I suspect that the bulk of the criticism of my theory of objective, universal moral ethics will focus on the conscious observer. Consciousness is something to which I clearly appeal as being integral to objective moral ethics, as well as epistemology and metaphysics…well, to the whole of philosophy, really. In other words, let me be clear: the claim that consciousness is purely subjective and epiphenomenal with respect to reality makes reality impossible to define, thus there can be no truly efficacious defense of reality at all. All declarations of truth—of anything—must and do proceed from a singular conscious frame of reference.
This is not a defense of the “primacy of consciousness” metaphysic, but it IS a defense of the inestimable and critical metaphysical value of conceptualization—which is the only relevant function of consciousness—and similar value to epistemology; and from epistemology, to ethics, and the rest of philosophy.
All truths are conceptual, and this is because all truths must be defined, understood, and willfully applied, otherwise they are meaningless. And “meaningless truth” is a contradiction in terms. It is not enough to observe a tree, but “tree” must be conceptualized in order that it be defined and differentiated from the rest of reality. All distinctions are fundamentally conceptual. Conceptualization is thus the fundamental efficacy of what is observed. Observation qua observation is redundant. Sense data need not be sensed at all unless it is conceptualized, and via conceptualization, constructed into an epistemological framework by which the the observer can derive and discern truth.
I find it helpful to assume that “consciousness” and “conceptualization” are essentially synonymous…at least with respect to metaphysics and epistemology. The only relevant function of the consciousness is to conceptualize…to create concepts for what is observed, and from these build language, and from that language communicate with other observers.
And this is key. Asserting the object necessity of consciousness in building an efficacious and meaningful epistemology is NOT asserting consciousness, itself, as the objective metaphysical and/or epistemological standard. Conceptualization implies language, and language implies communication, and communication implies “other”. Meaning that if the conscious self (the self-aware observer) conceptualizes and thus must communicate, then the self necessarily implies other selves with whom to communicate. So it would be foolish to pretend that the self qua self is the root arbiter of what is truth and reality. That is, to assume that one’s self qua one’s self is the plumb-line by which anything is called real, and true, and ethical, is indeed merely an appeal to solipsism, which is completely irrational, because it is easily proven to be wholly subjective. Yet accusations of solipsism and other such vapid, ethereal ideologies are invariably leveled against anyone who claims consciousness as not only necessary, but fundamental, to objective reality, truth, and morality, by those who assert the primacy of existence as the metaphysical absolute.
So if it isn’t the self, itself, which provides the singular and immutable reference and standard for truth, morality, and so on, then what is it?
As stated, the only relevant aspect of consciousness is conceptualization, to the point where there can be no fundamental difference between them (consciousness IS conceptualization, and vice versa); and conceptualization implies language, and language implies communication (with the OTHER, or other selves). Therefore the objective epistemological and ethical standard is necessarily that which enables objective, relevant, meaningful communication. In other words, the standard is that by which it can be said that communication has actually occurred. And that of course is conceptual consistency. Another way of putting it is “rational consistency”, or reason.
And this is why contradiction is an abject imposter of truth, and thus cannot be successfully applied, and thus all attempts to do so are necessarily, universally, and objectively immoral (see part five of this series). Contradiction denies the efficacy and meaningfulness of communication, and likewise language, and likewise conceptualization, and likewise the observer, and without the observer there can be no one to define and declare that reality is in fact real; and thus reality, itself, collapses.
The presumption that all morality must invariably be subjective—a collection of nothing but infinitely relative hypothetical imperatives—of OUGHTS—which have nothing ultimately to do with objective reality—that which IS—is precisely rooted in the arrant denial of any objective, and thus fundamentally relevant and meaningful, value of the consciousness to existence…to reality, itself.
So, what are the underlying presumptions of the of the nature of consciousness upon which are established the arguments against universal, objective morality?
They are as follows:
That consciousness has no foundation in existence because it is entirely transient (born out of nothing, dies into nothing). And existence is the root standard of objectivity. Therefore consciousness must be entirely subjective. Yet consciousness is singular and absolute in its essence—it is experienced as “I”. And thus it is concluded that it must be singularly and absolutely subjective. Any attempt then to interpret, define, and apply one’s existence from the internal frame of reference of the conscious self must necessarily result in complete chaos. Sense data, interpreted and applied to, first and foremost, the promotion of one’s self, which is entirely subjective and thus entirely relative, will necessarily pit man against his fellow man, and against his environment, leading inevitably to social collapse, societal collapse, structural collapse, and infinite moral atrocity.
The conscious self then must be anchored to that which is outside of itself. That is, all the conscious self thinks, wills, and desires must be referenced to an objective reality outside. Sense data is to be considered inexorably distinct from the conceptual interpretations of the consciousness.The data is categorically a priori, de facto, intransigent, constant (in its nature), and absolute. This reality—this reality which exists, period—is the reference by which all thought and belief, ethics and politics, should be tied in order to avoid the inevitable chaos that a primacy of consciousness shall deliver. The primacy of existence, on the other hand—the conscious will’s utter deference to objective reality outside itself— is humanity’s bulwark against superstition, mysticism, ideology, self-absorbtion, moral relativism, and all other forms of epistemological and moral relativism, which can only lead to chaos, vice, and misery.
Sense data is a bridge between the infinite objectivity of existence (of reality outside of one’s self) and the infinite subjectivity of consciousness. Consciousness does not interpret what the sense data delivers—it does not create meaning. Meaning is dictated to the consciousness from the “outside world”. What the sense data delivers, it delivers. Any notions regarding greater meaning to the self; any interpretations beyond the face value of the facts; any arrogant assumption that the conscious self is entitled to any role or should have any say In the grand and greater purpose of existence and objective reality is a violation of truth and an appeal to madness; it constitutes rank violent selfishness, which seeks to sacrifice objective reality, and all others in it, to one’s self, merely for one’s own subjective pleasure.
The idea that consciousness is in any way creative, that it any way determines the fundamental nature of what exists—of what IS—, that it is anything more than a receptacle into which objective sense data is dumped, and for no other reason than to perpetually inform the consciousness of its utterly transient, subjective, and thus ultimately irrelevant nature, and that consciousness “exists” only to regurgitate the self-evincing facts of external objective reality, and thus to promote existence as everything and itself as nothing…yes, any and all suggestions that consciousness is anything more than some enigmatic, fundamentally unimportant, redundant epiphenomenon of existence, is to be condemned and dismissed as an appeal to pure mysticism at best, madness at heart, and pure criminal bloodlust at worst.
The self should ultimately resign itself to being basically a disinterested bystander to reality and existence. It should seek moral good, yet understand that moral good is found in the rejection of the efficacy of will and an acceptance that one’s conscious existence is ultimately an illusion, and thus of no real purpose. There is no reason to assert one’s will upon the world, nor upon one’s fellow man, since doing so can only lead to chaos, and thus unnecessary misery for one’s self and others. The limiting and/or elimination of unnecessary suffering by rejecting the idea that one’s self is entitled to anything from existence is the greatest, and only, moral good achievable for the conscious self. To have compassion on one’s fellow man is to recognize that the violation of him to one’s own subjective will doesn’t do anything for one’s self in the end, and only invites unnecessary suffering. One should seek to make the subjective experience of conscious existence as painless and comfortable as possible.
The practical ways in which this shall be achieved vary widely, of course, since no objective moral behavior can be prescribed from a purely subjective conscious existence. Morality, which is only of any use to the conscious self, has no relevance thus to objective reality outside. Morality then, constitutes the subjective, or hypothetical “ought” to the “is” of objective reality. All moral codes and strictures, then, are relative, and attempts to mitigate unnecessary human misery should be interpreted contextually only, and no attempts should be made to categorically condemn any person, or group, based on some kind of impossible objective moral value system. This means that proponents of the metaphysical primary of existence (of “objective reality outside one’s self”) can be found in all manner of social systems in the world and world history, from national socialism, to representative democracy, to anarchism, to communism, to oligarchy, tribalism, theocracy, etc. etc. Since existence is objective, and consciousness is subjective, then differences in how men choose to organize themselves politically and socially ultimately boil down to subjective arguments over which system reduces unnecessary human misery more, or less. There is evidence that liberal democratic systems are temporarily more comfortable, but comfort is, itself, simply a relative assertion. All debates about the supremacy of one political system over another are really debates over “how much” suffering is too much; and this because humanity, being conscious and thus purely subjective and transient, is always giving way to the unrelenting encroachment of objective reality. In other words, suffering is endemic to consciousness. Death is inevitable for the self, and so the nature of one’s life, morally speaking, is fundamentally irrelevant. Disagreements over the “proper” social and political systems then, are ultimately unresolvable, and thus will inevitably lead to violent conflict.
There is no objective moral or political argument to make if we accept that existence implies the fundamental subjectivity of human consciousness. We understand that everyone eventually dies, and by this we mean that the consciousness fades into oblivion, and leaves a legacy with no objective meaning, and humanity is utterly at the mercy of the objective reality outside itself, and has no real substance, and no real place in the grand scheme of things. All ethical and sociopolitical debates are little more than killing time until we return to the anomalous abyss from which we mysteriously sprung.
The problem with this interpretation of consciousness is that not only does it preclude the possibility of any objective morality, which is scary enough in itself, but it precludes the possibility of any real ethic whatsoever (please see parts three and four of this series for a comprehensive explication of this). With the rejection of consciousness as anything but a complete anomaly to reality and existence, its categorical subjectivity making it completely insufficient to the application of truth, one finds an empty hole where ethics should be. Since the conscious observer acts from a completely subjective frame of reference, he is ultimately unable to apply truth in any objective way, since he is always inexorably acting from his own consciousness.
Without the applicational of truth to a purpose outside of truth, the truth can never be verified as actually true. Truth then becomes a merely tautological proposal—truth is verified by the mere fact that it is true (it’s truth because it’s true; its true because it’s truth). Objective reality which is fundamentally outside of man—outside of the conscious self—is a reality which finds him completely irrelevant. His will is of no ultimate value; his thoughts unnecessary.
And despite arguments from objectivists, scientific determinists, and other adherents of pseudo-rationalist philosophies, there are only two types of experiential outcome from this kind of epistemology. And they are…
Since man is fundamentally unable to apply truth, he is ultimately unfit for existence. Man proceeds from his singular conscious frame of reference, but because this frame of reference is purely subjective, and irrelevant to the objective reality outside himself, his will is incompetent; his thoughts are irrational; nothing he does can have any real value or meaning to anything which objectively is. There are only two possibilities then for man as far as his existential experience are concerned: totalitarians or chaos. It’s either complete authoritarian control, or the complete lack thereof. If man is left to himself, his innate and inexorable existential insufficiency demands that he implode into a thoughtless, hopeless, helpless, chasm of complete and violent existential failure, each man taking all other men with him.
The other alternative is to appeal to some transcendent authority…a collection of rulers who can appeal to some kind of divine or extra-ordinary enlightenment. A priest class, if you will. Maybe actual priests, or maybe representatives of a self-deluded liberal democracy, or the commissars of some nominally atheistic communist state. Whatever. In any case, the totalitarian manifestation of the rational failure of primacy of existence metaphysics and epistemology leads to the very chaos that that totalitarianism is intended to prevent.
And the irony cascades.
END part SIX