THE SOUL OF LIBERTY
The Universal Ethic of Freedom and Human Rights.
By Fred E. Foldvary
Below are excerpts from the book THE SOUL OF LIBERTY with some words to a few sentences added or altered by me not to vandalize his book’s writing, rather to offer what I liked presented by me kind of in my way so enjoy and please by his bok I loved it.
For freedom and human rights to mean anything, they must be specific principles founded on the bedrock of a fixed ethic. “Harm” should not be whatever the authorities don’t happen to like, but must be defined by the ethics in a manner that can be applied to all moral issues. Ethics is to human relations what health is to live. The rules of health tell us how to avoid sickness and death, and the rules of ethics tell us how to be free from social illness, injustice, exploitation, and crime. We must start with dignity and self-ownership for all in this endeavor.
Our political, economic, and social problems are ultimately moral questions. Consider these examples:
Do people have a right to food, shelter, and health services?
Is abortion moral?
Do parents have the right to raise their children as they wish?
Should couples be allowed to marry and divorce at will?
How should scarce resources be distributed?
Should writing or art ever be censored?
Should prostitution be prohibited or restricted?
Should there be any laws at all concerning sex?
Should people be allowed to ingest any drug they wish?
Do animals have any rights?
Are extremes of wealth inherently immoral?
Should a business be allowed to make as much profit as it wants?
Should we have capital punishment?
Should we permit people to kill themselves?
We will explore questions like these and see how the Universal Ethic answers them. We will see that its purpose as an objective standard of right and wrong is not to do away with our social customs or personal and religious beliefs, but to protect them, up to the limit of freedom.
Where Do Rights Come From? (they are not gifts of goverment)
Rights come from morality. To say you have the right to live, or the right to own property, or the right to be free from harm is to make a moral claim. But where does morality come from? Every community has some kind of moral code, often embodied in its laws. The religions and communities of the world have moralities that differ drastically from one another. Is this all that morality consists of, the mores or standards of particular groups of people? Or is there some fundamental, natural moral law or universal ethic that transcends any particular time and place? For without such a natural morality, the dictates of a religion or a community are merely arbitrary orders to be obeyed out of experience, if at all. But how can we discover what this natural morality is, or know whether it exists at all?
“Good and evil are not abstractions existing by themselves. If no living beings existed, there would be no good or evil. Something can only be good or bad to someone or for somebody. ‘Good’ is a person’s reaction and feeling that something is beneficial or agreeable to him, and ‘bad’ is the reaction that something is harmful or disagreeable. “If you see a purple box lying in the middle of the field, how do you know whether it is something good or bad? You can’t tell until you know what the box is, what it contains, and how it affects you: what it does to you or for you. “What does it mean for something to be morally good or bad? Morality and ethics refer to human conduct and existence, to how we humans behave – what we do and say – and what our identity is with respect to others: for example, child, adult; male, female; ruler, subject. And so our conduct is judged to be right or wrong as it is felt to be good (beneficial or agreeable) or bad (harmful or disagreeable) to some being, whether it be an animal, another person, yourself, the majority of a society. “Given this individuality and equality, we can now state the first principle of the Universal Ethic: only acts that affect others are designated as good or evil. Those actions of a person which affect himself or herself alone cannot be called good or evil by the U.E. Thus, by the morality of the Universal Ethic, only those actions that affect others can be said to be good or evil. What you do to yourself alone is neutral.
- HARM IS AN INJURY INDEPENDENT OF PERSONAL ETHICAL VIEWS (an injury being any act that makes someone feel worse off than he was before).
- A BENEFIT IS WHAT INCREASES ANOTHER’S WELLBEING, BY HIS VALUES.
- ALL ACTS, AND ONLY THOSE ACTS, THAT COERCIVELY HARM OTHERS ARE WRONG.
- ACTS THAT BENEFIT OTHERS ARE MORALLY RIGHT, BUT NOT AN OBLIGATION.
My thoughts on governments are I am not a fan, mind you I love non-hierarchal equal ethical governance. I am ant-masters but very pro ethical society.
“Ultimately the administration is for the citizens and therefore the citizen input is central in defining the ethical basis as well as in developing ethics.”Ref
Many people see their personal morality as a universal morality which they want to be imposed on everyone else, whereas by the U.E. it is precisely this imposition that is evil. It is not that your personal morality is ‘untrue’. No! It is that each person must be free to live by his own values, whether ‘correct’ or not. The sphere of private morality, the morality of religious and personal views, has to be distinguished from that of public morality, the morality of justice, which is the morality of the Universal Ethic. When the gambling, drinking, or business dealing is voluntary, no one can be coercively harmed, and by the Universal Ethic, the action is morally neutral. It is this judging of conduct objectively instead of through our personal views that most people would balk at; otherwise, we would live in freedom.
“Ethics comes from the nature of man,” he began, “in whom we can designate three levels of existence. “The first is the physical level, that of matter and energy. It is the level of man as a collection of chemicals. Inherent in material substance are laws of physics and chemistry that describe and govern its behavior: the laws of conservation, attraction, and motion that are the basis for the physical existence of living beings. “The second is that of life, made of matter yet possessing features so distinct from a raw physical substance that some people have postulated some kind of ‘quickening’ agent in life apart from matter. Life contains self-generating materials and processes acting under self-oriented internal forces. It is programmed, designed and directed by genetic codes that make it behave much more ‘purposefully’ than the random thrashing about of non-living matter directed by external or nonprogrammed forces. And when a living being becomes so aware that it can direct its own life self-consciously, then a third level of existence becomes possible. “The third level is that of intelligence and sentience beyond a certain threshold. It is the level of awareness and consciousness that enables a living being such as man to control and direct its own actions and responses beyond the calls of automatic instinct (unlearned genetic programming); the predominance of learned, changeable and flexible behavior over automatic, genetically controlled reactions to stimuli; and the highly developed capacity to reason, which man is endowed with as a species. ‘Intelligence’ alone seems to lean a word, too cold and narrow for this level of existence, and yet also too loose. Coyotes are said to be intelligent animals, and intelligent humans are contrasted to those who are not, yet humans as a whole exist on this third level and coyotes do not unless they are more capable than we know.
The U.E. is universal in that it applies equally to all people regardless of time, place, or personal identity. Personal or cultural ethics are arbitrary, from an outside observer’s point of view. One group believes in marriage to only one person (at a time), while another may approve of polygamy. The particulars of a personal ethic develop and draw their authority from traditions and the views or revelations of leaders and teachers, influenced by the natural and cultural environment. The U.E. is nonarbitrary. Personal or cultural ethics can change over time, as sexual ethics have been changing in this century. The U.E. is absolute, fixed, and eternal; it does not change unless human nature itself should change. Personal or cultural ethics are subjective and relative to a person’s or group’s position in society. The rulers and subjects may have different conceptions of what is good. The U .E. is objective (independent of purely personal views) and not dependent on anyone’s social status. Personal or cultural ethics may be irrational and contain contradictions. American ethics espoused human rights and liberty while enslaving Blacks and slaughtering the Indians. Religions of love and mercy brutally converted or killed persons they considered heathens and heretics. The U.E. must be entirely rational and consistent within itself, with human nature, and with the purpose of ethics: to prescribe the good and evil of human conduct. The function of the U.E. is the proper government of human conduct. A conflict between personal or cultural ethics and the U .E. occurs only in the coercive enforcement of conduct, not in the private belief or observance of a personal or cultural ethic. For example, a man’s relationship with God is not prescribed by the U.E. It is left to personal observance and faith. What the U.E. does prescribe is that no one may force another to worship in any particular way. The U .E. deprives religion of the practice of coercive enforcement, and in so doing it also protects religion from coercive restraint.
Ethics complement one another when these values exist within the framework of the Universal ethical principles (Level 3 morality, stage 6).
Humankind’s ethical maturity will be the recognition of a fixed universal “both sides of the coin” (Principled conscience: A rational ethic must not contain – internal contradictions, or conflict with its conscience premises or with the observed world. Principled reasons must be given for conclusions) a fixed universal must be able to apply to “both sides of the coin” Like one can’t be for human rights then deny gay rights. Morality and law if universal must be independent of religion, family, culture, ideology, and personal interests, so that these become matters of voluntary observance rather than coercion. “Situation ethics,” judging each case on its own merits, makes no sense without some standard to judge by. Without recognized, permanent values, and with freedom left undefined by constitutions and laws, we leave decisions to “community standards”; this means simply that a nation has abdicated its guarantee of freedom, unwilling or unable to say what it is. It is a moral void.
According to Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development
Level 1 (Pre-Conventional) 1. Obedience and punishment orientation (How can I avoid punishment?) 2. Self-interest orientation (What’s in it for me?) (Paying for a benefit)
Level 2 (Conventional) 3. Interpersonal accord and conformity (Social norms) (The good boy/good girl attitude) 4. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation (Law and order morality)
Level 3 (Post-Conventional) 5. Social contract orientation 6. Universal ethical principles (Principled conscience) Ref
We can create a future grandeur for humanity – the liberation of the human spirit – once we come to terms with the momentous significance of our human sentience. The Universal Ethic which flows from this source is the ethics of freedom, humane love, and the unity of the human family. It can turn our technology to beneficial ends, to restore the lost harmony between the products of nature and those of man. It is not an ideal utopia that the Universal Ethic offers, but a real world in which each person is free to direct his own life, as befits a sentient being. If the Universal Ethic is the fixed and objective principle of right and wrong, then to discover what it is and accept its validity we must be able to derive it rationally, from natural premises. The Universal Ethic itself is the objective standard for ethics, and so it has to be derived from scratch, using observations about human beings in the raw – independent of culture – to construct rational deductions, and combining these observations with the purpose and function of ethics. Without a rational basis, we are left with authority, whether of tradition, or personal insight, to be accepted on faith. Why should one authority be believed, objectively, rather than another? Such authorities may be quite valid in themselves as a source of personal values revealing happy ways to live and the ultimate nature of some reality, but they cannot alone be the source of a rational, objective ethics to be recognized and accepted by humanity as the foundation.
Some people will always refuse to be swayed by their opinions, whether by logic or by emotional or humanitarian appeals. Others will argue with the premises or claim that rationality itself is meaningless. No matter how sound a derivation of a rational ethic may be, it will not convince everyone. But just as the existence of gravity does not depend on whether we believe in it or not, neither does the existence of a permanent, objective ethics. A person open to rational demonstration and possessing a heart sympathetic to human good will be compelled to accept the truth of the Universal Ethic, provided the presentation does justice to it.
The saying you only live once is misleading you live a little every day you only die once so live it up. Then humans are cruel, we say they are acting like animals, but the only exhibition of cruelty is in humanity. This is not a perfect concept but the thought is they do it out of hunger, or instinctual motivation it is more like not cruel intent play, not like humans that enjoy the aspect of torcher with the enjoyment gain of human suffering that kind of behavior or sadistic motivation is not common in any species but man. Animals, unlike grown humans, cannot fully “moralize” any more than an infant or child depending on the animal; they lack the fully developed moral cognition or sense of considering their actions and how it has a suffering impact on their prey. Adult humans have fully developed moral cognition or sense of considering their actions thus usually consider consequences (how it has a suffering impact) yet still go on with it; some morally deficient humans even specifically find joy in the causing suffering for its own sake. I have seen animals act in fear and aggression, but I have never, ever seen one act out of sadism and/or cruelty, as some humans do. Some people say animals play with pray, but this is not real thought to cause pain as can be realized when pets are more than willing to substitute “pray” for toys and enjoy the play the same if not more. There is a big difference between hunting instinct and purposeful cruelty.
Since ethics is a product of man’s sentient qualities such as intelligence, awareness, and self-control, it is natural or even mandatory to construct the premises from observations on human beings and their sentience. Equality was not always acknowledged in the past and is still denied by some today, but modern anthropology is convinced it applies to all races and both sexes, despite any prejudices. As an interbreeding species, our sentience is a human-wide characteristic. There are of course idiots, the insane, and small children who lack the full ability to make judgments of normal adults; the assumption does not state that we are equally sentient or intelligent, but only that we are equally human and equal in moral rights. It means that children and idiots are full members of our human family. It is like saying we are all equally alive, even though some of us may be healthier than others. “The doctrine of universal, equal human rights presupposes a concept of equal and universal human worth that is to be sharply distinguished from the idea of human merits. All men equally have a point of view of their own, a unique angle from which they view the world. They are all equally centers of experience. Concepts will be combined with the three main criteria that the U.E. must satisfy:
- Comprehensiveness: it must discern right and wrong for all possible ethical situations.
- Objectivity: it must, as an objective ethic, be independent of any authority or culture.
- Universality: it must, as a permanent and universal ethic, apply to mankind as a whole and to all individual human beings, in all times and places.
These three criteria – comprehensiveness, objectivity, and universality – imply other qualities too, such as rationality, uniqueness, absoluteness, and naturalness (derived from nature). These are our premises and requirements.
Harm is an injury, an action that the victim feels has made him less well off. A hypothetical possibility generally does no direct harm to anyone. If a potential threat is dangerous enough, though, it can become an actual harm in itself. An atom bomb being kept in someone’s basement can certainly be considered harmful because the device itself is so dangerous by its very existence that it constitutes an actual, direct peril. The difference between hypothetical and actual harm is thus one of degree, just as in all harm. A related question is whether a person can be harmed without his knowing it. Joel Feinberg, a philosopher, noted that “having one’s Interests violated is one thing, and knowing that one’s interests have been violated is another. The rich man is harmed at the time his home is burgled, even though he may not discover the harm for months ….The law does not permit a burglar to plead, ‘He will never miss it’… Not all harms hurt. A person is harmed if he would feel less well-off given a full knowledge of the crime committed against him. We can now summarize ethically wrong as set forth by the U.E. in two statements of (Active harm or Passive harm ) intentional or permissive harm as opposed to unintentional, neutral cause or accidental harm,
- Active harm:
- Harm is a direct, actual injury independent of personal ethical views.
- All acts that coercively harm others, and only those acts, are morally wrong.
- Passive harm:
But we are not yet done with the concept of harm! The injunction not to harm others does not simply mean that people may do whatever they like, free from any moral obligation to others so long as they do not actively initiate violence. Harm can also be committed by a failure to act. A parent can harm his child by refusing to give it nourishment and affection. A witness can harm the victim of a crime and also the administration of justice by refusing to testify. A witness to an accident who refuses to help save the injured person’s life or even to call for help, at little cost to himself, has some responsibility for the death. A potential criminal may only be harmed (injured or restricted) to the extent that seems necessary to prevent the crime. Harm to non-human beings. We still need to determine the scope of the Universal Ethic. Who are those “others” we shouldn’t harm? Does the U.E. pertain only to relations among humans, or are other living beings included? Since the U.E. prescribes right and wrong for all ethical situations, it must cover humanity’s relationship to all that there is. Its concept of harm extends to all living beings and to the environment since they can clearly be injured as well as humans. But this does not necessarily mean that any harm done to a plant or animal is morally wrong. Morality flows from an equality of sentience or intelligence, and so different standards apply to the relations of a sentient species with beings or entities below the threshold of sentient intelligence. Much more harm is committed when sentient intelligence is destroyed than when raw life alone is injured, since sentience is life plus intelligent consciousness, and there is that much more to be harmed.
Freedom and Human Rights: Everywhere people yearn to be free, yet where can a free land be found? Where are a people who even know what freedom is? Is the world enslaved because people do not see that freedom must be mutual? “Freedom” is an absence of restrictions or constraints. It exists on many levels. There is the physical freedom of a man liberated from prison walls, and there is inner freedom, the release from psychological inhibitions and fears. We are not dealing with these freedoms, but with what is usually called individual freedom or social freedom or simply “liberty”: the absence of restrictive laws and government policies, the legal right to express oneself and move about as one wishes, in sum, the freedom from the coercive harm of others. We could also call it ethical freedom, that freedom of conduct permitted by an ethic. The Universal Ethic is the ethics of maximum individual freedom consistent with human equality. It defines freedom. Even deeper, it endows man with freedom. The soul of liberty is natural moral law as expressed by the Universal Ethic. The only restriction that the U.E. imposes on anyone is that he or she may not commit coercive harm against another (other than in self-defense, or to obtain the utility of plants and animals). Otherwise one is ethically free to live one’s life as one deems best. Were any further restrictions imposed, they would reduce one’s freedom to lead one’s own life. Were any fewer restrictions made, that is, if the U.E. allowed for some other types of harm, then the victims of those acts would not be able to live as they wished, and their freedom would be diminished and unequal. The freedom endowed by the U.E. grants every sentient being the equal right to the maximum amount of self-determination. The key to freedom or liberty is the U.E.’s definition of harm. Governments and ideologies, whether democratic, socialist, revolutionary or reactionary, have proclaimed their countries to be “free,” but people can only be free if they are permitted to do anything which does not coercively harm another. The “harm” that a state prohibits must be independent from the purely personal views of the rulers. Ethical or individual freedom means that prohibition is placed only on what is morally wrong. Freedom is therefore determined by right and wrong. It is morality as seen from a different angle. Freedom is not something relative or arbitrary, but a specific principle with two rules: (1) Acts which coercively harm others are prohibited. (2) All other acts are permitted. In other words, no restriction is placed on any action in which others are not harmed. In a free society, people are not only free to do, but they are also free to be – to be free from harm by others. We are not free if there are so many criminals prowling the streets that we risk our lives going to the corner grocery store. The separation of harm from personal ethical views – from all purely personal opinions, values, ideologies, creeds, prejudices, and beliefs – is the crucial element of individual freedom, precisely because freedom lies in the individual’s ability to live by his own personal ethical views.
Human rights are the twin of freedom. Freedom and human rights are two sides of a coin: the coin of morality. The right to do something means that it is wrong for others to prevent you from doing it. The right to life, for example, means that others may not take away your life, that it is morally wrong to murder you. Every right is the converse or correlative of a moral wrong or a moral duty. If someone, such as a child, has the right to receive something, it means that another has the moral obligation to provide it – in other words, that it is wrong for him to deny it to the child. A child’s right to food and love means that the parent is morally obligated to provide these. Human rights, then, are moral rights and also natural rights, since they come from a natural morality, the Universal Ethic, rather than the arbitrary legal rights granted by a government. Since the Universal Ethic has only one basic rule regarding moral wrong, based on coercive harm, there is really only one basic human right: the right to be free from coercive harm. This includes the right to do whatever does not harm others: “your right to swing your arms stops at my nose.” All legitimate human rights can be derived from the basic right not to be harmed. This basic principle has been stated in various ways by writers of philosophy, such as “the right to forbearance on the part of others from the use of coercion” and the right of “liberty to do … any action which is not designed to injure other persons”. The two concepts of freedom and human rights, then, are simply different ways of viewing the Universal Ethic: freedom is the right not to be harmed, and the basic human right is to be free from harm. Although we often speak of “having” a right, it is not a possession that can be renounced or given away. Human Rights and Human Liberties, states: “A right cannot be thought of as some object or property, but is more like a relationship or condition. Thus the right to be free, for example, is best understood to mean: we are (morally, naturally) entitled to relate to others on a voluntary basis, not by coercion. Since an individual cannot arbitrarily dictate what the Universal Ethic shall be, he cannot renounce the rights that are based on that ethic. Like freedom, the concept of human rights is simply another way of expressing the Universal Ethics’ dictate that all acts, and only those acts, which coercively harm others are morally wrong. To uphold any restriction other than prohibiting coercive harm would mean that people are not able to choose what is best for themselves, and therefore are harmed. The right to do whatever is not harmful springs from its converse, that it is morally wrong to restrict such action. The U.E. does more than define human rights. Since it is the natural and absolute Universal Ethic for man, it endows man with these rights. The Implication of Freedom and Human Rights There can be no legitimate excuse that national interests or security needs or economic conditions require a “suspension” of freedom or human rights. The right to do what is not harmful automatically conditions freedom and rights to the social situation. One does not have the right to give away military secrets and endanger national defense, but one does have the right not to be tortured. The key to human rights is the recognition of harm as independent of the ideologies and personal interests of the rulers. The mere criticism of the state cannot be harmful, for example, since its injury, if any, depends on the viewpoints of those affected. If the rulers suspend human rights, it means that they are defining harm by what they don’t personally like, rather than what the people feel harmed by.
On average a universal ethic must satisfy seven criteria.
- It must, to be comprehensive, apply to all ethical situations.
- It must, to be universal, also apply to all people.
- It must, to be objective, be independent from cultures or subjective values.
- It must, to be absolute, be fixed, that is, permanent and unchanging.
- It must, to be rational, be consistent within itself.
- It must, to be natural, stem from real-world premises.
- It must be distinctive as the moral imperative for the government of man, uniquely determining freedom and human rights.
If the U.E. fulfills these requirements, then it is the absolute and rational principle of right and wrong in human affairs. Let us examine the U .E. in light of these criteria one by one.
- Is it comprehensive? Instead of dealing with limited categories of acts, such as killing, stealing, sex, and so forth, the U.E. makes all coercive harm to others wrong in itself and then limits the concept of moral wrong by saying that only those acts are wrong. Likewise, the good is prescribed as any act that benefits another (in the view of the recipient), and all other acts are left as morally neutral. Therefore all conduct is included. Z. Is it universal? The U.E. grants no exceptions or privileges, applying equally to all.
- Is it objective? By defining harm and benefit as independent from personal ethical views, the U.E. itself becomes independent of them, and therefore objective.
- Is it absolute? By prohibiting harm in any cultural or historical context, the U.E. is valid for all times and places, thus permanent and unchanging.
- Is it rational? There is no contradiction between the three premises of individuality, equality, and egoism (discussed in Section C), and the formulation of the ethic. The U .E. allows for the maximum of individuality, as expressed through egoism, consistent with equality.
- Is it natural? The three premises are based on observations of human nature, and not on any cultural developments or made-up concepts.
- Is it unique? The U.E. is unique if the three premises are accepted as true. What if some other universal ethic conformed to these premises, but contradicted the conclusions? It would have to contradict the U.E. in one or more of four ways: (a) by designating acts other than harm as wrong or evil, (b) by designating acts other than benefits as right or good, (c) by denying that some harms are wrong, or (d) by denying that some benefits are good. a. Suppose it designated an act other than coercive harm, such as dancing on Sundays, as morally wrong. It would either contradict the principle of moral equality, the meaning of “evil”, or else the “wrong” would have to be an offense – disagreeable to someone solely according to his or her personal views. This would violate objectivity – the requirement that the ethic be independent from personal ethical views. b. If the other ethic designated acts other than those benefiting others as good, then by similar arguments it would be based on personal ethical views (or contradict the premise of moral equality or the definition of good), and violate the requirement that good and benefit are independent of such views. c. If the other ethic denied that some harms are wrong, it would either contradict the definition of evil as including harmful acts or else violate the concept of each person’s equality in determining what is harmful to himself.
We would then have to speak of sentient rights, rather than human rights alone. For just as the U.E. does not discriminate arbitrarily amongst animals, neither does it discriminate amongst sentient forms, whether human or alien, except in regard to greater or lesser sentience. Similar principles apply to plant life. Since as far as we know plants are lower in sentience than animals in general, the ethical restraints against using them are quite low, but not zero. Though most plants, as far as we can tell, have no feeling of pain or any organized intelligence, many of them are quite sensitive to touch, light, and sounds. Even plants as living beings have some rudimentary rights. A harmless species of plant has the right to survive as a species, and a plant that is non-injurious to man and not needed for human use has the right to live free from harmful human harassment (Ecological Harm). Freedom, the individual ethical freedom we have been speaking of, is the right to do what we like with our lives, up to the limit of coercive harm. Ecology is the relationship between living beings, including humans, and their environment. There are natural laws and principles that govern these relationships. Destroy the birds and you increase the insect pests. Cut down all the tropical forests and you severely impair the climate of the Earth. There are natural balances between the forests and the climate, between the sea life and the Earth’s breathable oxygen, and between the ozone in the atmosphere. and the amount of radiation reaching the surface of the earth. If we interrupt these relationships, we can cause catastrophes for life on Earth. A free society is not one in which people may ignore ecological principles to do whatever they like with their own private property, subject only to lawsuits. It is one which lives in harmony with nature, which means it does not permit people to break the balances which support life. Individual freedom does not give someone the right to chop down an entire slope of the forest, even if humans own it, if the rains will later wash away the soil and flood the valleys. To live within the laws of nature is not a restriction of freedom; it is ethical freedom itself, for our freedom includes our right to have an environment with healthy and abundant soil, forests, seas, and wildlife so that we can have the means to enjoy life and even to live at all. Environmental ethics consists in weighing the harm caused by interfering with nature against that of restricting human activity. The right of fishermen to hunt whales must be balanced with that of the whales to survive as a species, and with humanity’s right to preserve whales as part of its natural heritage. The just state must strike a middle path between these rights.
Does the U.E. apply only to those living right now or also to life in the future? This question is the heart of the conservation issue. We can easily see the mutual benefit of protecting one another from harm now, but why protect future generations? And what’s in it for us? If someone plants a bomb in your house, set to explode exactly ten years from now, and it explodes right on schedule and blows you up, splattering your remains for miles around, has he harmed you? If he instead sets an atomic bomb to explode in downtown London one hundred years from now and at the appointed time it does indeed blow the city to bits, killing millions, has he harmed them? Clearly, harm that occurs in the future, no matter how distant, is still harm. There is another aspect. When someone sets a bomb to explode at some future time, the harm is already committed when the bomb is set. When you dump arsenic into the sea, the act of harm is done right then, even though it may take weeks for its ultimate effects to come about. So the Universal Ethic does apply to those “others” living in the future. In a sense any act that you perform is felt in the future, since the rest of our lives always lie in that direction. Harming the present always harms the future, and penalties for future harm may be made in the present. What’s in it for us is that we ourselves will be living for some time into the future, as will our descendants and the memories of our lives. The “book of time” will record everything we do. Now let us see what this aspect of the U.E. implies. Any action at all may alter the future, but our conclusion that future lives have rights specifically implies a need for conservation. In our efforts to preserve vital resources we recognize that if we use up all the good soil, the oil, and the wildlife in the present, we prosper at the expense of future generations just as a thief prospers at the expense of his victim. The ethical question is one of balance. To what degree should future lives be considered when we use or deplete resources for our present needs and wants?
Harmony with Nature
Humans are still a tiny force in the vast natural universe, but on Earth land animals and things become owned as humanities in many to all human minds to some extent or another and have very recently as well as very suddenly reversed humanities position vis-à-vis the natural living world. Once he was dependent on the wilderness for survival; now its survival depends on him. Humans have eradicated entire forests, and now could exterminate all the fish in the sea. The forests have become owned as humanities gardens, the seas his aquariums, the deserts become owned as humanities sandlots. Humans have become the master of all life on Earth. The plants and animals have become owned as humanities pets, save only a few enemies – such as rats and viruses – beyond the immediate control of humans. The sentient intelligence that gives humans mastery obliges him now more than ever to preserve the living beings of the world that do him no harm. Humans have overwhelmed the wilderness. The cycles of nature have been disrupted in all the inhabited continents. Only in the seas does life still function, for the time being, without his massive interference. Humans cuts down the trees and haul them into the cities; humans raises crops and trucks them to cities where humans fully believe they own everything; humans mines the Earth and builds cities: the ownership of humanity rather than the ownership by humanity because humans own greed. When humans are done with fibers, plastics and metals they dumps them into the sea or buries them in the ground or they go up in smoke. Nature returns her products to their origin. Animals become food for plants, plants for animals, and minerals are returned to the soil. Humans interrupts these cycles and commits double harm: humans robs nature of nutrients in one place and converts them to pollution at another. For humans ultimate survival humankind has to learn to simulate the cycles of nature with human technology. Humans must cycle and recycle everything he touches. Predators benefit their prey by limiting their numbers; now man, having killed the mountain lion, must become a lion to the deer. A free society should not coerce people into using birth control just for the sake of controlling the general level of population, but overpopulated countries should encourage family planning through incentive and education.
The essence of the Universal Ethic is self-determination, and its primary corollary is the ethic of conservation and self-preservation. Now that we have mastered the planet we have no choice but to manage it well, or die. “The one and only thing we can do to raise a crop of game is to make the environment more favorable. ls That fundamental fact of life applies to plants, animals, and human beings alike. Once tribal man knew how to live in harmony with his wild environment. Modern man must use human technology to restore this harmony in his civilization if he is to survive. The free society is one that does not try to mold anyone’s personality into any ideal image. “The curse of humanity,” is the external compulsion, whether it comes from the Pope or the state or the teacher or the parent. Individual freedom is the right to be one’s self, the right to freely express one’s personality and originality free from the harassment, threats, and domination of those who would make you other than what you want to be. The only thing a free society may demand of anyone is that he be ethical, that he not coercively harm another.
Ethics flows from intelligent sentience, from the nature of humans in their ability to consciously direct their actions with a high level of awareness and choice. Universal Ethic derives from a few basic premises, among them human moral equality. But do these conditions fully apply to children? Do they have the right to live as they please, equal to that of adults? Before we can determine how the Universal Ethic applies to children, we must first examine what “child nature” is, just we had to examine the nature of animals before seeing how the U. E. applies to them. The first point we can make is that, clearly, children are human beings, just as human as adults. So, regardless of whatever else we may perceive as child nature, the premise of human equality upon which the U.E. is based gives children the same basic human right as adults: the right to be free from coercive harm. A child thus has the equal right to life, and the equal right to the pursuit of happiness. However, the application of these principles depends on the social circumstances, and so the way we perceive child nature will determine how children’s rights are to be implemented. We can distinguish two basic views of child nature among the various observations made by adults (who have usually forgotten what it is like to be a child).
Ethics, flows from intelligent sentience, from the nature of humans in their ability to consciously direct their actions with a high level of awareness and choice. Universal Ethics derives from a few basic premises, among them human moral equality. But do these conditions fully apply to children? Do they have the right to live as they please, equal to that of adults? To me, the answer is clearly yes, as absolutely how can children not have some human moral equality. So hell yes a child thus has the equal right to life, and the equal right to the pursuit of happiness. We can distinguish flawed authoritarian views that remove the choice of children self-ownership rights (and future self-mastery presumably) made by adults (who have usually forgotten what it is like to be a child needing SELF-rights defined by self to further fully establish self-mastery better). They’re too busy being wrapped up in their own needs to notice. And you know, I used to be a different person too, so I get it! But that’s no excuse and what irritates me is the refusal to acknowledge new information because it forces them to admit they need to change. Change takes effort. It’s FUCKING HARD to rewire a brain that has been programmed to do something for 10yrs, 20 yrs, or 30yrs, BUT… it’s no excuse it’s just something people should strive to do if the change is actually wanted.
The first view is that a child, especially in infancy, lacks the full self-control and rationality of an adult. “In the beginning,” writes one doctor, “the acts of a newly born baby are, as we have seen, purely automatic. The child’s judgments were simpler than the adult’s because of physiological and neurological immaturity …. The infant’s powers of judgment were weak and should not be relied upon. A child is not is only morally responsible for his acts depending on development or moral rational level. Most of the bodily activities at this time are carried on by midbrain or cord reflexes, without cerebral control. He cannot possibly be good or bad because he has not yet developed a brain with which to make decisions.” If a physiological and neurological maturity needed is lacking all sense of right and wrong, a child can hardly do nothing things which are morally evil, or which merits either punishment or extreme reproof. This, then, seems to be one generally perceived view of the child: that in infancy, and to some measure until the age of maturity, children do not have the mental capacity to direct their own lives with good judgment, and thus should not have the moral responsibility for doing so. A second viewpoint is that a child does have the basic reasoning powers of an adult, and it is only a lack of knowledge and experience that prevents him or her from being able to make responsible judgments. In this view, even infants have some thinking ability. [One year old babies] seem to realize that they’re not meant to be a baby doll the rest of their life, that they’re human beings with ideas and a will of their own. When you suggest something that doesn’t appeal to them, they feel they must assert themselves. Their nature tells them to …. Stop and think what would happen to children who never felt like saying No. They’d become robots.” A simple lack of knowledge and experience can have the same consequences as the alleged lack of reasoning ability, in that the child may not be able to make judgments and sensible decisions because he simply does not have the information and life-experience needed to do so. Whether through a lack of data or an inadequate data-processor, infants and children cannot yet fully be said to possess responsibility for their own existence or the ability to make their own decisions with any insight into the consequences. Parents may quite properly forbid their children from doing certain things (whether or not they harm others) but not without limit. We need not go to the extreme of presuming any neurological immaturity”, since the simple lack of knowledge is enough justification for an adult’s right to some control over the child – to keep him from crossing a dangerous street or swallowing a needle – when the child does not know the consequences of his act. The same justification gives us the right to prevent a blind man from stepping over a cliff if the man is not aware of where he is stepping. An additional aspect of child nature is that infants are physically helpless, and therefore necessarily dependent on adults. They also depend on adults to give them the knowledge and skills needed to become a functioning adult, just as the young of most mammals need to learn how to become mature, self-sufficient creatures. As Margaret Mead expressed it: Human infants are born helpless and relatively undeveloped, dependent upon adult nurture and adult transmission of the great body of culture – beliefs, practices, skills – which make it possible for any human group … to function as human beings …. A child who does not participate in this great body of tradition … never becomes fully human. Because children need care and lack knowledge and maturity, their particular rights are somewhat different from those of adults. Does this mean that the U. E. makes any exceptions for children? No, certainly not. An exception to the U. E. would be like an exception to the law of gravity. There can be no “exception” to either. If someone finds himself in a weightless condition, it doesn’t mean that the laws of gravity have ceased to work. He may be falling, or be far from any massive bodies, or there may be other forces counteracting gravity. If we discover a galaxy in which gravity doesn’t work in the way we are used to, we ask why and discover an improved theory of gravity that can explain the new phenomena as well as the old. Similarly, with the U. E. we examine just how it applies to humans of various types, and formulate the ethics of dealing with children, embryos, the “insane”, and others who may lack the ability or the knowledge to make reasoned judgments. Children’s helpless condition and lack of knowledge gives them one right which adults do not normally have, and at the same time denies them one right normally possessed by adults: they have the right to receive care from adults until they can take care of themselves, but by the same token their very dependence denies them the full right to control their own lives. These two differences from adult rights still stem from the basic human right not to be harmed. We know that a baby has to be cared for, or it dies. If it is not fed properly, kept warm and snug, and loved, it may get sick. Since a baby is harmed if it’s not cared for, it has the right to receive the care. Who is obligated to provide it? The parents are responsible, for they are the ones who created or adopted the child. In doing so they formed a moral contract with the child to care for it. And if they cannot or will not fulfill this obligation, then society has that responsibility in its general obligation to prevent passive harm. The United Nations has recognized this right in its Declaration of the Rights of the Child (November 20, 1959): “The child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.” To prevent or minimize harm to the baby, his parent or guardian may exercise control over him, to keep the little rascal from swallowing poison, crawling into a busy street, or playing with snakes. As John Stuart Mill wrote in his essay On Liberty, “Those who are still in a state to require being taken care of by others must be protected against their own actions as well as against external injury.” Is this restriction from harming oneself a violation of a child’s freedom? No, for individual freedom is the absence of restrictions up to the limit of harm. A baby’s lack of knowledge prevents him or her from being able to determine, in certain cases, what may bring about harm. Under the U. E. each person determines what is best for himself, but a baby is not able to fully decide that. More than the mere ignorance of children is involved – it is their need to develop maturity that gives them their special status. Adults can be ignorant too, but they have presumably had the life experience or mental development that makes them able to have mature judgments and to fend for themselves. A baby’s right to receive welfare – free care and feeding – makes up for its lack of the right to fully direct its own life. But the baby still possesses the right to be free up to the limit of harm. It may not have the right to stick its hand in an oven, but it is endowed with the right to do whatever is not objectively harmful, including the right to make funny noises, crawl where it is safe, play with its toes or other body parts, and generally to be unrestricted, unless it is necessary for its own protection or the protection of others. A baby has the right to be fed when it is hungry. As Neill emphasizes, “Totalitarianism began, and totalitarianism still begins in the nursery …. Self-regulation should begin with birth, with the very first feedings. Every baby has the birthright of being fed when it wants to be fed.” A pet dog may be trained to please humans, but a child is a human and ethically may not be so treated. If junior does not wish to play the piano so that his parents can amuse their friends, he has the right to refuse, for his refusal does not harm himself or others. If the refusal displeases others, it is merely an incidental injury dependent on their personal views. As children mature, as their knowledge, judgment and experience increase, they acquire a greater right to moral autonomy. They become more and more ethically responsible for their acts, and in turn acquire an increasing right to direct their own lives free from adult authority. At the same time, the obligations of others to care for them decreases. A ten-year-old child should be expected to put on her own clothes and go to the bathroom without help. Each increase in autonomy is a decrease in the right to be taken care of. Although this change in rights is gradual throughout childhood, there is a sudden leap at the age of recognized maturity to full moral autonomy, just as there was a leap at birth from total dependence on the mother’s body to bodily autonomy. Raising Children The U. E. itself cannot tell us how to raise children, just as it cannot tell a farmer how to grow corn. The knowledge of children and their physical and psychological needs is independent of the U. E., since this knowledge comes to us from observation. ‘The Universal Ethic tells us what harm is, but not what is harmful. It gives us the criteria for harm, such as that it be direct and not incidental. But we have to see what is harmful by looking at the real world. Once we have that knowledge we then can apply the U. E. to determine the action we should take, just as knowing that DDT harms the environment should lead us to restrict our use of it in growing corn. So let us now explore in further detail, in the light of some observed knowledge about children, how the U. E. applies to raising and educating them. Culture: Brainwashing or Heritage? The culture a child acquires, including his cultural and personal ethics, is influenced by what his society and his parents teach him. A child’s religion, sense of national identity, political views, artistic tastes – all depend much on the culture of the society he lives in, and his reaction to it. The child’s cultural and ethical values – and to a degree his personality and character – are imposed upon him, without his being consulted, without even his being able to choose, simply because he is raised in a certain environment. The question is, does this inherently violate his right to self-determination and freedom? Isn’t the child “brainwashed”, programmed, and thoroughly inculcated with the propaganda, values, and tastes of his particular culture, in such a way that he can never really be free to choose his own beliefs, desires, and lifestyles? Is this all unethical? That the child acquire the culture of his environment is not only inescapable, it is ethically neutral. The British or American child will learn English, and the Mexican child Spanish, but since he has to speak some language or other, from the U.E.’s point of view it doesn’t matter which one. His parents may teach him their own language without violating any rights of the child. Similarly it is not a violation of freedom if the child is exposed to a certain style of music, art, dance, or pattern of living. No harm is done to him when he absorbs jazz or mariachi music or folk dancing. Even though the exposure will form part of his personality and the child is “programmed”, trained, or “brainwashed” to like certain foods and lifestyles and to believe and practice a certain religion, his parents and society do not harm him by passing on their culture to him, assuming that the culture itself is not objectively harmful. Since the U. E. is independent of any personal or cultural values, it cannot condemn any type of cultural value or taste as evil, and so the absorption of a culture by the child is not wrong either. Parents have the right to pass on their legacy and heritage to their children. Nevertheless, the U. E. does condemn as wrong any harmful aspect of a culture and its imposition upon a child against his or her desires. If it is part of a culture to sacrifice live virgins against their will, then the practice is wrong by the standard of the U. E. Sacrificing an infant’s life to an idol is murder in the eyes of the U. E. Teaching a child to be cruel to animals harms the beasts; teaching him to stone children of a different race harms those victims; and so these teachings are obviously wrong. It is also wrong to force a child to adopt a cultural trait if she doesn’t wish to. If a child hates Beethoven, it is a violation of her freedom to force her to play the Fifth Symphony on the flute. A child is born without any cultural beliefs or values, but she or he is born with natural needs and desires, and with a personality that insists on being expressed. A child is not an empty vessel or white sheet of paper; she is born with an emphatic genetic “program” which unfolds as she grows and develops. If her needs are not met, if her natural personality is thwarted, and if others impose their particular ideas of what she should be upon her against her natural desires, then these are crimes against the child. Her life does not belong to her parents or to society; it belongs to her, and any attempt to crush her native personality violates her right to become herself. “To give freedom is to allow the child to live [her or his] own life.
THE RIGHTS AND DUTIES OF CHILDREN IN A FREE SOCIETY
Section I. Rights
Every child has the right to receive the care required for his or her physical and psychological health. This includes the right to receive food when hungry; the right to adequate warmth and protection from hazards; and the right to be cared for affectionately, respected and appreciated. A child’s guardians have the obligation to prevent the child from coming to harm. This includes preventing the child from doing harm to himself if the child lacks the knowledge to do so. The child has the right to express his or her individuality and personality free from arbitrary restraint. This includes the right to refuse food not of his liking (although the child may be required not to waste food); to express himself freely; to play the games of his own choosing; to have the privacy of his own thoughts, letters and written expressions; to be left in peace in his own space, if he has a place of his own within the home; and to keep and control his own property as long as its use is not harmful. A child’s right to be free from harm includes physical and emotional injuries other than those required as punishment. Adults may not punish a child for any accidental acts, for acts beyond his ability to recognize as wrong, or acts for which there is no strong, direct evidence for blame. Punishment shall not include the deprivation of food, medicine, or affection, nor shall it consist of bodily or emotional injury harmful to his health, such as soaping the inside of a child’s mouth. (“Never deprive a child of something really crucial to him as punishment …. The child reacts to this only with deep hostility and a desire for revenge. As a child sees it, to deprive him of something like a birthday party constitutes ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’ And he is right.”) Harm can include lies not necessary for the child’s well-being. A child does not have to be told truths which may emotionally damage him, such as that he is not loved as much as his siblings. But an adult should not deliberately lie to a child about God, sex, the origin of babies, and so forth, nor should an adult relate myths (deliberate fictions) about storks and fairies except with the understanding of the child that these are fictional, symbolic, or metaphorical stories. A child has no obligation to obey an adult who is not his legal superior at the time. Legal superiors include only a child’s parents or legal guardians, those entrusted by the legal guardians for his care, teachers (during school hours), and the government police. However, an adult who is being harmed by a child may order him or compel him to cease his destruction as a matter of self-defense. An adult may also save a child from direct danger. If a child feels that his well-being is seriously threatened by staying with his parents or guardians, he has the right to leave them and seek refuge with relatives or friends, or the state’s protective agencies. A child has the right to bring a serious conflict with his legal superiors before the government authorities and the juvenile courts. The rights of children to life and the pursuit of happiness are equal to those of adults.
Section 2. Age of Maturity
The age of maturity, at which a child becomes an adult, shall be eighteen years. If he has a compelling reason, a child may petition the state to declare him an adult up to six years previous to age eighteen. [Some cultures set the age of maturity as early as twelve or thirteen.] Or, both the child and the parents may voluntarily agree, in a written statement sent to the appropriate state agency, to extend the age of maturity to twenty-one, so that he may continue to receive the protection and rights due to minors.
Section 3. The Duties of Children
It is unlawful for a child to harm another person or to needlessly harm an animal. A child may not damage or steal another’s possessions, or restrict others’ freedom. Until the age of maturity a child must remain under the control of his legal guardians, unless he leaves them as specified in
A child shall not refuse to do his fair share of household work, nor refuse to aid his family in time of need, so long as he is not unduly exploited. A child may be required to pay restitution for the losses he causes. His legal guardians are responsible for such damages and are also liable for restitution. The U.E.’s standard is that freedom is the right to live without restrictions, up to the limit of harm. To restrict within that limit violates freedom, and the failure to restrict beyond that limit (to allow harm) equally violates the ethical freedom of those harmed. Other writers have stressed this idea of limitations in similar terms. “Permissiveness” can be viewed as “an attitude of accepting the childishness of children … the acceptance of children as persons who have a constitutional right to have all kinds of feelings and wishes. . . . Destructive behavior is not permitted. . . . Overpermissiveness is the allowing of undesirable [destructive] acts.”12 Neill wrote: “It is this distinction between freedom and license that many parents cannot grasp. In the disciplined home, the children have no rights. In the spoiled home, they have all the rights. And the same applies to the school.”13 Parents are often afraid of “too much freedom,” for there is a risk. Who knows what trouble a son will get into if he plays in the park, or a daughter if she goes to the dance with some stranger? Freedom is sometimes riskier in the short run than protective restraint. But the risks have to be measured against the harm of failing to allow the child to experience life as he chooses to. As Neill wrote, freedom is a matter of faith in children, and if they have acquired self-regulation, then they will be their own policemen and safety supervisors. In the long run it is safer for the child to gradually become responsible for himself than for him to rebel one day in crime, or be unable to handle himself when he is suddenly thrust into a rough and dangerous world. “What is a parent to do?” Freedom does not mean “being soft” or “making it easy for the children”. They should not be given everything they want, but what they have, they have the right to control. Freedom does not mean giving in to every whim, of the child. He has no right to impose his will upon others either. its children the direction they need to see that they do not cause harm it provides them with constructive alternatives to wandering about loose in the streets with nothing to do but look for trouble. The U .E. is the sensible center between the extremes of childhood chaos – letting children run amok without any regulations at all – and the extreme of exerting totalitarian authority over every tiny detail of their lives.
If a person is conscious, he has the right to decide on his medical treatment. – on his own life or death. If he is in agonizing pain (or even If he IS not), he has the right to choose to have his own life ended. But what are the ethics of treating those who have lost consciousness with little or no hope of regaining it? Do these human “vegetables’: have any rights at all? If they have previously signed a set of instructions to apply to this case, then their wishes should be followed. But what if there are no signed instructions? What if it is extremely burdensome to keep the unconscious patient alive by artificial means? If a person loses all consciousness, the relevant question is, what are the chances of his regaining sentience, versus the cost of keeping him alive? Ethically we should avoid passive harm (allowing another to die by doing nothing), but the obligation ceases if the cost to ourselves becomes overwhelming, for it then becomes a case of sacrificing ourselves for the benefit of another, which is good but not a morally imperative obligation. When the chance, as the doctors see it, is zero or close to nil that a patient will recover sentience, and it requires superhuman efforts to keep him alive through machines, then even though the sheer animal functioning of the body does give the unconscious person some rights, the cost to others, the overwhelmingly burdensome expense, can override the patient’s rights. If the patient’s sentience is close to zero, with no realistic hope of regaining it, then the potential harm is also close to zero and may be committed to save the survivors from the greater emotional as well as financial harm. But if no artificial means other than intravenous feeding is required, the patient’s right to live must be respected, since this cost is low and the patient is living by his own natural bodily functions rather than forced to live by machines that replace his organs.
Fred Emanuel Foldvary (born May 11, 1946) is a lecturer in economics at San Jose State University, California, and a research fellow at The Independent Institute. He previously taught at Santa Clara University and other colleges. He is also a commentator and senior editor for the online journal The Progress Report and an associate editor of the online journal Econ Journal Watch. In his Ph.D. dissertation (George Mason University, 1992), “Public Goods and Private Communities”, he applied the theory of Public goods and Industrial organization to refute the concept of market failure, including case studies of several types of private communities. His research interests include ethics, governance, and economics and public finance.His support of geolibertarianism (a libertarian ideology which embraces the Georgist philosophy of property) and his advocacy of civil liberties and free markets have gained him a place of high visibility in the geolibertarian movement. In 2000, he ran for Congress in California’s 9th District as a Libertarian. He received 3.3% of the total vote to finish third among the four candidates on the ballot. Foldvary has written on topics including ending slavery in chocolate plantations; a green tax shift to protect the environment while enhancing the economy; reforming democracy with small-group voting, and solving the territorial conflict with confederations and the payment of rent for occupied land. The three basic themes of Foldvary’s writing are the universal ethic, cellular democracy, and public revenue from land rent. In 1998 he predicted there would be a real estate-related recession in 2008 and a tech bubble collapse in the year 1999 or 2000. In 2007 Foldvary published a booklet entitled The Depression of 2008. In a 2011 paper, Mason Gaffney criticized the economic community for excluding and ignoring Foldvary. Ref
The Soul of Liberty (1980) The Gutenberg Press. ISBN 0-9603872-1-8
Public Goods and Private Communities (1994) Edward Elgar Publishing ISBN 1-85278-951-4
Beyond Neoclassical Economics: Heterodox Approaches to Economic Theory (1996) Edward Elgar Publishing ISBN 1-85898-395-9
Dictionary of Free Market Economics (1998) Edward Elgar Publishing ISBN 1-85898-432-7
The Half-Life of Policy Rationales: How Technology Affects Old Policy Issues (ed., with Daniel Klein, 2003) ISBN 0-8147-4777-9
The Depression of 2008 (2007) The Gutenberg Press. ISBN 0-9603872-0-X
Natural morality describes a form of morality that is based on how humans evolved, rather than a morality acquired from societal norms or religious teachings. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is central to the acceptance of a natural morality. Ref
We, humans, tend to think of emotions as dangerous forces that need to be strictly controlled by reason and logic. But that’s not how the brain works. In the brain logic and reason are never separate from emotion. Even nonsense syllables have an emotional charge, either positive or negative. Nothing is neutral. The seven networks of emotion in the brain: SEEKING, RAGE, FEAR, LUST, CARE, PANIC/GRIEF, and PLAY. In Pankseep’s Affective Neuroscience, he explains that there “is good biological evidence for at least seven innate emotional systems….” Panksepp explains that some of these “universally recognized emotions correspond to the ‘infantile’ feelings that young children exhibit.” These emotional systems are genetically encoded into the subcortical neurocircuitry of the mammalian brain. Stimulating different subcortical areas via electrodes produces emotional reactions in animals. In contrast, “We cannot precipitate emotional feelings by artificially activating the neocortex either electrically or neurochemically,” writes Panksepp. He points out, however, that “emotionality is modified by cortical injury.” He also emphasizes: “Emotive circuits have reciprocal interactions with the brain mechanisms that elaborate higher decision-making processes and consciousness.” Panksepp points out that each major emotional system “has intrinsic response patterning mechanisms” in place. Real world experience can, however, affect the natural expression of primal emotional systems. For example, Panksepp writes: “Most cats that have been reared only with other cats will hunt and kill mice and rats, but those that have been reared with rats from the time of birth show no such inclination.” Ref According to ScienceDaily, a number of recent studies support the role of emotions in moral judgment, and in particular a dual-process model of moral judgment in which both automatic emotional processes and controlled cognitive processes drive moral judgment,” explained Young. “For example, when people must choose whether to harm one person to save many, emotional processes typically support one type of non-utilitarian response, such don’t harm the individual, while controlled processes support the utilitarian response, such as save the greatest number of lives. Our study showed that utilitarian judgment may arise not simply from enhanced cognitive control but also from diminished emotional processing and reduced empathy.” The researchers’ findings show there is a key relationship between moral judgment and empathic concern, in particular, specifically feelings of warmth and compassion in response to someone in distress. In a series of experiments, utilitarian moral judgment was revealed to be specifically associated with reduced empathic concern, and not with any of the demographic or cultural variables tested, nor with other aspects of empathic responding, including personal distress and perspective taking. The study of 2748 people consisted of three experiments involving moral dilemmas. In two of the experiments, the scenario was presented to participants in both “personal” and “impersonal” versions. In the first experiment’s “personal” version, participants were told they could push a large man to his death in front of an oncoming trolley to stop the trolley from killing five others in its path. In the “impersonal” version, participants were told they could flip a switch to divert the trolley. In the second experiment’s “impersonal” scenario, participants were given the option of diverting toxic fumes from a room containing three people to a room containing only one person. In the “personal” scenario, participants were asked whether it was morally acceptable to smother a crying baby to death to save a number of civilians during wartime. The final experiment included both a moral dilemma and a measure of selfishnesses. The moral dilemma asked participants if it was permissible to transplant the organs of one patient, against his will, to save the lives of five patients. In the selfishness measure, participants were asked if it was morally permissible to report personal expenses as business expenses on a tax return to save money. This experiment provided the researchers with a sense of whether utilitarian responders and selfish responders are alike in having a lower empathetic concern. In other words, do utilitarians endorse harming one to save many simply because they endorse harmful, selfish acts more generally? The results suggest that the answer is no; utilitarians appear to endorse harming one to save many due to their reduced empathic concern and not due to a generally deficient moral sense. In each experiment, those who reported lower levels of compassion and concern for other people — a key aspect of empathy — picked the utilitarian over the non-utilitarian response. However, other aspects of empathy, such as being able to see the perspective of others and feel distress at seeing someone else in pain, did not appear to play a significant role in these moral decisions. Similarly, demographic and cultural differences, including age, gender, education, and religiosity, also failed to predict moral judgments. “Diminished emotional responses, specifically, reduced empathic concern, appear to be critical in facilitating utilitarian responses to moral dilemmas of high emotional salience,” the researchers concluded. ” Ref According to MARC D. HAUSER, surprisingly, our emotions do not appear to have much effect on our judgments about right and wrong in these moral dilemmas. A study of individuals with damage to an area of the brain that links decision-making and emotion found that when faced with a series of moral dilemmas, these patients generally made the same moral judgments as most people. This suggests that emotions are not necessary for such judgments. Our emotions do, however, have a great impact on our actions. How we judge what is right or wrong may well be different from what we chose to do in a situation. For example, we may all agree that it is morally permissible to kill one person in order to save the lives of many. When it comes to actually taking someone’s life, however, most of us would turn limp. Another example of the role that emotions have on our actions comes from recent studies of psychopaths. Studies suggest that clinically diagnosed psychopaths do recognize right from wrong, as evidenced by their responses to moral dilemmas. What is different is their behavior. While all of us can become angry and have violent thoughts, our emotions typically restrain our violent tendencies. In contrast, psychopaths are free of such emotional restraints. They act violently even though they know it is wrong because they are without remorse, guilt or shame. These studies suggest that nature handed us a moral grammar that fuels our intuitive judgments of right and wrong. Emotions play their strongest role in influencing our actions—reinforcing acts of virtue and punishing acts of vice. We generally do not commit wrong acts because we recognize that they are wrong and because we do not want to pay the emotional price of doing something we perceive as wrong. Ref According to John Shook, those who claim that only religion can supply moral objectivity are either ignorant of what the term ‘objective’ means, or they are using ‘objective’ in a peculiar way to actually mean ‘absolute’. ‘Objective’ is the contrary of ‘subjective’ — where ‘subjective’ means dependence on a subject (an individual person), ‘objective’ means independent from an individual person. Science knows about objectivity. And science can study subjectivity, too. However, if morality is reduced to just what psychology can grasp, then there is a risk of justifying moral subjectivity. In a previous post I pointed out how a naturalistic understanding of morality should support moral objectivity . And then I read Paul Bloom’s essay “How do morals change” which also worries that psychology can’t have the whole story about morality. Morality is a paradigm example of something that can be, and usually is, independent from any individual person. Whether a deed is moral or immoral does not depend on the judgment or feeling or whim of any single person. Unless that person is God, a religious person might say. However, the simplistic religious view that morality depends on the will of God is just subjectivism on a cosmic scale. Naturalists of course do not regard ethical ideals as absolute moral truths, either. However, people do appeal to ethical ideals when they compare, criticize, and modify the moralities of cultures. From the standpoint of naturalism, it is perfectly natural to expect people to try to change a morality using ethical thinking when they see problems with that morality. And it also quite natural to expect that ethical ideals are the sorts of things that people do not agree about, and that ethical ideals also change or disappear over time. Culture is not the opposite of nature; we are naturally moral. It is a misunderstanding of naturalism if you suppose that a naturalistic understanding of humans must entirely strip away culture and ignore how humans are cultured humans. If you want to study humans unaffected by culture, study early-term fetuses or study isolated genes, but you won’t find morality there. It is also a misunderstanding of naturalism if you expect that a naturalistic understanding of morality must derive warm moral ‘oughts’ from cold scientific facts. 19th Century naturalists once talked that way — they perpetuated the root religious notion that morality could be discerned in the natural design of things — again obscuring how people are naturally encultured. A contemporary naturalist should not repeat outdated religious notions. Humans naturally use the cultural wisdom bestowed by earlier generations. This natural fact explains how religions teach morals and pass down ethical ideals, by the way. There is nothing in objective morality that cannot fit into the naturalistic worldview. Wrongly supposing that morality can’t be natural is akin to supposing that agriculture can’t be natural. Basic morality and higher ethics, and even religious ethics can all fit into a naturalistic worldview. Ref
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