Category Archives: Ethics

(Part 3: Quick and Easy Criticism of UPB) The Multitudinous Problems with Secular Ethics: A critique of Universally Preferable Behavior

 

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.

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(Part Two: Why UPB Self-Nullifies) The Multitudinous Problems with Secular Ethics: A critique of Universally Preferable Behavior

[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.

(Part One: Introduction and Ironic Metaphysical Roots) The Multitudinous Problems with Secular Ethics: A critique of Universally Preferable Behavior

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.

http://cdn.media.freedomainradio.com/feed/books/UPB/Universally_Preferable_Behaviour_UPB_by_Stefan_Molyneux_PDF.pdf

https://rudd-o.com/archives/the-twelve-principles-of-universally-preferable-behavior

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. 🙂

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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 Fallacy of Codifying Ethics, Which Elevates Them to Morality; and the Related History of Man

I submit that Morality cannot be codified; it is ontologically endemic; it’s a function of the Self qua the Self. Morality cannot be put into a list and then applied to humanity collectively. And this is because morality, being a function of the Individual Self, is absolutely and fundamentally individual.  And it is indeed absolute…for you are nothing if not YOU, and utterly so (meaning it is impossible to quantify You…to make your ONE and ONLY knowable frame of reference for all reality a matter of parts). Morality observed and understood rationally demands that the individual, in his singular existential context, be viewed as the Moral Standard.

All this being true, morality is therefore automatically and categorically contradicted when codified. Once listed, it is removed from the individual, placed beyond his true and objective experience and reality and becomes nothing but a set of abstract rules which then attempts to define and contextualize all individual experience into a single collective category: the Law. And just like that man’s moral worth is no longer a function of himself and his own unique experiences and relationships; relationships where he honors the morality of other men by treating them with the same respect and sanctity with which he rationally should be treated…as a matter of choice, NOT threats, making violations of his fellow man TRULY immoral and himself TRULY guilty. Instead it becomes a function of obedience to the Law. And since obedience is fundamentally not a choice, because demands of obedience promise punishment for disobedience, which taken to its logical conclusion means the right of an Authority–always established specifically to force compliance to the Law–to destroy those who do not obey, then choice is removed from the individual’s existential equation. That is, once morality is a function of force and not choice, it is no longer morality by definition. You see, if one acts under the threat of death, then they are not choosing to act; they are acting as merely a necessary matter of course, invoking no more volition than they do when breathing or sweating.  For there is no such thing as a choice between death and life, because there is no true choice between nothing and something.

So the Law, in an effort to create a moral society, does the exact opposite. It strips man of his individuality, which is his entire and self-evident frame of reference for ALL things and ALL reality, which thus nullifies choice. And once man cannot choose to do good then he cannot do good at all, ever, because morality and choice are corollaries. And if man cannot do good then there is only one thing that the Authority (which always means the State, because Authority and State are corollaries, too), which is specifically tasked with manifesting GOOD, can do with man.

Annhiliate him.

And here then we have this equation:

Morality = Law = State = violence to compel Man to Law = death of man = death of Law = death of State

And this is the self-nullifying progression of collectivist ideology upon which ALL governments are based.  Notice that it demands the death of man in favor of absolute, and absolutely abstract, Authority, as the practical application of the Moral Standard: the Law. Morality, and thus the entirety of the worth of man, becomes a function of the degree to which he is sacrificed to the Law, which is (as corollary) his sacrifice to the State. Naturally then the greater the degree of sacrifice the closer he is to moral perfection. Inevitably then man is, in the latter stages of a given State’s evolution, sacrificed absolutely–his greatest moral accomplishment being his death, by the State, in order to completely satisfy the Law (and, yes, Jesus Christ is an apt example of this: His death was ultimately a POLITICAL one, no matter what mystic pablum the church spins for you). The Law thus, in the real and rational sense, is merely violence against man for the sake of violence. This is because once there are no more men left to destroy the Law becomes moot. For without the blood of man in which to bathe what is the Law? After all, the Law is not for itself, but for man…the Law for itself is a contradiction in terms.

So…the purpose of the Law is to morally perfect that which it must annihilate. (Find the contradiction in any idea and you will find the evil.) And when the consequences of attempting to implement such rank and pernicious hypocrisy collapse under the weight of years and years of contradiction disguised as regulatory and electoral “fixes”, the few traumatized and stumbling, delirious and starving survivors slowly come together and resolve to rebuild…and invariably start the whole process over again.

Humanity…when shall we ever learn?

The “Law” is a Null Concept in any Context

To explicitly (as in communism and Islam), or implicitly (as in our own democratic system and Christianity) claim that man’s morality is a function of obeying the Law (which necessarily demands of man his property and time, to be taken not asked for, as we can clearly see ) is to claim that man’s natural state is Evil. For it says that man’s sole moral purpose is to subordinate the very thing that separate’s him from the beasts, and makes him man: his conscious will.

Further, if the Law is what makes man good, then of what use is the Law to man or man to the Law? For the implicit or explicit claim is that man, himself, alone, is utterly evil; and therefore how can what is good, the Law, make man good if man is utterly evil?

It can’t. Because absolute evil is by definition exclusive of what is good. It cannot be made good without contradicting itself.

Therefore, if man can be made good by the Law–his obedience thereto–then man is, himself, NOT actually evil. It is impossible that he should be in any way labeled an immoral creature at the natural level without ALSO nullifying the Law as a rational moral standard. And if man is not an immoral creature at the natural level then his morality is not a function of the Law, but a function of his nature–of himself. And this too nullifies the Law as any rational moral standard.

Any attempt then to create a moral society by obligating man to the Law will fail. Because an idea which contradicts itself (e.g. that morality = Law) cannot exist.

When the State Asserts that Man is Both the Standard of Good and the Threat to the Good: The rational failure of a Government by and of the People

Man must be protected from himself is the argument for government in a nutshell. And this? Is a very bad argument. This sophist rationale is why freedom is never to be found under the auspices of government.

Any government.

Ever.

Anywhere.

Because freedom which is function of what an external monolith of “legal” violence, like the State, will allow is not freedom. It is, by definition, control. The phrase “that which allows us to be free” contains a fundamental contradiction in terms. Freedom does not and cannot operate under the auspices of threats of violence for stepping out of external, codified boundaries. And to say that these boundaries are what guarantees that freedom itself (in the form of unfettered wicked indulgence by the naturally depraved human being) doesn’t become oppressive is another contradiction, as it makes the restraint of freedom the foundational moral operation; it makes the limitation of freedom the means, so the argument goes, of ensuring freedom.  But unless man is able to choose his actions, by not having his behavior fundamentally dictated and coerced through threats of violence should be stray from an abstract, subjective (yes, subjective) legal code, there can be no morality. Why? Because there can be no choice. For if man cannot choose to do good, then man cannot do good at all. And actions which are compelled at gunpoint are not choices!

It is not necessarily intentional. It is not necessarily rank deception. It is most likely a function of the prevailing philosophy regarding the nature of man which has never, to my knowledge, been reconciled to reason…where reason is a place that cannot ever, under any circumstance, accommodate contradiction.

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Because of man’s tendency to do evil, so the argument goes, left to his own unfettered (un-governed) devices society must inevitably dissolve into an orgy of tyranny and oppression.

This is a contradiction which nullifies the argument, and renders the practical application of it both impossible to any efficacy and ultimately destructive. For man cannot be both good and evil. What I mean by this is that he who is the standard for morality–for good–cannot also be he who wrecks this standard. He from whom rights are said to be derived cannot also be the one who poses the threat to the those very rights. Man cannot be the primary thing worth saving and the primary thing which jeopardizes that salvation.

Now, of course we may rightly assert that some human beings truly do evil and therefore are capable of harming others, but this is not the argument with which we are presented in defense of government. The argument is that human beings on the whole cannot fundamentally be trusted to exist outside of the power of coercive authority because human nature itself is depraved.

Human beings have the natural tendency toward evil, so it is argued. They are prone to it–not by choice, but because of naturally determined instinct. What this mean is that when presented with the option of good or evil, human beings, absent any external arbitrating, force, will do evil. They must…because they are driven in such an unfettered circumstance by their nature, and their nature is evil. Therefore, human beings must be governed by an outside force–a governing authority– in order to keep their natural evil in check, and to (hypocritically) ensure the existence and perpetuation of the human race by means of a rigid and regulated social apparatus that ultimately dictates all behavior by threatening its denizens with violence should they dare resist its self-proclaimed mandate to control man for the sake of man. And this is the metaphysical and ethical foundation upon which government stands. Go and see for yourself. Ask 20 people why we need government and I guarantee you that 20 of 20 will regurgitate, in some manner, the hypocritical philosophy I just explicated.

This foundational philosophy ironically and certainly inadvertently undermines the oft-trotted argument that government can exist of the people, for the people, and by the people. That is, it undermines–by its inherent and fatal contradiction–the assertion that people are the standard of the law which the government exists to uphold. If people are by nature evil, and this the root of their very being, then it simply cannot be argued that they may simultaneously represent the good which government must protect. On the contrary, if man is by nature evil, and can no more help doing evil when left to his own devices than he can help walking upright, then people in fact represent a singular threat to good. Because their nature is inexorable and absolute evil, they are the antithesis of good. And therefore, people must be controlled, not set free, by an external coercive authority. And this is exactly what they are, no matter what anyone says to the contrary. You cannot claim to be free in an environment where all of your actions are ultimately a function of what someone else says you are allowed to do.

Further, the  idea that a government can exist in the interest of a humanity which is by nature evil is to assert that the government is a proponent of evil. This, however, is never the argument for government, because though true, it wrecks the benevolent facade of coercive authority. On the contrary, the argument is always that government exists for good, and that without government, man’s evil nature will reign supreme. And what this means is that it is not man, but the government which is actually the standard of good. The people are not the standard. The people are not that from which moral “rights” are derived. The government is. For the “rights of the people” are irrelevant absent government, because absent government man’s natural evil must subordinate them. The people, then, are not the source of moral dictums, but are the singular danger to them. They are not the value of the law. They are the enemy of it. So they must be controlled.

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You cannot legitimately argue that man represents that from which natural moral rights are derived, and yet at the same time claim that he is evil and represents the singular existential threat to those rights, and therefore must be governed. This is to create in man a dichotomy of nature which contradicts and nullifies itself. If man is good, and this as a function of his very nature, then it is both irrational and counterproductive to establish an institution which exists to compel moral behavior by “authoritative” (legalized)  violence. For to insist that the naturally good man must be compelled to good through violence is to deny that man can do good on his own, and this denies that his nature is in fact good.  And if man is evil, and this a function of his nature, then man cannot possibly be compelled to good, for good is utterly exclusive of his being. To compel him to good is an impossible task. For man, being evil, perverts good, he does not cultivate it. It’s like adding poison to a meal and calling it seasoning. The only thing for which the naturally evil man is fit is destruction. In either case, government is utterly beside the point.

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To attempt to use force to compel the naturally evil man into goodness, or to prevent the naturally good man from losing his goodness is like attempting to compel the frog out of his frog-ness, or to prevent the frog from losing his frog-ness. The frog is by nature absolutely a frog. No amount of violence and no amount of coercion can make him a rabbit. And since the frog is by nature a frog he can pose no threat to his own frog-ness. No centralized coercive authority is necessary to prevent, nor is it effective in preventing, the frog from losing his frog-ness.

The man who is good by nature has no use for government, because by definition he cannot lose his goodness. Nor can he pose a threat to his own natural goodness (i.e. left to himself, man who is “naturally” good when governed somehow becomes “naturally” evil when free of government). Because to claim that he may pose a threat to his own goodness is to deny that he is, in fact, naturally good. And the man who is evil by nature has no use for government, because he cannot be compelled to do good. Because to claim that the man who is evil by nature can be synthesized into good is to deny that he is, in fact, naturally evil. The naturally evil man is fit only for destruction. And if he is destroyed, then there is no one to govern, and thus there is no point in government.

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And all of this leads us to another truth.

Man cannot be defined according to a moral nature. And of course once we no longer define him this way, there is no rational philosophical argument for the existence of government. Why? Because government is force, and force is violence, and violence nullifies choice. The man who cannot choose is a man who cannot express his own agency; and the man who cannot express his own agency cannot express SELF. Thus, he cannot BE himself in any relevant way.

You see, man is not a moral agent in the sense that morality defines him. Man is a rational agent. What this means that man is the epistemological frame of reference for all he knows; all he thinks; all he does. That is, man being himself, where “himself” is the agent who conceptualizes existence and thus makes it relevant and meaningful, is why man knows what he knows. Because he is SELF, and absolutely so, he is able to make distinctions between good and evil, and truth and fallacy. He is the arbiter–the reference–for knowledge.

Man’s nature is not a moral one, it is to be the reference for morality—for good and evil; truth and fallacy.  HE defines and applies these things. Therefore, it is HE who governs them, not the other way around (the other way around being to make man subordinate to the very ideas and concepts which are meaningless and useless without him). For what is Truth unless it is true TO AND FOR MAN? And what is goodness unless it is good TO AND FOR MAN?

These things are worthless. They are nothing. They are non-existent.

It is man who serves as the epistemological and moral standard for all of the reality in which he exists. Man cannot rationally or productively be subordinated to a legal moral standard that derives the entirety of its value and relevancy and meaning from him. Man cannot serve moral standards, moral standards must serve him. Man does not serve truth. Truth serves him.  To erect a set of rules for man to follow and by this claim he is good is to strip man from his rightful place as the only rational moral and epistemological reference for all of truth and goodness. And once this happens, truth and goodness have no meaning…and so the rules are pointless. Rules to which man is subordinated by violence are ultimately his destruction, not his salvation.

🍀

Forgiveness Cannot be Removed From the Exculpation of Wrong

If we divorce forgiveness from exculpation, then the repentance of the wrongdoer is unnecessary. But if we divorce forgiveness from exculpation, then what exactly is forgiveness? If not forgiveness, then what is concept which describes the idea that we will no longer hold against someone an evil?

Think awhile. I’ll wait.

And if we say we will no longer hold an evil against someone who actively promotes it and refuses to reject it, then how are we not excusing it and thus tacitly promoting it ourselves? And how exactly does this help the emotionally or physically traumatized deal with their pain? How does calling evil good help victims of evil to even define the problem in the first place? 

I submit that the very concept which is forgiveness demands that it be directed to someone. Which is why it’s contractual, not psychological. Forgiveness not directed to another person or persons to me is meaningless. Obviously we cannot direct it to ourselves. If we are the innocent victims, then there is nothing of which we need to be forgiven. And if we extend it to another who rejects it then what exactly can be done with it?

Forgiveness as a bromide to sooth our emotional pain doesn’t seem consistent with its definition. Of course, I may choose to not allow another’s offense(s) to affect me either emotionally or physically or both (and there are many psychological/spiritual strategies for this) but I cannot forgive an evil act or idea that is still being actively perpetuated without tacitly excusing it. This is a bastardization of forgiveness by all rational definitions of the concept, including the Biblical one, and this makes it satanic.

Another false assertion/assumption is the idea that all “negative” emotions are somehow bad…are counter-productive. Nothing could be less true. Directing pain and anger towards an unrepentant abuser, for example, is extremely effective in motivating people to avoid the abuser and to seek justice for both themselves and other victims. It is not a desire for revenge–as the lie often goes–it is a means of self-preservation and the eradication of evil. Perpetual evil-doers–psychopaths, narcissists, and other vile sundry abusers–absolutely love the idea of forgiveness absent their repentance. Because it allows them to continue to sin without fear of reprisal and shifts the focus from their wickedness to the victim’s “bitterness”.

Reject this false forgiveness and at the very least we resist evil, reject the devil, defang lies, heap judgment upon the wicked, and rescue the innocent from the gaslighting of their oppressors.

Forgiveness is a Contract, Not a Coping Strategy

Forgiving someone who has neither asked for it nor admitted to any violation is not possible. Forgiveness not sought is pointless. For example, by definition, you cannot give a person a gift if the gift isn’t wanted or accepted.

Forgiveness as a tool for emotional healing willl have the opposite effect, and will prove destructive; and further, it really just means the excuse of evil, or the repression of one’s justifiable anger, or both. This isn’t a remediation of the wrongdoing suffered, it is a compounding of it.  And this makes it satanic.

Some may claim that forgiveness is a way we don’t allow evil people and their actions to have power over us (whatever the fuck that means). But two things:

First, you cannot say “I will love and accept you [which is precisely what forgiveness is] no matter how evil you are or what evil you remorselessly perpetrate” without at the very least tacitly excusing the evil. And excusing evil,  empowers evil. It does not neutralize it. 

Second, evil SHOULD have the “power”–that is, the effect of making us angry; to make us hurt so that we see it and feel it for the turgid crime that it is; to spur us on to demand its redaction and to furiously demand justice.

Also, to not extend forgiveness does not necessarily mean that one wishes harm or death upon the perpetrator of the violation. It is not the desire for revenge. It is simply a rational recognition of the inability to excuse guilt until the guilty admit their failure and vow to correct it.

We must remember that real forgiveness is meant to be a contract between people, a peace between the repentant wrongdoer and the wronged. It is not an emotional coping strategy for the legitimate sufferer of evil. A better coping strategy for dealing with unrepentant perpetrators of evil is justice, and/or a termination of the relationship, or even violent defense of oneself, depending on the circumstance.

Finally, in my experience I have noticed that forgiveness-absent-contrition tends to favor the evil doer, and especially authoritarian clergy people, who often shift the focus from their wickedness and mendacity to YOUR “sin” of “bitterness” and “lack of grace”.

☘️

Scientific Determinism and Cause and Effect, and Ethics: an in-depth conversation with a determinist

The following is a conversation I had last week with an apologist for scientific determinism in the comments section of a Sam Harris YouTube video entitled “Free Will“. The first comment is my intitial contribution to the thread where I am addressing not Philip, the person with whom I will eventually have the conversation, but simply the video itself. The “you” in this comment refers to Sam Harris, as well as anyone who would assert, specifically, the fallacy that there can be ethics despite an utter lack of any free will, and this due to the monolithic and infinite deterministic power of “cause and effect”.

This is a complicated issue…well…no…the issue qua the issue isn’t actually that complicated. That is, the complication and complexity which indubitably arises in these kinds of discussions isn’t so much a function of the relatively simple and arrantly true claim that “A man who has no agency (cannot act according to himself) cannot actually do anything, because he qua he doesn’t act; and so by definition he cannot act ethically, so why the fuck are we bringing ethics into a conversation about determinism?”, but rather due to the fact that an advocate for determinism and an advocate for individual agency are going to interpret reality according to entirely separate and mutually exclusive metaphysical premises. This means that the conversation, in order for it to not be a collosal waste of time will trend towards…that’s right, metaphysics.  And that’s where the shit gets real. It is there, and only there, that you can really make the relevant case for your position. Like…if you are going to say that man is Self (that is, an Agent who functions from a position of Self-awareness, which implies the actually reality of Self and thus an efficacious distinction between Self and Other (environment)), or that man is Determined (a direct function of Cause and Effect, and thus has no efficacious ontological autonomy), then you must necessarily answer the question “What IS man?”. And that’s why metaphysics is always a part of these discussions, and why they go the way they go when the two conversants are fully committed to their completely different ideas, and also to the conversation (a combination which is unfortunately a lot rarer than you might think). Getting to the metaphysics is involved, and requires a careful and voluminous and painstaking dissection of any number of tertiary and ancillary assumptions. Obviously a YouTube comments thread isn’t the most ideal setting for this dialectic, which is why you’ll undoubtedly notice that the conversation is a bit clumsy and opaque in places.  Nevertheless I think that this conversation has, overall, a lot of value. For example, two of the more salient topics I address is:

1. How determinism contradicts the plurality of existence (the distinction (independence)) of existant objects, which is an implicit prerequisite for cause and effect according to the determinist’s own definition of this mechanism; and:

2. The paradox of: the necessity of the absolute-ness of objects (objects being infinitely themselves…that is infinite existential singularity) + the necessity of absolute relationship between a given object and any number of other distinct objects (infinite existential plurality)…which, as I said, scientific determinism contradicts.

The non-italicized comments are mine, the italicized, his. Thanks so much for reading; I hope you enjoy it.

-Zach

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Laughable. You can deny the existence of will and choice, which, drawn out to its logical conclusion, means that the Agent who is said to Will and to Choose (the autonomous Self) is entirely irrelevant, which practically speaking is the equivalent of non-existence, and yet still argue for ethics! Absurd. How do you have morality [or ethics] absent moral [or ethical] agency? How do you have intelligence absent intellectual agency? Scientific determinism is proof that scientists shouldn’t be within a thousand miles of philosophy. Once Sam can provide a metaphysic which does not collapse under the weight of its own contradictions then maybe I’ll consider him more than just another articulate pseudo-intellectual turned polemic.

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I think you’re confusing ethics with moral accountability. Even without free will, it makes sense to want people to have a good experience in life. You can accept you aren’t in control of your thoughts and actions, but you still have a conscious experience. So we have an ethical obligation, regardless of the existence of free will, to increase well being wherever we can. That means potentially stopping someone from doing something that decreases well being. Whether or not they were in control is besides the point.

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Without moral accountability, ethics are irrelevant. Meaning, you cannot argue for rational ethics if no one is actually able to act ethically, because choice (and thus will; and thus consciousness) is precluded by your scientific determinism. The irony is that this destruction of ethics (by making “Determinism” the metaphysic) is exactly what the Protestant church teaches. Man is fallen, and thus pervasively depraved, and so cannot choose good or know Truth. Sam is just another mystic without the funny clothes, I’m afraid.

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you didn’t really reply to what I said. I said suffering and well being still matter if free will doesn’t exist. and there’s no reason to think consciousness wouldn’t exist without free will. People can act ethically and also accept that they are not in control. determinism does not argue that we are depraved and evil, it argues that we are what we are for reasons beyond our control. To some, recognizing this make morality clearer. You are able to forgive others and think in terms of how they can be helped. if there’s no cause behind their action then there’s no way to change it. Belief in determinism also keeps you cognizant of what is affecting you and the things you do. you may not be in control, but in a sense you gain perspective from recognizing this.

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I did reply. You are arguing that ethics is possible absent moral agency. That is, absent the ability to choose right from wrong. If choice between right and wrong is impossible, then what you know to be good or bad with respect to anything is irrelevant. Which makes ethics irrelevant. And that which is irrelevant cannot by definition be effectively applied. Further, I notice that you make the implicit argument that you can know what is true or false and good or bad without actually being able to choose to pursue or apply one over the other. This is a rational impossibility. To be able to define a thing and yet be unable to apply it to a paradigm (like your existence) referenced to You (You, the Observer, as distinct from what you observe), makes the definition irrelevant. And it is impossible to generate an irrelevant definition. You cannot create meaning which doesn’t actually mean anything.

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Ethics is a function of epistemology. It is the rational (True, and thus appropriate, or Good) application of what you know. If you are unable to apply what you know, because free will and thus choice is impossible, then ethics does not exist. And if there is no application of what you know, then what you know is irrelevant; and if what you know is irrelevant, then you cannot actually know yourself. Which makes “yourself” impossible to define. Which means you cannot define others.. And all of this means that “Sam Harris” doesn’t actually exist to make this argument. And neither do you or I. So who is typing then?

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maybe we have a different definition of ethics. to me, an ethical action or event is one that results in someone feeling good rather than suffering. it’s true that if your definition of ethics requires moral agency, then yes, ethics don’t exist within determinism. all I am saying is that people have experiences regardless of control and it makes sense to want those experiences to be good even if you can’t truly control them. the thing is, we can apply our knowledge of right and wrong without control over the factors that led to the knowledge. it doesn’t make sense to make a decision of right or wrong that is not based on factors you don’t control. what would that even look like? which brings up the other point of the self. it’s true, under determinism the self is just an amalgamation of genes and experience. this solidifies the definition of the self more than a belief that there is some un-quantifiable 3rd factor. or you could just look at the self as the result of a configuration of matter that happens to result in consciousness, which also makes sense. you and I and Sam Harris exist as vessels for experience with predispositions. so yes, I’d say you are typing, but you are your genes and environment.

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Okay…well, leaving aside ethics for now, wrt your last comment I would ask how it is possible under the scientific determinism argument to get consciousness from unconsciousness? That is, determinism, I submit by definition, is the absolute antithesis of consciousness. It renders it completely (infinitely) irrelevant–lacking any degree of efficacy whatsoever, which means that if determinism is true, consciousness could not possibly exist. The empirical and rational proof of consciousness is that which gives it efficacy–the ability to apply the awareness of Self to a given existential context (the Self in Its Environment). If choice is impossible, then awareness is meaningless, because man cannot apply what he knows, including the knowledge of him Self. Which brings us back to the lack of any rational efficacy to consciousness within the determinist model. And we can assert that consciousness is an illusion, but this merely begs the question “An illusion of what?”. How can there be an illusion of that which determinism makes impossible by making it utterly antithetical to determinism?

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I’m not sure I see why consciousness has to be connected to free will. we don’t know how consciousness arose, but it seems rational to assume it comes from the brain. it may be my lack of philosophical training, but I’m not sure what you mean by the proof of consciousness being the ability to apply the self to an existential context. the only evidence I see is ones own experience. I know I am conscious, but I don’t know you are conscious. there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of free will. the two seem mutually exclusive. it’s not that choice is impossible, it’s just that all the factors that go into a decision can be, in theory, accounted for, given enough data. I don’t really see consciousness as an illusion because of what you said: an illusion of what? it’s a space for us to process information, but we know it’s not the only way we process info. the info we process, both conscious and unconscious, gives rise to our feelings, emotions, personality, views, and everything that we imagine makes up the self. I would say the self is an illusion if you believe we are just vessels for experience. but, consciousness itself is the tool we use to experience the world. my answer to your question is that I don’t think consciousness, free will, or even ethics really depend on each other. I like this conversation. if you can, I’d like to hear how you reach the idea that consciousness is antithetical to free will.

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Well, I think studying philosophy would be something you might do…not to sound pejorative or patronizing, of course. I find that the lack of rational consistency which is, again with respect, profound amongst scientists has precisely to do with their ignorance with respect to philosophy. Scientists are great at mathematically categorizing what they observe, but have no real plumb line for actually defining it in an ontological sense, which is absolutely necessary before one can make a philosophical assertion like “free will is an illusion”. Indeed, in order for science to be in any way meangingful, one must assume an ontological distinction between the observer and what he observes. Scientists like Harris obliterate this distinction by making the observer a DIRECT function of what he observes, which wrecks the dichotomy that gives science any practical application or indeed any meaning by wrecking the ability of the observer to actually apply any of the knowledge he gathers about his environment through observation because choice, which is rooted in the knowledge of what is true or false, becomes impossible. And this because the observer–the moral and intellectual agent whose existence provides the rationally necessary context for knowledge gained through observation–is concluded to not actually exist. Consciousness I submit is merely the ability of the Self–the individual Observer, of you will–to conceptualize what he observes and the apply it to his life: the manifestation of the ability of oneto make a distinction between himself and his environment. It’s not a “state”. It’s merely the awareness of self, which is merely the ability to conceptualize self, which implies the conceptualization of that which is not self. Once this dichotomy is realized, free will I think is self evident.

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I must be missing it, but I don’t see how a lack of agency leads to nonexistence. You can put info into a calculator and it gives you an answer. That does not make it free. Similarly, we can take in info and then apply the knowledge we gained from it. The process is much more complicated for us, but at no point do I see the opportunity to insert free will. I don’t see how Harris wrecks the distinction between observer and what he observes or, if he does, how that makes choice impossible. Unless by “choice” you mean free choice. We make choices all the time with the inputs I’ve already mentioned. Your talk of an ontological argument seems to muddy the waters. The logic seems simple to me: If the material brain is all that is responsible for consciousness, then consciousness arises out of states of matter. If we live in a universe that follows cause and effect, then all states of matter arise out of previous states of matter. I’m sure it can be put more eloquently, but that’s how I think of it. Your last paragraph makes sense to me until the end. I don’t see how the conceptualization of self and that which isn’t the self leads to free will. I previously talked about the self being an illusion in that it is merely how genetics and experience manifest in consciousness. So in some sense, I think the dichotomy is false. The self is unavoidably connected to everything else because it is a product of everything else. I see what you mean about destroying the distinction now. It seems unavoidable. I guess I’d like to know if you think the logical argument I gave above makes sense. We can argue about the truth of the “ifs” if you’d like, but it’d be a weird and probably fruitless argument.

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I’m loquacious…that sometimes makes my arguments less accessible than I’d like them to be. My apologies. What I am trying to convey is that when you destroy the distinction between observer and observed, you cannot speak of Self, which means you QUA you cannot possibly make the arguments you (or Harris) are making. The very fact that you claim a truth is the proof that you concede that you can know the difference between truth and falsehood and can act in service to this knowledge. * If all things are determined, then there is no difference between this idea or that. Sam Harris is no more correct in his asssertions with respect to will than one who asserts the exact opposite. Everything by his own definition is merely the necessary and unavoidable effect of the Great All Determining Cause. So Harris makes an argument whilst at the same rendering his argument moot. Your agreement or disagreement is as determined as his assertion. Of what value then is consciousness? Of what value is knowledge? Of what value is science? None at all. And this further undermines his argument. As far as a “cause and effect” universe–I really don’t understand what that means. In order for “cause and effect” to have any practical value, there must be a difference between those things which are cause and effected, I would think.. Are you saying that “cause and effect” is a force which actually causes the things (material objects) upon which it acts? And if so, how do you quantify or even qualify cause and effect since nothing actually exists to be caused or effected because every object is a DIRECT and absolute function of “cause and effect”. Or are you saying that cause and effect is a force which is distinct from the things upon which it acts? In which case those things, ontologically speaking, are their own root “causes” if you will. I myself submit that cause and effect is simply one of many ways man conceptualizes the relative movement of objects he observes. Cause and effect is not ACTUALLY causal in the ontological sense. Meaning that cause and effect can describe relative movement but it cannot explain how a thing exists.

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this is getting into territory that departs from practicality. how is any science able to be done without breaking the dichotomy? I think youre judging the value of an assertion based on whether or not it was made freely rather than whether or not it reflects a truth about reality. and if we’re going to regress into claiming to not know anything about reality, then we can’t really get anywhere. my agreement or disagreement still matters without freedom of choice because it is still either right or wrong and it has consequences in the world. your deconstruction of cause and effect has left me perplexed and no closer to understanding you. I’m using cause and effect in the simple way people use it normally. as in, one thing causes another thing. a thing cannot come from no cause. I don’t know about you, I’ve experienced enough to believe all things are caused. what would it look like to see something that wasn’t caused? I don’t get your definition of existence. does something have to be separate from cause and effect to prove cause and effect? that simply makes no sense, and also doesn’t seem like a rational argument against it. if cause and effect can’t explain how something exists, then I don’t know what can. science makes basic assumptions about reality to function, but anyone who would honestly dispute those assumptions would not be able to function in reality themselves. philosophy and pure logic has its uses, but it seems one can use word games to get somewhere that doesn’t truly make any sense. we could blame this on my ignorance, but I have confidence that I would understand what you are saying if it truly made sense. I can tell you are very intelligent, but your ideas just aren’t clicking with me

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Quick reply: If everything is a direct function of something else, how can anything actually exist? If cause and effect is monolithic and infinite, how are objects actually independent of each other?

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I just do not see why interconnectedness makes things non-existent. Object aren’t really independent of each other? there’s no situation where an object isn’t being affected by another objects, even if it’s just gravity. can you give me one example of a thing that is not a direct function of something else?

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But it’s not interconnected-ness you are asserting. It’s a lack of any distinction whatsoever. You are making one thing an absolute function of another. “Absolute” means that there is no actual difference between the cause and the effect. This is not interconnectedness. This is the assertion that no “thing” (an object qua itself) actually exists. It makes your empirical perception of distinct objects actually impossible. To answer your question, I guess I would ask: does the apple fall from the tree because of gravity first, or because it is able, as a function of its own independent existence, to be “caused upon” by gravity? Unless the apple IS actually the apple, first, then it cannot be caused upon by gravity…there can be no real relationship.. Gravity then requires a true dichotomy. A true distinction. An apple qua an apple. Determinism makes this impossible.

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yes but you wouldn’t attribute free will to the apple simply because it exists right? gravity may cause it’s movement, but it’s existence is not of its own doing. it came from an apple tree, which came from a seed, and on back the causes go. how can cause and effect be separate when each effect then becomes a cause? what I am saying is that an object can’t exist without a cause. an effect cannot be removed from its cause so the apple can’t just ‘exist’ independently. gravity’s effect on the apple requires the apple to exist, but the apples existence is predicated on prior cause as well.

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Naturally I wasn’t asserting that the apple had free willl. I was asserting that before an apple can fall, it must BE an apple. It needs to possess a distinct identity before it can be said to be caused upon (effected), and before it can be said to cause something else. The point of my initial comment on this video was to point out the inherent rational contradiction which undermines the whole determinist argument. Since “cause and effect”, or the “laws which govern nature” are absolute and monolithic, there can be no such thing as distinct objects, because no object is “itself”–it is entirely a direct and absolute function of something else. There are no such thing as “things” which cause and effect acts upon, or cause and effect other things, because everything is merely an extension of cause and effect. Nothing has any actual identity. The apple is an absolute function of what caused it, which means the apple does not actually exist as such, which means it couldn’t have been caused, which means that that which caused it isn’t actually a cause, because it produced no effect, since the apple doesn’t actually exist. This is why YOU, if indeed you are a direct and utter extension of something else, don’t actually exist. Which means you can’t have a sense or awareness of “you” because you qua you is impossible. Now, if you’d like me to address how think the contradiction can be resolved with a better explanation of how to interpret reality, I can do that. But the fact that I’ve offered no resolution to your determinist fallacy doesn’t mean it’s not a fallacy. With respect, the determinist model colllapses under the weight of its own massive contradiction. You need a new model. Saying “this is the only model science supports” doesn’t make the model rational or true. It merely means that science as of now has failed to provide a rational interpretation and model of reality. So, re-evaluate your premises and start again.

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I think you’re reading too much into the importance of objects being identifiable. a determinist could describe reality as the process of matter continuously shifting into different forms. the distinction of when an object becomes what it is and stops being what it is is not clear. in this way, cause and effect is more like a continuous process rather than a series of stages because whatever stages you draw are arbitrary. however, it makes no sense to conclude that because stages of matter are ill defined, objects themselves don’t exist. hurricane Matthew is on the way. there is what Matthew is right now, but there is also the process of Matthew’s development. these two concepts cannot be separated, yet we can’t deny the existence of Matthew. I simply do not see this fallacy of determinism. i would like to hear another way to interpret reality that allows things to exist without a cause, but I understand if you are getting tired of this conversation.

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I would say that determinism actually makes cause and effect impossible because there are no independent “things” possible. Everything is merely an extension of determinism. There is no First Cause. Like…the first cause MUST have happened; it could not have NOT happened. In other words, it was determined. It had a cause; and that cause had a cause, and so on and so forth. Cause and effect is subordinated to the infinity of Determinism. Determinism is absolute and monolithic. It doesn’t actually allow for any distinct objects to cause or to be caused upon. Cause and effect is only rational when it becomes merely a cognitive means by which man organizes the relative movement of what he observes. But here’s the bigger issue: I think you are hinting at an implicit root paradox, and I think you are on to something. This is how I define the paradox to which I think you are alluding: object X must be defined according to its observable relationship with object Y; it cannot exist in a vacuum of itself, because in a vacuum of itself it is infinite, and what is infinite cannot be valued and thus cannot be defined. And I am saying that there can be no relationship between objects X and Y unless each object is ACTUALLY itself-with a distinct and separate ontological essence whereby it can have a unique identity and thus it can be said that object X IS ACTUALLY object X, and thus can have a relationship (like “cause and effect”) with object Y. And that is the big question. We need a metaphysic (an irreducible…an axiom of reality; that explains how what is, IS) that resolves this paradox. And it’s not been done yet. Well…I think I’ve done it 🙂 But I don’t think anyone else has. Anyway, I think you’ve definitely identified the paradox. It’s needs to be resolved, but determinism can’t do it.

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I’m still hesitant to accept that cause and effect requires independently defined causes and effects. but I see what you are saying. first cause is obviously a problem, but we can’t expect to know everything, or even that we are capable of understanding first cause, or that the question even makes sense because of the connection of time and space. but you think you have discovered an alternative to the apparent paradox? I’d love to hear it. unless it’s a secret.

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Well, at this point I think I will leave you with the paradox. The explication of the metaphysics, while not complex or hard to understand, necessarily, will likely lead to an even longer and more tedious conversation than this one. And I’m just not up for that right now.:-) I appreciate your time, and this was fun. Thanks for sharing you ideas with me; I always learn just a little bit more by these kinds of engagements, and I discover more of my own weaknesses, which is exceedingly beneficial in refining my ideas and, importantly, how I deliver them. Take care, man. And thanks again.

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Thank you too. I can’t say ive changed my mind but I feel that I need to read more philosophy. It’s a very difficult question. Take care.