On "The Logic of Moral Discourse"

Maarten Maartensz

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 this chapter:


1. Summary of points in the review
2. On some points not raised by Mr. Edwards
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, conformism etc.
9. On the real capacities of real people
10. What are good and bad in clear English and not too many words?
11. The two basic (meta-)moral differences 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.
- Rummel's Statistics: Some of Mr. Rummel's statistics that concern moral judgments.
- 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.

Chapter 1

- Three basic questions about morals: The three questions Mr. Edwards seeks to answer.
- Three 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 judgment.
- Totalitarianism:  The importance of totalitarianism for moral judgment.
- Post-modernism and relativism:  On the reasons for post-modernism and relativism.
- Three kinds of statements:  Fundamental distinctions of sorts of statements.
- 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".
- Non-natural 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.
- Public, private and Politically Correct Definitions: On kinds of definitions of terms.
- Using and mentioning terms: Difference between using and mentioning terms.
- Metaethics: Explanation of metaethics.
- Types of metaethical theories: Four basic kinds of metaethics.

Chapter 2

- Naive 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
- Understanding 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 judgments.

Chapter 3

- Something relativism misses: What many relativists don't see.
- The absolutism of relativists: On when relativists turn into absolutists.
- 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 opposed.
- On the freedom of the will:  On the conditions in which there may be free will.
- On metamoral questions:  The supposed difficulty of metamorals.

Chapter 4

- 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.
- Catholic 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.

Chapter 5

- Summary of Conclusions about making "nice-judgements": Judging that something is nice.
- On "De Gustibus" and on supposedly simple moral qualities: Two fallacies.
- 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.

Chapter 6

- 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).

Chapter 7

- 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. 

Chapter 8

- 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 factual connections.
- 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 ends.
- Fundamental and non-fundamental moral judgments: Two kinds of moral judgment?
- 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 morals.
- A possible reason for Mr. Edwards' confusion: Intuitionism and Naturalism confused?
- Evidence-based moral judgments about national socialism: Relevant moral evidence.
- 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: Moral presumptions.
- 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.

Chapter 9

- 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 propagandistic.
- Moral blindness, posturing and moral insanity: Various shortcomings.
- Moral fanaticism and human history: Human history as made and wrecked by fanatics.
- Making ought-statements depend on facts: How to deduce "ought" from "is".  
- Moral emotions as intellectual emotions: A precisification of moral emotions.

Chapter 10

- 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: Sum-up
- 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 if the 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 compromises.

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 people of which they are member.

E. Power and influence: When discussing moral problems and acts rationally, one must discuss power, 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 personal characters.

Incidentally: Most 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.

3. 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.

There was Rummel's evidence, about the number of civilians killed by their governments in the 20th Century, which sums to onehundredtwentyfour million sevenhundred thousand human beings.

There was Muller's question, after he survived Auschwitz:

"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?"

There were 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 do.

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 highly developed.

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 highest good.
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 belong.

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 naturalistic 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 wishful 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. 47).

He explained the difference between naturalistic and 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 naturalism.
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 judgment;
(2) Attitudes or emotions on the part of the person to whom the judgment is addressed;
(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 further
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 discussion.

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 2):

the characteristics F such that a desires that all b in society $ have F. a's ends =def |F: aD(be$)Fb

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 group:

(1) How capable, informed, honest and rational is person a?
(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:

a tries to do q iff b tries to do r and aCq IFF bCr         &
a 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:

a 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 aCbBFa             &
~aBFa              &
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

a has power over b in respect of q iff b tries to do q iff a desires that b tries to do q power(a,b,q) =def bCq IFF aDbCq
Everyone desires power in every respect over every person (a)(b)(q)(aD(power(a,b,q)))

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, including himself.

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 (Note 3); 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.

6. On Natural Philosophy

In this 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 my review of Leibniz's "Nouveaux Essays".

Philosophy, so the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles tells us is

1. (In the original and widest sense.) The love, study, or pursuit of wisdom, or of knowledge of things and their causes, whether theoretical or practical.
2. That 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.
3. (= natural p.) The knowledge or study of natural objects and phenomena; now usu. called 'science'.
4. (= moral p.) The knowledge or study of the principles of human action or conduct; ethics.
5. (= 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.)
6. Occas. used esp. of knowledge obtained by natural reason, in contrast with revealed knowledge.
7. With of: The stude of the general principles of some particular branch of knowledge, experience or activity; also, less properly, of any subject or phenomenon.
8. A philosophical system or theory.
9. a. 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 answer to.

The fundamental problem of presuppositions

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).

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 Natural Language.

Natural Language

Hence we start with presuming 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.)

For the 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.

This is 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.

Natural 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.

Natural Logic

In any Natural Language there are the elements of what may be called its Natural Logic:

  • a collection of terms and rules that come with Natural Language that allows us to reason and argue in it.

Examples of 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").

We presuppose 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.

Again, it 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.

Three very 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:

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

These I 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.

Four other assumptions about argumentation that should be mentioned here are:

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 arguments
3. Rational 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 the case.

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.

The third 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.

The fourth 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.

Next, it 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.

Natural Realism

A minimal metaphysics that most human beings share may be called Natural Realism and stated in terms of the following fundamental assumptions:

  • There is one reality that exists apart from what human beings think and feel about it.

  • This reality is made up of kinds of things which have properties and stand in relations.

  • Human beings form part of that reality and have experiences about it that originate in it.

  • All living human beings have beliefs and desires about many real and unreal entities, that are about what they think is the case in reality and should be the case in reality.

  • All living human beings have very similar or identical feelings, sensations and beliefs and desires in many ordinary similar or identical circumstances.

What this might mean precisely, especially what may be meant by the bold terms, is not something I will discuss here.

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 human nature.

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.

Natural Philosophy and the making of mental models

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.

The bias I admit to concerns especially two points, one ethical or moral and one scientific or cognitive.

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.

My assumptions have been chosen, among other reasons, to support this claim about how disagreements between people should be solved.

Someone who 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.

My 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 principles?

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, Hindu, 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 desires.

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 summarizing terms:

(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 metaphysics 
(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 6) Sections.

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 conformism, hypocrisy, 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 reasonably?

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 ideas is:

  • 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 their members.

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.

10. 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").

10.1. Good:

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 suffering.

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 their friends.

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 good.

10.2. Bad:

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 facts.

Briefly, human beings are social social animals that try to cause misery and prevent happiness for their enemies.

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 anothers' misery.

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 are involved.

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 illusions.

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.)

10.3. 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 group-interest):

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

- irrationality
- ignorance
- false beliefs

- impracticable values
- impracticable plans

Of 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 great pride.

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 mutual similarity.

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).

In 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:

To 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 own interests.

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.

10.4. Fundamental 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 reasons

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 others

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. Mandeville's, 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. (Note 7)

C: Personal and human incapacity and weakness

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 is perfect.

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
also acted well
Then the earth would be a paradise
Now it often is a hell

Dirck Jansz Coster, 1618


11. The two basic (meta-)moral differences 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 or not.
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 conflict.

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 persons - 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. (Note 8)

Putting it all in a table with percentages (while remembering that intelligence and moral courage are probably for the largest part determined by innate factors):

intelligent good 1
intelligent not good 9
not intelligent good 9
not intelligent not good 81
all   100

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 and truthful.

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"; Revèl: "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 Kohlberg. 

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 well.

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 happen?

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 requisite knowledge.

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 sense:

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.

Maarten Maartensz
May-July 2004

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.) Back.

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!". Back.

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 of the 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.)  Back.

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.  


This review was written between May 11 and May 26 2004.
Corrections up to Aug 2, 2004.
Copyright: maartens@xs4all.nl