Basic Orientation
Book1: R-E Living & "Homo Rationalis"
Book2: Humanianity
Book3: Mind-Body Problem
Book4: (Future Possible Development)
Child Rearing Issues
Philosophico-Religious Issues
Psycho-Socio-Cultural Issues
01 Enormous Good Is For The Doing
02 Friendly vs Hostile Debate
03 Rational Ethics-Joy in Doing Right
04 Explanation of Humanianity
05
06
07
08
09
10
11
12
The Twelve Articles
Relevant Autobiography
 
"HOMO RATIONALIS" AND HUMANIANITY
 
HELPING TO PROMOTE OUR THIRD EXPONENTIAL CHANGE
 

PSYCHO-SOCIO-CULTURAL ISSUES

THE "RATIONAL ETHICS" OF "HOMO RATIONALIS"

THE JOY IN DOING RIGHT


I once posted this on the message board of the Charlotte Philosophy Discussion Group:


What follows is an excerpt from the book (by me) called For Everyone: Rational-Ethical Living and the Emergence of "Homo rationalis". It is from the conclusion of the chapter on "Basic Concepts: Ethics." It is a summary and a set of recommendations to you, the reader. The book is free at Homorationalis.com.


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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 byrules 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.


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So that is the excerpt. Would anyone be interested in, as a group, going through the book methodically to see if it really does have something to offer?


(So that was what I posted on the Charlotte Philosophy Discussion Group's message board. There were no responses.)