A couple of months ago I heard a relatively well-known YouTuber who discusses philosophy from time to time make the claim that “universal ethics don’t exist”. He said this in a video in which he was arguing for the legitimacy and efficacy of something he calls, rather oxymoronically, ironically, and paradoxically, “Universally Preferable Behavior”.
What he means by “universal ethics don’t exist” is that ethics are purely a function of human consciousness, and, by infrerences one can make about his beliefs based upon past assertions, and even open admission, he presumes that consciousness is an epiphenomenon, and this implies that it is fundamentally irrelevant to Reality qua Reality. In other words, the only rational and possible frame of reference for ethics, both explicitly and implicitly—the individual, the conscious Self, the Thinking Human Being—is completely subjective with respect to Reality and thus Existence (the two are corollary). And if the reference for ethics is completely subjective, and this fundametally so, then ethical behavior is completely subjective. Which means that Universally Preferable Behavior, being a form of ethical expression—ethics, which are again utterly subjective, because they don’t actually exist, (that is, not universally, and by this he means means objectively)—can only ever be subjectively universally preferable. Which is of course a contradiction in terms.
This person’s root problem, as is the case with…well, everyone who makes an irrational assertion about, well, anything, is the metaphysics.
Boy, those metaphysics are certainly quite wily it seems….they are the rocks upon which everyone’s philosophical ship ignominiously crashes in the end. From Aristotle to Augustine, Kant to Jordan Peterson…you’ll find their flotsam washing up on shore from time to time leaving graceless little trails of “not quite” upon the sand.
Whenever it is asserted that ethics do not actually exist, it is meant that they are nothing but a figment of man’s imagination, and this a product of man’s consciousness, which is itself considered merely a figment…anathema to Existence. Consciousness, being the source of the utterly conceptual, is itself completely abstract, perfectly ethereal…so it is assumed and asserted. It, like the concepts it inexorably and necessarily spawns, is entirely intangible, and Existence, as the metaphysical primary, demands that only the tangible, the empirical, the physical, the ontic actually are, in any fundamentally objective (which means “meaningful; relevant”) sense. Ethics are not real—they do not exist—because they are exclusive of the senses, and Existence has no frame of reference as a metaphyscial primary for what happens after those concrete things which can be sensed have been sensed. In other words, the application of what is “real”, as Existence defines it, by a conscious frame of reference is irrelevant to Existence. Never mind the unavoidable fact that consciousness is the only means by which meaning can be generated…that Reality can be interpreted and applied. Existence as the metaphysical primary thus makes its own epistemology and ethics merely folderol…utterly subjective, and utterly inconsequential to the very metaphysical primary from which they are derived. Astounding. If sensing is entirely immaterial and fundamentally irrelevant to Existence—to that which actually exists—because it is inexorably bound to the conscious observer by which it gets the whole of its meaning and purpose, then sensing, itself, is incompatible with Existence…sensing does not actually exist. And thus, how can it be claimed that anything actually exists, since no one can actually see (or otherwise sense) Reality and the things in it, because their senses, being linked inexorably to their consciousness in order that what is sensed can be defined and thus said to actually exist (as this or that), are utterly subjective and fundamentally irrelevant to the metaphysics of Existence? And if it is impossible to sense that which exists, how can Existence itself be claimed to exist? And thus how can it be the metaphysical primary?
At any rate, I digress. Suffice to say that what this YouTube personality is essentially saying is that ethics are are a function of consciousness and thus not observable and thus do not actually exist according to his metaphysics (Existence) and thus cannot be universal. Of course, this being the case, all he really does in the end is make an implicit argument for the utter rejection of any ethical propositions he might make, and from that the utter rejection of the sum and substance of his philosophy on the whole.
END part 1