Moral realism and our rights and liberties, part 3

1373747839_2097_bill-of-rights-m(1)How do we distinguish man-made morality from true morality, and how can we use that moral truth to make the case for protecting the rights of every individual on the globe?  In part 1 of this series, we saw that our rights and liberties are either completely made up (anti-realism) or they are discovered moral truth (moral realism).  In part 2 we saw that universal moral indignation and the great agreement between the creeds of history’s civilizations serve as clues to an intuitive hunger for true meaning which blind, changing nature cannot satisfy.  Here in part 3 we will examine how we pan out the genuine moral truth from the artificial, and use it to make a case for extending essential rights to every person.

Moral Truth Litmus

This three-part Moral Truth Litmus tells us when a particular morality is artificial (70), when that morality fails any part of the litmus. If no theory passes all three parts of the litmus, there is no moral truth (see Objection 5 in Appendix E if “if” sounds heretical to you), defined at the beginning of the preceding section.

(L1) Part 1: Question Aspect: Moral truth must describe the answer to “How and why should we be or behave with the Other and self?”
(L2) Part 2: Objective Aspect: Moral truth, like all other truth, must be discovered (71), not created.
(L3) Part 3: Universal Aspect: Moral truth, like all other truth, must be true for all or none.

(L1) Part 1: Question Aspect: Moral truth must describe the answer to “How and why should we be or behave with the Other and self?”

This question is why the field of ethics exists, and a good theory must answer it. This first aspect of the litmus may seem redundant, a definition of an ethical theory, because it includes all the different elements emphasized by the theories in ethics (be, do, end; or character, conduct, consequences). However, none of the theories, save the Golden Rule, fulfill this part completely (67). There are three dialectics (resolutions to apparent contradictions) (58, 66) combined that will show this:

(L1.1) The How and Why Dialectic

(See Objection 9 in Appendix E.)

Thesis: ‘Why’ (the internal end) is more important than ‘how’ (the external means) (consequentialist theories).
Antithesis: ‘How’ (the external means) is more important than ‘why’ (the internal end) (conduct theories).
Synthesis: A ‘how’ (external means) without a ‘why’ (internal end) is pointless; a ‘why’ (inward end) without a ‘how’ (outward means) is impossible to apply [Golden Rule is both ‘why’ (love) and how—see Objection 16 in Appendix E on the GR being love].

(L1.2) The Be or Behave Dialectic

Thesis: ‘Be’ is more important than ‘behave’ (virtue theories).
Antithesis: ‘Behave’ is more important than ‘be’ (conduct theories).
Synthesis: The nature of the “doing” affects the nature of the “being” and vice versa. We should be a loving person so that we will be more inclined to do love (Golden Rule), and we should do love so that we will become a more loving person. The word ‘more’ is meant to remind the reader that anyone who asks the question of ethics, anyone who has the question in them, is ‘already’ a loving person who does love (simply by being hospitable to the question) (67). This “doing” and “being” is the only sort of creating and choosing which creates toward the eternal; chooses the eternal (see Objection 13 in Appendix E). If you think of “doing” as a verb, like the “e” of e=mc^2, and if you think of “being” as a noun, like the “mc^2” of the same equation, then it would be right to say that we cannot be (noun/mc^2) without doing (verb/e), and we cannot do (verb/e) without being (noun/mc^2) (62). By the way, check out Chuang Tzu’s theory of mutual production (5j).

This “being” which “behaves” is called “self” (41)—leading to L1.3:

(L1.3) The Other and Self Dialectic

(If you are not sure if “self” is even real, please see notes 23 and 41.)

Thesis: The Other or the out-group should always benefit, whereas ‘self’ or the in-group should never benefit (self-abusive theories).
Antithesis: ‘Self’ or the in-group should always benefit, whereas the Other or the out-group should never benefit (egoistic theories).
Synthesis: In every in-group and out-group, a self is an Other, an Other is a self (65; Objection 19 in Appendix E), so however we should treat Other/self is the same as how we should treat self/Other (56). Also, since we can reason without thinking of the Other (or, for that matter, the self), theories which exalt reason fail to answer this aspect of the question of ethics. Would we even ask how/why we should be or behave if there were no self/Other?

Indeed, if there is moral truth (see Objection 5 in Appendix E if “if” sounds heretical to you), it is discoverable (71) by all moral beings (objective), and true for all moral beings (universal), as shown further in the following two parts of the litmus:

(L2) Part 2: Objective Aspect: Moral truth, like all other truth, must be discovered (71), not created.

As discussed in the last section, truth is mind-independent. The only mind-dependent facts are facts “about” minds, however—their truth is still not justified by the existence of the mind(s) of which they are about, for that would commit the is-ought fallacy (12) of reification (70) (see Objection 10 in Appendix E). The quickest way to narrow down a search for the answer to “How and why should we be or behave with the Other and self?” is to discard those theories which do not claim to be moral truth. Though this rules out all forms of relativism, there is plenty of room for a theory celebrating diversity so long as it is in line with the true meaning for which every moral sense, every conscience, hungers (57). Moral truth is known intuitively, rather than created, and we are able to articulate it and discover (71) more about it using reason. This is a modern version of the Euthyphro Dilemma, discussed in the section on Greek virtue theory (see also Objection 1 in Appendix E).

By way of dialectic (58, 66), two apparently contradictory views (descriptive statements) on moral truth (real ought) are going to be resolved (67).

The Essentialism Dialectic

Thesis: Moral truth (real ought) is created, or voluntarism (70).
Antithesis: There is no (discoverable) (71) moral truth (real ought), because that which is created is not discovered, or nihilism (or skepticism).
Synthesis: Moral truth (real ought) is discovered (71), or essentialism (14, 37).

Observe:

Thesis: Voluntarism. We all hunger (57) for true meaning; moral truth is created. This is called voluntarism, or moral anti-realism (70). There are true voluntarists, and there are voluntarists by default. True voluntarists think that moral truth is created by the individual or cultural will (subjectivism or relativism; individual/divine or cultural voluntarism) (14, 37, 70)—they think all nihilists cannot help contradicting themselves as their attitudes and behaviors acknowledge meaning, and they think essentialists arrogantly claim to have discovered (71) moral truth and should instead create their own meaning (atheist voluntarists) or submit to God’s created meaning (theist voluntarists). A special category of voluntarists, like the atheist existentialists to be studied later, do not believe there is moral truth, but see more value in creating meaning that is made authentic by the individual. Those who attempt to discover (71) moral truth where it cannot be found (for example, evolving human nature, 69) may think of themselves as essentialists, but they are voluntarists by default, since their ‘discovery’ is actually a creation of will (perfection cannot evolve, 69). Since voluntarists by default claim their creation is moral truth (but it isn’t), they commit the ought-is fallacy (82) of reification (70) (see Objection 3 in Appendix E), and if they attempt to justify it with the reason that it is “natural” (from nature), or merely base it on the existence of (nature of) God, they commit the is-ought fallacy (12) of reification (70) (see Objection 2 in Appendix E). Since voluntarists (both true and by default) do not acknowledge essential meaning, they are nihilists by default, though that offends the voluntarist’s moral sense (and so defaults to essentialism). Note: If this theory is right (see Objection 5 in Appendix E if the lack of certainty sounds heretical to you), human rights are made up or evolved by individuals, cultures, or, somehow, nature.

Antithesis: Nihilism (or skepticism). We may hunger for meaning, but we do not hunger (57) for perfect meaning, because perfection cannot be created or evolved (69), only discovered (71); therefore, there is no (discoverable) moral truth. The “no moral truth” position is called nihilism, and the “whether or not there is moral truth, we cannot discover (know) it” position is called skepticism. We can discover created things, but we cannot create perfection (69, 71)—we can manufacture meaning, but we cannot create ‘perfect’ meaning [ought-is fallacy (82) of reification (70) (see Objection 3 in Appendix E)], and if we try to justify it with the reason that it is “natural” (from nature), or to base it on the existence of (nature of) God, we commit the is-ought fallacy (12) of reification (70) (see Objection 2 in Appendix E). If the truth about all morality is that it evolves with individuals, cultures, or nature (if there is no morality among all moralities which does “not” evolve)—then there is no (discoverable) “moral truth” (real ‘fulfilled’ ought; actuality with no potential; perfection never changes, 69) (see Objection 5 in Appendix E if “if” sounds heretical to you). There are true nihilists/skeptics, and there are nihilists/skeptics by default. True nihilists/skeptics think that truth cannot be created, and feel that even essentialists ‘create’ rather than discover (71). However, nihilists/skeptics will not allow a construct to pass as truth, and so agree with essentialists that voluntarists (70) are nihilists by default and that constructs do not obligate. On the other hand, atheist voluntarists think essentialists are nihilists by default, because they will not ‘create’ truth (or ‘meaning’)! The attitudes and behaviors of nihilists/skeptics, in reaction to the violation of their moral boundaries, betray an intuitive sense of moral truth—no one ever acts as if their moral boundaries are just ‘made up’—and so they default to essentialism. Note: If this theory is right (see Objection 5 in Appendix E if the lack of certainty sounds heretical to you), there are no real human rights, none made up, none evolved, none discovered (71).

Synthesis: Essentialism. We may ‘say’ we do not hunger (57) for true meaning, we may ‘say’ true (perfect, 69) meaning can be created or evolve [ought-is fallacy (82) of reification (70) (see Objection 3 in Appendix E)], but we live against it whenever we feel that a certain behavior (ours or someone else’s) is truly justified, or whenever we react to it with indignation (or guilt, or telling ourselves we don’t need to feel guilty). Anyone with the question in them will already be familiar with examples from their own life. We live as if we hunger (57) for true, uncreated, unevolved, discovered (71) meaning—a real, fulfilled ought (perfection, 69). This is called essentialism, or moral realism. A real, fulfilled ought has no potential, is actuality, and so it is truth that cannot evolve into being, but must always be (not merely ‘pre-exist’). A true standard for moral perfection (69) needs no further perfection or evolution. And since moral truth is social truth (L1.3), it actually requires minds (subjects, selves, persons) in order to be true (therefore if there is a real, fulfilled ought, it must be a social being) (see Objection 5 in Appendix E if “if” sounds heretical to you). We no more create the true meaning we all hunger for, than we create the nutrients we all hunger for (57). Whether ‘our’ meaning is true or not is irrelevant—our ‘hunger’ for it to be true is evidence that there ‘is’ true meaning. There are true essentialists, and there are essentialists by default. True essentialists think that moral truth is discovered in (not justified by) God’s unchanging essence (14) (universalism; divine essentialism). This does not commit the is-ought fallacy (12) of reification (70) (see Objection 2 in Appendix E). Rather than settle for the artificial (though atheist voluntarists call it ‘authentic’), essentialists freely, and in good faith (contrary to Sartre’s belief), choose the real, rather than commit the ought-is fallacy (82) of reification (70) (or die starved of true meaning) (see Objection 3 in Appendix E). If we accept as given that we all live as if we have the ‘hunger’ (57) and essentialism corresponds to reality, whereas voluntarism and nihilism do not—voluntarists (both true and by default) and nihilists (both true and by default) are both essentialists by default, further evidenced when the voluntarist takes offense at defaulting to nihilism, and the nihilist takes offense at a violation of their moral boundaries. However, for the sake of argument, if there is no essential moral truth to be discovered (71) (see Objection 5 in Appendix E if the lack of certainty sounds heretical to you), essentialism is a creation of will and is voluntarism by default, which is nihilism by default, though we live against it. Note: If this theory is right, human rights are discovered, not made up or evolved. See also Appendix C: The Logic of the Essentialism Dialectic.

(L3) Part 3: Universal Aspect: Moral truth, like all other truth, must be true for all or none.

Continuing from our mind-independent truth theme (see Objection 10 in Appendix E), the way this is commonly said, famously by Bertrand Russell (85), is that a belief, though dependent on a mind for its existence, is not dependent on a mind for its truth. Truth is mind-independent, and this does not at all mean, as some anti-realists claim, that mind-independency puts truth beyond the grasp of minds, or that there can be moral truth without a perfectly moral mind. It only means that, even if a mind (subject, self, person) has yet to discover (71) it to be true, if there is moral truth (see Objection 5 in Appendix E if “if” sounds heretical to you), then it is true for every mind (subject, self, person), whether s/he is a self or an Other. Something that is objectively true is true for every mind (subject, self, person). If not true for all, then true for none. This part (L3) is different from L1.3, because L1.3 discusses the nature of knowers (self=Other) (65; Objection 19 in Appendix E), whereas L3 discusses the nature of the known (true for all knowers). This universality must be essential, not forced, otherwise it commits the ought-is (82) fallacy of reification (70) (see Objection 3 in Appendix E). The following dialectic (58, 66) shows this by reaching the same conclusion (synthesis) as the dialectic found in the second part of the litmus, because both the is-ought (12) and the ought-is (82) fallacies of reification (70) (see Objection 2 and 3 in Appendix E) are resolved by the same conclusion:

The Moral Realism Dialectic

Thesis: Conflicting cultural and individual norms are all valid moral truth (relativistic and subjectivist theories, or voluntarism, or anti-realism, 70).
Antithesis: Conflicting cultural and individual norms are evidence against the possibility of moral truth (nihilistic theories).
Synthesis: Moral truth transcends cultures and individuals and their apparent contradictions and is true (immanent) for all (realism)—providing a basis (along with L1.3) from which to defend the human rights of individuals of every culture (see Objection 12 in Appendix E).

Again, none of the above is a fallacious ought-is guarantee (70, 82) that there is moral truth (see Objection 3 in Appendix E), but only a way to eliminate that which is certainly ‘not’ moral truth. L1.3 and L3 explain why a good ethical theory must be equally true for all minds, subjects, selves, persons, individuals, social beings or whatever synonym one prefers. L2, the objective aspect, necessitates that the real ought, if one exists (see Objection 5 in Appendix E if the lack of certainty sounds heretical to you), must also be a fulfilled ought, and L1.3 necessitates that the real, fulfilled ought, if one exists, must be a social being described by the Golden Rule, both the why (love) and the how (L1.1) behind both right being and right doing (L1.2). A real ought is a fulfilled ought, a social being who does (conduct) and is (character) the ultimate end (consequences)—the answer to the question, for all or none—or there is no real ought (70; 12, 82).

If there is moral truth (see Objection 5 in Appendix E if “if” sounds heretical to you), the Golden Rule is it—none of the alternative theories growing in the field of ethics pass the Moral Truth Litmus

***

This essay is the adapted introduction to this work and updated here.

A running bibliography can be found here.

***

That we hunger for true meaning, and that we find the Golden Rule in many cultures throughout history, indicates there is an unchanging, loving God to which such moral truth corresponds, and that we are not only justified in protecting the rights of all humans on the globe–we are also responsible to do so.

Relevant link of interest: Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Discovered according to the Golden Rule?
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About Maryann

Maryann Spikes is the past President of the Christian Apologetics Alliance. She blogs at Ichthus77, and loves apologetics and philosophy. In particular she loves to study all things Euthyphro Dilemma and Golden Rule. A para-educator (autism) for five years, she holds a Certificate in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, an AA in Humanities via Modesto Junior College, and moonlights as a freelancer on Upwork. You can follow her on Twitter @Ichthus77, connect with the Ichthus77 community on Facebook, or look her up on Google+.
This entry was posted in Divine Essentialism, Ethics & Metaethics, Golden Rule. Bookmark the permalink.

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