications is to show that people
who propound skeptical arguments to the effect that human beings
cannot know anything, or cannot know anything with certainty, or
cannot know anything with more or less probability than its denial
(these are three somewhat different versions of skepticism, that also
has other variants that are less easy to refute) must be mistaken,
since thy all presuppose some natural language known well enough to
state claims that nothing can be known.
It should als
be noted with some care that a natural language is not given to human
beings in a completely clear, perfect and obvious way (since, for
example, it is very difficult to clearly articulate the rules of
grammar one does use automatically and correctly when speaking it),
but it is given to start with as a tool for communication and
expression that may be improved and questioned, and that enables one
to pose and answer questions of any kind.
language is, in other and somewhat technical words, a heuristic, i.e.
something that helps one find out things. What other heuristics do
come with being human? Every Natural
Language includes many terms and many - usually not very explicit and
articulated - rules that enable its users to represent their
experiences, and to reason or argue with themselves or others. We
shall call this body of terms and rules Natural Logic.
such logical terms are: "and", "or",
"not", "true", "false", "if",
"therefore", "every", "some",
"necessary", "possible", "therefore", "is the same as" and
quite a few more. Examples of such
logical rules, that are here formulated in terms of what one may write
down on the strength of what one already has written down (pretending
for the moment that natural language is written rather than spoken)
are: "If one has written down that if one statement is true then
another statement is true, and if one has written down that the one
statement is true, then one may write down (in conclusion) that the
other statement is true" (thus: "if it rains then it gets
wet and it rains, therefore it gets wet") and "If one has
written down that every so-and-so is such-and-such, and this is a
so-and-so, then one may write down that this is a such-and-such"
(thus: "if every Greek is human and Socrates is a Greek,
therefore Socrates is human").
In any Natural Language there are the elements of what may be called
its Natural Logic:
Natural Logic in much the same way as we presuppose Natural Language:
as something we have to start with and precisify later, and that may
well come to be revised or extended quite seriously, but also as
something that at least seems to be in part given in more or less the
same way to any able speaker of a Natural Language: In it there are a
considerable number of terms and - usually implicit - rules which
enable every speaker of the language to argue and reason, that every
speaker knows and has extensive experience with.
does not follow that these rules and terms are clear or sacrosanct.
All that I assume is that they come with Natural Language and are to
some extent articulated in Natural Language and understood and
presupposed by everyone who uses Natural Language.
fundamental assumptions about the making of assumptionsthat come with
Natural Logic are as follows - where it should be noted I am not
stating these assumptions with more precision than may be supposed
here and now:
suppose to be true statements about arguments and people arguing,
where it should be noted that especially the third assumption,
factually correct though it seems to be, has been widely denied in
human history for political, religious or philosophical reasons: In
most places, at most times, people have not been allowed to speak
publicly about all assumptions they can make.
1. Nothing can be argued without
the making of assumptions
2. An assumption is a statement
that is supposed to be true
3. Human beings are free to
assume whatever they please
Four other assumptions about
argumentation that should be mentioned here are:
The first two
assumptions need more clarification than will be given here and now,
but, on the other hand, again every speaker of a Natural Language will
have some understanding of setting up arguments in terms of
assumptions, definitions and rules of inference, and drawing
conclusions from these assumptions and definitions by means of these
rules of inference.
1. Conclusions are statements that are inferred in arguments from earlier
assumptions and conclusions by means of assumptions called
rules of inference, that state which kinds of statements may
be concluded from the assumption of which kinds of statements
2. Definitions of terms are assumptions to the effect that a certain term may
be substituted by a certain other term in a certain kind of
argumentation about a topic starts with explicating rules of
inference, assumptions and definitions of terms, and proceeds
with the adding of conclusions only if these do follow by some
assumed rule of inference.
4. A statement is true precisely if what it says is in fact
assumption, when compared with the normal practice of people arguing,
entails that mostly people do not argue very rationally, at least in
the sense that all too often they rely in their arguments on rules of
inference, assumptions or definitions they have not explicitly assumed
yet have used in the course of the argument.
assumption is in fact a definition of the term "true" that expresses
an idea that is older than Aristotle, who seems to have been the
first to formulate it clearly and stress its central importance. It needs also more explanation than
will be given here and now, but it seems to clearly express the
meaning of "true" people use when they discuss ideas about reality
that are personally important to them.
seems that most users of most natural languages presuppose a
metaphysics I shall call Natural Realism. This may be stated in
many ways, for example in terms of the following assumptions.
A minimal metaphysics that most human beings share may be
called Natural Realism and stated in terms of the following
What this might mean precisely,
especially what may be meant by the bold terms, is not something I
will discuss here.
is one reality
that exists apart from what
human beings think
reality is made up of
and stand in relations.
beings form part of that reality and have
that originate in it.
living human beings have
and unreal entities, that are about what they
case in reality and
should be the case in reality.
living human beings have very
in many ordinary similar or
However, the present point is that some
assumption like natural realism is at the basis of human social
interaction, at the basis of the law, and at the basis of promises,
contracts and agreements, while the last of the assumptions I used to
characterize Natural Realism amounts to an assumption of a shared
We shall assume Natural Realism is also at the basis of philosophy, at least initially,
firstly, because we must assume something to conclude anything;
secondly, because even if we - now or eventually - disagree with
Natural Realism it helps to try to state clearly what it amounts to;
and thirdly, because it does seem an assumption like that of Natural
Realism is involved in much human reasoning about themselves and
others, and about language, meaning and reality.
Philosophy and the making of mental models
The bias I
admit to concerns especially two points, one ethical or moral and one
scientific or cognitive.
Of course, up to a point the above presentation of Natural Language,
Natural Logic and Natural Realism has been somewhat rhetorical, and perhaps also
somewhat biased or slanted. But this possible bias and admitted
imperfection are implied by or consistent with the very assumptions
made, while any bias may, by the same assumptions, be doubted,
criticized, qualified etc.
To start with
the moral or ethical point.
It seems to
me of fundamental importance to try to solve disagreements by rational
argumentation that freely admit both human desires and human beliefs,
that also involves the admission that most of the disagreements that
exist between people seem to be based on the fact that there is only
one world, in which all people live, about which different people may
have different, often contradictory, desires and beliefs.
assumptions have been chosen, among other reasons, to support this
claim about how disagreements between people should be solved.
believes - for whatever reasons - that 'might is right', or that all
human points of view, beliefs and desires are quite relative and only
have validity, if any, in a personal and private way for the persons
holding the beliefs and desires, or that one has a personal divine
inspiration will probably have to disagree here or
at some earlier point in the present argument.
To end with
the scientific or cognitive point.
It seems to
me that the most striking differences between human animals and other
animals is that human beings have and develop language, culture and
science, and that one of the things any philosophy should explain is
how - scientific and any other kind of - knowledge is possible, found,
extended, qualifed, repaired, given up etc.
assumptions have been chosen, among other reasons, to explain
scientific knowledge and to help solve conflicts in a rational and
peaceful way. Sections.
7. On different ethical principles
One fundamental problem of morals is that there are and have been quite a lot
of ideas relating to morals that have been opposed to each other. As earlier,
good examples are Catholicism, Mohammedanism, Marxism and Liberalism, each of
which is based on a distinctive vision of human nature, human society and
natural reality that contradicts each of the others in many respects.
Now: Suppose fundamental moral principles concern the characteristics of oneself,
others and soctiety that one desires to further. Then what can one say,
rationally speaking, about such radically different and/or opposing fundamental moral
I will make a number of fairly brief remarks.
A. Five moral systems:There are many possibilities, some insane, inpracticable, perverse or
pathological. So it is sensible to discount these here and only consider
generalities - there is little point in seriously discussing piracy, the Mafia,
or political terrorism as serious approaches to morals or to how to set up a
just and humane society for most.
The cases of piracy, organized criminality and political terrorism are
interesting morally, for several reasons, one of which is that these too are
furthered by communities based on shared ideas, ideals, norms, agreements,
contracts and promises, like more ordinary communities of men, but they are not
problematic since each presupposes an ordinary society and ordinary men to steal
from or to terrorize.
Furthermore, in the 20th Century, at least, the vast majority of human
beings have lived in societies that were based on Christian, Mohammedan,
Marxist or Liberal ideologies.
B. The general characteristic of moral systems: Also, as I did above, and disregarding more or less obviously mad moral
systems, a moral system is basically concerned with the characteristics of oneself,
others and society a person or group of person seriously wishes to further, and thus
relates at the same time to a person's or group's ideals and desires and to the
person's or group's beliefs about relevant facts to practice their ideals and
Moral systems, if more or less rational
and practicable, concern the acts, duties and rights of human beings living in society and relate
both to the desires of men and to their beliefs about what the natural and
social facts are.
Moral systems are concerned with the increase of human
well-being or the decrease of human pain and misery by means of social
cooperation, and the desired changes in human well-being concern some or all
members of some social group (whether or not at the cost of non-members of the
group). Such a group may be very small (oneself; oneself and one's family) or
very large (one's country; all human beings) and each human being is a member of
quite a few of such groups.
C. Morals and philosophy: Many moral differences - in so far as
these are not plainly irrational or traceable to the widely popular and very
normal totalitarian styles of thinking that involve 'my group right or wrong' -
are at least in part traceable to philosophical
(religious, metaphysical, political or - supposedly - scientific) differences.
D. Differences between moral systems: Important moral differences are due to
(1) differences in metaphysical
and factual assumptions
(2) differences of scope: Who are the moral rules
supposed to serve and benefit: All or some or few, and if all or most then all or
most in the same ways and to the same extent or not? (Note 4)
E. The law and morals: There are many relations between morals and the law, and 'the law'
may be seen as a code of behavior derived from some moral philosophy. In any
case, the law tends to be in any society where it exists the most worked out version
of moral rules, and also the only such system of rules that is maintained by "the
whole society for the whole society", though normally the people who are most
concerned with it are politicians, civil servants and legal professionals.
Indeed, there are some very fundamental moral problems that also are at least in
part legal: Most of these concern the socially supposed (or denied) freedoms and
rights of individuals (of various kinds).
F. Economy and morals: Another fundamental problem for moral systems concerns distribution of
socially produced goods and the reasons therefore, including considerations of
individual merits, deserts and rights. (Here there are considerable differences
of principle, at least, between e.g. Christianity, Mohammedanism, Hinudism, Marxism and
Liberalism, for example.)
G. Facts about morals: Four important facts about well-known moral codes, in spite of their
considerable differences, are as follows - and I introduce convenient
(1) Similarity: succesful codes
are similar in many respects - which is probably related to the fact that
morals are concerned with cooperating socially towards ends.
(2) Metaphysical: moral codes tend to be based on a false or problematic
(3) Universal: the well-known codes - Christianity, Mohammedanism,
Hinduism, Marxism, Liberalism - are supposed to apply to and be valid for all human beings
and all societies by their propounders (Note 5) and
(4) Hypocritical: Moral codes tend to be held and practised partially and
hypocritically even by sincere believers in the code: Moral thinking and acting is one of the
human fields in which there is a lot of play-acting, posturing, and conformism,
next to a lot of false and pretentious mostly verbal idealism. (Note
8. On the problem of hypocrisy, conformism etc.
In Greek "hypocrites" means no more nor less than "actor"
or "stage-player", which serves to
show that acting as if, pretending, and conforming are part and parcel of being
social in a human way, as are lying, cheating, keeping up with the Joneses,
being polite, and helping others also if you do not feel like it, because this is
the expected thing to do in the situation or because your reputation demands it.
And indeed, there are very good sides to conformism as well as very bad
sides, and both have a lot to do with
the social relativism and
the features of
dissembling that play such an important role in human acting.
Also, it is well to remark at this point that there is no hypocrisy without
sincerity, and that without a good dose of conformism people could not be
educated and socialized. But it is likewise well to remark that the more than
200 million civilian deaths in the 20th Century that
Mr. Rummel counted, to
which may be added, I suppose, about nearly as much killed in all manner of
wars in the same century, and as many or more that starved unnecessarily from malnutrition, poverty or easily
curable diseases like diarrhea or malaria. That sums to - say - 600 million
unnecessary human deaths in the last Century, and this seems a minimal estimate
rather than an exaggeration.
So let me list some other features that are related to
lying, propaganda, and the conforming to moral codes (that may take the shape of
legal, religious or political codes).
Impossible demands: The religions I know of have a strong tendency to
demand things that are in fact impossible to do for most men - which has the
advantage for those profiting from the religion that sincere believers will feel
guilty for their failures, and be more easily manipulated. The same sort of
mechanism is at work in politics.
Rewards of conformism: Every society protects and rewards its conformists
and punishes those who deviate openly from its norms, if it can do so. Of
course, this is mostly good if - you think - the moral code conformed to is
good, and mostly not good if not, but in any case most conformism to any moral
code that is not very easy and natural will be mostly external for most
followers of the code.
Rareness of moral heroes: No doubt there are moral heroes of every major
faith and political creed, and no doubt these are quite rare - "As men go, one
in tenthousand is honest", as Shakespeare taught by way of Fallstaff.
Rareness of moral and philosophical concerns: As with moral heroes, there
are in every major faith and political creed a few who have investigated their
faith or creed critically in a rational way and have compared it to competing
faiths or creeds, but indeed they too will tend to be a small minority of the
true believers of their faiths or creeds.
For this there are many reasons, varying from lack of time and opportunity to
lack of sufficient intelligence, but in any case it is a fact of moral,
political and religious life that the vast majority of the adherents of a
political or religious system are faithful believers or conformists rather than rational
thinkers in the way they hold their ideals, and also will very probably feel and
act in totalitarian ways when defending their beliefs against others. Sections.
9. On the real capacities of real people
Another fundamental problem that Mr. Edwards does not address is this:
- What about the real capacities of ordinary
people to reason rationally and to act
For it seems true - given the
evidence of human
history - that the average capacities for both are not large;
that most horrors in history have been perpetrated by ordinary men,
usually for what they claimed to be good moral reasons, thiugh usually also
deluded by their leaders and their own wishful thinking; that 'if we believe
absurdities, we shall commit atrocities' (Voltaire); that the average human
heart works according to Ovid's principle 'video meliora proboque, deteriora
sequor'; and that 'the roots of evil are stupidity and egoism'
(Buddha), which, history shows, are very common. Most men have been morally bad
in terms of their own publicly maintained moral norms, whatever these were; few
men are truly intelligent.
Also and consequently, a relevant question about moral systems and
- Are average people capable of of living according to these moral teachings,
and more specifically, are they capable of understanding the reasons offered for
and against them?
It would seem that for most religious and political ideals the answers are by
and large a double nay:
Ordinary people live by ordinary moral rules mostly by compromising them and
holding them at least partially hypocritically and as if they believe in these
principles they verbally profess, and ordinary men are rarely capable or willing
to follow fundamental philosophical argumentation. Besides, ordinary religious
and moral codes easily demand of all what very few can easily or at all practice
in fact (such as: 'Do unto others as thou would'st be done to', 'Turn
the other cheek', 'Love one another like your self'
etc.): At least religions tend to be based on assumptions of fact that are
impossible to fully believe, and directions of behavior that are impossible to
fully practice, and much the same holds for what political parties demand of
And this is related to a fact about moral systems - a metamoral fact, Mr.
Edwards might wish to say - that is quite interesting:
Moral systems - religiously inspired or not - tend to be adopted and held as
matter of faith, and normally this is a faith in the leaders and
ideology of the group or society the believers belong to, which is held
in an uncritical, non-rational way, largely for emotional reasons, and practiced
both partially and hypocritically, also if sincerely believed.
Furthermore, the great majority of men have been immoral in terms of their
own moral teachings, whatever these were, in part from weakness, in part
from self-interest, and in part because many moral teachings cannot be literally
followed as they are stated by most men: They tend to formulate ideals very few
are capable of fully practising in their own lives. Sections.
What are good and bad in clear English and not too many words?
What follows is a simple
explanation of good and bad in everyday terms, in which I attempt to keep
things simple, namely in terms easily understood pleasure and pain and the
social cooperation to cause these, while also I attempt to list
most relevant assumptions. It has been translated from a
Dutch note I made to idea
423 of Multatuli and has been slightly rewritten.
What we are concerned with - in
simple terms - are human happiness and suffering, human pleasure and pain,
human well-being and misery, and how these may be caused by human acting
and non-acting, all in human society. (See my
Norms and Society en in W. Tatarkiewicz's "Analysis of Happiness").
Premiss: The good is
mostly concerned with cooperation: The general end of living
together in society is to enable human beings to cooperate to further the
end of increasing each others happiness and decreasing each others
Reason for this premiss:
Human beings are social animals and have the increasing of their own
happiness and decreasing their own suffering as a personal end. They are
capable of increasing happiness and suffering of others by deliberate
action based on relevant knowledge or assumed facts.
Briefly, human beings are
social social animals that try to cause happiness and prevent misery for
The end of cooperation is to
increase each other's happiness.
There is a personal good and
a moral good. My personal good is what I wish for my self. My moral good
is what I desire other people to be and have and the kind of society that
enables people to be and have what I desire them to be and have.
Here is a list of what is - named - good:
- To try to realized shared
ends by peaceful cooperation
- To find knowledge by rational means and considerations
- To give others what they reasonably deserve
- To share fairly
- To speak honestly
- To base plans on rational knowledge
- To act on the basis of free and kept agreements and promises
- To solve conflicts by mediation of some objective others
All of these modes of acting
are good because they are forms or coditions that enable human beings to
cooperate towards the end of increasing each others' happiness and
decreasing each others' misery.
The bad is what goes against
The bad is mostly concerned with opposition and the effort to
decrease another's happiness or increase another's misery.
for this premiss: Human beings are social animals and have the
increasing of their own happiness and decreasing their own suffering
as a personal end. They are capable of increasing happiness and suffering
of others by deliberate action based on relevant knowledge or assumed
Briefly, human beings are social
social animals that try to cause misery and prevent happiness for their
The end of opposition is to
increase another's unhappiness.
There is a personal bad and a
moral bad. My personal bad is what I wish will not happen to me. My
moral bad is the misery and suffering I cause others. Thus, what is morally
bad requires knowledge of others and of human society.
Here is a list of what is -
named - bad:
- To try to prevent the
realization of ends of others by non-peaceful opposition
- To find superstitions by irrational means or considerations
- To withhold from others what they reasonably deserve
- To share unfairly
- To speak dishonestly
- To base plans on false ideas
- To break made agreements and promises
- To refuse to solve conflicts by mediation of some objective others
All of these modes of acting
are bad because they are forms or conditions that enable human beings to
harm, hurt or hinder others in realizing their ends or of increasing
It is worth the effort and
serves intellectual clarity to indicate some of the factual assumptions
involved in the above description of good and bad.
10.3. Factual assumptions
In the above explanation of good and bad several factual assumptions
Factual assumption: Human
beings may deliberately choose to do good or bad. Reasons to do bad - to
oppose, harm, hurt, deceive etc. - are the enjoyment of another's misery
(Schadenfreude), antipathy, being a stranger, being of another race,
acting in one's own interest - are in general terms: The bad I do another
is some supposed good of myself. And such a good may be based on
Factual assumption: Human
beings know what pains and pleases human beings, in very many -circumstances and usually. Reason: Members of the same species can quite
well understand or guess the feelings, needs and motives of others of the
species, simply by analogy to themselves.
Factual assumption: It is
true of most social groups that the members of the group try to support
the group and themselves by doing good to each other in the group and by
doing bad to non-members of the group. The bad that the members of a group
do socially against the members of other groups usually is considered a
great good inside the group.
Factual assumption: For most
human beings the good is or consists in conformism
to the norms of the
group of which one is a member. (English: "If in Rome do as the Romans
do". Dutch: "Doe maar gewoon dan doe je al gek genoeg." Norwegian: "Du
skal ikke tenke at du er noen".)
Factual assumption: The only
systematic way to act succesfully is based on rationally and empirically
founded guesses. People have true knowledge, but most of it is limited to
their own direct environments and experiences, and otherwise consists of
logical, linguistic or mathemathical truths. Science and rational
philosophy consist mostly of more or less well-supported guesses, though
there is a quite reliable criterion to distinguish sense and nonsense:
Real knowledge of one's natural environment can be transformed into
effective technology - and all belief that does not lead to technology
that works independently from belief in or knowledge of the technology is
almost certainly illusion.
For fair sharing
there is a
fundamental criterion or example:
Usually, the division of k
similar things over k persons is typically fair, especially if - and to
the extent that - the persons and the things are similar. (Even very small
children seem to find this quite comprehensible and acceptable, as one may
find out when dividing chocklats between toddlers.)
Good and bad in practice
It is not difficult to agree
in general terms what good and bad are in practical terms, to a
considerable extent (as long as one abstracts from self-interest and
Good in practice:
- To try to realized shared
ends by peaceful cooperation
- To find knowledge by rational means and considerations
- To give others what they reasonably deserve
- To share fairly
- To speak honestly
- To base plans on rational knowledge
- To act on the basis of free and kept agreements and promises
- To solve conflicts by mediation of some objective others
Bad in practice:
to lie, to deceive, to mislead
- to fight
- to oppose
- not to coooperate peacefully and by rational agreement and discussion
- false beliefs
- impracticable plans
these forms of doing bad the first group is mostly done consciously, and
the rest often at least in pary unconsciously, though it also is a fact
that much irrationality and ignorance is maintained actively, namely by
refusing to consider evidence or to find relevant knowledge.
Average people tend to believe they "know" that the ideology of their own
group is true and that the leaders of their own group are noble, honorable
men and women who want the good and try to realize it, and believe they
"know" that the ideologies of other groups are not true and that the
leaders of other groups are liars and frauds, and avearge people act on
the basis of those beliefs, with loyal patriotism, brave chauvinism, and
Such a false faith in the own pretended excellence is an article of faith
of almost every human social group, for these are kept together and
coordinated and motivated by such faith, and are based on the human
hormones and genes that make humans into social animals. It seems to
involve the same sort of sentiment and genetically based hormonally
founded process that keeps hordes of hyenas together, and that makes the
members of the own hord exemplary good and the members of other
hordes exemplary bad, all merely on the basis of groupmembership and
Practical problem: A large majority of human beings is mostly
irrational and unreasonable, and more inclined to do bad than to do good,
except where it concerns the members of their own group, and even then it
is normally true that
"the good that one does do
is that bad that one does not do"
(Wilhelm Busch), and also that the good that is done is often done out of
fear for sanctions if one does something bad, and not because one desires
to do to the good or desires not to do the bad.
Main reason: The great majority of human beings is not very
intelligent; does only feel their own interests that mostly
coincide with what they feel is in the interest of their group; and
knows that doing what is bad often is easier, more pleasorable
or more profitable than doing what is good, especially if the
doing of what is bad is a social event and concerns the members of
another group in which case it often is regarded as the highest
good a human being can do, and is socially rewarded and admired (as
patriottic, loyal, social).
the end, the only solution, if it can be achieved before the human average
under corrupt or stupid leadership murders humanity due to group
loyalities and fanaticism, is this:
learn how the human brain works and improve it intellectually by some kind
of eugenetics, available to all. Take note that I do not say: improve
morally, because it is much easier to agree objectively about what is
and causes human intelligence and how it can be stimulared and increased.
For more, see my sketch of
Mencius on good and bad. (Even so, the causes of self-control are also
interesting. Even those who can be rational and reasonable and are willing
to try to be so need the self-control to practice this also when this is
difficult - as it often is.)
Assumption: Intelligent people are sooner, easier and more prepared to
cooperate, if only because of a clear understanding that this serves their
In general terms (and see my Dutch essay Multatuli en de Filosofie):
The bad in the world is unnecessary suffering, and is caused mostly by
human incapacities - to think rationally and to act reasonably and
honestly. It is not complicated, in th end: Everybody knows to a very
large extent what pleases and pains his fellow human beings, and everybody
knows what a human being needs to lead a tolerable life. Everybody knows
that false ideas, however well intended, if made the basis of action, will
mostly lead to misery, if not for the actor then for his fellow human
beings. Therefore everybody should, if only because of a clear
understanding serves their own interests, try to the best of his ability
to understand things in a rational way and to do what is good - where
doing what is god means at aleast: To consciously try to prevent
unnecessary suffering and to help those who help those who do suffer.
problems about good and bad:
It would seem to me that what
I just sketched in general and simple terms is clear enough to be understood,
and should find wide agreement.
Now, supposing that the basis
of what is good and bad are so easy to explain in simple terms:
What withholds so very
many human beings from doing what is good, and why do "the world", "society"
and people so often act so badly against other people? Why is such a great
part of human history a history of horror, cruelty, persecution, enslavement,
murder, deception and exploitation?
There are three general
A. The radical difference
between self and other
B. The radical difference between members of one's group and others
C. Personal and human incapacity and weakness
A. The radical difference between
self and other
Every human being only feels his or her own feelings and own body; every
human being in the end only knows his or her own beliefs and desires
really and undeniably (and even that only in part); and every human being
must guess about everything else. Every human being in the end lives in
his or her own personal world based on his or her own brain; feels only
his or her own body; and has no direct access to most of the reality which
he or she is part of, like all other human beings.
And indeed it really is difficult to find
true or probably true knowledge about oneself, others and reality, while
real knowledge about human beings and human societies are made more
difficult to obtain because people lie a lot about human beings and
human society, and what they believe and know themselves about these,
and do so because of self-interest, fear, ignorance, ideological
motivations, or wishful thinking.
B. The radical difference between members of one's group and
It is an empirical fact that human beings tend to regard and describe
groups of humans as if these are animated organisms like themselves,
even if they know this must be mostly or wholly nonsense; it is an
empirical fact that human beings understand themselves in in terms of
social (political, religious) groups of which they are member (by
accident or choice); and it is an empirical fact that the vast majority
of human beings are loyal followers of leaders and ideologies
whose ideas of good and bad tend to coincide with conformism to
the supposed interests of the group of which they are a member.
And this makes for a fundamental problem:
For the vast majority of human
beings it is good (and: desirable,
laudable, exemplary, patriottic, religious) to do
bad to non-members of one's group,
especially if this serves the interests one's group or one's leaders.
Good and bad
change their sign when membership of the group changes: What
is good for the members of one's own group often is doing bad
to the members of other groups, because this serves the interests of
the group or the leaders, or conforms to the illusions the members of
the group share about themselves and others. And note the following
basic important point for the understanding of good and bad i.e. the
conscious causing of pleasure or pain to others: Apart from the change
of sign, the meanings of good and bad remain just the same. What
Our Boys do to Your Boys is good, but if Your Boys do the very same to
Our Boys it is bad, and conversely.
This is true of political and religious
creeds (persecutoion, repression, delusion, propaganda); business and
barter (deceptionn); race and gender (discrimination); sport and games
(hooliganism); and xenophobia and feelings about foreigners: The moral
judgments of the large majority of people tends to be relative to the
group, and is derived by way of self-interest or conformism from the
ideology of the group. The great majority of humans chooses to do
good to the members of their own group, and that good often
consists in doing bad to the members of other groups.
The great majority of human beings act and
think as if they are totalitarian ideological apes, whose behavior and
beliefs can be predicted with probabilities close to certainty from
their membership in groups, for their behavior and beliefs are mostly
based on conformism, and feelings of solidarity and loyalty: Their good
tends to be what the conformists and leaders of their group claim to be
good, and often is the doing to members of other groups what would be
considered bad if done to members of their own group. Incidentally:
Possibly the least harmful example is the ordinary daily common
deception that is the basis of business - as e.g.
Fable of the Bees
explains very well, if perhaps a bit cynically, and therefore also
rather adequately and realistically.
Hence, the Dutch philosopher and writer
Multatuli was quite right when he asserted that the basic problem of
humanity is that of lying - though he was not clear about how much
lying, posing, posturing, pretending, acting as if, hypocrisy, and
conforming is involved in the ordinary playing of roles that are the basis
of being social in a human way. And indeed, here lies the
fundamental difference between the minority that tries to be humane to all
or most human beings, and the great majority that tries to do be so only to the
fellow-members of their own groups, from lack of intelligence, lack of
character, or lack of courage: The vast majority of human beings will give
up their personal responsibility and personal accountability if these
contradict the social roles they are playing, which give them
social benefits, money, power or status.
The general principle here has been quite
adequately put into German words as "Unsere Ehre heisst Treue!"
i.e. "Our honor is loyalty", which happens to be motto of the German S.S.
On the basis of this "human-all-too-human" moral principle millions of
people have been murdered, locked up and persecuted, and this moral
principle, which in fact consists in the conscious surrendering of any
individually maintained moral norm is the fundament of much of the
ordinary social acting of ordinary human beings - as is well illustrated
by e.g. the many horrors of the 20th Century.
C: Personal and human incapacity and
Moreover: Whoever is able to withstand the
ordinary social illusions, delusions, deceptions, propaganda, madness and
fanaticism of political parties and religion and also does not succumb to
cowardly conformism, remains restricted by his own intellectual
limitations, lack of personal courage, lack of individualism and lack of
character - all of which are true to some extent for everyone, since noone
Apart from rare moral heroes, for the great majority Ovidius statement
holds: "video meliora proboque; deteriora sequor":
"I see the better and agree it is better; I do the worse" - because this
is more convenient, more pleasant, easier, more pleasurable, more
profitable or more conforming to current social prejudice.
The small minority of humane individuals who
do not automatically and loyally conform to the norms and behavior that is
common in their communities - that usually accords with "right or wrong -
my country!" - often is considered mad or bad, or else very stupid or very
intelligent, and in the last case also uncommonly courageous and quixotic.
In general terms, the following diagnosis of
humanity from 1618 is true:
Ach, waren alle mensen wijs
En deden daarbij wel
Dan was de aarde een paradijs
Nu is zij vaak een hel.
O, if only all men were wise
And also acted well
Then the earth would be a paradise
Now it often is a hell
Dirck Jansz Coster,
11. The two basic
between human beings
If what I have said in the
previous sections is mostly true, it seems that the two most important
moral differences between human beings are these:
A. Whether one is totalitarian
B. Whether one argues rationally and scientifically or not.
A. Whether one is
totalitarian or not: To quote Orwell once more, totalitarianism amounts to
the following (stress added):
"Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits but
according to who does them, and there is almost no outrage - torture,
the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonments
without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians, which
does not change its moral colour when it is committed by 'our' side."
(The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, vol 3,
p. 419, written in May 1945.)
It seems far fewer human beings are and have been
non-totalitarian than totalitarian, especially in times of crisis, war or
B. Whether one argues
rationally and scientifically or not: A person is rational if his arguments
are logical (or at least proceed on the basis of clearly stated principles of
inference) and a person is scientific if the evidence he appeals to in order
to support his own beliefs or to attack the beliefs of others conforms to
the criterions with which scientific evidence is appraised.
It seems far fewer human beings are rational and
argue scientifically than are non-rational or non-scientific.
It is not so easy to say whether these differences are moral or
about morals, for which reason I wrote "(meta-)moral",
but it is easy to see they are relevant to one's moral viewpoints. And there is
a general consideration, which is as follows, that seems to have the merit that
it is realistic and the demerit that it is somewhat simplifying.
Society and the good, the bad and the stupid:
One way of understanding society - any human society
anywhere, of sufficient size, say 10 or a 100 or more not specially selected
is that the good : the bad : the stupid = 1 : 9 : 90. Alternatively expressed but to
the same effect: the intelligent :
unintelligent = 1 : 9 and the unegoistic : egoistic = 1 : 9, and intelligence and egoism are independent.
Putting it all in a table with percentages (while remembering that
intelligence and moral courage are probably for the largest part determined by
Next, all members
of society have a public and a private face and role, and the
public face consists mostly of deception.
The public character people assume is usually
(1) composed of
lies that are derived from what they think is supposed to be desirable behaviour
of members of their society
(2) it is a role played by an actor for the rewards one's society provides for playing this role or for the
punishments one's society provides for not
playing the role and
(3) it consists of deception even if one's deceptions happen to be the
true: one knows one is playing a role.
Seen in the light of these important points - the distributions of
intelligence and egoism and the fact that all social acting consists of
role-playing in which deception is the norm - it is not so strange nearly all social
and political analyses are false, phoney and illusory, and also part of
role-playing and delusion or deception.
And - it seems - (3) is important: Those who make a
career are those who are known to be liars by those who already have made a
career. Somebody who is honest won't get far
in any society or group, even if - very privately - many will agree he is honest
The best expositions I know about the problems I am
treating here in a simplistic and generalizing manner are:
(1) Anti-totalitarian texts: Talmon: "The rise of totalitarian democracy"; Orwell:
"Animal Farm", "1984" and "Collected Essays and Letters";
"The totalitarian temptation".
(2) Texts on socialism: Conquest: "The Great Terror"; Hayek: "Road to
serfdom" Zinoviev: "Yawning Heights".
(3) Texts on social psychology: Goffman: "The presentation of self in
everyday life"; Milgram, and
12. On basic
freedoms and rights
It seems to me there are two
good documents that outline, on paper if not in real practice, a number of the
most important conditions of good government: The Universal Declaration of
Human Rights, and the Constitution of the United States.
I do not believe either
document is perfect, nor do I believe either document is fully practised, and I
also do not at all believe either the US or the UN are perfect or indeed work
Even so, the reason I call
these documents "good" is that it seems to me some of the most gifted and
benevolent men of the times have written or have contributed to them; that they
were based on much relevant knowledge and experience; that they have mostly
stood the test of time; that they can be mostly practised in fact; and that
almost everyone living under a system in which they are really practised and
upheld will be better of, in his or her own personal terms, than under a
quite different system.
So it seems to me - simply on
the basis of such historical and current evidence that is accessible to all -
that the chances for an arbitrary person to live as he or she pleases, within
the law, and to develop his or her talents, are very much greater under a system
such as outlined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights or the United States
Constitution than under most other known and practised systems - and it may make
sense that I speak of the ideals expressed in these declarations, rather
than of what so far has been made of these in practice, which is far less
than the originators of these ideas and ideals hoped for. Sections.
13. On civilization,
art and science
Human beings are a kind of
apes, and most human beings so far have behaved and reasoned mostly as if they
are totalitarian and ideological apes. Even so, what makes the animal that calls
itself "thinking" unique on earth are its capacities to talk with each other,
and to produce science and art, i.e. knowledge of reality that can be converted
to technology to satisfy human desires, and many things and ways to make a human
life more interesting or more pleasant.
Indeed, any human social system in which it is not possible to
freely discuss ideas; in which there is no rational effort to find new
knowledge; or in which there is no concern to make life pleasant, interesting
and worthwile may survive a long time, but will be stagnant, boring, backward
and very probably dictatorial and stupid.
Hence, one encompassing human ideal is that of science and
civilization: The invention of language and the discovery of the
scientific method gave the kind of ape human beings are naturally the
powers to rule and destroy the earth on which they live; and the lasting
products of the individual human efforts that are transmitted to future
generations are civilization, art and science.
14. On power,
democracy and bureaucracy
Every human being desires to
satisfy his or her desires, and therefore wants power and influence over others.
Now, as Lord Acton said, "All power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts
absolutely", which seems an evidentially very well-based generalization
about power in human hands. Since every human being does want power, the best
way to try to prevent power falling in the hands of a few at the cost of many is
to divide it, and to take care by legislation and institutionalized procedures
that - the leaders of - no single political or religious group can get more than
a relatively small part of power. And three good ways to try to assure this are
a written constitution that separates powers, the rule of law i.e. independent
courts with public trials, and democratic elections.
Even so, there is a fundamental
problem of power: How can a population make sure that it can defend
itself against a government that turns despotic or geths overthrown in a war and
is followed by a tyrrany - as history shows may easily happen and did often
There is at this place not much
to be said about and certainly not against the separation of powers or
the rule of law, but the evidence of the last hundred years or so, that
saw the democratic election of what became dictators (Mussolini and Hitler) and
the democratic election of many incompetents, populists, liars and careerists in
parliaments and governments "by the choice of the people", show that
mass-(media)-democracy does not precisely guarantee good government or capable
governors, and that it may give future dictators, racists, or psychopaths a
democratic sanction and a parliamentary seat or even majority "in the name of
the people". That is the problem of mass-media-democracy: By
manipulation, money, advertisement, populism and propaganda the worst liars may
appeal most to the average of the electorate, and the average adult population,
even in Western democracies, is hardly qualified to rationally judge political
plans and proposals, and normally lacks both the inclination and the relevant
Next, all government including
- supposedly - democratic government is based on a bureaucracy: Persons
who make a life-long career from loyally serving governments and governors.
Indeed, without a loyal bureaucracy, there is no government, whether democratic
or dictatorial, since bureaucrats are to the government what the soldiers are to
the military leadership. Now, the basic problems of bureaucracy are - once more
- that "All power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely"; that those
who feel moved to become bureaucrats are nearly always the morally and
intellectually least capable for that level of payment, since the morally and
intellectually gifted will find it easy to find better payment or far more
interesting and rewarding work; and that life-long bureaucrats can gather
extra-ordinary amounts of power and influence, that tend to be secret and
uncontrolled, and that cannot be curbed by a parliament or by the electorate.
What can be done about the
problems of mass-media-democracy and bureaucracy and power? Selfstyled
democrats and the vast majority of bureaucrats will tell you that I exaggerate
the problems, and that the "democratic" way of going forward are more of the
same: More "democratic" votes and voting by the millions whose knowledge and
civilization derive mostly from TV, and more "democratic" government by a vast
caste of life-long bureaucrats "in the name of the people", and certainly paid
from the taxes; and more populations effectively subjected in principle and in
fact to the proportionally few state servants from the military and the police
entitled to bear arms, and willing to follow orders from whoever is in command.
Instead, I have three radical
ideas, that I fear will not be realized in my life, and that I recommend not
because I hope to get better from them, but because I think they make much
A. Democracy of education:
Everybody in society gets an equal chance, i.e. easily available grants for
personal education, free books, and necessary
help, to finish a university - and only those who finished a university (or
equivalent) get a right to vote or be voted. This is a fair system, since in it
everybody has the same rights on a good education (and those rights
should be much better than they are now in practice in Europe or the U.S.), and
it is a rational system, since only those minimally qualified to judge
rationally get a chance to judge on policies that effect the chances of all -
and everyone who believes himself qualified to vote or be voted can show he
qualifies for this by getting a degree.
B. Government by the people: Instead of a bureaucracy and instead of
military service, every adult citizen in society should spend two or three years
of his or her life as a civil servant, in the type of job and with the sort of
payment one receives in ordinary life, organized on the lines of a governmental
Manpower office, also manned by such civil servants, that takes care that the
tasks now done by state bureaucracy will be done by properly and honestly by
ordinary civilians doinbg their civil service.
This is a system of real
democratic government, that avoids all or most of the dangers of bureaucracy
(careerism, corruption, loyalty to - aspiring - dictators, parasitism,
incompetence, manipulation, lack of control by the population), and effectively does give the
power to the people, for it in effect delivers the everyday practical
government in the hands of the people, for the few years that they do social
service as civil servant. Besides, it makes every adult participate in actual
government during some period of his or her life, and it gives every citizen a
chance to be a civil servant, and to replace the bureaucratic caste of state
servants that currently have most of the everyday power in so-called
"democratic" states, and which is a type of man that can and should be wholly
done away with. Real power to the people - by civil service.
C. Right to bear arms: Every adult citizen who is not
mentally incapacitated or otherwise disqualified, e.g. by criminal convictions,
has the right to bear arms. A government of and by the people is a
government that may be realistically defended and realistically
removed if necesssary by the people, and gives everybody in principle
and in practice the chance to defend themselves, if this is necessary and there
is no ordinary legal protection. A government that is supposed to be elected by
the people, should trust its people, on average, and mostly, enough to bear
arms. A government that does not trust the majority of its population with the
arms to remove any specific bad government is to bad to govern and should be
removed. Moreover, if for some reason a government would turn despotic, the only
chance its population will have to defend themselves and regain competent,
honest non-despotic democratic government, is by such arms as they have, and by
their large numbers. The argument that there will be more murders and shootings
in a population that may bear arms than in one which one may not bear arms seems
mostly true (though Switzerland is an exception to this thesis), but then this
seems to me on balance the lesser evil: The rise of a Hitler in an armed fairly
intelligent and well-educated population is much more difficult than in a
nominal "democracy" where citizens cannot and legaly may not defend themselves
against eventual governors and police that turns tyrannical or incompetent and
that refuses to remove itself peacefully. (Note 9)
So, what's all this in aid off?
Negatively, taken together, these three radical measures - or
two, outside such countries as the U.S. and Switzerland - are aimed to prevent bad
government; bad governors; bad, incompetent or corrupt civil servants (a type of
entity I want to see - almost, say apart from professional ambassadors and a few
similar jobs for highly qualified highly trained persons - wholly non-existent); the "democratic" choice of incompetents, careerists,
or aspiring dictators by a majority of the misled (it is probably quite true
that "not everyone can be fooled all of the time", but surely it is also true
that vast "democratic" majorities have been effectively fooled and misled all
of the time in very many cases: Enlightened minorities are almost useless if
unenlightened majorities may decide who is to govern them, and what policies are
rational and fair); despotic government, police or military powers; and they aim to further a government of the people, by the
people and for the people, on the basis of policies elected by those best
qualified to judge, but maintained by all in the few years in one's life
each does social service as civil servant - which incidentally should also
contribute to the personal education and social understanding of all.
Positively, taken together, the sort of society I want:
A society governed by its total adult population through some years of civil
service, that replaces nearly all of present state bureaucracies, with its
ruling élite and policies selected by and from the highly educated of the
society, and such that everyone is given the same chance on the best
education, which is made available to all who are capable of it.
A society dedicated to the furthering of science and technology, first
and foremost furthered by education, schools and universities,
in the interest of all, where everyone has the right to be fed, educated,
housed, clothed and provided with work that fits his capacities and
inclinations, and where all have the freedoms of speech, discussion,
publication, movement, opinion, argumentation, production and selling, all only
bound by and regulated by public laws, maintained by independent public courts,
with public judgments.
A society where everyone is in principle expected to interact by peaceful
cooperation, free discussion, with resort to independent third parties to
resolve conflicts, and by mutual agreement, contracts or promises that are
expected to stand if freely agreed to.
A society whose citizens are expected to be intelligent, informed, educated,
witty, rational, reasonable, cooperative, fair, honest, and where everyone has a
fair chance of a bearable life, the development of any personal talents, and is
fairly rewarded according to real merit. Sections.
11. Supplementary Remarks
Note 1: But it is an interesting question
whether this generalization about democratic states is true for the
presently most powerful such state, the USA, since it is not clear to me
how the US camp for prisoners of war made in Afghanistan on Guantanomo,
Cuba, differs from a concentration camp, nor is it clear to me how the
treatment of prisoners in Iraq by US soldiers (and hired civilians)
differs from torture. And though I agree that what happened in Nazi
concentration camps was very probably much worse and certainly involved
many more prisoners than what happens on Guantanomo, and while I also
agree that the techniques of "interrogation" practised by Saddam Hussein's "specialists for interrogation" very probably were much more
cruel than what was done in Al-Ghraib prison by US specialists, it
seems a recent American innovation to fight terrorism and torture by
terrorism and torture. One can understand why (it provides information
and satisfies some of Our Boys and Girls, and also it happened often
before, in similar circumstances, especially under dictatorial regimes),
but even so it doesn't seem a good idea. (And if you disagree: It
certainly is difficult to popularize, at least outside the USA.)
Note 2: I am using here some logical
notation (I developed and used elsewhere) that I will not explain here
though I will give easily understood readings of the symbolism I use.
The same remark holds for some other definitions I provide. Back.
Note 3: One may tend to believe that
formulating the axiom of power as I did -
Everyone desires power in every respect over every person
rather than as e.g.
Everyone desires power in some respect over some person -
is to be not very realistic about power. I have three reasons
for my formulation, apart from its logical ease and generality: First,
it makes it obvious that in a world where everyone is out for as much
power as he can get over others, compromises are quite necessary.
Second, I am not an optimist about most people, and everyone tries to
satisfy his or her desires, for which one needs at least some power,
while the more power one has the better one can satisfy one's desires.
And third, there is this argument: Suppose that you to are
reasonable and rational. Then it would be
good if you were as powerful as you can be, since most who have power
are not, and truly rational and reasonable persons will not abuse their
power. And suppose you are not reasonable or rational. Then it would be
strange if you would not want all the power you can get, for the more
power one has the better one is able to satisfy one's desires, and that
is what everyone wants to do as much as one can. Back.
Note 4: Note there is "in modern democratic
societies" a widely shared pretension that one believes that "all men
are equal", that tends to unpack in practice as a lie to make one
popular or hide one's real intent. In spite of the millions of times
people have falsely claimed so, no sane human being believes that "all
men are equal", from Einstein to Eichmann, from sadistic pedophiles to
one's own children, and from others quite unlike oneself to someone
possessing all one's own
excellencies. What all these people who have repeated this have confused are
the very desirable ideal that all men are equal before the law, with the
false factual idea that all men are equal. They are not,
for then there would be no more than one man. Back.
Note 5: The idea that a moral code is to
hold for all human beings
and all societies may seem like a logical weakness but also seems a moral feature in the sense that it is based on the notion that all human beings
share a common human nature. This in turn is connected with the moral
teaching that can be found with Buddha, Confucius and Jezus, and that
may be expressed as "Do not do unto others as you do not want be done
unto" or "Do unto others as you want to be done to". A more
realistic and conforming version of either is the pragmatic rule of Lord
Chesterfield; "If you want to be pleased, please!".
Note 6: It should be noted here that it
doesn't matter in practice to the victims of the morals of others
whether these others are hypocritical conformers who mereley do as they are told
or are sincere believers - or whether they themselves don't know the precise
proportion between make-belief, acting as if, and sincere conviction. It may be that both
World Wars have been mostly fought
(after the beginning) by soldiers who didn't really believe most or all
propaganda they received, and who most liked to survive themselves. Even
so, many millions were killed on all sides. Back.
Note 7: As the reader may have noticed, I am
not an optimist about average human beings, though I believe the main
reasons for their moral indifference or badness are innate lack of
intelligence and courage. Also, I have calculated - impressionistically,
but on the basis of good evidence - that in the 20th Century
at least 600 million human beings have been
murdered or starved by their fellow human beings. Even so, there is some
reason for a little optimism: In very general terms, it seems as if most
human beings - whenever, wherever, in the last 25 centuries - have not
murdered other human beings; and in slightly less general terms,
although hundreds of millions of human beings were needlessly murdered
in the 20th Century, two cruel totalitarian dictatorships, namely
communism and fascism, that ruled over many millions and a large part of
the globe, were defeated. Also, in spite of the many millions that
starved in the 20th Century, there were about 1 billion human beings in
1900 and about 6 billion human beings around 2000, though this says more
about human science and technology than about human kindness. (And it
plausibly follows that if there are no radical changes in average human
rationality and reason, the 21st Century at its end may see several
billions of human beings needlessly murdered or starved, which may
be a pessimistic expectation, but one that is well based on statistical
evidence, human nature in the average, the persistence of existing
tendencies and practices, the usual abilities and inclinations of
political and religious leaders, and the scarcity of resources.)
Note 8: I do not claim these proportions are
based directly on empirical research, nor that they are precise. I do
claim there is good evidence for the sort of proportions I give. Thus,
at most 1 in 10,000 persons is remembered after his or her death outside
the person's circle of family and friends; at most 1 in 100 is capable
of taking a degree in a difficult scientific subject like physics,
mathematics or Chinese (if one is European), and at most 1 in 100 of
those who take a degree succeed in doing something important enough to
be remembered; and many of the atrocities in World War II (at least)
where committed by quite average persons. Finally, I also claim
that absolutely no person is responsible for his or her birth and
absolutely no person is responsible for his or her innate qualities and
shortcomings (though in my view everyone is responsible for what one
does with what one has). Back.
Note 9: It seems to me my reasons are good
anyway, but my personal reason to come to this position is that I have,
in Amsterdam, Holland, been terrorized for over three years by dealers
in hard drugs, who had a so called "coffeeshop" on the ground floor of
house where I rented my apartment, who had protection and permission to
do so from Mayor and Alderman of Amsterdam; who dealt in hard drugs; who
were protected by the municipal police and in league with my also
criminal landlord; who threatened me as follows, literally: "If
you do anything we don't like, we will murder you", and who misbehaved
and broke the law as they pleased, without sanction; and about whom and
which the drugscorrupted Amsterdam municipal police maintained to me
"We, the Amsterdam municipal police, will do nothing for you,
whatever you say. If you don't like it in Amsterdam, you can fuck off to
a foreign country." This I could not do, as they very well knew, because
I was and am an invalid. For more about these events, mostly in Dutch,
but with some English summaries see "M.E.
in Amsterdam". Indeed, my three radical proposals are related to my
experiences in Amsterdam, Holland, supposedly a democracy, but factually
drugscorrupted and with a stupefied population, demoralized and dumbed
down through 30 successive years of mediocre to very bad
post-modernistic "education", and much TV, soccer, beer-drinking and
partying with party-drugs, but hardly any interest in science,
civilization or art. Back.