Revisiting Morality…

(This post is a follow-up to the previous post regarding morality. I touch on several logical points here and I hope that brevity hasn’t undermined clarity.)

The conclusions herein and in the previous post are not deductions regarding an objective reality, but are merely logical steps which follow from certain premises which are concordant with one another.

First, I think it is urgently pressing to point out that all of my posts are elaborated syllogisms (Which I suspect are valid – errors are always possible) that are also consistent with existentialism.  This implies that I am fully aware of the unique perception through which we each interpret the world.  With such an assertion, I can not substantiate the claim that any one interpretation is particularly accurate over another.  Even the rules that govern logic fall under this umbrella of perception and interpretation.  Indeed, how does one prove logic without also using it?  It may be that logic is a totally inappropriate tool for exploring morality [or any other concept].  Even the concurrence of logical, as a predictive and explanatory tool, with observation does not ‘prove’ logic since perception is also non-standardized.  The tool of logic itself is merely the tool which I find to be most useful in organizing my conception of the world and consistent with my perception.   Therefore, any conclusions that I make which have the connotation of objectivism obviously can not be substantiated as such.  The positive claims that I make here, and hopefully in all posts, are merely the conclusions that follow logically from specified premises.   Therefore, in order to refute the claims herein would require a refutation/correction of the logic or the renunciation of a premise.

No system of morality is pursued as a matter of indifference.  As with all actions, an end is sought because it is valued.

When comparing systems of morality, we can not say which is ‘objectively’ better or worse. Normative descriptions require values to assert such and therefore require an agent to perform the valuation.  The phrase subjective value is redundant.  So there is no right or wrong morality except to the extent that it achieves the goals of the person surveying the efficacy of a system in garnering value.  It is only when we identify a goal that we can even begin to measure the proximity to which an outcome resembles that goal.  If a stated goal is to popularize a morality, and the popularity is endogenous to the moral system itself, then the system can be judged in efficacy by its popularity.  In my morality post, I did not judge whether the popularity of a moral system was good.  I did, however, identify possible attributes for a system of morality which would be Pareto optimal, and additionally, which would aid in voluntary acceptance (The attributes were neither exclusive nor exhaustive).

The ‘goodness’ of a moral system is dependent upon the valuations by any given agent.

So why would I advance my system of morality over another?  Indeed, if another system would identically aid in my garnering value, then why not advance the alternative system?  The relationship between a moral system and a set of values is like a system of 2 simultaneous equations.  Your morality informs your values, and vice versa.   A change in a person’s values will also change the morality system which they determine to be best for increasing the total garnered value.  Similarly, a person’s values can adjust as the person becomes subject to systemic constraints.  We’ve all heard some people say that fame and fortune are irrelevant to their happiness.  That the people who espouse such a view shall rarely have occasion for such gratification is not independent of the system by which they’ve ‘chosen’ to live.

The moral system by which I choose to live is pragmatic (read as “one among many values”) Veganism as an extension of the non-aggression axiom.  My reason for subscribing is that I perceive the system to do the best job, in my own subjective measure, of abstention from coercion.  That I should seek to abstain from coercion is derived from my own preferences and is not unique among any other’s set of values.   The reason that I advance my system and promote it for others is not due to any objective case that it is innately ‘better’.  Rather, it would increase the value which I garner through knowing that others act similarly and that other beings are permitted the same freedom.  My valuation that others should enjoy the same degree of freedom that I would enjoy is not in any way objective and is merely a matter of my own preference.

My system of morality is only identifiably one of a class in which its results are also the intent [I like to think to a greater than average degree].  I would be equally satisfied, though less enthralled by the intellectual prerequisites, of a system which yielded the identical results as mine but was practiced by people with completely different goals.  Just as part of the efficacy of Christianity includes the supposition of eternal life and happiness, it would make no difference to me if the promise were instead an infinite supply of peanut-butter.  Again, I see no accidental coincidence in the system chosen/intuited/instinctually pursued and the valuation of the individual.  If as many people held an infinite supply of shaved ice in the same regard as eternal happiness, than I would find it no more surprising that the most popular moral system, among those people, achieved or at least was believed to achieve as much.

Relatedly, systems can not promise results.  Systems can not perform actions or ‘do’ verbs.  Therefore no moral system may purport to ‘serve truth’ – or purport anything else for that matter.  Christianity doesn’t promise eternal happiness.  Christianity doesn’t do anything.  People believe that practicing the system of Christianity results in certain outcomes and their actions are concordant with the systemic prescription of past Christians to the extent that the system achieves the individual’s ends.  I don’t mean to pick on Christianity here.  You could insert any moral system and suspected valuable result into the context of this post and yield the same result.  Whether a system can be popularly adopted without the alluring assertion of absolute truth is another matter entirely – the analysis of which may occur in a future post.  It is worth considering, however, the popularization of a system if its spread garners value for the subscriber.

Popularity and ‘goodness’ of a system are entirely distinct concepts.

In contention of my proposed definition for morality, one might suggest a man who acts in pursuit of his goals, in a systemic manner, and cite that a multitude of people deem the system and the values of the man as immoral.  However, such a circumstance is not in the least at odds with the definition of morality.  The popularity of values doesn’t make any goal ‘objectively’ valuable nor does the popularity of a moral system determine objective morality.  That more than one individual values a goal does not relate in the least to objectivity and is merely a theoretical accounting of total value for a specific goal.  Among the diverse sets of values and moral systems of the spectators, the mere coincidence or overlap of opinion, in judgment of the observed man, does not determine morality for the same reason.  Indeed, the opinion in judgment of another is subjective and an expression of the subjective values held.  Therefore, criticism, regardless of the specific opinion, is an ironic attempt to convince another of its ‘objective correctness’.

Morality does imply a standard.  But it is a standard that is distinct to each individual’s capacity to act and in accordance with the multitude of values and decision alternatives.  Of course we may judge others by our own standards, and we are each free to hold our own opinions and values.

[After writing all of this I decided to actually look up the word ‘morality’ in the dictionary.  I was very pleased to discover definition 2a.  The first word of the definition implies a plurality of things which are identified by the noun ‘morality’.]



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