Tag Archives: Hume’s law ethics

Hume’s Guillotine Has No Blade (Part FOUR): The implicit epistemological contradiction of Hume’s Law—an epistemology both with and without ethics

As we continue our deconstruction and dismantling of Hume’s Law, it is important to examine the intrinsic contradiction found in the relationship between ethics and epistemology as implied by the philosophical assumptions underwriting Hume’s claim. What Hume’s Law does is create an implicit mutual exclusivity between epistemology and ethics. This is a violation of the basic principles of philosophy and philosophical thinking, and is a large part of why Hume’s law is a rational disaster.

I went into the relationship between philosophical categories in part three of this series in some detail, so I will only summarize it here. The five major categories of philosophy—metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, aesthetics—-do not exist in a vacuum of themselves. They all share a corollary relationship with one another, and the sum of the categories serves to reinforce the metaphysical primary (the nature of reality, itself…the root IS of all that is). However, it can be helpful to simplify the relationship between the categories by arranging them linearly, as follows: Metaphysics implies epistemology, epistemology implies ethics, ethics implies politics, politics implies aesthetics. This fact has profound and inescapable implications for any ethical claim, and certainly for Hume’s Law. What the inseparable and corollary relationship between the philosophical categories demands is that if any one category is deemed objective—and by “objective” we mean fundamental, irreducible, universal, absolute, and infinitely consistent—then all categories must be equally so. If one makes a claim to “objective truth”, which is an assertion that one’s epistemological premise naturally promotes axiomatic distinctions between correct knowledge and incorrect knowledge, then one is necessarily, though perhaps implicitly, making a claim to an objective ethic. This fact is an immutable philosophical attribute. One cannot claim objective philosophical category X and then from that conclude that philosophical category Y is therefore subjective. This is impossible. But this logical failure is completely endemic to Hume’s Law.

For example, “Objectivism”,  as far as I understand, is a label derived primarily from the assumption of the objective nature of “Existence”…Existence being the Objectivist metaphysical primary. This being the case, then any objectivist is bound by intellectual integrity in the form of rational consistency and non-contradictory truth to assume that their ethics are likewise objective. Again, it is a rational impossibility to achieve a subjective from an objective. And interestingly, and ironically, this point is the exact point Hume’s Law makes. This being the case, it is then impossible to obtain a subjective ethic from an objective epistemology (a subjective right and wrong from an objective truth and falsehood). But this is what advocates of Hume’s Law inexorably do, and their intellectual and philosophical failure in this is insuperable. What they claim is “no objective and universal morality”, but what they mean is “no objective and universal ethic” (please refer to the distinction between ethics and morality I spoke of in the last article of this series).

Advocates of Hume’s Law do not seem to understand how profoundly undermining this is to their arguments. Those that do will argue that they are not in fact making a claim that ethics, itself (the category), is completely subjective, but only that moral ethics are. But the fact is that one cannot rationally argue for any objective ethic if one presumes that volitional behavior (conscious behavior, as a function of consciousness) is irrelevant with respect to objective truth (objective epistemology). Meaning that whatever one chooses to do is irreducibly subjective, making volitional behavior completely absent any real and true foundation, which means it can have nothing fundamental to to with the “objective truth” from which that behavior is given meaning.

Remember, one MUST assert an ethic if one is asserting an epistemology. And if one is asserting that the epistemology (fundamental truth)  is objective then that which necessarily follows—the ethic—must likewise be objective. And what is the ethic? The ethic is the application of truth to purpose which validates truth. Correct application of truth validates that truth is in fact true, thus this application is “good”. Incorrect application contradicts and thus does not affirm truth, and thus this application is “evil”. Application of truth is necessarily and inexorably willful…that is, it is the volitional application of truth. A non-volitional application of truth is impossible, because such application cannot be said to have purpose, and without purpose truth is irrelevant. And irrelevant truth is meaningless truth, and this is a contradiction in terms.

What are the ethical options for one who proclaims that truth is objective but volitional behavior in the application of truth is not? There are only two, and each one is as invalid and rationally bankrupt as the other. The fist option is to declare that ethics simply do not exist at root; that their fundamental subjectively gives them no foundation and thus no fundamental connection to objective truth and thus no fundamental connection to objective reality…they are severed from the “Real”, as it were. This fails the rational integrity test because epistemology without ethics is impossible—without ethics, truth cannot be validated as true. The second is to appeal to some non-voluntary ethical system, like legality. But in order for a legal ethic to manifest one must assume and then establish an authority which has the power to compel ethical behavior. Yet only two such authorities can be claimed: human and divine (and make no mistake, Determinism, which is the metaphysical trope of many atheists and agnostics, to which they appeal as a get-out-of-god-free card, is merely an iteration of Divine Mysticism…it appeals to an omnipotent force which infinitely eludes man’s understanding because it infinitely determines all that he does, all that he is, and all that he knows, and thus thinks). The first authority fails because it is comprised of men…men must choose to establish such authority; men in authority then must choose to compel by force other men into the legal ethic. )Without force, law is not law, it is suggestion). So to claim non-volitional ethical behavior in service to one’s “objective” epistemology by relying upon the choices of men to establish coercive authorities and the choices of rulers to enforce legal ethics is a contradiction, and thus fails at being an involuntary ethic, and thus is an invalid alternative to moral ethics. The reason legality is an ethical disaster and inevitably leads to totalitarian misery is due to the inherent contraction which says that ethical behavior shall be compelled in the masses by the ethical choices of the few who rule. Legality is an attempt to ethically synthesize free will and force. It will never work, and for obvious reasons. Thus, legality cannot be considered a valid ethic, let alone an objective one. Thus, to assert a legal ethic is to assert no ethic at all.

The second fails because divine coercion of men’s behavior is a root undermining of men themselves. A man unable to act in service to truth of his own conscious volition is a man for whom truth is utterly irrelevant, thus such a man can never apprehend truth in first place. Truth absent the ability to apply it is truth absent purpose. And purposeless truth is irrelevant truth, and irrelevant truth is meaningless truth—a contradiction in terms. Thus, one cannot simultaneously claim such a thing as objective truth but no objective means to apply that truth via one’s conscious volition. To remove volition from understanding is to undermine understanding entirely, and therefore no objective truths can ever be claimed because they cannot be validated. The appeal to the divine authority (like Determinism) to force ethical action is in reality the assertion that no ethic exists. This violates the philosophical axiom which says that epistemology MUST imply ethics.

The point I am making with all of this is that one either concedes objective moral ethics—volitional behavior in service to truth—or one cannot concede that any ethics exist at all. And without ethics, there is no objective truth. Without ethics, there is no epistemology. What is true and false must be volitionally applied (morality) in order that he who apprehends truth can validate it according to observable outcomes from his own existential frame of reference. A truth which cannot be volitionally applied is irrelevant to the observer, and thus the observer has no way of knowing that truth is in fact true.

In short, epistemology demands ethics; and not just any ethics, but specifically moral ethics.

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The idea that truth can be known, but never applied, is really the heart of Hume’s Guillotine, and this is both a great irony worth pointing out (because it mirrors the irrational ethical implications of Christianity’s description of man’s fallen nature), and a fundamental failure of logic which collapses the whole idea. One can know truth, but never act in service to it. Truth, absent the ability to apply it in service to a purpose, makes truth infinitely irrelevant to he who apprehends it. In other words, Hume’s Law apologists want their cake and to eat it, too. They want to proclaim the existence and fact of objective truth—the ability to apprehend it and declare it—yet they want to deny any objective application of truth in order to practically, empirically, and efficaciously validate that the truth is in fact true. They would argue that truth is self-evident, but absent any objective application of truth, truth is only really “evident” to itself.  This is circular, redundant truth, which is a logical fallacy in the form of tautology (it’s true because it’s truth; it’s truth because it’s true), not to mention an infinite reduction to zero. Any truth without validation via the objective volitional application of truth by the conscious observer of truth (he who apprehends and declares that truth is in fact true) can never, ever, by any means be known to be true. Truth without application to purpose by the observer is irrelevant truth, which makes it meaningless truth, which is a contradiction in terms.

And the great irony here is that what the advocates of Hume’s Law do is the exact same thing the evangelical Christians they so vociferously deride as irrational fairy tale—worshipping harpies do. These “doctrinally pure” Christians, particularly of the Calvinist pedigree, proclaim that man, though he is capable of apprehending truth from falsehood, is, due to his fallen and depraved nature, utterly incapable of applying this knowledge to any good end, making all his actions evil by default. And thus, it is not that man commits sin and is thereby condemned, it is that he IS sin—meaning that his very will is banished from ethical behavior altogether. Man is death incarnate not because he chooses to act in evil ways, but because his nature precludes him from ANY moral compass whatsoever. He has knowledge, but his will is infinitely irrelevant to that knowledge, making that knowledge useless to him. And thus, he is essentially born dead. And this is why he needs saving…and in comes the opportunistic priest class to rescue him from his existential dilemma. For a price, of course. It will cost him his freedom, his individuality, his dignity, his property, his mammon, his labor, his truth, his self-will, his mind, his family, his future, and his life in general. But hey, at least he is right with God.

The Humean ethical apologists are no different.  They make grand claims to objective truth and existence, but then declare that ethics is dead and morality with it. Via some  impossible and essentially mystical contradiction—like objective epistemology without objective ethics—they bind man to an intellectually bankrupt determinist fate and offer him the bromide of nihilistic scientific practicality, with implicit nods to the psychopathic priesthood of the State; and offer draconian legal controls with State violence and the seizure of body and property (as incentive and punishment) as some kind of ethical answer to their empty metaphysics. The deride morality as a merely the shiny obsession of a fool and offer you the madness of the of infinite separation between thought and action as an answer to their ethical failure. They replace the soul with death and the light with darkness.

But hey, at least you are right with god. Not that the Humean apologists will call him that.

END part FOUR