Moral Code – a definition of “correct action” - Part I
- 1 Introduction by Tom Campbell
- 2 Ethics by Kristopher Campbell
- 2.1 First Moral Rule: Intention of Caring
- 2.2 Definition of Decision Space
- 2.3 A Logical Structure for Morality
- 2.4 Definition of a Rational Being
- 2.5 Further Delineation of Definitions
- 2.6 Establishing a Second Moral Rule
- 2.7 Developing a Third Moral Rule
- 2.8 Dealing with Irrational, Reduced Decision Space Entities
- 2.9 Dealing with Those Who Are a Danger to Others
- 2.10 Summation of Concepts
- 2.11 Definitions
- 2.12 Towards a Moral Code of Law
- 3 Continue on to Moral Code - Part II
- 4 Return to the Central Linkage Page for Tom Campbell's Lectures
Introduction by Tom Campbell
A few months back in a post on the Bulletin Board, I mentioned that my son, Kristopher, (philosophy major) had written a moral code built upon MBT concepts. Many expressed interest is seeing it, consequently, I asked Kristopher for a copy to post. He wished to "clean it up a bit first" so here it is a month or two later. I thought posting it here made more sense.
It was too long to put in one post so I broke it into two parts. It is the second part that discussed application of the moral code to contemporary society (wherein vegetarianism, along with many other current moral issues, is discussed)
[Notes: Introduction excerpted and paraphrased from the original posting on the My Big TOE bulletin board. Sub headings have been introduced for ease of navigation and understanding.]
Ethics by Kristopher Campbell
Morality is the rules by which rational creatures should choose to interact with other entities when such beings come into contact. This discourse regarding morality has little if anything to do with how people actually interact with one another but it instead applies to how people should intend to interact with one another. If, to you, this definition seems foundationless it is only because the foundation has not yet been addressed, it will eventually be broken down and explained at a later point in time, however to create a firm base we must first address to whom morality applies and how moral rules are contrived. The assertion that morality is created purely by solitary individuals and that all such individually produced moral codes are equally correct is akin to asserting that there is no moral code and that morality, the difference between right and wrong does not exist. For example, one could assert that other creatures, rational or otherwise, do not matter nearly as much as one-self and one's own desires. Therefore they could conclude that it is morally permissible for them to steal from and murder others at will while it is horribly immoral for others to do the same to them. This view is simple, does not contradict itself, and unfortunately many people around the world apparently adhere to exactly such a code.
Obviously for a moral code to have any meaning whatsoever the foundations of morality and ethics must be removed from the individual and placed superior to them. Now, one can assert that one's culture is a foundation of morality, however, if one is observant one will notice that assigning the moral foundation to cultures acquires all the same problems as assigning the moral foundation to individuals. If one were to substitute all occurrences of individuality with the term "culture" or its equivalent in the preceding paragraph one will notice that attributing cultures to be the foundation for morality does not solve any of the afore mentioned problems. So once more we are forced to remove the foundation of morality to an even broader level. That is, in order to solve these problems of subjectivity one is forced to accept that in order for morality to be meaningful it must apply equally to all rational beings and not merely to some depending upon their culture or individual preference. That is, any foundation for morality or an ethical code of conduct must be both universal and objective.
First Moral Rule: Intention of Caring
My intent in this discourse is not to promote moral objectivism but rather to assert a working ethical model. I will leave further arguments on the matter to Shafer-Landau and other moral objectivists. I merely invoke this short assault against moral subjectivism and relativism to create my first assumption: that an ethical code that hopes to assert any meaningful truths regarding morality must be objective and apply universally to all rational creatures. What is this ethical code you ask? Well in the interest of simplicity and with due respect for Occam's razor, I have narrowed down the core of the ethical code as follows: Any action honestly generated by the intention of caring is said to be moral, while the lack of an intention of caring causes an individual's actions to be amoral or immoral. With "the intention of caring" defined as the intention to attempt to act in a way that is in the perceived overall best interest of all the people or entities and to intend to act in a way that maintains or improves the physical, mental, or emotional wellbeing of others for the sole sake of others. The intention of caring requires only that one develop and execute their intention with as much knowledge, understanding, and experience (wisdom) as one possesses at the time the intention is translated into action. In other words, one is required to do one's honest best to act with the most complete and comprehensive intention of caring that one can muster at the time of decision. Errors, being unavoidable since individuals lack both omniscience and moral perfection, are acceptable as moral as long as one is honestly trying to improve the quality of their intention of caring (i.e., continually growing the quality of their intention and the ability to translate that intention into action by being sensitive to and learning from the results of their actions). Thus, morality, as defined by this code, is both universal and absolute while the ability and capacity for moral intention and behavior is individual to each sentient entity and constantly evolving. One might claim that to act in the best interests of all is not a feasible option in situations with directly opposing factions however the key word is that one must attempt not necessarily that one must succeed. It is a high standard; however successful actions are not required, only caring intents. Another important aspect of the ethical code that you have no doubt noticed by now is the focus on others without any mention of moral actions regarding the self.
Which leads to my second assumption: that morality only applies when a sentient entity interacts with another entity. This claim states that one cannot act immorally or morally towards oneself but only insofar as their action does not affect others. Only rational beings are capable of comprehending the differences between right and wrong through reason. Any entity that does not act in its own perceived overall self interest when such decisions affect no other creature (therefore the best interest of others does not apply) is merely less rational or less intelligent then a being that would do otherwise. An individual making decisions that affect no other rational being yet are harmful to the self is a matter of a lack of sense not a lack of morals. What is "in their own best interest", when such decisions only affect themselves, is determined entirely by themselves, and if these are incorrect then they have failed to be properly rational. However such actions are few and far between, there are almost no significant actions that a person can make regarding themselves that will not in some way affect the physical or mental states of those around them, especially those that care about them, though it is not impossible, for an individual's action to be both significant and to affect no one besides himself.
Definition of Decision Space
Another important concept of any ethical code is an entities' available decision space. Decision space is measured by the extent of the moral decisions an entity is capable of making. It represents the range or capacity of each entities free will to make moral choices and is therefore limited by the choices available to the entity. For example, the average dog has a smaller decision space than the average human though both are sentient beings. Likewise the average gold fish has a smaller decision space than the average dog, though again, both are sentient beings with at least some rudimentary form of aware consciousness. A creature is defined to be sentient if it has a nervous system capable of comprehending the self and the ability to choose between one or more options. An ability to interact with other entities poses moral choices to the extent that any sentient entity has the capacity to choose one potential action over another. The extent of these available potential choices defines the decision space for that entity. Each entity is responsible for making moral decisions (an expression of caring intent) to the limit of their capacity to do so. Privileges, knowledge, and awareness create such a responsibility. For example, a man without limbs would not have the ability to give CPR to an accident victim so the decision to do so would be outside his decision space. Furthermore a dog does not have the awareness required to perform acts of social grace, such things being beyond it's decision space thus it is not required to make moral decisions in this field however since biting and not biting are with awareness and ability of a dog it is able to make moral choices in that arena. If one gains new knowledge or a greater awareness of a given situation, then he or she becomes responsible to behave morally within the context of that improved decision space. In this the average farmer and the president of the United States have different levels of decision space, i.e. available decisions, and thus different responsibilities. The acquisition of knowledge and growth of understanding adds to the responsibility one has to act morally with respect to the total of one's awareness. Therefore, one may intentionally and purposefully increase one's level of morality and rationality - the moral quality of one's being. A fully rational entity as defined by this moral code is one that intends to execute its moral responsibility to the best of its capacity and capability. An irrational entity is one that intends not to execute its moral responsibility. If others are not involved or affected in any way, then no moral choices are involved. Self-destructive behavior when no moral choices are involved is defined as irrational, not immoral. However this does not imply that one can avoid their moral obligations through willful ignorance as will be addressed later in rule regarding negligence.
A Logical Structure for Morality
This moral code represents a logical structure that, if applied by each individual, optimizes (from the view of the whole) the quality and productivity of the interaction between sentient life forms. If applied only by some individuals within the system (the system includes all sentient life forms with which one might interact), this moral code optimizes the moral quality of those individuals and improves the moral quality of the system. This moral code is universal since it applies to all sentient life forms and it is personal because the moral responsibility one accrues under it is dependent upon the size of the decision space that has been developed by each individual sentient life form. One's decision space and moral quality may be purposefully grown but not shrunk by individual initiative. Once awareness of a moral position is achieved, returning to unawareness by intention is impossible. Additionally, one who acts immorally diminishes their standing as a rational being (proportionally to the degree to which such a person breaks the rules of morality), thus allowing some portion of their decisions to be made for them, which will be addressed later. In other words, the degree to which one is allowed to enjoy the advantages of living within a moral society is dependent upon the degree of morality exhibited by each individual. In order to bring about a moral decision there must be another entity that is being interacted with.
This moral conceptualization also asserts that an action is only moral in so far as one intends to act in the overall best interest of others regardless of ones own interests. Thus the act of being moral comes from the intention of putting the overall best interests of others before ones own. However, note that the best interests of others may include what happens to you because of your involvement with those others. Of course, It may not always be clear what the overall best interests of all others is, but that is a reflection of the fact that morality is fundamentally both personal and approximate - each rational individual entity has the responsibility to act as morally as he or she is capable of according to the extent of their personal decision space and rationality.
Definition of a Rational Being
It may be helpful at this point to more precisely define the difference between a rational being and an entity. By definition, a rational being can understand the differences between right and wrong through reason and will act accordingly; and an entity is a sentient life form that could interact in rational or irrational, moral or immoral, ways with others. In order to differentiate those who accrue moral responsibility, those to whom moral behavior must be shown, and those that lie outside the realm of morality, I will now define exactly what this moral code applies to and does not apply to. An entity is defined in part as an independent life form, which implies the obvious truth that moral/rational beings are not required to apply their caring to inanimate objects such as rocks and plastic bottles etc. in so far as such objects do not interact with a free will or with a decision space greater than the null set. Furthermore I make a distinction between a living thing and a sentient life form. Whereas every cell in one's body is technically alive the cells of the body combined create what I now define as an sentient life form. While the definition of life can most easily be borrowed almost directly from that of any common biology text book, that is, a living thing has organization, absorbs nutrients, metabolizes, excretes, grows, adapts, and reacts to stimuli. However our definition of a 'sentient life form' requires that it is a creature with a decision space greater then the null set i.e. it has the ability to choosing between two or more different options i.e. up or down, noise or silence, left or right. Sentient life forms have a nervous system allowing for input and are capable of self-awareness, i.e. are able to process this input; this concept will now be synonymous with free will. Many philosophers arbitrarily claim that animals lack free will, however, even the most rudimentary of animals can show that notion to be false through their constant choices regarding directions of movement among two or more equidistant paths to an objective. Thus sentient life forms would include humans, cows, dolphins, chickens, bumblebees etc. but would not contain non-sentient life forms such as plants, bacteria or viruses because they decision space and are merely falling through the machinations of physics. The word 'entity' will be used to refer to a sentient life form. All rational beings are entities and all entities have at least some, even if minute, capacity to be rational, i.e. to be able to chose the best of available option to meet desires. Individual entities come with different levels of rationality and with different levels of responsibility for moral behavior. This moral code applies only to sentient life forms. Consequently, the living wart on your nose, regardless of the potential of its DNA (same as yours) is not an entity (much less a rational entity), and therefore has no independent moral responsibility toward others and others have no moral responsibility toward it. However, others may need to consider the wart on your nose as they determine the course of their moral interaction with you, a sentient being. The final step in this hierarchy of moral responsibility requires that in order to be fully moral one must intend to act caringly towards all entities not just highly rational entities.
Further Delineation of Definitions
My next assumption is that intentions can either be caring or not caring, with not caring defined as not partaking in the action of caring. This does not mean that an intent cannot be caring and motivated by another desire as well since caring is compatible with many other motivations, just as one could execute an action that is both in the interest of others and in one's own best interest. Of course, an intention can not be both caring and not caring. Which leads to the foundation and the first rule of the ethical code: a caring intent leads to moral action while a non caring intent does not - regardless of the action itself. thus with the last of my assumptions explained I need only to finish defining some key terms and extrapolating a foundation from these assumptions that will allow for the concise difference between right and wrong to be accurately portrayed.
Two items that have continuously been repeated throughout the course of this text without being properly defined is the important notion of intention and overall best interest. First lets define "overall best interest of others." This implies that the intent is not just to act in the person's immediate best interests, i.e. something they might desire but will ultimately not be in the person's best interests once all the theoretical future implications are fully understood. For example, it might be in the person's immediate financial interest to steal money left lying on a restaurant table; however it may not be in their overall best interest to do so. It would very likely not be in the best interest of the waitress to whom the money belongs, or to the individuals who left the tip, or to the restaurant owners who must retain the services of good waitresses, or to the society at large who enjoys dining at restraints with good service. The person intending moral behavior must assess the overall best interests of the individual and the entire system to the extent that his understanding allows. With some effort and interest, a person may grow in their ability to accurately determine the "overall best interest of others." To make an effort to grow this moral sense is a primary moral responsibility of all sentient entities. This differs from the ideas of Utility in that one is not looking for what is in the best interest of the majority but instead one is attempting to find the action that is in the best interest of everyone, including the minority in every situation. Now one might argue that when dealing with conflicting groups of people that finding such an optimum solution is not always possible to a person of limited resources, however if one attempts to act out of caring for all parties not just the group with the majority of people (such as is recommended with Utility) a much more agreeable solution/compromise is reached than if one merely favors the majority and leaves the minority in any given situation to the proverbial wolves. Granted it would take a perfect being to discover and implement an action that would be in the best interests of everyone however as imperfect beings it is not required that one discover and implement the best action only for one to try (intend) to find the best action they are capable of creating within their decision space and then attempt to actualize it. A person with more experience will no doubt be able to produce a more comprehensive plan with which to actualize their intent and a less experienced person is in no way morally inferior for failing to think of a comparable plan of action, only if they do not intend do their best to attempt to act in the best interests of everyone involved do they fail to be moral.
Next we must define precisely what is meant in this text by the word "intent" which I take to mean both the theoretical action that one attempts to realize as well as the motivations and reasons for which one attempts to perform such an action. Intentions are the basis on which the ethical core is founded because one cannot possibly ensure more than a positive intent when one attempts to perform an action. Since one's moral sense or moral capacity cannot be considered complete, perfect and omniscient, then perfectly moral actions are not required, however, moral intentions to the limit of one's capacity to be moral are always required, placing this theory in direct conflict with teleological ethical theories. During the completion of the intended action many elements outside of the caring person's control can influence how successfully a caring intent actually affects other entities. If one has the intention to act in a caring manner towards another and during the process in which this intention is carried out it does not produce the intended response, the one who had acted out of caring would be equally as moral as one who succeeded in his intentions of caring. Thus one could say it is the thought that counts in moral situations.
Establishing a Second Moral Rule
Obviously this leads to the dangerous problem of someone continuing to act out of caring in similar situations which continuously leads to unfortunate results. Thus follows our second ethical rule which is easily derived from the first ethical rule . That is: to act seemingly out of caring in a negligent manner is truly not to act with the intent of caring at all. For example, consider a very wealthy person, who wants, purely out of an intention of caring, to help those poorer then himself. To accomplish this, he widely advertises (say, on a national level and a month or so in advance) that he would, at a certain future date and time, drop 100 million dollars in 100 dollar bills in the center of a major industrial city for the sole benefit of the less fortunate citizens of that city. Imagine that due to lack of understanding he did not realize the possibility that such an act might cause a violent riot by those not adhering to the moral code. If it never occurs to him that his action would result in a great surge of abhorrently immoral behavior or that it would not actually be in the overall best interests of the less fortunate residents of the city, and no one deems it necessary to warn him of such an outcome thus it is not within his reality that such an outcome could generate itself, in other words he was completely naive, then he would have acted morally regardless of the violent, destructive, and unfortunate outcome of the intended caring. Given that his action did in fact cause a riot or turn out negatively; if he then repeats this act again in the same way with the same intention, once again purely out of "caring," without having learned from his past experience the wealthy man would then become negligent and therefore immoral regardless of his supposedly caring intent. If by his knowledge and experience he understood that a terrible outcome was perhaps probable and yet he took this action foolishly hoping for a good response, he would be acting negligently and therefore immorally no matter that he intended benefit others his negligent attitude did not produce caring. Obviously it is not possible for a rational being to predict the outcome of every possible situation. Consequently, if one intends to act morally in a situation in which they have no experience it would be morally required of them to proceed cautiously down whatever path they perceive to be the most caring so as not to be negligent. One truly acting out caring must be cautious (to an extent that is both warranted and practical) in the implementation of one's caring when the potential results are not well known or understood to the one intending to act morally. This example was used primarily to explain the second rule of the ethical code for it would be nearly impossible for a fully rational adult to be ignorant of such an outcome without being willfully ignorant and thus negligent in a modern environment. It is a moral responsibility of each entity to carefully assess the overall affects of his or her actions. Thus our moral code now has two rules: 1) one must act out of the intention of caring for others, and 2) one cannot be negligent and truly caring.
It is also important never to claim that any action in itself has the property of being moral or immoral. An action can be helpful or not helpful in realizing intentions that are moral or immoral but intentions and only intentions can be given the value of moral and immoral. Any act motivated by the right intent that is not negligent would be moral regardless of what action was realized through executing the caring intent. Example: at first one might assert that helping a young child attain a cigarette and then proceeding to help the child light and inhale its contents as an immoral action. But it is the intent behind these actions that will dictate whether performing them is moral or immoral. A parent with the intent to prevent a child from smoking, (which the parent perceives as the child's overall best interest) could ensure that this child's first smoking experience is markedly unpleasant thus hoping the child would never attempt to smoke again. Such parents would have acted morally in aiding their young child's endeavor to smoke a cigarette (this is also an example in which it is not in the child's immediate interest to have an unpleasant experience but it is in the child's overall best interest to have an unpleasant experience with smoking). If however it did not work and the child had a relatively pleasant experience the parents would be negligent to try the same technique again in the same way with any other children that might act similarly. Furthermore it is the moral duty of the actor whose intention was actualized poorly to correct any mistakes that they have caused since one cannot act out of caring and ignore the problems with which they have afflicted others (though if one is truly acting purely with the intent of caring, who caused what affliction would be irrelevant; only that the affliction, whatever it may be, is resolved should be important.) Another interesting aspect of this example is that the parent acted upon what they perceived to be the child's overall best interests. Since the truth regarding what would and would not actually be in the child's overall best interests can only be validated by the future decisions of the child which have not yet come to pass thus the decision maker can only act upon what they perceive to the be in the best interest of the entity being acted upon.
Developing a Third Moral Rule
While we now have a solid foundation, that is the intention of caring, I am sure that you have noticed that the ethical code is in no way complete, for example: if one were to accept the doctrine that life on earth is punishment and consists primarily of anguish and that the afterlife is a paradise containing endless bliss; under our current rule set it is possible for such a person to murder everyone with which he or she comes in to contact purely out of an intention of caring for the overall well being of others, which leads us to our third rule: one sentient entity cannot morally make the decisions of another equally rational sentient being. That is some decisions "belong" to certain entities. The concept of possession in this case refers to decision that should normaly be made by that entity and not another. For example the decision of whether or not you continue to live is possessed by you while the decision of whether or not I continue to live is possessed by me. The addition of this rule solves many problems in which it would otherwise be permissible for one to perform heinous crimes against humanity without being immoral, however this new rule also creates its own set of moral problems, that is if a parent was unable to make decisions for their young children then it would be nearly impossible to ensure the child's safety, much less ensure that such a child behaved according to the moral code until they reached an age in which they could reason adequately enough to value morality of its own accord. So at this time I wish to draw your attention to the specific terminology used in rule three, that is, the importance of the terms "equally rational being" which will now be discussed more thoroughly.
A highly rational being is an entity that has achieved the reason required to sufficiently attempt to act morally in all situations, to reason successfully between the differences of right and wrong and to successfully avoid negligent behavior. So that children, animals and other entities that are potentially not as rational or that have a very small degree of rationality such as chimps, bumble bees, dogs, severely mentally retarded humans, or those with advanced Alzheimer's disease can morally have certain decisions made for them until they are in a position, if ever, in which they are capable of making their own moral decisions through reason. The intention of caring cannot lead an individual to make decisions for, or impose his will upon, another sentient life form unless the decision space (moral/rational capacity of the consciousness) of that other life form is inherently inadequate, by the limited nature of its consciousness, to rationally make the required decisions itself. The key concept here is that the decision space of the entity upon which a moral person might impose decisions must be "inherently inadequate, by the limited nature of its consciousness". Thus one normal adult human imposing decisions upon another normal adult human is immoral because both have a consciousness of about the same nature and with about the same innate capabilities even if both do not possess the same knowledge or understanding. A mere difference of opinion of what is the right action regarding a moral intent and what is not, (differences of experience, knowledge, belief, and understanding) can never constitute a sufficient justification for usurping another entity's decision when that decision is within their ability to decide. There are, many situations an entity with an innate or structural limitation upon the capacity of its consciousness (e.g., capacity of the central nervous system, brain size, memory capacity, cognitive capability, or degree of brain health or development) that inherently limits the rationality of the dependent entity to a degree that it is not competent to make a particular decision effectively without the oversight of a responsible caring entity who has significantly fewer structural limitations on its capacity to be rational. Furthermore, the moral person may only make specific decisions for a dependent entity for which he or she is directly responsible, those decisions that are essential to the health, safety and well being of that dependent entity, and then only if the dependent entity is not capable of making these decisions themselves. Within a society of laws "directly responsible" may become, but is not limited to, "legal responsibility". It is important to realize that laws do not equate morality.
Dealing with Irrational, Reduced Decision Space Entities
The degree to which an entity is irrational dictates the severity of the decisions that can be made for such an entity. For example, given that the responsibility is yours to exercise, you may morally dictate all of the decisions available to a person who is brain dead or permanently comatose, most of the decisions available to an advanced Alzheimer's patient, less for a young child, less yet for an older child, only a very few, if any, for a mildly retarded adult, and none at all for an individual with the inherent structural capacity to be an equally rational being. However, just because an entity is not fully rational or even totally irrational does not mean that either of the first two ethical rules no longer applies fully in every situation. Thus one can make a decision for a less than fully rational being but such decisions must be made non-negligently and in the best interests of the less rational being for which the decision is being made. Furthermore, one cannot assess the degree of an entity's rationality based solely on its DNA, or appearance, or by any another generalized category. An assessment of an entity's capacity to make rational decisions must be specific to each individual and specific to each decision made by that individual. Any generalizations pertaining to an individual must be made from a bottoms-up analysis of the morality/rationally of specific decisions, not imposed by a top-down assumption applied to a group of entities. Therefore this ethical code has no species, racial, national, cultural, or other organizational/categorical bias. Whether or not an entity is "rational" (as that word is defined and used within this moral code) is based upon the entities adherence or lack thereof to the moral code relative to their capacity to do so. In other words, immorality constitutes irrationality. Thus those that are immoral need to be, if at all possible, taught through new experiences to allow them to gain greater rationality, thus punishment without intended growth is nothing more then vengeance which cannot be carried out with a caring intent for the irrational. furthermore if someone is deemed irrational, as long as the decision was within the entities decision space they should be held responsible for an uncaring intent.
Dealing with Those Who Are a Danger to Others
What of the adults who decide to ignore the moral code to such a degree that they impose on or become dangerous to other entities? Obviously restraining such an entity (human thief or rogue grizzly bear) would be making that entity's decisions for it; yet to allow them to continue their destructive path would hardly be caring towards those that they affect with their immoral actions. However, the answer to this problem is quite simple if one examines carefully the definition of rational being. The fourth and last rule of the ethical code states that any entity that intends to act immorally looses the right to make their own decisions due to the fact that they have thus proven themselves to be in such a state of irrationality that they must have decisions made for them by more moral and more rational beings. The degree to which such a person has failed to intend to act morally is directly proportionate to the degree to which others can make decisions for them since it is directly proportionate to their degree of rationality. Therefore, the more severe the intention of immorality the more irrational a person must be to have intended to act in such a way. The more irrational an entity, the less they are entitled to make their own decisions and more severe are the decisions that can be made for them. Allow me to reiterate at this point that regardless of the irrational/immoral entities crimes that the first two rules are still in effect so that when a moral entity apprehends and isolates an immoral entity, it must be done with a caring intent for all, including the individual apprehended. The entity's removal from society must also be coupled with a caring intention towards the irrational/immoral individual such as the intent to rehabilitate the entity into a rational being if at all possible. (Again the moral code differentiates itself from utility in its emphasis on caring for all those involved not just maximizing the pleasure of most of the people involved.) Thus a human being is not classified as rational merely for bearing human DNA but is instead deemed rational to certain degrees based upon their actions and more importantly the intentions for those actions. Thus a mature dog may be more rational and more moral then a human infant, once again ridding the code of species related bias that would otherwise prohibit the code from becoming truly objective and universal for all entities. Since rationality can be measured on a scale ranging from the most moral entities with the most decision space to those with the least decision space and/or most immoral behavior; then all entities are both rational and irrational, moral and immoral to varying degrees. To differentiate among them, that is to decide that one is not obligated to act morally towards a particular subset, arbitrarily based on their respective levels of decisions space and rationality causes a quagmire of moral behavior that can only end with subjective favoritism, thus, as said earlier, a rational moral being must act morally to all entities and not only to beings deemed to be "appropriately" rational.
During the discussion regarding the handling of immoral entities we were relying on knowledge of the immoral persons intent, however in a practical situation understanding the true intent of a person accused of immoral behavior is often difficult to determine and societies have built numerous institutions (legal system) to develop unbiased assessments of the accused person's intentions as well as laws to approximate actions that are often produced from uncaring intents however these are not perfect and should be judged and assessed by the populace of those societies according to the accuracy at which they can differentiate those with caring intents and those without caring intents. When making decisions regarding another's intentions one can only attempt to gather as accurate evidence as they possibly can within the time allowed and make their decisions accordingly. This code does not require omniscience only pure intentions.
Can there be amoral decisions under this moral code? Yes. An intent to produce an action that either affects no one or an intent based on caring that is acted out in equivalent forms are amoral choices. An example of an amoral choice would be in the process of writing one's journal one makes the decisions to either sharpen the pencil one is already using or to begin using another already sharpened pencil that is also on the person's desk. During the course of such arbitrary actions, assuming that no other entity would likely be affected by the differences in action, then the intent to do either action is amoral. This would most likely be made in the best interest of the self, that is, the best choice would be the one preferred by the individual. Furthermore an uncaring intent is not necessarily a malicious intent, if it is uncaring it is not a moral decision but that does not mean it is an immoral decision; immorality stems from negligence and harmful intent.
Summation of Concepts
In summary, we have created an ethical code consisting of a one rule core and 4 contingent rules that allow all sentient entities to differentiate between all moral, amoral and immoral values in any given situation. Now it is time for us to evaluate the implications of adhering to such an ideal. To summarize:
The moral code dictates how sentient beings should interact.
1. The intention of caring causes an individual's actions to be moral. Likewise, the lack of an intention of caring causes an individual's action to be immoral.
2. One can not be negligently-caring and moral a) One must take into account, to the best of their ability, the ramifications (intended or unintended) of a caring intention. b) One must be careful and thoughtful about the result of translating a caring intent into action. c) One has a moral duty to correct (to the extent possible) results of moral actions that turn out to have not been in the best interests of others.
3. The intention of caring cannot lead an individual to make decisions for, or impose his will upon, another sentient life form unless the decision space (moral/rational capacity of the consciousness) of that other life form is innately inadequate, by the limited nature of its decision space or through the entities intent to act immorally thus proving the entity's lowered state of rationality, to make the required decisions for itself.
4 When a person acts immorally, whether that means they make decisions for another, or act out of the opposite of caring, that person proportionately looses their standing as a fully rational being thereby relinquishing a portion of their rights to make their own decisions proportionally to the degree to which such a person broke the rules of this moral code. However one must still act caringly toward them.
- Caring = to intend to act in a way that maintains or improves the physical, mental, or emotional (overall wellbeing) of others for the sole sake of others.
- A person's best interests are exclusively defined by the circumstances and relationships that the person in question was, is, and will be interactive with.
- Sentient life form (entity) = a creature capable of choosing between two or more options
- Decision space = the quantity of decisions available to an entity
First and foremost it is important to understand that anything that one might hold to be moral (or immoral) that is not contained within the parameters of this moral code is not actually moral (or immoral) but is instead a misconception created by the culture of the individual, thus eliminating false notions of morality that one might find to be contradictory of the ethical code above. These cultural conventions sometimes dictate methods of politeness that while arbitrary (such as wearing a tie, a hand shake, or a small bow) are endowed by the culture in question with meaning which a person intent on acting out of caring should adhere to in an effort to care for those who attach meanings to such actions. Thus we can now step back within the realm of culture while allowing our ethical code to dictate the most appropriate actions within each and every culture. This means that although the culture does not dictate the differences between right and wrong, the culture in which one intends to act morally is not irrelevant to the action -- it is only irrelevant to the intent. For if one intends to care for another person the traditions for polite behavior contrived by the culture in which entities interact could help to realize the outcome that the caring person intended to achieve and likewise it could hinder such outcomes. In such cases where the cultural norm would hinder the realization of a moral intention then the cultural norm should be discarded. Cultural conventions of morality can be used as a tool to facilitate the realization of a moral intent; but like any tool they can also be used immorally for self interested ends and thus the particulars of each culture can be examined and the worthiness of cultural traditions can be judged according to the universal moral code set forth in this document as to how well the traditions help or hinder ones ability to act through the intentions of caring and what traditions tend to produce more rational beings and fewer irrational beings.
Towards a Moral Code of Law
Since intent is the moral source of one's actions and since there are many diverse actions with which a moral being can attempt to realize one's intentions, there may be multiple opposing views of what action should be taken in a given circumstance. However, each view can be uniquely shown to be moral or immoral based on this code and the intent of each hypothetical actor. There are often multiple possible actions that could be taken in any given situation with a moral intent. Also arguments of intentions will ensue and may be ambiguous in practical situations where people may deceive themselves or others as to their true intentions; however, an individual's true intentions will always produce an unambiguous moral judgment. Thus, as expected, morality cannot be accurately legislated unless truthful intent can be guaranteed. Therefore, morality is a personal attribute, not an attribute of a society or its laws. Law, limited by its knowledge of individual intent, can only approximate the application of morality within a society. Nevertheless, in order to resolve disputes a civil society must, to the best of its ability, institute laws and a legal process that embody the moral values defined by this code. Laws that do not embody moral values should be reviewed often to determine whether or not some worthwhile amoral purpose is being served. If a law's purpose is determined to be immoral (supports an immoral intention by an individual or by the state), then the law should be eliminated. For example, an immoral law might allow an individual or state to usurp a moral individual's rightful (moral) decision space or force an individual to act immorally under penalty of law. Laws must be changeable to reflect improvements of content and implementation as well as accurately reflect the societies evolving quality of caring intent. Societal laws can be evaluated by this moral code to determine if they are enforcing fundamental moral behavior or simply imposing cultural biases. It can also differentiate a level moral quality between various laws and systems of law that are better or worse at basing their decisions on the moral intentions of the parties necessitating any legal action.
Before assuming that this entire ethical code is either too trivial or too complex to effectively apply, allow me to examine the results of applying this moral code to several ethical matters with which Western society is currently struggling.
CONTINUED IN MORAL CODE PART II
Continue on to Moral Code - Part II
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