For something to be true, it must have value. Hence, for reality to be real—as reality and truth are in the existential and ontological sense equivalent—it must have value. And by value we mean a degree of moral worth…the degree to which it affirms the reference for reality. That is, reality is only relevant if it has relevance TO that which can give it meaning or purpose…that is, the Observer—the individual, like you and me. Reality and morality are corollary. This is because reality, for it to be defined meaningfully (relevantly and efficaciously) as such, requires a conscious (self-aware) Observer—one who conceptualizes, and integrates concepts to create ideas. But determinism—any flavor of determinism (e.g. scientific platonism; Christian platonism—which is basically the whole of protestant and catholic orthodoxy) rejects this. It asserts reality, truth, meaning without value. This is completely irrational. It is a total lie.
Morality and ethics are not equivalent. Morality is, in fact, simply a TYPE of ethics. Therefore it can be logically asserted that not all ethics are moral.
The other day I was watching a debate between Walter Block and Stefan Molyneux, both atheists and libertarians, on the Non-Aggression Principle, a specious code of libertarian ethics that includes both morality and legality. Which…should tell you right there that libertarians either A. Haven’t thought their premises through, or B. They HAVE thought them through and simply don’t see the contradictions. I’m not sure which is worse.
You can’t do that. You either have moral ethics or you have legal eithics. You can’t have both. You cannot ethically obligate man to BOTH obedience AND choice. Man cannot be free to choose how he shall act AND be forced to obey a legal code under pain of punishment. And this is just one of several disturbing rational contradictions evident in libertarianism. It may not be the most egregious, but it’s certainly rank.
During the course of the debate, the topic of morality came up, naturally, and Walter said something that was quite startling to me, and quite interesting as well. He said he “didn’t understand this morality thing”…or something to that effect…if not those words exactly then it was pretty darn close. And it got me asking myself. Does Walter not “get morality” because he’s a libertarian, or because he’s an atheist? Or both?
Well, I figured it couldn’t be libertarianism because libertarianism asserts the existence of moral behavior. So that left me with atheism…as a hypothesis, I mean. I understand there could be other reasons, like ignorance or personal experience or a different definition of what constitutes libertarianism, but going on what I can truly know for a fact about the man—that he’s an admitted atheist, and having some understanding of what that means in the formal sense—I decided to examine atheism. I had some free time on my hands…my daughter was in a two hour dance class, so I slouched down on the stiff leather couch in the waiting room and had a think.
And it hit me. The Christians are right. Atheists cannot define morality. Atheism, in fact, utterly precludes morality. Now don’t get me wrong, Christianity (as practiced by Christians in the Augustinian sense, which is pretty much all of it) precludes morality, too, and for the same fundamental reasons, just with different semantics. But of course in this article we are discussing atheism.
Without going into the minutia of metaphysical premises (reality from fantasy) leading to epistemological conclusions (truth from lie) leading to ethical principles (right from wrong), I will, to keep things relatively short and accessible here, simply define the terms this way: Morality is an Ethic which is referenced to the individual; Legality is an ethic which is referenced to the Law. At the root level of Ethical principles these two are completely incompatible, for the reasons I gave above. Man cannot be ethically obligated to both choice and obedience. Moral action demands man choose his behavior for himself. Legal action demands he obey an authority which dictates behavior. In other words, morality is chosen good and legality is dictated good.
Morality demands thus that man must own himself, based on the premise that the individual—the Self qua Self (the singularity of “I”)—is the epistemological reference. Reality is true because the individual is the Constant—that is, the reference for truth—which in turn makes the individual also the reference for ethics, as epistemology and ethics are corollary (truth has meaning and meaning has value; meaning is epistemology and value—the extent to which a thing is considered good—is ethics).
Legality on the other hand demands that an authority—the most obvious example being the state—must own the individual, based on the premise that there is no such thing as the Self qua Self, but that the individual is a function or product of some external-to-the-Self process or power, which makes epistemology and ethics entirely beyond the individual’s INDIVIDUAL (singular and conscious) frame of reference. These processes or powers can be anything from the Laws of Nature or Physics to God’s Divine Will ex nihilo to some form of collectivist Ideal—the Nation, the Race, the People, the Workers, the Church, the Chosen, the Enlightened, etc.. Man thus, as an individual and the singular consciousness which he possesses (manifest through the natural use of the pronoun “I”), is an illusion, and all his thoughts and his will are therefore irrelevant and, more importantly, inadequate to EXISTENCE. This being the case, he must be compelled into ethical behavior by force. And so with legal ethics, man’s obligation is obedience to the law, the law being whatever principle(s) the authority has decided to codify so that the metaphysical premise (natural law, collectivist Ideal, etc.) can be practically (socially) implemented. The law then is dictated in order that man can know those behaviors which he must perform, upon threat of punishment, in order to properly exist. As a side note, notice the inherent irony here. Man is given a law so that he can know how to behave. But if he needs a law to know how to behave then obviously “knowing” is an activity for which he is entirely insufficient. The whole point of the law is to circumvent what I call the collectivist or determinist “Lie of Man”…that is, his irrational and illusory consciousness. Thus, appeals to his “knowing how to act” are entirely hypocritical. And you get this from Christians all the time, too, it’s not just a statist thing. Man needs God to tell him what to do. But if God needs to tell man what to do then it’s implied that man cannot fundamentally know what to do on his own, which really means that he cannot know truth for himself. In which case, he cannot really know ANYTHING, so God telling him what to do is hypocritical, irrational, and pointless. Not exactly the characteristics of God I would pick, but that’s just me.
With moral ethics, man’s ethical obligation is to the individual. Thus, he himself, being an individual, is the ethical reference, and so he cannot obey a law OUTSIDE of himself, but instead CHOOSES to act in ethical ways within the context of his individual, not collective, existence. That is, ways which do not violate the individual (and we will save the specific explication of what those ways are for another article). In short, moral ethics demand choice and preclude obedience; legal ethics demand obedience and preclude choice.
And, by the by, obedience is NOT a choice, or a form thereof. You cannot choose to obey; because if you are choosing, then obedience is a moot concept; and vice verse.
I submit that atheism cannot be moral because it cannot recognize the existence of the individual qua the individual. Atheism MUST appeal to empiricism as a means of defining reality. For an atheist to assert that reality is rooted in anything other than the tangible, the observable, and the material is to assert that reality must be INTERPRETED, which means to appeal to a power or truth—that which provides and defines the interpretive lens—beyond what can be known by human observation. And as soon as we concede that reality is interpreted, not de facto as it presents itself ostensibly, then we must concede the reality of such an underlying power or truth. We could even claim it “transcendent”. Such a power/truth can indeed RATIONALLY be called “God”, whether it be God in the Christian sense—that is, in the sense of a deterministic, omnipotent, creative and causal agent—or simply as a general reference to that which utterly informs reality beyond mere perception. In either case, “God” is a perfectly acceptable nomenclature for such a thing, despite the fact that most atheists, being on the whole average thinkers like most people, usually only think of “God” in the narrow religious orthodox sense.
Now, here is where I will need to get a bit technical, because Athiests are very specific—pedantic even—about their definitions, so bear with me.
It is impossible that one concede the existence of an aforementioned power or truth whilst simultaneously claiming a lack of a belief in God. Now, the reason I put it this way—a LACK of belief—and not merely a disbelief, has to do with how atheists, themselves, specify their position. Atheists do not disbelieve, as they explain it, but they LACK belief. It may seem a merely semantic difference, but it’s actually quite profound. To disbelieve is to say that God does not exist. To lack belief is to say that God CANNOT exist.
“Does not” implies that whatever you’re referring to possesses some kind of underlying ability to act, making “ability” a possible root metaphyscial premise. But “cannot” takes ability out of the metaphysical equation. You see, if a thing doesn’t do existence, the subtle implication is that it DOES do other things. This naturally legitimizes the thing by tacitly conceding its inherent it power to act. Which in turn tacitly subordinates existence to the power to act, rendering the claim that it does not exist of no fundamental significance. But if a thing CANNOT exist, then there is no tacit concession that it does something else because “doing”, or “ability to do” never factors into the claim. In other words, “does not” metaphysically subordinates existence to ability, whereas “cannot” makes ability existentially moot, and thus ipso facto makes existence the metaphysical premise, which is important since the whole point of atheism is to propagate the idea that God’s existence is a lie. If “existence” isn’t the plumbline for reality and truth, then atheism itself is basically irrelevant. Again, it’s technical, but VERY, VERY important, and allows us to make some extremely important assumptions about atheism, particularly with respect to morality.
When atheists claim that God CANNOT exist they are tacitly admitting that they define reality as entirely empirical. How on earth can they KNOW that God cannot exist? How on earth can they demand that only the theist is on the hook for giving proof for his assertions? Simple. Because the atheist accepts only an empirical framework for reality. They make a metaphysical assertion and then demand that everyone accept it or they reject your ideas out of hand. This is an example of incredible intellectual dishonesty and hubris, not to mention hypocrisy, but it explains why their platform is first and foremost established upon a negative—what they DON’T believe, or beliefs they lack, instead of what they do or have. And why they focus on being disproved instead of proving themselves. It’s easy to claim a metaphysical primary and demand everyone agree to it. It’s much more difficult to prove your metaphysic and make THAT, not merely what doesn’t fit into it, the root of your movement.
Atheism by its very nature must assume that reality is empirical.
Now, merely proclaiming empirical reality doesn’t ACTUALLY EXPLAIN anything with respect to reality. Saying reality is empirical is a metaphyscial premise; the reasoning behind it is what matters, though. And this is why I have told atheists a thousand times that I don’t care about what the don’t believe, or what beliefs they lack, but what they DO…and by that I mean I want to know specifically WHY they believe that I should accept THEIR metaphysic. “Observation is truth” is not, itself, an argument. At all.
“Seeing is believing” begs the question: Seeing what? Of course, atheists cannot ultimately rely on concepts generated by mere human consciousness to define things, as consciousness not only says a tree is a tree but also spawns fantastical and irrational notions like “God”. Consciousness is much too subjective, in other words, to provide an objective definition of what IS. Thus, atheists instead appeal what they accept as empirical systems of measurement, such as the scientific method, which allows the observable to be organized mathematically in order to give specific things common values…values which then can be transferred from one object to another, and from one place and time to another, with predictable results.
But find it a remarkable oversight of reason and common sense to presume, as atheists do, that A. Mathematics, though an utterly cognitive process, is somehow outside of human consciousness, and B. That mathematics is somehow a part of observable reality, when it exists precisely to translate the observable into ABSTRACT terms. And that’s translate, not transliterate. But I’m not sure they understand the difference.
It is so strange to me that atheists do not understand the scientific method and mathematics are a product of human consciousness. And to compound the flaw, this allows scientists to commit blatant fallacy by making the observer a product of what he observes. Somehow mathematics gets exempt from human consciousness and exists “outside” of man, even though it, like “God”, is, in such a context, infinite, omnipotent, and thus, utterly beyond the scope of human perception.
But what’s a little hypocrisy going to hurt, right? After all, 99% objective truth to a paltry 1% contradiction is a ratio that any reasonable person can live with. We can’t be expected to know everything? I mean, in our own narrow dimension and with a whole multiverse thing going on out there the complete truth is bound to be to some degree a perpetual mystery, right?
Hmmm. Now where have I heard that before?
Oh yeah. In church.
Anyway, the point I’m making is that empiricism naturally leads to science and mathematics as atheism’s de facto apologetics given that these are understood to be the plumbline for what constitutes objective reality. And thus the assumption is that at root reality can ONLY be valued by mathematical measurement. Math, the “language of the universe”, becomes for the atheist, the ghost in the machine…what gives all things their true essence. And yet somehow, in this case, it’s perfectly rational and empirical to believe in spirits. Through the “Holy Ghost” of mathematics man can somehow know and define himself OUTSIDE of himself, which proves that there is no actual “outside” of himself at all, because “himself” is just a fluke. An illusion. All things that ARE exist empirically and objectively. And “empirical” and “objective” do NOT include you qua you.
It’s an amazing display of rational gymnastics. Believe me, it’s not a trite, cute little argument to say that it takes as much faith to be an atheist as it does to believe in God. It’s an axiom.
Because atheism = science = mathematics = scientific determinism, there can be no morality compatible with atheism because atheism precludes choice. It makes consciousness a product of natural law, which renders the individual’s will moot. Thus, ethics cannot imply moral responsibility because determinism is about what you MUST do, not what you SHOULD do. And what you MUST do is an obligation, and obligation is not choice, but OBEDIENCE. He who is obligated to act in a certain way—because he is not a willful but a DETERMINED creature—cannot then be called “good” for acting that way. From the atheist’s point of view, you don’t choose to act, you simply act. And the way in which you act you MUST act. You are FORCED to act by powers beyond the illusion of your Self. And this being the case, whatever you do, then, is ethical by definition. It’s not moral…that is, it cannot be given a value of good or bad, or right or wrong. But it is behavior that affirms the metaphyscial premise, and thus it IS ethical. It is what is necessary; what is SUPPOSED to be.
The “natural law” of atheism thus necessarily strips morality from ethics. And in the absence of morality, the only practical application of ethics is legality. And this is why ethics debates amongst atheists like Stefan Molyneux and Walter Block are always centered either explicitly or implicitly around CODES of conduct…that is, ethical principles that are COLLECTIVE, applying to all men, because all men are, by virtue of natural law, ONE…that is, individuality becomes collective “oneness”. Ironic.
Some call these codes “laws”, and others, like Molyneux, call them “Universal Principles”. But they all mean one thing: obedience to authority. Atheists debate distinctions between “criminal behavior” and “moral behavior”, as if somehow these behaviors can co-exist at all, let alone in a single socio-political context. As I have already said, you can define behavior as legal or moral, ethically speaking, but you CANNOT define it as both. It is a rational impossibility.
Finally, I submit that since the notion of “law” implied by the empiricism of atheism is implicitly collectivist, any eithical system derived from atheism must also be collectivist. And collectivist ethics always manifest as an authority-submission dynamic, which demands that man COLLECTIVELY obey the law, not choose for himself to act morally.
Thus, atheism is tyranny.
Scattered within Stefan Molyneux’s voluminous monologues and conversations are references to his “defense of secular ethics” which he has organized into a formal work he calls “Universally Preferable Behavior” (UPB). I have taken issue with UPB before on this blog, but my arguments have never fully satisfied me. But neither has UPB ever fully satisfied me either.
The more I thought about it, something continued to feel off…specious, about his arguments, yet for all my articles, I still struggled to put my finger definitely on the problem. For a while I was content to let the issue go, satisfied that I had rebuffed enough of Stefan’s ethical system to at least cast a reasonable doubt as to its rational consistency. Still, the more I listened to Stefan and the more he promoted UPB to the various viewers and listeners of his podcast and YouTube channel, I felt compelled to put the issue to rest once and for all. Stefan seemed (and seems) so confident that UPB is the answer to the problem of secular ethics, and yet the more he talked, the more confident I became that there was something seriously wrong with it. His arguments sounded reasonable, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that he was missing something crucial…that he was, as Sallah said to Indiana Jones, “digging in the wrong place”. So I put my nose to the grindstone, determined to root out the issue once and for all.
Here I go.
Stefan, a self-admitted atheist, argues, rightly, that atheistic philosophies inevitably boil down to hypocritical scientific determinism. He then also rightly points out that before atheistic philosophies can be considered fully legitimate, let alone provide any real value to humankind, they must address the problem of scientific determinism nullifying morality by removing will. Because without will there is no moral choice.
Stefan attempts to correct this discrepancy by providing a “defense of secular ethics” through his own system, Universally Preferable Behavior (UPB). He gives us, as he says, an ethical system “without God”. Which is weird because what he really means is “without Authority”, because “God’s ethics” are the ethics of a supreme Authority which possesses the infinitely superior power to compel human behavior by force. Interestingly, though, this ethic is adopted by ANYONE who concedes that the State is a legitimate means of organizing human behavior, as the State is such an authority. Which naturally includes both those who hold secular beliefs and those who are religious, as anyone can see by merely perusing a cross section of the population of almost any nation on earth.
Stefan’s fundamental defense of his secular ethics is rooted in the following example: Stealing isn’t stealing if you WANT to be stolen from. Stealing, he says, is not a mutual agreement. Therefore, it cannot be preferred by all parties. But, conversely, the voluntary exchange of property IS, and thus voluntary exchange of property IS a universally preferred ethic. Of course, this argument also works if we substitute “theft” with fraud, murder, rape, etc., because “property” rationally includes one’s truth and one’s body, and this is how the example of theft can be extrapolated to apply to volition vs non-volition as the essence of ethics, which is implied by UPB. Stefan asserts that he’s successfully argued an ethic without God, because we can use pure human reason to prove that theft cannot be ethical because it cannot apply to all individuals at all times. Corollary to this, voluntary exchange of property has simultaneously been proven to be ethical because it DOES apply to all individuals at all times.
But has Stefan really argued successfully for a UNIVERSAL ethic here?
No, he hasn’t. And here’s why:
Now, it is true that I cannot WANT you to take my property without permission because giving permission—which is implied by “wanting”—and not giving permission is a contradiction in terms. The operative concept in Stef’s example is not really “theft”, then, but “permission”.
You see, the concept of theft inherently assumes the existence (reality) and legitimacy (morality) of private property. The fact that I cannot WANT you to steal from me doesn’t have anything to do with theft, in particular, at all. “Theft” is merely one of virtually any activity you could use in Stef’s example, because when I say that I cannot want you to steal from me I’m merely saying that I cannot give permission for a thing and NOT give permission for a thing at the same time. I cannot both give you permisssion and not give you permission to mow my lawn, or to sell me a teapot, or to offer me a cookie, or to tell me your favorite color. In other words, Stefan makes “theft” the primary issue and sews a whole Ethic out of it, when the primary issue is really the implied contradiction in “desired theft”—the inability to want and not want/to give permission and not give permission at the same time. “I want you to take without permission that which can only be given with permission” is not a root of Ethics but merely a contradiction in terms. Period.
The very claim that “I want you to steal from me” implies that the speaker assumes that private property exists, and thus he must ALREADY accept it as legitimate. You see, if I say that I think theft should be ethical I’ve already implicitly contradicted myself by legitimizing private property through my very use—and thus corollary acceptance of its meaning—of the concept of “theft”. Through the concept of theft I concede the existence and legitimacy of private property, thus OBVIOUSLY I cannot also claim that theft should be ethical. That is, I’ve already conceded, by calling theft by its name, that it is UNETHICAL by tacitly admitting the existence of private property. The contradiction of desired theft, is, as I stated above, the contradiction of “giving permission” whilst simultaneously “not giving permission”. Desired theft is nothing more than the contradiction that says private property isn’t private.
There is nowhere else to take the idea of “desired theft” beyond the contradiction. The contradiction is its own end. By definition contradictions are circular and thus nothing can be inferred. You cannot formulate an entire ethical system from that which is meaningless. All you can do is simply point out its meaninglessness. The fact that theft cannot be universally preferred is not an ethical claim but merely the stating of the obvious fact that it is a contradiction in terms to say that both private property AND theft are moral.
Not stealing can only be a universal ethic if we accept the existence and legitimacy of private property. But if we don’t, then the “universally preferable behavior” of not stealing is meaningless. If I reject the existence and legitimacy of private property then there is no such thing as an ethic of “not stealing” because according to my philosophy there can be no such thing as stealing in the first place.
What Stefan is arguing is simply that private property exists and thus has legitimacy, and thus is ethical, and in HIS SPECIFIC philosophical context theft MUST be unethical and illegitimate in order to be rationally consistent TO the philosophy as a whole. Which is fine, but again, this point holds no relevance for those who reject private property. UPB is not a rebuttal of divine ethics, it is really an obvious and unremarkable commentary on his own personal ethical beliefs and implicitly appealing to a metaphysical premise he never explains. Those who believe that God fundamentally owns everything and IS everything don’t believe in private property. They don’t have any real frame of reference for theft, so they don’t care that it’s an ethical contradiction in Stef’s personal belief system. In other words, Stefan’s “universally preferred willful value exchange” cannot possibly be preferred by those who do not concede the existence of private property. And this is why universally preferable behavior is not in fact universally preferable. It’s only CONDITIONALLY preferable. It depends on your metaphysics.
Now, the problem isn’t that Stefan’s implicit claim that private property exists is necessarily false, the problem is that he extracts an ethic from a metaphysical assumption that must be accepted BEFORE the ethics can then be said to be universal. That is, the problem is with the use of the term “universal” to describe an ethic that is only universal to people who concede the same metaphysical premises Stefan does. To call your ethics UNIVERSALLY preferable without first proving your metaphysics is to implicitly demand that people accept your metaphysics before you’ve actually proved them. This smacks of arrogance.
Further, it’s uneccesary and presumptuous AND contradictory to refer to your ethics, or anything about your philosophy at all for that matter, as universal. If your metaphysics are truly consistent then your ethics are true. Nothing else should be said. Period. I mean, Universally Preferable Ethics implies a Universally Preferable Reality, because you don’t get ethics without metaphysics first. But Universally Preferable Reality is simply another contradiction in terms…on top of the arrogance. “Reality is Universal” is redundant, and thus the universal ethics stemming from this universal reality then are also redundant. So, if reality is universal (redundancy) and thus the ethics are universal (redundancy) then preference is impossible (contradiction). Any way you slice it, it doesn’t work.
To conclude: Stefan’s argument isn’t really that theft is unethical, but that private property EXISTS. But “private property exists” is not an ethical claim, it’s a metaphysical one. And believe me, “Universally Preferable Reality” is an entirely different ball of wax…not to mention an inherent contradiction. In summary, Stefan is digging in the wrong place. He’s thinks he’s rooting around in ethics when he is really in the land of metaphysics.
Metaphysically, though, I can tell you that Stefan is no closer to any sort of universal truth than he is to a universal ethic with UPB. Because if he was, he would not be appealing to a contextual assertion about the nature of reality stated as a contradiction in terms in defense of an ethical system with a redundant title.
Say we have a medical issue…an injury, for example. If we accept the Laws of Physics as the arbiter of what is possible or impossible, and accept that these laws are the determinative mechanisms which govern all of reality (which is implicit in the laws themselves), then we must concede that we can only correct our injury according to the same rules which caused it.
So far so good…ostensibly.
The problem, however, is that in such a case, while it may seem a perfectly natural, logical, and efficacious assumption—intuitive even—we cannot make an OBJECTIVE moral value judgement between the injury and its remediation. Since they are both created, caused, and manifest by the exact same determinative rules, which, due to their necessary corollary relationship are at root a singularity, the only value judgement which can be rendered is entirely subjective—arbitrary—and therefore fundamentally meaningless. For it is not possible to claim that one manifestation of the absolute governing mechanisms which define and compose reality is better or worse than another. Different manifestations of natural law observed by the individual are, fundamentally, morally indistinguishable, and thus any value judgements are completely subjective. And if value judgements are subjective, then any epistemological (meaning/definitions) judgements are irrelevant, because morality and truth are corollary…for if one cannot morally value distinctions, then the definitions of those distinctions are ultimately useless to the individual. And this being the case, no actual distinctions—like “injury” or “healing”—can really be said to exist at all.
To summarize: Once moral distinctions can no longer be made, because all events are products of the same absolute, determinative natural laws, then no distinctions of any kind can be made. And if no distinctions of any kind can be made, then nothing can be said to exist, because it has become impossible to tell the difference between what something is and what something is not. Natural law, thus, is entirely inadquate as an apologetic for objective existence, and thus it cannot rationally be said to serve as the plumbline for determining what is truly possible or impossible.
You see, once the perspective of the individaul has been rendered moot by subordinating his powers of perception and conceptualization to the absolute determinative forces of natural law, then the very thing which gives natural law any meaning and relevance at all—the observer—is pointless. And without the observer, there is no one to claim that natural law is actually true, or actually exists in the first place. Natural law, itself, serves no purpose, because it wrecks the observer, who is the ONLY reference—the only constant—by which natural law can be said to have meaning and thus have value. Purpose, value, and meaning are not a function of natural law, they’re a function of the observer. That means MAN. And that means you and me. And that means we are NOT products of natural law…because the observer cannot be a function of what he observes. This is a contradiction in terms, and is objectively impossible. An observer who is a function of what he is observing is by definition NOT OBSERVING.
The very fact that the laws of physics can be defined at all is proof that they are not the root of objective reality. They are a tool that man, the individual, the observer, uses to organize the distinction(s) between himself qua himself, and his environment (which also includes his body…but man’s body is not himself qua himself, but is ultimately and rationally a part of his environment…but this is quite a complex subject and is best left to its own article). The very fact that man can and MUST make a moral distinction between injury and healing is proof that the laws of physics cannot be the true arbiter of reality and thus are not the arbiter of possibility and impossibility.
I submit then that only that which violates the identity of the individual (the self qua the self) is impossible. And since identity is a matter of reason—where reason is defined as rational consistency…the non-contradictory combination of concepts (X cannot simultaneously be Y, for example)—we can generalize this assertion to say that a violation of reason is the only impossibility, because contradiction cannot be made rational; and what cannot be made rational cannot ACTUALLY be defined, which means it cannot actually exist.
So…you want proof that miracles are possible?
I give you the apologetics of reason.
The difference between an autocracy and a representative democracy is like the difference between a slave master who lets you do nothing you want to do, and one who lets you do something or things you want to do.
So, which one is better?
The answer may not be so obvious as you might think. We’d want to say the latter, but is it really? Well, yes and no.
Of course being allowed to do some things which please you is technically, and even practically, tangibly, and viscerally preferable to being allowed to do nothing which pleases you. But the point on which I want to focus is that whatever it is you do, when you’re doing it because someone else is letting you do it, you are of course acting entirely under the auspices of someone else’s authority to command you to act. You fundamentally act as a function of the will of another. Period. When you are governed (or ruled…the difference is semantic, not fundamental) all you do is in essence at the pleasure of someone else. And the hard, unpleasant truth of this then is of course that you aren’t really doing what you want to do, but what they want to do, as your behavior is ipso facto a necessary extension of their Authority, which is inexorably corollary to their will. And this means that you’re behavior is fundamentally an expression of them, not you.
Think about it. It’s perhaps not immediately accessible, but it’s a point worth grasping.
Now, to the individual, an agent of himself, who by nature expresses himself according to his own will, this is practical death. It is the rejection of the Self (e.g. You qua You), which means the metaphysical erasure of the individual human being. And this results in an inevitable social psychosis, where the sacrifice of the individual to the State, whether overt or tacit, via the ostensible morality of social justice (common good, necessarily subjectively defined), results in the fundamental inability of individual denizens to see themselves as the natural, rational root and reference of what is both true and good. This is brought about by the perfunctory collectivization of the individual which happens when the individual is governed along with a number of others (that is, ANY State; ANY government); and it’s worth pointing out that this collectivization is fundamentally the subordination of the rational and the objective (the individual) to the fundamentally irrational and the subjective (the collective–the Nation, the Common Good, the Workers, the Volk, the Zeitgeist, the Ideal, etc.). In tandem with collectivization is the ipso facto moving of the moral (or ethical–we can interchange them here) standard away from the Individual to the Law (and they are mutually exclusive). One’s moral obligation becomes obedience to the Law rather than the choice to act in service to the sanctity of the Individual (obedience precludes choice by definition). Consequence for moral violation becomes punishment (an irrational consequence) by the State rather than the Self-defense of free people (a rational consequence).
In such a context individuals will see themselves as decidedly indistinct and ultimately superfluous products of intangible abstractions, like as I said the Nation, or the People, or even–and this may surprise you– the Laws of Nature, which have no practical, tangible, empirical essence, or any relevance distinct from those objects they are said to govern (control; which means create, though this fact is never admitted), or the Divine Will…it could be just about anything really, because these are merely semantic variations of the root collectivist metaphysical premise which perpetually and inexorably defines and rules the subconscious mind of a governed (ruled) people. Once people accept that they are not fundamerally of themselves and do not fundamentally exist to themselves, they, under the artifice of “freedom” in, say, a representative democracy, will naturally gravitate towards whatever collectivist flavor they happen to find appealing. And this suits the ruling classes just fine, whether they know it consciously or not, because for whatever else it might mean, it necessitates that the people never question the foundational premise of all governed peoples: they have no root Self, and therefore their existence is only possible via the control of some outside authoritative force. And what’s more obviously authoritative than Government? Government, we are led to understand, is the natural social and political effect of the infinite determining Cause…be it God or be it Nature, etc. etc.. And now you know why there are so depressingly and embarrassingly few sociopolitical Voluntarists (“anarchists” you might say, though I despise that label). Because collectivism has so many shiny and fetching and complex and colorful varieties, and individualism only has, well…you. Lol.
Once the collectivist metaphysical premise has been conceded (and entirely synthesized) people wake up every day willingly accepting that life is in every way and in every context the inexorable march of Death…of the inevitable nullification and eradication of their minds and independent persons. Which they are told are illusions, but don’t really feel like it; and this is why Death is so terrifying and why people never talk about it. It just is and must be, we are told, like the State, and so the terror and emotional anguish that its felt contradiction wreaks are perfunctory aspects of its “truth”. So the thinking goes: why compound this with debates which challenge assumptions? Why compound anguish with uncertainty? And this is another reason why there are so very few Voluntarists. They must reject the assumptions undergirding…well, everything. Of Being itself. To get there is a hard and naturally lonely road, filled with those of all ideological pedigrees who will hate you and wish you’d just shut up, and those who claim fealty to ancient insufficient philosophies who will call you everything from a fool to a commie to a pantheist to a peddler of solipsism. And who really wants to walk that road? Not. Many.
At any rate, what happens as a consequence of this broad social Stockholm Syndrome (to the collectivist metaphysical primary) is a boiling and fetid cauldron of collective mendacity, idolatry, psychopathy, narcissism, suspicion, ignorance, hate, fear, and violence, which necessitates from the ruling classes ever increasing control and deception. But I must add that I do not fault the ruling classes directly for this; for they, too, are human, and have been suckled on the Ideal by which they govern. I do not hate them, and I do not loathe them, and I do not ascribe to them any necessary overt evil intentions. For as they say ’round Buenos Aries, it takes two to tango. Remember, it was the Jewish people that demanded God give them a King. So, in some sense ironically, I admit that we are all in this together. Even the rulers are ruled by their ideas.
If anything is said to be an illusion, the following two questions are begged:
An illusion of what?
An illusion for whom?
Both “what” and “whom” must be actual things, and must be distinct. They are, in fact, a prerequisite to illusion. Unless some actual one is experiencing an illusion of some actual thing (that is, unless a real person is experiencing an illusion of a thing or things derived from, and apprehended via the reference of, reality) then there can be no illusion. Therefore, illusion itself cannot be a (philosophical) primary; and I know that this statement may seem obvious, but when you hear the scientific determinists–the post modern priest class as I like to call them–implicitly or explicitly refer to the illusion of human choice and by extension the illusion of consciousness, it seems that obvious statements are no longer so obvious. When leading neurological scientists like Sam Harris and Nobel Prize winning astrophysicists like Stephen Hawking can’t seem to follow basic rational consistency or utter a single coherent philosophical statement, one is forced to explicate the obvious, unfortunately. (As good as these guys are at science is as bad as they are at philosophy, is what I mean to say.)
Interestingly–and this will annoy the Objectivists and others who nod to Aristotle–“Existence”, as a metaphysical primary, is like “Illusion” as postmodern philosophy’s (e.g. scientific determinism) epistemological primary. It begs the same two questions:
Existence of what?
Existence for whom?
As with illusion, both what and whom must be actual things and they must be distinct. Which means they must have a root that precedes existence. If what and whom are both metaphysically identical (both absolute) products of Existence–which Existence as a metaphysical primary implies–then there is no root distinction between what exists and who observes it to exist (“who” being the rational frame of reference for that which is). And therefore there is no one to define what exists. And if what exists cannot be defined then who exists cannot either. Which renders Existence as a metaphycial primary entirely absent meaning. Which it is.
(Side note: You see, all definitions of what exists are products of man’s consciousness, which by the boundaries placed upon truth by Existence can have no fundamental, objective bearing upon reality, which is entirely ALL of Existence, including consciousness itself. Existence doesn’t just subordinate consciousness, it makes it entirely irrelevant and redundant…that is, impossible, and…that’s a problem.)
My point here is that postmodern determinism such as averred by atheistic and scientifically rooted philosophers proffers the idea of Existence and Illusion as metaphycial and epistemological primaries, respectively. And in both cases these primaries beg two questions which must be answered and then when answered undermine those primaries entirely. “Whom” and “What” cannot at root be products of Existence or Illusion. It’s actually the other way around.
Or you might say that if “Of what?” and “For whom?” have no answer then Existence and Illusion as anything but subjective assumptions are nullified. And if they have an answer then Illusion and Existence as anything but subjective assumptions are nullified.
UPB begs the question: Why should preferable behavior be preferable? Or, said another way: Why is preferable behavior good? If we say: UPB is good because it’s UPB, then we have a circular reasoning (tautology), which is a logical fallacy. If we say that UPB is good because it’s good for individuals, then the individual, not UPB, is the ethical standard. In this case “universality” is an irrelevant ethical concept. Since individuals are individual, collectivizing their actions (demanding or even suggesting universal compliance) contradicts their existence. Which implies that the individual is not actually the ethical standard. Pursuing UPB then demands the collectivization of humanity, and once this happens, “preference” goes out the window. Since preference is a parameter of consciousness, and consciousness is and can only be singular (a function of the Individual qua the Individual), it has nothing whatsoever to do with Universally Preferable Behavior.
Trust NO philosophy from anyone which implies the collectivization of humanity. No matter how warm and fuzzy and peaceful it may sound, it’s all utterly evil. There is no rational apologetic for ethics which demand or imply universal compliance. They are all the spawn of hell. Period.
[I apologize in advance for the tedious and highly technical nature of the following article. Bear with me. There really isn’t an easy way to do this. Thanks.]
1. If UPB is simply a set of possible choices, but does NOT reference an absolute moral Standard which makes compliance with UPB not simply preferable, but necessary in order to avoid some kind of irreparable existential contradiction, which thus implies and necessitates some irreparable existential injury (however that is defined…if it even needs to be defined at all), then UPB cannot claim to be either universal nor preferable, since there is no fundamental existential difference between compliance and non-compliance. In which case, UPB self-nullifies.
2. If UPB IS considered an inexorable natural law–referencing itself as its own absolute moral Standard–to which the individual is obligated or face some form of irreparable existential injury (however that is defined…if it even needs to be defined at all) then UPB is not preferable, but necessary, and perfunctory, and it self-nullifies.
3. If UPB is a legal (as opposed to ethical or moral) Standard–that is, Law as defined by a legal Authority, like the State–then by definition the individual is legally obligated to comply, and non-compliance results in punishment which, though legal, is, for all practical purposes, existential in its effect, since the manifestation of the ownership of oneself–i.e. free will/choice–while under State sanction is impossible. And therefore, UPB is not preferable and therefore self-nullifies.
Now, to expand upon point number two; and the reason is because this argument is, as I observe, the primary argument utilized by apologists for secular ethics:
If UPB is considered merely a de facto parameter of (one’s) Existence–that is, the perfunctory behavior of (one’s) Existence which affirms that (one’s) Existence actually exists, then UPB is nullified. Meaning, if we use the argument that because we observe that species or the individuals of that species behave in ways which are consistent with survival and reproduction and then claim that this behavior is actually preferable…we’ve contradicted ourselves and shown that such behavior cannot possibly be preferable, let alone ethical, and is only universal in that it is simply a de facto function of Existence qua Existence. In other words, if we remove choice–moral agency–from ethics entirely, or make it purely a function of the laws of nature, then a choice is never actually chosen. However, removing choice contradict ethics as meaningful in any rational or practical way, because amoral ethics imply behavior which doesn’t make a distinction between good behavior or bad behavior. So…why would any given behavior be preferable? It wouldn’t.
Also, notice how in scientific terms, which are the secularist’s terms of epistemology, ALL action is merely “behavior”…”choice” as a vehicle is sophistically smuggled in later–a bromide meant for and used by the small minority of non-communist atheists as a nod to the non-aggression principle; but UPB pairs with the NAP like salad pairs with Guinness.
If we accept Existence as the Metaphysical Primary, and therefore objective (empirical) reality and natural law as its practical Ethical and Epistemological derivatives , then we must admit that one cannot act via his Existencee in a way which contradicts his Existence…so regardless of what one does, and therefore what one chooses, one must necessarily always be acting ethically. To claim that one can somehow violate the terms of his or someone else’s (absolute) Existence by Existence, itself, is a contradiction in terms. Therefore, if UPB is said to be an Ethic derived from Existence, it is impossible for one to violate it, since one cannot violate the very thing that makes all behavior–like the “violation” itself– ultimately possible.
On the other hand, if we were to place UPB outside of (one’s) Existence and then argue that, as an Ethic outside of Existence (which is its own giant fallacy, given that Existence is the Metaphysical Primary for all apologists for UPB, I think), failure to follow UPB somehow amounts to an Ethical, and therefore moral, violation, and therefore is evil, and therefore obliges men to “prefer” UPB, then the individual–as a rank existant–could neither be the source nor the reference for UPB, which makes whatever the individual prefers, and thus ultimately chooses, entirely besides the point…since his choice and preference are a function of himself. This again, as I asserted above in point 3., relegates UPB to the status of a Legal Code–the Legal Law–which means that coercion by a legal Authority, not preference, is the only legitimate and rational means of fulfilling the Law.
Now, if we claim that (one’s) existence is not in fact absolute, but somehow transient–an effect and not a cause, as it were, or a function of some Absolute Cause outside of (one’s) existence, then we would have no logical reason to conclude that behavior which promotes one’s existence is preferable to behavior which does not. For (one’s) existence, being non-absolute, is no more valid a state of nature than is his non-existence. Non-existence, because existence is not absolute, does not violate the Absolute Cause (that of which (one’s) existence AND non-existence is a direct effect), and therefore it can be no more rationally nor morally preferable to behave in ways that promote existence–of either oneself or others–than to behave in ways that do not. And therefore by what basis can we argue that UPB is actually preferable at all? No basis.
Interestingly, I have noticed that those who promote Existence as the Metaphysical Primarily DO, irrationally, make the distinction between Existence, the Primary, and one’s individual existence–because they understand that individual existence necessarily incorporates consciousness, and therefore they reject it as having anything to do with Existence qua Existence, because consciousness they assert is not objective, because it’s not empirical. But you see as soon as one makes the distinction between conscious existence (consciousness) and Existence the Primary, then whatever the individual consciously prefers--and all preference is conscious by definition–is beside the point. When you reject consciousness as fundamental to Existence you necessarily reject choice. Which means that you reject choice as fundamentally meaningful, which not only wrecks UPB but wrecks morality entirely, and makes any discussion of Ethics pointless. I submit, however, that if we oblige consciousness to rational consistency, which is entirely logical (and a separate article), then reason alone serves as a perfect and categorical guide to Ethical behavior, because it makes Truth actually and objectively possible.
Part three very soon.
There’s no short way of doing this. At least not one that I prefer (see what I did there?), so I will just get to it. A while ago I was introduced to something called Universally Preferable Behavior (UPB). This, I understand, is more or less a formal apologetic of what is termed “secular ethics”. Which really is simply an Ethic derived from the metaphysics of Atheism (which are the metaphysics more or less of Aristotle…more on that later). There is no God to declare what is good behavior and what is evil behavior. Without such an arbiter of morality, it is assumed, there is no anchor for moral behavior. Enter UPB stage left. UPB purports to fill the role of Arbiter, and hence the term “universal”. Which is an odd term when coupled with “preferable”. I understand that in the handbook of UPB some attempt is made to address this oxymoron, but the explanation left me pretty unsatisfied. It qualifies itself by claiming that behavior is only universal once a given objective has been defined. Like, IF I want to get to work on time, it is preferable that I drive, not walk. And within that context, it is universally preferable to drive and not walk. Of course the inconsistency is clear. Since the preferable behavior is contextual, it isn’t universal. It is only contextually universal…which is a contradiction in terms.
Here are some links that you can examine to give you some reference for this article. The first is the handbook for UPB (you may have to copy and paste this link into your search bar), by Stefan Molyneux, who purports to be the progenitor of UPB…I have some doubt about this, however. I think most of his apologetic for secular ethics has been around for some time. I could be wrong, and ultimately I don’t really care. Perhaps he coined the phrase and then added his own spin. Whatever. He can have the credit. It’s okay by me. The second source is a very condensed version of the basic assertions and conclusions of UPB. It gives you a good summary of what secular ethics is all about.
I was tempted to ask my readers if they could spot the big problem right off the bat, but the more I examined UPB the more I realized that it was so terribly fraught with inconsistencies that this amounted to a trick question. It also makes it difficult, at least for my scatter-brain, to know where or how to begin, so I apologize in advance if this article seems somewhate disconnected. The more I wrote, the more I had to go back and add things to the margins of my notebook. So…I’m going to start and hope that some semblance of order reveals itself. In any case, all my points will here, somewhere. 🙂
One of the first problems I noticed with UPB was that it doesn’t explain why preferential behavior is good behavior. That is, it doesn’t provide a convenient moral reference. This is a troubling and stark omission for a behavioral code which claims to be a universal Ethic. But I think I understand why the omission is there. A. Because it presumes “Objective Reality” as an ipso facto epistemological primary (that empiricism is proof of itself…which is a contradiction); and B. Because to include it highlights some serious inconsistencies with “Objective Reality”, which atheists and others, like those with Objectivist sympathies, don’t want to discuss (though they love to rant) and never resolve. Ever. And C. Because Atheism simply has no place for Good. It has an Ethic, but this is not the same thing. Behaving ethically does not necessarily equal behaving morally. And that’s the whole disaster of secular ethics in a nutshell. Not that religious ethics are any better. It’s just that they aren’t worse.
We understand that an Ethic gets its moral value from its foundational Metaphysic–metaphysics being the nature of what exists, and ethics being behavior that is ultimately consistent with the metaphysical primary, what I simply call the Metaphysic…and in between them is epistemology, which answers the question “What is Truth?” where Truth must be a necessary and ipso facto derivative of the the given Metaphysic. For example, Aristotelian philosophy essentially assumes that the Metaphysic is Existence, and its Epistemology thus is Objective Reality; it’s Ethic then is behavior which affirms the existence of Objective Reality–and of course one very common behavior is known as “being atheist”…and “being smug” is usually a corollary to this. Unfortunately Aristotelian philosophy implies that Objective Reality is utterly empirical, which it’s not, and cannot be–which is why I respectfully reject Aristotle’s philosophy–and this presents a big problem for UPB because it implicitly relies upon the Aristotelian Metaphysic for its apologetics.
UPB seems pretty clearly to imply that the individual is the moral reference. That is, that UPB is “good”, or really, ethical, because it serves and affirms the individual. Unfortunately, while this sounds “so far so good”, this is as far as any semblance of rational consistency goes…at least for anyone who then has the intellectual foresight to ask the question thus begged: What is the individual? Or asked another way, what is the root nature of an individual’s “individual–ness”? (What is the nature of “I”?) This question naturally brings us to metaphysics, where atheism–remember, UPB’s roots are fundamentally atheistic–relies upon “Objective Reality”, which itself relies upon Scientific Determinism…which ends up being what is really meant by “Existence”. Scientific Determinism is the causal Platonic offspring of Science…the “why” to science’s “how”. Which is pretty ironic given how atheists love to name drop Aristotle as the philosophical father of their ideology. Ever since science decided to masquerade as philosophy and people decided to worship at the feet of lab-coated priests, we’ve gotten Scientific Deteminism as the Great Transcedant Cause in the Sky. Which is exactly like Divine Determinism. Oh, how the rivers of irony flow deep and thick and wide ’round here.
Part two real soon.
The relationship between Self(Observer)/Perspective, and Truth/Reality is as follows:
Observer + Observed = Truth
Observer = Observed = Truth
The former is a rationally consistent equation based upon a metaphysic which asserts Ability as the Primary, and is the result of years of philosophical study of and thinking upon rational absolutes. The latter is a rationally inconsistent equation–and the one most popularly assumed, at least in the West–and rooted in an irrational scientific and “objective” (or empirical) metaphysic which aasserts Determinism (often asserted as material “cause and effect”) as the Primary (though Objectivists will claim “existence” as the Primary, which functionally means the same thing), and is the result of years of popular abdication of discursive logic and the detrimental dismissal of REASON, as opposed to observation or the premise ITSELF, as that which must dictate intellectual conclusions, both practical and ideological.