Basic Orientation
Book1: R-E Living & "Homo Rationalis"
Acknowledgements
Introduction: Most Important Book
Basic Methods In This Book
The Three Exponential Changes
Basics: Determinants Of Behavior
Basics: Ethics
Rational-Ethical Anger Prevention
Rational-Ethical Child Rearing
Rational-Ethical Belief Management
Rational-Ethical Government
Rational-Ethical Religion
What The Reader Should Do
Book2: Humanianity
Book3: Mind-Body Problem
Book4: (Future Possible Development)
Child Rearing Issues
Philosophico-Religious Issues
Psycho-Socio-Cultural Issues
The Twelve Articles
Relevant Autobiography
 
"HOMO RATIONALIS" AND HUMANIANITY
 
HELPING TO PROMOTE OUR THIRD EXPONENTIAL CHANGE
 

BASIC CONCEPTS


ETHICS


In the previous chapter, I believe I demonstrated how important accuracy of belief is to the welfare of each of us and to the welfare of our species. To review, there are two basic reasons for this.


First, the accuracy of our beliefs allows us to make the decisions that produce the outcomes that we want. By accuracy, I mean the degree to which the set of potential predictions that constitute the belief are those that coincide with what actually does happen or would happen in response to our behavior, actual or imagined. I may want to accomplish a particular goal. If I have an inaccurate belief about what will happen if I engage in a relevant behavior, I may make a mistake and therefore not accomplish the goal. In fact, I might instead accomplish a disaster. If I want to make some money and believe incorrectly (inaccurately) that this advertised method of making money is effective rather than being the scam that it really is, I may make a mistake and lose my money instead. If I believe that this alternative medical procedure will cure me of my cancer when it won't, I may lose money and possibly my life. If we believe that global warming is not taking place when it is, we may decide to do nothing about it, with major negative consequences to our species in the future.


Second, the accuracy of some of our beliefs helps us to WANT to do the right things. Certain beliefs themselves produce certain motivational states. If I believe a situation is dangerous, I will want to leave it. If I believe an activity will safely produce pleasure, I will want to engage in it. If I believe that an enjoyable activity will soon bring me death, I will want to avoid the activity. If I believe that I will be punished if I do something, I will want to avoid doing it. If I believe that an activity will make the world a better place, I will want to do it. If any such beliefs are inaccurate, they will tend to make us want to do the wrong thing, or will fail to make us want to do the right thing, and will therefore cause us to make mistakes, with a resulting reduction of quality of life for ourselves and/or others.


This chapter focuses on the optimization of those of our beliefs that influence what outcomes we do WANT. More specifically, it focuses on a subset of beliefs that specifically make us want to do those things that produce a good (to be defined later) outcome. This subset of beliefs can be modeled by a set of propositions that has sometimes been labeled "ethics."


For our purposes, let us define ethics as that subset of beliefs that can be modeled by propositions containing the verb "should" in them, or propositions that could be rephrased to do so.


Now there are problems with this definition that can be overcome simply by recognizing them.


The first problem is that the word "should" has more than one meaning, and we are referring only to one of those meanings. We are using the word to mean what it does in the sentence, "You may want to do X, but you really should do Y instead." We are not using the word to mean what it does in the sentence, "According to this map, the next street should be X street." In the second sentence, a prediction is modeled.


The second problem is that there are many ways to state ethical propositions that do not use the word "should." Some examples are as follows:

  • You ought to do X.
  • It is only right that you do X.
  • Doing X would be the right thing to do.
  • You are required to do X.
  • It is common decency that you would do X.
  • It is only fair that you do X.
  • It would be a sin for you not to do X.
  • It would be a crime for you not to do X.
  • It would be wrong for you not to do X.

Nevertheless, all of the above propositions could usually be rephrased to say, "You should do X." Therefore, for our purposes they represent ethical propositions, modeling ethical beliefs.


There has been a long-standing tendency to regard ethical beliefs as being different from existential beliefs, that is, beliefs about existence, or about the way the world is, was, or will be. Ethical beliefs have been regarded by many as belonging to a set of beliefs that are called "values," as contrasted perhaps with beliefs about "facts." There appears to be a difference between a proposition such as "It is (or was, or will be) raining" and a proposition such as "You should not steal." One line of thinking would be that, with regard to existential beliefs, one could, at least in principle, check with reality (by making an observation) to see if it really is raining, or to see if the evidence is in favor of it having rained or in favor of the prediction that it will rain. But whether or not you should steal would seem to be more a matter of personal taste, so to speak, just as would be whether you considered a particular work of art to be good or bad.


And using our definition of "belief," it is hard to imagine that we could regard an ethical belief as a set of potential, consistent predictions.


Nevertheless, I believe the reader will come to agree with me that there is actually no such difference between ethical beliefs and existential beliefs, and that the belief that there is such a difference occurs because of an inaccuracy in the understanding of what the full meaning of an ethical proposition actually is. In other words, I am maintaining that the statement, "You should not steal," is in actuality no different from the statement, "It is raining." Both propositions, I maintain, are modeling beliefs about the nature of the world.


But demonstrating this will require a further clarification of the nature of ethics.


First, I wish to give a simple explanation regarding the probable development of ethics.


Remember that some beliefs produce motivational states. Ethical beliefs are an example of such beliefs. If I believe "I should study," then I want to do so. I may also want not to study, because I believe I have something more fun to do. These are competing motivational states. The motivational state that goes along with the ethical beliefs has been referred to as the "ethical sense." This ethical sense is the feeling that goes with the use of the word "should." Many have wondered about the nature of this ethical sense, and therefore have wondered about the nature and origin of ethical beliefs. This is the question we are now addressing.


In other words, how did ethical beliefs ("I should do X"), along with the ethical sense, arise?


Let us use our imagination. Let us imagine an animal feeding by itself at a carcass. Now let us imagine another animal of the same species being at the carcass also. The behavior of the first animal will be somewhat different. This difference may be considered "social" behavior, that is, modification of behavior due to the presence of one or more other animals of the same species. We may say that the belief on the part of the first animal that the second animal is present, combined with beliefs about the likely behavior of the second animal, produce motivational states, and therefore behavior, that would not have existed otherwise. None of this, however, would be referred to as ethical belief or the ethical sense.


Now let us imagine that a particular species has survived and reproduced exceptionally well because the members have existed in groups and those groups have been able to accomplish more than individuals would have. What we mean by a group is a set of individuals such that the individuals in the set modify their behavior according to the existence, presence, and/or behavior of other members of the set of individuals, in such a way that something is accomplished that would not likely have been accomplished otherwise.


But there must be some sort of coordination among the members of the group. That coordination consists of a somewhat predictable set of behaviors of the individuals that results in the group benefiting, at least with regard to its ability to survive and reproduce. The individuals must be able to influence one another in some predictable, beneficial manner.


There must develop in the genes of those individuals characteristics that allow this coordination to happen. It is not surprising, then, that group animals will have characteristics that allow individuals reliably to induce motivational states in each other. To simplify, we may say that genetically the members of the group will be inclined to experience motivational states dependent upon the behavior of other members of the group, and that some of the motivational states are "positive," that is, tend to promote certain kinds of behavior, and some are "negative," that is, tend to inhibit certain kinds of behavior. For instance, certain sexual behavior of one individual may induce sexual behavior in the other. Certain touching behavior on the part of one will induce efforts to be close on the part of the other. Certain behavior that we may refer to as "hostile" will induce "submissive" behavior in another. Certain behavior on the part of one will induce in the other feeding behavior. The bottom line is that these group animals develop a set of motivational states that depend upon the behavior of others, and they also develop certain behaviors that induce motivational states in others.


This scenario may be modeled by propositions that stand for motivational states and beliefs, as in the following three examples:

  • (1) I want you to stay away. If I growl, you will stay away. I therefore want to growl (and do).
  • (2) I want you to feed me. If I cry, you will feed me. I therefore want to cry (and do).
  • (3) I want you to have sex with me. If I strut, you will have sex with me. I therefore want to strut (and do).

But there is one thing missing from this scenario if we are trying to explain how the group functions as a group. The missing item, already mentioned above, is coordination. By this statement, I am referring to the fact that the survival of the group depends on more than just the fact of mutual influence. If every member of the group has an equal effect on every other member of the group with regard to every motivational state and behavior, then there will be randomness of behavior of the members of the group. It will be just as likely that A will feed B as that B will feed A. The parent would obey the child as often as the child would obey the parent. Another way of saying this is that there would be no role-taking phenomena.


In other words, there must be some asymmetry of effect of individuals on each other in order to have coordination. One individual must be more able to influence another with regard to certain behaviors than the other is able to influence the first with regard to those behaviors. So it is not surprising that there would develop in the genetic makeup of group animals a set of mechanisms that tend to establish such asymmetries in influence of behavior, and we refer to such asymmetries as hierarchies. We say that certain members of the group are metaphorically "over" other members, are more "dominant," are "leaders," are "more powerful," etc.


So now we see the familiar scenario in which there is a group of animals such that a hierarchy exists, in that some animals are more successful in getting other animals to do what they want them to do. There is a power hierarchy. Certain physical (size, etc.) and/or behavioral (loudness, etc.) characteristics determine the position of an animal in this hierarchy, with change of positions over time with the occurrence of interactions.


We may model the beliefs of those animals with propositions, such as, "That alpha male will attack me if I try to have sex with its female." Such beliefs will produce motivational states in those animals, and thus modify their behavior (decisions). So we are talking about motivational states induced in animals by other animals' behavior that is a reflection of the motivational states of these other animals. One animal wants to do that which will cause another animal to behave a certain way, and engages in behavior to bring this about. The other animal is therefore ultimately responding in some way to what the first wants.


Now let us clarify one possible misconception. I am not at all saying that one (non-human) animal "knows" or has a belief about "what is in the other animal's mind." I am not at all saying that one animal necessarily "empathizes with" another animal, or even has the "idea" that the other animal has a "mind." To speak in such a manner would be a metaphorical, shorthand way of speaking. We humans, with the capacity for intensive empathy through use of our symbols, indeed do have the ability to communicate what we want, and therefore the ability to have beliefs about what is in the other person's mind, that is, about what the other person wants. But when we speak of a non-human animal having a belief about what another animal wants, we are really talking about the animal having a belief about what the other animal will do (in response to the first animal's behavior).


We could possibly now speak of ethical beliefs, even though we have not yet required that the animals have language. The beliefs in the animal could be modeled by shorthand, metaphorical propositions such as "X does not want me to do Y" or "X wants me to do Y," in cases where "X is powerful" or "X is more powerful than I am." However, to use the term "ethics" at this level of animal development, prior to the development in our species of language, would be quite atypical, and I am not advocating that the term be used in this manner. The reason I am saying that we could possibly now speak of ethical beliefs is that it is out of this basic groundwork of response to what others want oneself to do that what almost all of us would agree was indeed the field of "ethics" has arisen. Actually, however, I am going to be restricting the term "ethics" only to human phenomena, because I am restricting it to certain phenomena that require use of symbols, primarily language.


The phenomenon that we are talking about is one in which the individual animal develops beliefs about the likely behavior of one or more other members of the group, beliefs that produce motivational states in that individual animal that would not otherwise be present, and that alter the decisions (behavior) of the individual animal such as to produce a picture that we refer to as obedience or submission. Furthermore, added to this phenomenon is the development in the species of kinds of behavior (produced by beliefs and motivational states) that specifically have the effect of bringing this submission or obedience about, perhaps best labeled generally as "dominating behavior." And there is a variability in this behavior and in other attributes of the individual animals that makes it more likely that certain individuals will elicit such submission in others. (Size, strength, and other aspects of appearance would be examples of such other attributes.)


We need also to recognize that obedience, or submission, is not limited to the relationship between the individual and another individual more powerful. Similar obedience may be produced by the group as a whole, or a majority of the group, or an important minority of the group.


Another important aspect of this phenomenon is that the behaviors (decisions) that an animal engages in or avoids as a part of submission tend to be only of certain kinds. For instance, if the animal has had induced in itself by another animal an inhibition of approaching that other animal, there are certain paths that the animal might take that would be inhibited and others that might not be. The animal most likely could indeed walk away in the opposite direction. The animal of course would not walk directly toward the not-to-be-approached animal. But the animal might circle the other animal or walk away at an angle, or perhaps even walk slightly toward the other animal, but at an angle. So we humans, with our symbols, might refer to the existence of a set of behaviors that were "allowed" and a set of behaviors that were "not allowed." The main point of this is that that set of behaviors that would result from a particular example of submission tend to be similar to each other, and behaviors that are too different from these behaviors would not be influenced by this situation of submission. Or, more simply, someone might say, "He doesn't stop me from doing everything, just certain things." It is this fact that allows for us humans to construct ethical "rules."


So now we are indeed ready to start talking specifically about humans. Following, and by virtue of, the first exponential change that has forever made our species different from all others on this planet, namely, the ability to use symbols (and syntax) to a much greater extent than any other species, essentially to an infinite extent, we now have a way of designating those sets of behaviors that are subject to being influenced by submission, as opposed to those that are not. In other words, one human can designate a set of behaviors that he or she wants the other to engage in or avoid engaging in, by using as a tool these symbols, usually (but not always) words. In the above example, one human could say to the other, "Do not take another step toward me." The other individual might even obtain clarification by asking, "Well, may I at least step over to your right?" In other words, our ability to use symbols has allowed us to become enormously more precise in our ability to coordinate our behavior as a group. For instance, the "leader" might say, "I want you to take this spear and hide behind that tree and wait until that animal comes along, at which point I want you to spear the animal, and I don't want you to come back until you have done this." Think how much more ability we humans have than any other species for coordinating our activities. And some of this coordination consists of very predictable and stable patterns of obedience or submission, brought about by our ability to use symbols to designate situations, behaviors, motivational states, beliefs, and other relevant entities. We can much more precisely tell each other what to do.


Because we are able to use symbols to designate sets of behaviors, we can then convey to others our wish that others behave in certain ways in general. We are not limited to using our symbols in one specific situation after another. We can convey to others a rule that states that we want behavior of a particular kind or class (for which a symbol or set of symbols has been created) to be performed in situations of a particular kind or class (for which a symbol or set of symbols has been created). "Refrain from talking (behavior) when you have food in your mouth (situation)." "Ask for permission when you want to speak." "Salute me whenever we meet." "Refrain from stealing in any situation in which stealing might be an option."


Now let us consider the development of the "ethical sense."


Those beliefs that may be modeled by propositions that have the word "should" in them, or that could be rephrased in such a way, may be seen as having an origin in a basic kind of situation that every human individual arises from, namely, being reared in a group (of one or more additional persons) who will want the individual to behave in certain ways and will behave toward that individual (using primarily reward and punishment) such as to induce in that individual ethical beliefs that produce complex motivational states of the sort that we recognize as the "ethical sense." These motivational states are multiple, including fear, shame, guilt, sadness, joy, etc., and are produced by disapproving behavior in its many forms as well as approving behavior, including affection, admiration, and gratitude. It is not surprising that we do not remember having had this ethical sense induced in us, in that it has been happening all our lives, every day of our lives, from infancy onward. None of us can avoid the feeling that there are certain things we should do and certain things we shouldn't do, even though we may not be clear as to what those things are, where we got those feelings, or why we should have them.


(There are, of course, some individuals that seem not to have an ethical sense, but they are quite unusual and quite a problem for the rest of us. Why they have this difference from us is being studied, and I will leave a discussion of that to the researchers of that problem. On the other hand, there are many individuals that most of us would say have an inadequate ethical sense, or a distorted ethical sense.)


(In what follows, I will be talking primarily about a subset of ethical beliefs, namely, about those beliefs that can be modeled with propositions of the form, "I should…." It is important to note that ethical beliefs that can be modeled with propositions of the forms, "You should…," "They should…," etc., are also accompanied by motivational states in certain situations, but that the motivational states will be somewhat different. If I perceive that someone is about to do X, and I believe that he or she should not do X, then I will experience certain motivational states that are different than those that occur when the beliefs have to do with what I should or should not do. These other issues will be covered elsewhere, as in the chapter on "Rational-Ethical Anger Prevention." For now, we will concentrate only on the beliefs about what "I should do.")


So for our purposes, ethics consists of a set of ethical beliefs, that can be modeled by ethical propositions. Ethical beliefs produce in certain situations the ethical sense, which is a (complex) motivational state.


In my discussion of ethics, I will be referring to a tendency for there to be a hierarchy of ethical beliefs, from the most concrete and specific to the most general, even ultimate. Let us look at this tendency with a specific example of a hierarchy of ethical beliefs.


Let us imagine that I am looking at an object that does not belong to me, which I might nevertheless want to take (motivational state). I also have the ethical belief, "I should not take this object," which motivates me (by the ethical sense) not to take it. Now, the reader becomes aware that I have this ethical belief, and asks, "But why should you not take this object?" The reader could be said to be asking me to tell him or her why I believe, and why he or she should believe (agree), that the proposition is "true." My answer, according to our terminology, would be the legitimization of my proposition (or belief), that is, why I believe it to be true and why the reader should agree. So I say to the reader, "I should not steal, and if I take this object I will be stealing, so I should not take this object." The statement, "I should not steal" would be a "higher level" (more general) ethical belief, quite easily referred to as an "ethical rule of conduct." But now the reader may ask me, "Well, why should you not steal?" My answer might be, "I should do no things that violate the rights of others, and if I steal, I will be violating the rights of others, so I should not steal." The statement, "I should do no things that violate the rights of others" would be a still higher level ethical belief, quite easily referred to as an "ethical principle." (Remember that definitions are arbitrary, and that there is often no clear dividing line between one term and the next. Thus, there is no clear dividing line between an ethical rule of conduct and an ethical principle.) Now, if all of the ethical principles could be subsumed under one, highest level ethical proposition, beyond which one could not go, then that proposition could be called the "ultimate ethical principle." The concept of the "ultimate ethical principle" will be extremely important in this discussion.


Now I described above the development of our naturally occurring ethics. The thesis of this book, however, is that we are just beginning to observe a (third) psychosocial exponential change in our species, hard to see at this point because the acceleration has only just begun, and that this change will produce a dramatic and beneficial change in the quality of life for our species. The most fundamental part of this change, I believe, can best be described as a change in the nature of our ethics, which will in turn produce drastic changes, hard to imagine at first, in how we will live our lives.


This change in the nature of our ethics will consist ONLY with regard to the ultimate ethical principle.


Let us first attempt to identify the ultimate ethical principle in our NATURALLY occurring ethics. We may notice that ultimately this ethics derives from "authors" of the ethical propositions, and that the response to these propositions, about what I should and should not do, is obedience or disobedience. We may therefore say that the naturally occurring ethics, that which derives from our basic animal nature, is "authoritarian" ethics, which is modeled according to the concept of obedience (or disobedience) in response to the author of the ethical propositions. This is true even though we may have lost track of who the author is or was. If we search for the ultimate authoritarian ethical principle, we will find it to be that we should do whatever the author (who is the most powerful one, for instance, parent, leader, group, or deity) says or said we should do, no matter what the author's reason is for wanting us to do it.


So, the child asks the parent, "Why should I do it?" and the parent says, "Because I want you to!" And the subject asks the autocratic leader, "Why should I do it?" And the autocratic leader says, "Because I want you to!" And the group member asks, "Why should I do it?" and the group says, "Because we want you to!" And an individual is asked why he should do it, and he replies, "Because God wants me to." Of course, the "author" could give a reason as to why he, she, or it wanted it to be done, but that would be extra information, not a required part of the answer. That the author wanted it to be done would be considered by the author to be a sufficient reply. A parent might say to a child, "I don't have to explain to you why I want you to do it. You should do it because you are supposed to obey me." And we could well imagine a deity, or anyone "in authority," giving the same answer. Obedience is a phenomenon that is part of our basic animal nature.


So in other words, the authoritarian-ethical ultimate ethical principle is that we should do whatever X wants us to do, X being whoever or whatever is most powerful.


Before looking at the new ethics, let us examine in detail some of the problems associated with authoritarian ethics, that explain why it has never worked, and never will, assuming that by "work" we mean "optimize the chances of the good life for everyone."


The following are the main problems with authoritarian ethics:

  • Different authors issue different, sometimes conflicting, rules.
  • Intermediaries at times disagree as to what the author's rules or wishes are.
  • There may be disagreement or confusion about the author's specific meaning of some rules.
  • There may be disagreement as to which author to obey.
  • Situations usually can be imagined in which to obey the author's presumed wish would seem to be awful.
  • The absence of the author weakens the motivation to adhere to the author's wishes.
  • There is no guidance about those things the author doesn't care about.
  • The fantasy of and hope for the author's ultimate forgiveness weakens the motivation to adhere to the author's wishes.
  • When two individuals or groups have acquired different rules from different authors, they tend to avoid and fight each other.

Remember that in authoritarian ethics the ultimate criterion for legitimization of an ethical proposition is the demonstration that the proposition indeed models the motivational states and beliefs of the author. One can ask the author, if he or she is around. One can ask an intermediary, someone who we believe knows what the author wants or wanted. Or we can guess at what the author probably has in mind or had in mind. And if, after doing the above, we disagree, we can either agree to disagree (avoid each other or avoid talking with each other about it), or we can fight (emotionally, physically, or militarily).


If the reader thinks about all the examples that he or she has seen of individuals, groups, or nations fighting, literally or figuratively, I would predict that the reader would find that the main reasons for the fighting were disagreements about what the individuals, groups, or nations should or should not be doing. Most fighting, then, comes about because of disagreement about which ethical propositions are correct. Without accepted, agreed-upon criteria, ethical questions tend to be settled by force (emotional, physical, or military), with the strongest winning (temporarily). This is the way of nature, of natural selection, of our basic animal nature. And yet we know that the quality of our lives is markedly reduced by fighting (both physical fighting and behavior that is metaphorically called fighting), which is notorious for producing suffering. (Fighting is skilled induction of suffering, if not death.)


Now in order to understand the new ethics that is just beginning to emerge, let us review the first two exponential changes, as related to ethics.


We have noted that the first exponential change involved the development by our species of the ability to use symbols, and the rules of syntax to form propositions, to an essentially infinite extent. That new ability, however, has been in the service of our basic animal nature. Authoritarian ethics is an example. With our authoritarian ethics, we are able to do exactly what other animals do, only much better. Other group animals engage in coordinated behavior, but our species can do this with much greater precision, creativity, and consequent effectiveness, an extreme example being a well-disciplined army. This has made our species much better able to survive. And if it were not for the development of the second exponential psychosocial change in our species, the story might end here.


The second exponential change, the development of rationality, the reader may remember, has been the development of the rules of logic (beginning to escalate about 2500 years ago) and the development of the rules of evidence (beginning to escalate about 500 years ago) that have allowed us to construct models of the world that have amazing accuracy, meaning that they allow us to make amazing predictions of the outcomes of our potential and actual acts or behavior. By virtue of this new ability, we now have been transforming our lives in a manner that one can easily see has been exponential, with the development of amazing new abilities to do things, referred to as science and technology. However, these new abilities have, for the most part, once again, been in the service of our basic animal nature. This being true, we see that the ability to do what most of us would regard as good has been equally matched by the ability to do what most of us would regard as bad. And so, for the most part, the members of our species have continued to treat each other both well and badly, on the interpersonal level and on the international level, and all in between. Rationality helps us to predict more accurately the outcomes of our behavior, such that we can do much more good, or much more harm, depending on what we want to do, that is, depending upon our motivational states. Thus, rationality as here defined does not, in itself, help us to avoid doing harm. Rationality does not, in and of itself, tell us what we should do, just what will happen if we do it.


The third exponential change, which I am attempting to point out to the reader, consists of a change in our ethics, from the natural, authoritarian ethics to a new kind of ethics that is now feasible by virtue of the second exponential change.


So what is the new ethics, that will work better?


It should be noted that natural selection tends to foster the survival of the species, but has nothing to do with the quality of life for the species. Both pleasure and pain or suffering are motivational states that produce behavior that may promote the survival of the species. Therefore, pain and suffering are a natural part of the world, and are built into our basic animal nature as the ability to experience pain and suffering and as the ability and tendency to induce pain and suffering. But we humans, having learned so much about how the world works, and therefore so much about how to do things, are able to aid each other in ways such as to reduce pain and suffering, that is, improve the quality of life. So we humans have a goal that goes beyond what natural selection produces. Natural selection has produced authoritarian ethics in the manner described above. But we have the opportunity to do differently than our basic animal nature would have us do, with a consequent improvement in our QUALITY OF LIFE. We have the opportunity to develop a different kind of ethics that will immensely improve the quality of life for all the members of our species, in addition to its chances for survival. I believe that this is happening, and this belief of mine is what this book is about.


And how are the ethical propositions in the new ethics to be legitimized? What criteria will be used?


In rational ethics (the term I propose for the new ethics), the criterion for legitimization of an ethical proposition is that the proposition is consistent with the ultimate goal of promoting BOTH the survival of AND the good life for all of us, now and in the future. This, then, would be the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle.


Now what this means is that whether I or you or we should do something or not depends on the total set of outcomes of that behavior, compared with the total set of outcomes of not doing it or of doing something else that is being considered as an alternative. Therefore, the effort should be to attempt to predict as much of the total set of outcomes as possible, with the goal of choosing that behavior which will most contribute to the good life for us all (now and in the future), in addition to contributing to our survival as a species.


Hopefully the reader has not had in mind that the new ethics would suddenly make decisions easier for us, because we would now easily see what it is that we should do. If so, the reader will immediately be disappointed, because, of course, we can never predict the total set of outcomes of a behavior. But neither is it true that we have no ability to do so. I believe that the reader can easily come up with an essentially infinite set of behaviors that would be inconsistent with the goal of the survival of and good life for us all, many of which behaviors have actually already occurred. For our current purposes, let us call decisions to do these things "bad decisions." (These are the decisions that we have called "mistakes.") And I believe that the reader is, most of the day, engaging in behavior that would be consistent with such a goal, that is, making "good decisions." But there is indeed a "gray area" in which it is not clear what the best thing to do is. And it is here that we should have a basic method, or set of methods, that optimize our chances of making good decisions.


In authoritarian ethics, there is indeed a set of methods, mentioned above, of determining, as well as possible, what the author has in mind or had in mind. In rational ethics, there needs to be a set of methods for determining, as well as possible, what the outcomes of our decisions are likely to be, and whether those outcomes are optimal, compared to the outcomes of other alternative decisions, for promoting our survival and the good life for us all, now and in the future.


Let us recognize and acknowledge, right away, that there will be differences of opinion in rational ethics, just as in authoritarian ethics. But there should therefore be a method or set of methods for legitimizing ethical beliefs that, itself, promotes the survival of and good life for us all. Note that this is an ethical proposition regarding the method(s) of resolving differences in ethical beliefs. They should be good methods. They should work. We all should benefit from them. So what would they be? And how would they be different from those methods that occur naturally, as a part of authoritarian ethics?


As a prelude to answering this question, I wish to remind the reader that one aspect of the thesis of this book is that this third change, to rational ethics, is an exponential change. Therefore, just as has been true for the first two changes, one cannot identify a time when the new phenomena suddenly came into existence. One can always find some examples of the phenomena being present, no matter how far back in time we look. But, if I am right, we should be able to conclude that the presence of rational ethics has grown a little over the last few thousand years, and even more so recently. And I believe that we can indeed use our imaginations to picture a world in which an almost complete transition to rational ethics has been accomplished, a world in which we are trained from our earliest years to utilize rational ethics. This is indeed my prediction, regarding the time of "Homo rationalis," and it is my prediction that the reader will agree if he or she continues to learn what I am referring to.


In order to identify the methods of legitimating rational-ethical propositions, we need to see what works, that is, what new methods of arriving at decisions as to what should be done have been arrived at that result in an increased likelihood of doing that which promotes the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle. In other words, we need to take a look at what we can observe already having happened as a part of this third exponential change.


So I wish now to call the reader's attention to what I consider to be evidence of the very beginnings of this escalation of change from authoritarian ethics to rational ethics. In all of what follows, the main phenomenon that I am referring to is the development of new ways of determining what should be done when there is disagreement about what should be done, ways that are better than authoritarian ethics as far as improving our quality of life, now and in the future.


First, let us look at government.


Up until the time of ancient Greece, the evidence seems to point to the idea that all government had been to a greater or lesser extent based upon the most powerful individuals and groups being in a position of dominance over the rest, and therefore determining what the rest should or should not do. Autocratic or totalitarian regimes had been the usual way. But in ancient Greece, there was an effort to have a procedure, "democracy," for decision-making that was predicted to be a better way, a way that would work better for "everyone." Of course, we know that there was in actuality very little change in the structure of their society, but the important element was the effort, the experiment, the decision to do things in a particular way that was not the natural way, because of the prediction that it would work BETTER.


And if we come forward in time, we can see that this idea has caught on and has been elaborated upon. The constitutional democracy is a deliberate effort to outline how decisions should be made, using a set of procedures that are predicted to work better than those that had come before. The effort in constructing the constitutional democracy is to avoid going back to the situation in which certain individuals or groups would be able, by force, to assert their will over others in the society in ways not necessarily approved of by that society, and simply because of the wishes and self-interests of those individuals or groups, independent of what would be best for all within that society.


Note that in the constitutional democracy, there is the provision for methods of developing, elaborating on, and changing certain ethical rules ("laws"), methods of interpreting and applying those rules, and methods even of optimizing the constitution itself. All of these methods have been chosen because of the prediction that they would work better, that is, produce a better set of outcomes for the society as a whole, for everyone.


The reader should note that there is no reason to believe that any particular current example of constitutional democracy is the best form of government. The important concept being presented here is only that we as a species are trying something new. We are getting together and constructing a way of living together optimally, that is, such as to promote our survival as a species and our having as good a life as possible, now and in the future, for one and for all. I would maintain that we are still just beginning this process, but that we have made definite progress. In fact, there is even a gradually increasing emphasis upon world government as an alternative to nations conquering and dominating other nations as a way of attempting to establish orderliness.


Now let us take a look at a very much related phenomenon, namely, law.


Law, to a great extent, is our method of handling dispute. We can look back to ancient cultures and obtain, I believe, a fairly accurate picture that disputes were ultimately handled, if necessary, by presenting them to whoever happened to be most powerful. It would be the decision of the leader that would determine the outcome of many disputes. And the decision of the leader would be the result of the motivational state(s) of the leader, however it or they might arise. Hopefully, of course, the leader would decide in a manner that was fair and that fostered the benefit of the society, but we well know that this could not be counted on.


But now look at the new idea that we have come up with, namely, the development of a set of laws that have been designed to handle disputes in advance of the disputes occurring, along with the idea that no person is "above the law." Great attention is given to the precise wording of these laws, so that they will work as well as possible without having to be interpreted by someone, and, of course, procedures have been developed for such interpretation when it becomes necessary. The effort is always to develop procedures that work in a fair manner, for everyone, independent of the whim or wish (motivational state) of some person or group that happens to be unusually powerful at that point in time. Again, we well know that what we have so far arrived at is far from perfect, but it is a major step forward, that continues to be worked on.


In courts, the effort is to try to apply procedures and decision-making to everyone in a fair manner, and this is done by paying much attention to the wording of laws, agreements, evidence, judgments, etc., in order to avoid having the decision-making distorted by the naturally-occurring emotional processes produced in accordance with our basic animal natures. Debates are heard, ideas are compared using the rules of logic, evidence is presented according to the rules of evidence, and the meanings of laws are interpreted, always with the goals of impartiality and fairness.


Now let us right away avoid the mistake of saying that this observation is incorrect because of the obvious distortions of the processes by emotional factors. Remember that we are still talking about a change in our species that is just beginning to occur, and that therefore may be easy to overlook. It is actually easy to see both emotional and rational processes occurring in the same setting. For instance, in the courtroom, we see a judge allowing the jury to hear only one or two examples of some evidence that might inflame the emotions of the jurors and thus distort the rational processes, while at the same time everyone expects the attorneys for the opposing sides to be skilled at playing on the emotions of the jurors in their presentations on behalf of their clients. This emotionality represents a factor in decision-making that is based upon the skills (power) of individuals, rather than on the meanings of words, principles of impartiality and fairness, and accuracy of evidence. (This is not to say that such emotional processes are always bad; it is to say that we have only come a short way in developing procedures that are highly rational and resistant to distortion by emotional processes.)


Next let us look at the phenomenon of "rights."


There is some confusion in some discussions about rights, having to do with two different meanings of the word "right." The proposition, "I have the right to do X," can either mean "The law in this society allows me to do X without fear of punishment by the government and without obstruction being placed in my way that is condoned by the government," or it can mean, "I should be given the right (using the first meaning) to do X, though currently I do not have it."


It should be noted that originally the concept applied only to the members of a specified group, as in the "rights of citizenship." It is relatively recent that our species has become preoccupied for the first time with the issue of what protective principles should apply to all individuals, irrespective of their socioeconomic status, genetic background, physical characteristics, set of beliefs, group membership, etc. This protection is basically a protection against power, and it is protection produced by the construction of documents containing propositions organized in highly precise ways. Whether individuals have a "right" to do something (or to have something) is a decision made by a society because of the judgment that having that right will foster a certain amount of good life for everyone. The concept of "rights" is one that has as its rationale that establishing them works (fosters the good life for everyone). It is one more example of our species attempting to establish procedures that actually work, that actually promote the good life for everyone, independently of who happens to be more powerful than whom. And the concept of individuals having rights is not one that has been arrived at by a powerful individual or group that grants the rights and is above or outside the domain of individuals to whom the rights apply.


The above three examples of the relatively recent development of rational ethics have to do with large populations of individuals. I believe there are some, perhaps less obvious, examples that have to do with small group and person-to-person relationships.


With regard to small groups, we may look at the development of "rules of order" designed to have orderly and fair discussions within such groups. There has developed a fairly strong belief that if a group conducts itself according to certain agreed-upon, written procedures, the chances will be greater that decisions of the group will be more satisfactory and fairer. And these procedures involve the effort to establish agreement through comparison of ideas, not through domination by the most powerful. Attention is given to making sure that all ideas are adequately heard, while still preventing paralysis of decision-making caused by individual domination of the group process through excessive repetition. A balance is sought between the concern for the individual and concern for the majority.


In employment situations, the tendency has grown to have written procedures, not only for the carrying out of the business of the organization, but also for the fair treatment of the employees. These procedures are generally ethical propositions that are overtly stated, and are subject to review to see if they are indeed fair to everyone, at least as believed by that culture.


On the person-to-person level, there has been a similar growing concern about the issue of fairness and the value of contracts. For example, some effort has been directed toward having an understandable and workable marriage contract, with variations from the basic legal marriage contract being possible through prenuptial agreements. The basic idea is that the good life is promoted to the extent that we live up to each other's expectations, and that we therefore should have a good way of knowing (having accuracy of belief about) what each other's expectations indeed are. Precision of wording and clarity of meaning promote such understanding (accuracy of belief). And provision for change, according to mutually agreed-upon procedures that are considered to work best, allows for a way to deal with the fact that "times change," that what works well at one time may no longer be best because of changes in circumstances (situations).


Also, there has been developing an increasing attention to interpersonal interaction, such as to foster behavior that is more likely to result in an improvement in the quality of life for the individuals. Efforts have been increasing in the development of principles of interpersonal skills as a way of reducing conflict and fostering coordination of effort. In a later part of this book, specific attention will be given to principles to be used in situations containing anger, this already being talked about to some extent as "anger management." All of these procedures are designed for everyone, and have been developed because to some extent they work.


In the area of child rearing, where parents are more powerful than children, efforts have been made to improve the process through understanding of child development, such that inappropriate expectations of the child are avoided, a far cry from the times when children were considered to be small adults. There are increasing efforts to provide education and training with regard to child rearing principles and procedures, and a part of this book will be devoted to this extremely crucial area of concern.


In all of the above examples, the effort has been to use our increasing knowledge (accurate beliefs) about the nature of our species and the nature of the world in general, acquired through rationality (adherence to the rules of logic and the rules of evidence), to make decisions that foster the good life for everyone, independent of who might be most powerful. That effort has been directed toward the development of new procedures that actually work better, that produce progress, and that stop (literal and figurative) fighting.


And the new procedures all include COMPARISON OF BELIEFS, using the rules of logic and the rules of evidence in order to choose and develop beliefs that are increasingly accurate, and this comparison of beliefs increasingly involves LISTENING to the other, in order to UNDERSTAND (have accurate beliefs about) and EMPATHIZE with the other, rather than forcing the other into silence through power or force (emotional, physical, or military).


Let us now review the basic differences between authoritarian ethics and rational ethics.


In authoritarian ethics, the accuracy or "truth" of an ethical proposition (containing "should") is determined by whether the proposition, insofar as it represents a belief, brings about, or would bring about, behavior that indeed is wished for (wanted) by the author of the proposition, for whatever reason (hopefully a good one). The author may be a parent, a leader, a deity, or a social group or subgroup that is in a more powerful position with respect to the individual or group to whom the proposition applies. The proposition does not necessarily apply to the author ("Do as I say, not as I do"). In acting in accordance with the ethical proposition, one is obeying the author. The ethical sense associated with the proposition arises from the prediction of what the response of the author is likely to be to obeying or disobeying the proposition. There is no necessity for the outcome(s) of following the proposition to be beneficial to the individual, the group, or the species. It is not difficult to come up with examples of ethical propositions, or ethical beliefs, that have resulted in outcomes that have been detrimental, or even disastrous, to the individual, the group, and/or the species.


In rational ethics, the accuracy or "truth" of an ethical proposition is determined by whether the proposition, insofar as it represents a belief, brings about, or would bring about, behavior that will or would have the optimal set of outcomes, compared to any alternative ethical propositions. But in order to proceed further with regard to the difference between authoritarian and rational ethics, we must address the issue of the "optimal set of outcomes."


It is very likely that the reader is thinking something like, "But who determines what set of outcomes is optimal?" or "Optimal for whom?" Such thoughts reflect, I believe, an awareness of how many systems of thought have been proposed that have been found to reflect special interests, to the detriment of others.


The missing ingredient is universal agreement. With regard to rational ethics, what is needed is a basic ethical philosophy, one that everyone can agree to.


The reader will remember the earlier discussion in this book about the difficulties we have had in coming to any universal agreements, and that in this book the new criterion for legitimization of agreement is that, at this time, no ideas can be found that are as good as, or better than, the ones being proposed, but always with the understanding that other ideas should be freely explored to see if they are better.


What I will now propose, as a foundation for rational ethics, is what I believe to be a basic ethical philosophy that everyone can agree to and probably will, given enough thought about the issue. This basic ethical philosophy is based upon observations that anyone and everyone can easily make, along with the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle, which I believe everyone will easily accept, because of there being no better such principle.


Let us first restate and look at this rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle:

  • What should be done is that which will most likely promote the survival of and the good life for our species, that is, for everyone, now and in the future. The good life is the experiencing of as much joy, appreciation, and contentment as possible, and therefore as little pain, suffering, disability, and early death as possible.

Now I know that the reader will have much skepticism at this point that this principle will be a useful one for the full range of decisions that have to be made, but I ask the reader, first, to try to propose a better ultimate ethical principle and then, second, to consider what follows with regard to the elaboration of this idea.


Let me address one specific issue, however, that may concern some individuals. They might say that the principle is too narrow because it does not include promoting the survival of and the good life for other species. They would refer to the value of diversity (survival) of as many species as possible and the desirability of the ethical treatment of animals. But I believe that these concerns are "built into" the above rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle. We believe that the survival of other species is important for the quality of life of, and quite possibly the survival of, our own. And the ethical treatment of animals primarily involves the prevention of their needless suffering at our hands. We can easily ask whether it is in the interest of our own species that we be sensitive to any suffering, even of other species. If we can make ourselves uncaring about the suffering of other animals, to what extent does that make us prone to have the same attitude toward those of our own species that we are not close to? Many consider the way one treats one's pets to be a reflection of the type of person he or she is, meaning how he or she relates to fellow humans. In other words, what kind of person does it cause you to become or be to be cruel to other animals?


I do agree that one could come up with an alternative ultimate ethical principle that was not centered upon our species, but I would predict that essentially no one would agree to it. For instance, the ultimate ethical principle might be that what should be done would be that which will promote the survival of the greatest number of species on the planet, in which case it could probably be shown that the most successful method would be the extermination of one particular species, namely, our own. Of course, in this case, ethics itself would disappear.


Notice again that the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle that I am proposing is not one that has been told to us by an authority that commands our obedience, but is instead the product of all of us by virtue of our examination of it and our agreement with one another. Now one could hypothesize a deity that actually was commanding our species to destroy itself, but there surely would be debate as to the existence of such a deity, and it is questionable, at least, whether we should indeed obey such a deity, as opposed to trying to change its mind in some manner. It is therefore quite unlikely that there would be universal agreement. But most who are convinced of authoritarian ethics based upon the will (motivational state) of a deity would probably also be convinced that the deity would in no way be displeased with our having the above-proposed rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle, even if we were not adhering to it just to please the deity.


So, I will assume that the reader is still, if only tentatively, accepting the above rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle, as a part of the basic ethical philosophy that is to underlie rational-ethical living.


I wish now to describe a rather "basic" observation that is likely to be evident to everyone and that will allow us to elaborate our basic ethical philosophy, namely:

  • There is hardly a single thing that we can have, or a single thing that we can do, that does not require others having done their part.

The reader is asked to test the above proposition by thought experiments. Imagine even our most basic and essential activities and ask whether or not we are making use of implements or products that our species has brought into existence by engaging in cooperative, coordinated behavior. Imagine also how our ability to do any of the things we can imagine doing was acquired, and whether or not this involved, once again, cooperative, coordinated behavior, including instruction and demonstration by others.


Although this observation, I believe, can become overwhelmingly clear to anyone upon a little reflection, it is my impression that, at the time of the writing of this book, this fact goes relatively unnoticed by almost everyone. In fact, I think that there are aspects of advanced civilization that interfere with its recognition. More specifically, children grow up in a milieu in which there are countless manufactured objects that must seem to the child as if they are a part of the natural environment, since there is never any evidence that they are a product of the labor of members of our species. In more primitive societies, it is easier for the child to see objects being made and otherwise being worked on and used by members of the group. It is also much more evident where food comes from, and what is necessary to bring it to the individuals that are going to eat it. There is also a much greater respect, I believe, for the value of teaching carried out by members of the group that have learned the special skills and knowledge that result ultimately in each individual having what he or she has and being able to do what he or she can do.


So, this being so, it is apparent that the quality of life for everyone is dependent upon what everyone else does. In fact, the survival of everyone depends upon this also. We are a group animal. To the extent that we all do our part, and do it the best we can, we all benefit. In infancy, we learn that our quality of life is dependent upon those around us, and we also learn, as we mature, that we can help, by doing some things for ourselves, such as feeding ourselves, dressing ourselves, toileting ourselves, etc. It is not long before we begin naturally to learn that doing things for others is valued. But again, there are aspects of advanced civilization that cause us to lose track of this important idea, and this leaves us with a tendency to become much more eager to receive than to give. And for many in our current societies, this eagerness becomes even an expectation, with anger when the expectation is not met.


The basic ethical philosophy for the individual that would appear to be the most realistic, the most valuable to everyone, the most productive of good self-esteem, and the most consistent with the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle would be, I propose to the reader:

  • I should do my part to make the world a better place, within my sphere of influence, and within the limits of my capabilities.

By sphere of influence, I mean that set of individuals upon whom the behavior of oneself can have some impact, now and/or in the future. The center of one's sphere of influence would be oneself, since oneself is the person upon whom one has the most effect. Close to the center of this sphere of influence would be those that one is "closest to" psychologically, meaning those upon whom one has the greatest influence or effect. Obviously, this sphere has an undefined outer boundary, since we never know the total set of outcomes of our behavior. On the other hand, just as there are obviously individuals that one can easily see are impacted by one's own behavior, there are other individuals that one cannot imagine having any effect on, so the concept is not meaningless.


Note that everyone has a sphere of influence, and everyone has some capabilities if they are conscious and able to respond. To take an extreme example, a person in a nursing home being taken care of by another can show appreciation for the care received, making the work of the other more rewarding.


Let us expand on this idea of doing one's part to make the world a better place.


We should take care of our EQUIPMENT, which will enable us to make the world a better place.


I would propose that one's equipment would be one's body, one's brain, one's mind, and one's possessions. These four items are not meant to be mutually exclusive. They are overlapping concepts. Looking at them individually, however, is valuable because they help to clarify different activities that we can engage in. What follows is only a partial list of examples for each of the above items.


It stands to reason that the healthier one's body is, the more able one will be to do one's part. There is ample evidence that lifestyle has a dramatic effect on one's health. According to rational ethics, one should do those things that are likely to increase the chances of living a longer, productive, disability-free life. Scientific studies continue to be conducted to identify those things, which certainly include appropriate diet and exercise, as well as avoiding chances for infection or injury, as in cleanliness and the wearing of seat belts.


One's brain (and central nervous system in general) is crucial to one's functioning. Engaging in those things that foster the health of the brain include preventing head injury, refraining from taking toxic substances, refraining from taking substances that alter brain function in unpredictable or detrimental ways, avoiding sleep deprivation, avoiding stress (such as abusive or otherwise unhealthy relationships), recognizing and treating early any brain disorders (such as depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc.), and providing the brain with proper exercise of all of its beneficial functions (development and maintenance of skills).


Recognizing that the "mind" is a model of brain function that is more useful in discussion of the "programming" of the brain, we may readily see that the sensory diet that is presented to it is important. There is currently increasing attention to the evidence that certain kinds of media presented to the mind, especially the youthful mind, can have very significant effects on the mental health and capacity for optimal functioning of the individual. There is also ample evidence that individuals can alter their thinking such as to produce positive effects on their quality of life and their functioning, as has been referred to as positive thinking and good mental hygiene. The importance of recreation and pleasure in our lives, the experiencing of good feeling through entertainment and positive interactions with others, is recognized by many, and probably will be supported increasingly with findings from science. I personally believe that there is a mental hygiene benefit to exercising the "pleasure centers" in the brain (whatever parts of the brain are involved in the experiencing of pleasure). When individuals lose the capacity to experience pleasure, their ability to function deteriorates significantly.


Taking care of one's possessions means keeping them organized, attractive, and well-functioning. Organization leads to greater efficiency and better time management. Attractiveness leads to positive feeling and higher motivation. Any tools will serve us better if they are better able to do what they are designed to do, whether they are carpentry tools, kitchen equipment, the computer, a musical instrument, or one's sports equipment with which one improves the functioning of one's body and entertains others (helps them exercise their "pleasure centers").


As stated, the above paragraphs are meant only to be suggestive of a more complete list of the ways in which taking care of one's body, brain, mind, and possessions helps one to do one's part in making the world a better place. Most of these efforts involve increasing or maintaining one's capabilities, and they represent being concerned about the very center of one's sphere of influence.


Let us now look at what it means to make the world a better place. Again, we should remember that what we are adding to our survival as a species is the promotion of the good life for all of us, now and in the future. This means promoting as much joy, appreciation, and contentment as possible and preventing as much pain, suffering, disability, and early death as possible. It means avoiding immediate pleasure that produces suffering in the future, either our own or that of others. It means treating others well, even if our basic animal nature would promote our doing otherwise. We will never be able to achieve perfection in these efforts, but that does not mean that we can do nothing at all. In fact, we can see many ways in which we are able, or are becoming able, to promote the good life. But these ways always involve individuals doing their part.


Let us look at characteristic ways in which we may do our part, dependent upon our stage of life.


Even the infant soon learns to start doing things for itself, and this will develop into the freeing of the parent to do other things. The child learns to feed himself or herself, dress, toilet, put things away, and follow instructions. As the child grows older, he or she will learn even more skills that enable the child to do his or her part. Chores around the house are an important part of the child's training, as well as a direct contribution to the quality of life of the family. Also, and extremely important, the child learns how to make others feel better rather than worse, by learning tact, taking turns, inhibiting hostility, speaking properly, expressing gratitude, etc.


And then the child begins schooling. The child learns to think systematically and logically, and to understand increasingly complex phenomena and processes, as well as to participate in coordinated activities within a larger group. The more the child learns, the more the child will be able to do and the more the child will be likely to make good decisions and become a good citizen. School is the job of children.


Ultimately, the child will become an adult who is able to take care of himself or herself, and even someone else. Productive work contributes to the welfare of the species, not only by the direct effect of the work but also by the fostering of healthy economics. And for those who decide to rear children, a great responsibility rests on their conscientiousness and efforts, not only because of their effects on the quality of life of those children, but also because of all the good (and bad) that the resulting child can ultimately, in his or her lifetime, contribute to others within his or her sphere of influence.


As the person grows older, he or she may increasingly contribute wisdom and serve as a model for those who follow. And when the person's abilities begin to wane, he or she can contribute to others by generously allowing them to provide care for him or her, while expressing gratitude for their efforts. And in the end, many others can be helped if they know that the person has "died well," ending his or her life with satisfactory closure and the sense that the life was well lived.


One's sphere of influence has no definable outer boundary. We have the most influence over that which is close to the center of the sphere of influence, and that is where the most effort should be directed. First we should treat ourselves well, so that we can do other things well. Then we should think the most about those who are "closest" to us, that is, are most affected by what we do. And what we should do is anything that will enhance the lives of others, now and in the future. The more we treat each other well, the more everyone benefits from the benevolent and pleasant interpersonal environment that we create. A good deed or kind act may have all sorts of beneficial outcomes that we will never see. And when we act well, we model for others how to do so, thereby helping others to behave similarly. The effects of our little deeds (good or bad) ripple away from us in ways we cannot see.


And how would the reader say we were doing currently on all these efforts? Is there room for improvement? What factors stand in the way of optimal living? What can we do about them? That is what this book is about.


The reader should note right away that what I am proposing is that the maximum attainment of the survival of and the good life for our species does involve everyone doing his or her part. In order for this to happen, we have to agree on what to do and how to do it, at least to a certain extent. Without agreement, we will have inefficiency and even failure. But what is needed is not just agreement, but correct agreement. More specifically, we have to have accurate ethical beliefs that lead us to want to do the right things (those things that will optimize our chances for survival and the good life for us all), and we have to have accurate existential beliefs about the nature of the world, so that what we predict will happen as outcomes of our behavior will indeed usually happen.


And when we don't have agreement, we should have an agreed-upon way of responding to the disagreement, one that works to promote our survival and the good life for all of us, now and in the future.


It should be evident to the reader that we have a long way to go before we routinely handle disagreement optimally. That is also what this book is about.


Let us now examine the concept of the "ethical rule of conduct."


There is a tendency for individuals to believe that there are rules (of conduct) that should never be broken, that doing so is automatically a bad thing. This would be true especially in many religions and other authoritarian-ethical systems. In such systems, it is often true that individuals are left with the understanding that the author "has spoken," and that there is no way to review a specific situation in which the rule would seem to lead to a bad outcome. The individual is often left with the choice of having guilt over disobedience of the author or guilt over producing a bad outcome. I believe the reader could take any specific ethical rule, that he or she has understood to be mandated by an author, and construct an imaginary scenario in which the adherence to the rule would cause terrible consequences.


So what would be a more optimal way of regarding ethical rules? We are talking, of course, about ethical propositions of a particular sort. We are talking about "rules of conduct." These rules specify how one should behave in specific kinds of situations. They exist before situations arise in which the rules would apply. They may be contrasted with ethical propositions that state "what I should do in this specific situation, considering all of the relevant factors." They also may be contrasted with ethical propositions that state what outcome or outcomes should be sought.


Let us recall that almost all of our behavior is fairly "automatic." As I have stated earlier, I would maintain that most decision-making, even by our own species, is unaccompanied by "thinking" or even the experiencing of some mental phenomenon that could be called "the awareness of having made a decision." It is as if we watch ourselves behaving, usually with the feeling that we are doing the right thing (or with an absence of the feeling that we are doing the wrong thing).


The appropriate function of the ethical rule is that of an alarm. It is supposed to become activated when we observe that we are about to do something that is quite questionable, because there is a high probability that doing it will be regarded subsequently as a mistake. It is at that point in time that we should "think." Thinking involves an internal dialogue that debates the issue, which, in this case, would be, "Which option is the one I should choose?" Of course the method of choosing will be somewhat different, depending upon whether one is adhering to authoritarian ethics or rational ethics. But the bottom line is that the function of the ethical rule is to convert automatic decision-making (and therefore behavior) into deliberate decision-making (and therefore behavior), or behavior that is the result of deliberation. The function of the ethical rule is to make us "stop and think before we act."


It is therefore important for us to have many ethical rules, or rules of conduct, that serve to alert us as to when the danger of making a mistake has increased, so that we can optimize our chances of making the best decisions. This concept of ethical rules is quite different from that of having a list of ethical propositions that are to be obeyed, no matter what.


Now let us return to the issue as to whether there is any difference between ethical beliefs and existential beliefs.


Existential beliefs are phenomena in the nervous system that are manifested as consistent potential predictions about the world, all of which may be modeled by propositions such as, "In situation X, Z will happen," and many of which may be modeled by propositions such as "In situation X, if I do Y, Z will happen."


We also remember that motivational states are phenomena in the nervous system that can be modeled by propositions of the form, "I want to bring about outcome Z," or "I want to experience Z," or "I want Z to happen."


And we also remember that some beliefs produce motivational states, an example being the belief that the current situation is dangerous.


Well, ethical beliefs, modeled by propositions of the form, "I should do Y," are beliefs that produce a motivational state, namely, wanting to do Y, referred to in this book as the ethical sense. (I may want also to refrain from doing Y, for other reasons.) (Admittedly, there are some individuals in whom an ethical belief does not produce a very strong ethical sense.) The quality of the ethical sense produced by an ethical belief will be somewhat different, depending on whether the individual is responding to authoritarian ethics or rational ethics, as we shall see, but in both cases we may say that the ethical sense is a pleasant state produced by deciding to do what the ethical proposition states and/or an unpleasant state produced by deciding not to do what the ethical proposition states, and whether this motivational state is pleasant or unpleasant will increase or decrease the tendency to carry that decision-making process in the nervous system to completion in the form of actual behavior. Statements of an individual that might reflect this are, "If I decide to do Y, I will feel good about myself. If I decide not to do Y, I will feel guilty." The sought-for outcome would be the attainment of good feeling about oneself and the elimination of guilt.


Now we remember that decisions are determined by motivational states and beliefs. So we may construct a "syllogism" as follows:

  • I want to feel good about myself. (motivational state)
  • If I do Y, I will feel good about myself. (existential prediction or belief)
  • Therefore, I want to do Y. (motivational state)

or,

  • I want to reduce guilt. (motivational state)
  • If I do Y, I will reduce guilt. (existential prediction or belief)
  • Therefore, I want to do Y. (motivational state)

or,

  • I want to please (the author). (motivational state)
  • If I do Y, I will please (the author). (existential prediction or belief)
  • Therefore, I want to do Y. (motivational state)

or,

  • I want to make the world a better place. (motivational state)
  • If I do Y, I will make the world a better place. (existential prediction or belief)
  • Therefore, I want to do Y. (motivational state)

Notice that, in each syllogism above, the second proposition is an existential belief (prediction) about something in or about the world. ("The world" as used here means everything that exists, has existed, and/or will exist.) But also notice that in each syllogism above, the first and third propositions are also existential, reporting the existence of a motivational state. (One could say that the propositions modeled a belief regarding what the individual was experiencing.) Finally, notice that, in each case, the syllogism could indeed be summarized simply by, "I should do Y." So an ethical belief is simply an existential belief that carries with it the ethical sense. The format of the ethical proposition, having the word "should" in it, is just a shorthand way of modeling the whole syllogism, which consists of existential beliefs.


So a prediction, involved in decision-making, that happens to produce the ethical sense as a motivational state, then, is a manifestation of an existential belief. It is no different from an existential belief that one's house is burning down, producing predictions that cause various other motivational states.


Let us state this idea in another way:


"I should do Y" is an ethical proposition, modeling an ethical belief.

  • This ethical belief may be that the author will be displeased if I don't do Y.
  • This ethical belief may be that I will feel guilty if I don't do Y.
  • This ethical belief may be that I will be punished if I don't do Y.
  • This ethical belief may be that I will make the world a better place (however defined) if I do Y.

But each of these four propositions is an existential prediction (belief).


Each of these four propositions may be part or all of the meaning of "I should do Y."


An ethical proposition may therefore be restated as one or more existential predictions or beliefs.


There is thus no difference between an ethical proposition and an existential proposition, except that the ethical proposition models a belief that consists of predictions that produce, for that person, the "ethical sense."


However, in another sense there is still something that sets ethical beliefs apart from existential beliefs, and that has to do with how such a belief is legitimated.


In authoritarian ethics, the ethical belief is legitimated by the ultimate ethical principle, "I should do that which the author of the ethical proposition wants me to do." The ethical sense has to do with my belief about the author's wishes and the author's responses to whether I obey or not.


In rational ethics, the ethical belief is legitimated by the ultimate ethical principle, "I should do that which is most likely to promote the survival of and the good life for my species, meaning everyone, now and in the future." The ethical sense has to do with my belief about the outcomes of my contemplated behavior with regard to the survival of and the good life for my species (within my sphere of influence and within the limits of my capabilities, of course).


Given the particular kind of ethics, a specific ethical proposition entails a prediction, or predictions, as to whether the outcomes of the act will indeed be most likely to be consistent with the ultimate ethical principle. This is, as we have seen, a belief about the world, and a proposition modeling it will be no different from any other existential proposition.


But now we come to the ultimate ethical proposition itself. Here, there would seem to be a difference from existential propositions. We may clarify this by asking, "Well, which ultimate ethical proposition is correct (or more accurate)?" This same question can be asked of any existential proposition. It may be impossible to answer it, since we may simply not have enough information, understanding, computational power, etc. But it is at least answerable in principle, by the utilization of a criterion, namely, for example, how well it allows us to predict accurately.


But can we ask this same question with regard to the ultimate ethical principle? We have at least two principles to consider, and perhaps there may be more, such as the one that says that what should be done is that which would promote the greatest diversity of species on our planet (such a principle suggesting that we should exterminate ourselves). How are we to conclude which ultimate ethical proposition is the correct one? What criterion shall we use to make the decision?


My answer to this problem may be a little surprising. We must go back and look more closely at the criterion for legitimating existential propositions. We have said that existential propositions may be legitimated by determining how accurately they allow us to predict. But notice that, in actuality, this is not the only way in which existential propositions are legitimated. This is the rational way (consistent with the rules of logic and the rules of evidence). In actuality, however, existential propositions are also at times legitimated by how they make us feel to believe them. In other words, it would not be too difficult to find someone saying, "I don't care what science has to say about this; I feel much better believing the opposite, and that is why I believe as I do." So, in point of fact, the criterion that one uses to legitimate existential beliefs is every bit as "arbitrary" as the ultimate ethical principle is. Indeed, there is the question as to which criterion one should use to legitimate existential propositions, and the answer is therefore an ethical proposition!


So one can attempt to have existential beliefs that are as accurate as possible, or one can attempt to have existential beliefs that make one feel as good as possible. Similarly, one can attempt to please an author of ethical propositions, or one can attempt to do his or her part to foster the survival of and the good life for our species. What should we do? And by this question we see that we are always faced with an ethical choice. We must and will decide how we are going to live our lives, and our decisions will drastically influence what happens to us, individually and as a species, but the decision will ultimately be arbitrary! There is no way to say which we should do that is not arbitrarily chosen, and no one that is in a position to make the decision who is not arbitrarily chosen to be in that position. Therefore, it is a matter of arbitrary choice as to what to do, and no one can do more than what I am doing, namely, doing what feels right to me by virtue of as much thought and dialogue as possible, and urging others to do the same.


So I am proposing ARBITRARILY that we all agree that we should attempt to live rationally, that is, in accordance with beliefs that are legitimated by being consistent with the rules of logic and the rules of evidence, and that each of us should attempt to do his or her part to make the world a better place, within his or her sphere of influence and within the limits of his or her capabilities. And I am proposing that we do both of these things because doing so is most likely to promote the survival of and the good life for our species, that is, for all of us, now and in the future. So this is a proposal that we engage in rational-ethical living, as the phrase is used in this book. But it is not just I that am advocating this. Others are also advocating this, in various ways, and the increasing tendency to do so is what I am referring to as the THIRD EXPONENTIAL CHANGE. We are very early in this change, but to a greater and greater extent the change is becoming a significant determinant of how we live.


And for the purposes of this book, all belief is being divided, by definition, into (1) ethical beliefs that may be modeled by propositions that state that a given behavior is or is not consistent with an assumed ultimate ethical proposition, and that therefore may have the word "should" in them, and (2) existential beliefs, meaning all other beliefs. An existential belief may be one about what will happen if I do X, and an ethical belief may be one about whether I therefore should do X.


It should be noted that the beginning of the attainment of the ethical sense was in infancy and early childhood, at a time when the approval of the parent is of supreme importance to the child. Thus, the ethical sense originally arises from authoritarian ethics, the need to please and not displease the parent. But the parent may (or may not) reward the attainment and development of rational ethics, so rational ethics, which does not come naturally, has to have its origin in authoritarian ethics. Just as we learn (or don't learn) to be rational primarily from our parents or parenting figures, we also learn (or don't learn) from them to move to rational ethics. Even if we do not learn these things from our parenting figures, they can be attained (with greater difficulty) later in life, but again, only from others.


So where are we at this point? We have a decision to make, a choice as to how we are going to live our lives, individually and collectively. We see how we have been living our lives so far, and we see how much pain and misery we endure because of it. We look at all those decisions that people (including ourselves) have made that we wish had not been made, and we ask why they were made. But the answer is clear. We have no globally agreed-upon, readily recited ethical principles that provide a strong ethical sense, including the strong ethical belief that we should make our existential beliefs as accurate as possible, irrespective of how those beliefs make us feel. And because we see others primarily interested in "short-sighted" goals, ones developed without the attempt to predict all of the outcomes of their behavior for everyone, we tend to have similar short-sighted goals, so as to protect and enhance ourselves in such a milieu. And because we do not yet hold our newly acquired rationality in high regard, and therefore do not subject all of our beliefs to the criterion of consistency with the rules of logic and rules of evidence, we still readily believe almost anything. And because we believe almost anything, we do almost anything. And because we do not see the comparison of ideas as an opportunity to increase the accuracy of our beliefs, we avoid, shun, and even kill those that might give us important feedback. Consequently, much of what we do is damaging to ourselves and each other. It has always been this way, and it still is to a great extent. But a new possibility for a better way is beginning to become apparent to us.


The reader should recall that, at the very beginning of the book, I expressed my belief about the nature of this book, namely, that "this book is an effort to share a set of observations and conclusions, and to share a set of proposals based upon those observations and conclusions." So I am indeed proposing some things. I am proposing that we become more rational (as defined in this book) and switch to rational ethics as rapidly as we can, and I am proposing that we do this in order to promote the survival of and the good life for our species, meaning everyone, now and in the future.


Please note again that it is not just I making this proposal. I am reporting on my observation that there is an increasing tendency for us to propose this to each other, usually in less global and general terms than is occurring in this book.


The reader does not have to accept my proposal. But it is my prediction that the reader will move in this direction, if he or she learns how to do so, because I believe that it is natural for us to want both survival and a good life.


I wish to ask the reader again whether he or she can indeed come up with a better ultimate ethical principle than that we should do that which will promote the survival of and the good life for our species, meaning all of us, now and in the future. Is there an even more ultimate ethical proposition that would tell us when we should do something other than this? What would that more ultimate ethical principle be? Would it be that we should do as stated except when doing so interfered with our own individual interests, which should always be considered first? Which principle is the one the adherence to which would be likely to give all of us closer to what we are looking for, that is, closer to our individual interests? If no one put himself or herself out for others, if no one were generous, if everyone considered his or her own needs or wishes first, how much better off would we all be than if we all did our part, as well as possible, to make the world a better place for everyone (including ourselves)? Would we be able to define the circumstances when the ultimate ethical principle I am advocating should not be followed?


The whole problem would be removed if we were able simply to remove ethics from our lives. This would entail getting rid of the ethical sense. In other words, we would simply disregard completely, disregard as invalid or without meaning, any ethical proposition, any statement as to what we should or should not do. But I ask whether the reader believes that this is any option at all. Would we be able to do that? My belief is that the answer is definitely no. If so, we are stuck with the fact that we should do certain things and should not do certain other things. So what are these things going to be? How will we determine what they are?


But as a part of my advocating the proposals of this book, I would like to make the decision-making a little more concrete for the reader. I would like to point out some more concrete examples and implications of authoritarian ethics, the ethics that we have for the most part been using, as a part of our basic animal nature. I wish to show even more clearly that there are problems with this kind of ethics, problems that I have already mentioned. In doing so, I wish to ask whether the outcomes of the examples given are better than, or even the same as, the outcomes that would be produced by adherence to rational ethics.


(First let me say that I agree that the vast majority, perhaps, of our authoritarian ethical beliefs probably are indeed consistent with the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle also. But let us look at some that are at least questionable.)


A suicide bomber, in obedience to the wishes of his or her deity and/or subculture, kills and injures a large number of people.


Someone bombs an abortion clinic and kills an obstetrician, thus obediently carrying out the wishes of his or her deity and/or subculture.


In compliance with the wishes of a deity and/or subculture, female genital mutilation is performed, sometimes causing death.


In compliance with the wishes of a deity and/or subculture, a woman immolates herself on her husband's funeral pyre.


Now it may be somewhat unclear whether the above wishes are those of a deity or of the subculture, but it would probably be the belief of the individual that it was the wishes of the deity that were being followed. Notice that there is the issue of the accuracy of the existential beliefs, namely, whether it is really true that there is a deity, and if it is true, whether the deity really has the wish that the individual engage in the act. But then there is also the ethical issue as to whether, if there is such a deity and the deity does have the wish, the wish should be obeyed. If the ultimate ethical principle is that one should do whatever the deity wishes, then the individual should indeed engage in the act.


But let us ask whether these same acts would likely have occurred through adherence to rational ethics. Would these acts be likely to promote the survival of and the good life for our species, meaning all of us, now and in the future? Could any of these acts have been shown to be an example of the individual doing his part to make the world a better place, meaning a place where there is more joy, appreciation, and contentment, and less pain, suffering, disability, and early death? What would be the line of reasoning? Would it be possible to demonstrate the probable accuracy of all of the existential propositions involved in that reasoning, using the rules of logic and the rules of evidence?


The reason I am advocating that we push ourselves to switch to rational ethics and rationality in general is that I wish to contribute to the effort to make the world a better place, one in which there is as much joy, appreciation, and contentment as possible and as little pain, suffering, disability, and early death as possible, and I believe this is the way to do that. Therefore, I would have to say that we should obey authors only if doing so promotes the survival of and the good life for our species, all of us, now and in the future.


This does mean that I may be regarded as disobedient by some authors and by those who adhere to authoritarian ethics, since I would be saying that the authors should sometimes be disobeyed. But I do want to be clear about the issue of disobedience. If I, in compliance with my rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle, am contemplating whether to obey an author or not, I must consider the total set of outcomes of my contemplated behavior. Now I may come to an opinion that what the author wants me to do is not optimal for promoting the survival of and good life for our species, but I must also include in that assessment what will be the total set of outcomes of my disobeying. In other words, there may be situations in which one decides to obey something that does not seem to be a good idea, only because the effect of disobeying would be worse. This issue is involved in continuing to obey a "bad law" while engaging in vigorous efforts to get the law changed, as opposed to simply disobeying the law and hoping that one is not "caught."


I would now like to discuss some general implications of the concept of the ultimate ethical principle.


If there is no ultimate ethical principle, then there is no way of legitimating any other more specific ethical proposition. The suicide bomber believes that he or she should be doing what he or she is doing, that it is the right thing to do. The targets of this bomber would probably not agree. But who is right? If there is no ultimate ethical principle, then there is no answer to this question. And yet the ultimate ethical principle is not something that exists in the world for us to find. It is not an existential proposition modeling how the world is. It is an arbitrary decision that we make, or don't make. We perhaps would like to survive, personally and as a species. And we perhaps would like to have as good a life as possible, with as much joy, appreciation, and contentment as possible and as little pain, suffering, disability, and early death as possible, for each of us and for all of us, now and in the future. But we don't have to do so. In order to do so, we have to agree to do so, meaning to do those things that are most likely to bring this about. In order to do so, we have to know how to do so. Knowing how to do so means having accurate beliefs about the nature of the world and what is likely to happen when we do things. We have to be wise. In order to be wise, we have to do those things that make us wise. We have to have a lifestyle that promotes wisdom, that is, knowledge about the world including ourselves. In order to have this lifestyle, we have to want to have it. And that wanting to have it is what we mean by the "ethical sense."


But let us ask, one more time, whether there are some decisions to which the ultimate ethical principle does not apply. Let us assume that there are some such decisions. If the decisions led to behavior that fostered the ultimate ethical principle, there would be no problem anyway. But suppose the behavior did not do so. Suppose the behavior was less than optimal, using the ultimate ethical principle as the criterion to determine this. Then we would be saying that there are times when we should do that which would not promote the survival of and good life for our species. But saying this would be saying that the ultimate ethical principle was not ultimate, because we would have to have a higher level principle that was the criterion to determine when the ultimate ethical principle applied and when it didn't. If this were correct, then this higher level principle would be the ultimate ethical principle instead. So, we have to decide. Are we going to have an ultimate ethical principle or not? If we don't, we have life as we are living it, with very little hope of seeing significant change other than fluctuations in our amounts of satisfaction and suffering. But if we do have an ultimate ethical principle, then by definition this principle will always apply. And every decision will be subject to it. In other words, every decision we make will have an ethical component. For every decision that we make, the question will be present: "Which option will promote the ultimate ethical principle?" Another way of saying this is that for every decision I make, for everything I do, the question applies as to whether I should be doing it or not. And it means that I want always to do the right thing and that I will therefore always try to do the right thing. It does not mean that I will always be successful. It does not mean that I will always be able to figure out what the right thing is to do. It does not mean that it will cease to be true that almost all of my decision-making will still be automatic, or intuitive, or unconscious, etc. But it does mean that I am committed to trying to avoid doing anything less than optimal, trying to make myself aware of any tendencies to do that which is not optimal so as to work on changing them, and trying to have a lifestyle that promotes increased awareness and knowledge of the world and of what works the best.


Ethical living means always trying to do the right thing, without exception. Rational-ethical living means always trying to do that which will promote the survival of and the good life for everyone, now and in the future. It means trying to make the world a better place within one's sphere of influence and within the limits of one's capabilities. It means taking into consideration, in decision-making, to the extent possible, all of the probable outcomes of one's contemplated acts. It means working on the development of effective rules of conduct, that serve to make one stop and think before doing things that usually have a high risk of having a bad outcome. It means taking care of oneself and treating oneself well, then treating well those closest to one, and then doing as much for others as one can. It means attempting to seek the optimal balance in one's life.


There is a tendency currently, within the culture that I am familiar with, to regard ethics as something that is relevant only in certain situations. I don't know how widespread this idea is. But it stands to reason that authoritarian ethics would promote this kind of thinking. The reason is that in an authoritarian ethical system, there may indeed be some areas of one's activities that are of no interest, one way or the other, to the author of the ethical propositions. Thus, one would be "free to do as he or she wishes," as long as one did not go against the wishes of the author. Of course, one could indeed put forth effort to do something optional that might please the author, but this would tend to be looked at as extra effort for extra credit, rather than a requirement.


Furthermore, I have a number of times asked individuals, "Do you think that what you are doing is wrong?" They have frequently said, "Yes." I have asked, "Does that bother you?" And some have said, "No, not particularly." For some, it appears that they believe that the author will "forgive" them if they are not too awfully bad, and they may point out that everyone does a little bad, that no one is perfect, that one should not always try to be perfect, to be a "goody-goody two shoes," to try to be better than everyone else, etc. One should "live a little." In authoritarian ethics, the concern is for the mental state of the author, and the hope is that, whatever the person has done, the author can somehow be convinced at a later time to forgive the person. And when the forgiveness occurs, then the problem is gone. "Just don't do it again."


Given the nature of authoritarian ethics, it is not difficult to see why it works so poorly. There is a tendency for individuals to be primarily concerned that they don't get short-changed in life, that they, if possible, get back more than they put in, since that is the presumed principle involved in making a profit, as in business, or investment. That is what success is. And ethics is just some "outer limit" to such behavior, imposed by some self-interested authority. And if the authority doesn't care, why should we individuals care?


In rational-ethical living, there is indeed some "latitude" with regard to what one can do and still be adhering to rational ethics. The latitude comes from the uncertainty as to the outcomes of one's behavior. Most of the time, it is rather difficult to know whether one is doing the optimal thing. But in rational-ethical living, one does not disregard the issue. And the orientation to ethics is different. In authoritarian ethics, the individual tends often to see ethics as an unfriendly inhibitor of pleasure, something that one would rather not have to be concerned about. In rational-ethical living, it is ethics that puts the joy in living. The joy comes from being aware of how much one is doing to make the world a better place, including making oneself a better person, physically and mentally. The difference will become more apparent when I discuss rational-ethical child rearing. But one can say that in the natural model of child rearing, the authoritarian-ethical model, there seem to be characteristics of advanced civilization that lead the child further away from the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle and also toward a breakdown of the authoritarian-ethical ultimate ethical principle. The result is an orientation of the child, and subsequent adult, that is much more concerned with self than with others and with society.


We are now ready, in the chapters that follow, to look at specific ways in which the development of rational ethics is resulting in and will result in new ways of doing things, that is, new procedures. We have looked at what rational ethics is. Now we are going to look at what rational-ethical living is. Our methods and procedures that arise from our basic animal nature do not promote the good life for everyone, so the individual must change his or her procedures or behavior from what comes naturally to some alternative set of procedures or behaviors that are guided by rules of conduct that work better, that promote the ultimate ethical principle. These rules or procedures must be taught and learned. Our species must ultimately develop ways of teaching these new procedures, rules, or behaviors in highly efficient and effective ways. But first, there must be agreement as to what they are. And this agreement must come through comparison of ideas among individuals.


Ultimately, change of this sort must begin with individuals. And that is where the reader comes in. What follows in this book is a proposal to the reader of the new sets of procedures that are different from those that arise from our basic animal nature. The reader may participate in this process by attempting to understand the ideas, making personal observations relevant to the ideas, discussing the ideas with others, and advocating for the ideas if indeed they seem to the reader to be the right answers.


This book now will focus on the development of specific principles in two areas of living that are extremely important to us all, namely, prevention of anger, to reduce that which fosters our most unfortunate, and a times devastating, behavior, and child rearing, to foster the development of happy, productive children who become adults that, even more, engage in rational-ethical living. Then we will proceed to the development of more general principles of "belief management," in order to aid in making our beliefs as accurate as possible, doing so being a supreme value of "Homo rationalis," and in order to optimize the activation of belief, to enhance our quality of life and our capacity to do good. Then we will try to predict some principles and features of government and religion that will be different in that time of "Homo rationalis," when our species, globally, has moved much more completely to rational ethics. Finally, we will focus on what the reader should do, in his or her own life, to assist this just-beginning-to-accelerate change toward rational-ethical living, while predictably benefiting enormously personally from doing so.