Moral Code – a definition of “correct action” - Part II
- 1 A CONTINUATION OF MORAL CODE PART I
- 1.1 Implications of Adultery
- 1.2 Prayer in Schools
- 1.3 Homosexuality, bisexuality, and polygamy
- 1.4 Killing other sentient entities for food and other useful materials
- 1.5 Self-preservation, self-defense, and the defense of others -- which includes some Wars.
- 1.6 Drug use (legal and illegal)
- 1.7 Prostitution
- 1.8 Economics
- 1.9 Limits of the Practical application of morality through law
- 1.10 Definitions
- 1.11 Assumptions
- 1.12 Code
- 1.13 Diagram (Hierarchy of entity levels)
- 2 Return to Moral Code - Part I
- 3 Return to the Central Linkage Page for Tom Campbell's Lectures
A CONTINUATION OF MORAL CODE PART I
Repeat from Part I: [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.]
Implications of Adultery
Although many moral codes created by many prominent philosophers claim adultery to be an action that is immoral under all circumstances. This clearly is not the consequent of the moral code we have just contrived. While it is true that to wound ones marriage partner (emotionally) is an uncaring act it is not true that all cases of adultery would injure one's marriage partner. For example if one adheres to "the lifestyle" otherwise known as swinging or wife swapping (also in some polygamous arrangements) in which partners commit "adultery" with each others permission, no entity is wounded during the exchange and it is possible for all parties involved to act purely out of caring to all other parties involved making the intent to commit adultery moral in some situations yet immoral in other situations where the actor committing adultery is in no way caring for the emotional, or physical well being of their spouse. Thus, reinforcing that actions themselves are not moral or immoral but only the intentions of the actors can be credited with such values.
Prayer in Schools
This issue is slightly trickier then adultery or polygamy but as you will see the ethical code clearly defines the differences between right and wrong in this situation as well. Since it is the guardian (parents are one example) who undertakes the moral duty to raise the child, the guardian has the ability to make decisions for the child since the child is not yet a fully capable or rational being. Assuming that the teacher is also a fully rational being, it is also the teacher's moral duty to make decisions for the children entrusted to his or her care. Now if the guardian and the teacher disagree through caring as to which religious decisions if any should be made for the child, the guardians decisions supersede the decisions made by the teacher because the guardian has a greater moral duty to the child then the teacher. (As stated above, moral duty is created by contending with the consequences of one's actions, so that to have and or adopt a child accords the guardian with the direct duty to both provide for the child and to make the decisions of the child until the child is of a level of rationality that they can provide and make such decisions for themselves.) And thus the teacher or school board making a decision to expose a child to religion can be construed as the school usurping a decision belonging to the guardian who is a rational being. Without very special circumstances (e.g., a necessary decision impacting the child's immediate health or safety) a teacher or school administrator forcibly making another rational being decisions (such as the child's guardian) clearly represents an immoral act. Thus schools that are private such as catholic schools would not have a moral dilemma regarding prayer in schools; the teacher is then teaching values agreed upon by the guardian when the guardian has sent the child to such a school; yet, at a public school it would be most moral for a teacher to leave religious teachings (which are personal) exclusively to the guardians of the children whom they teach, to avoid making personal decisions for the guardians of the children. Furthermore if religion is being taught in public schools with the intent of encouraging the child toward religious concepts then it would not be caring towards the value of other (quite different) religious and non-religious concepts and cultures as well as disrespectful to the guardians legal and moral responsibility. Even if a school's motivation is purely out of caring to save the souls of the children then it is still immoral because it would be making the decisions of the children's guardians regarding the children's religious exposure and affiliations. This brings us to the related controversy of teachers wearing religious symbols in the classroom. Now commanding that a teacher not wear a symbol of religious affiliation would be making the decisions of the teacher for the teacher (unless they agreed to such a dress code in their occupational contract in which case it would be their decision to agree or not before they were hired.) Assuming that the teacher did not discuss the symbol with his or her charges but instead left such decisions regarding religious explanations to the guardian, then the teacher would not be acting out of the opposite of caring and neither would the teacher be making a decision reserved for a rational being with greater duty. Of course all the above hypothetical situations depend solely on the intentions of the teacher when he or she wears the symbol of their faith, does wearing the item in any way attribute to her caring for others and does wearing or discussing it make a decision for another rational being.
Homosexuality, bisexuality, and polygamy
An issue of homosexuality, bisexuality or polygamy becomes quite easy to decipher ethically given the ethical code we have now created. If the entities in a relationship of any form, size, sexual, or non-sexual, act purely out of an intent of caring for the others in the relationship and is not entered into out of selfish reasons then it is not immoral regardless of the form in which such actions take place. Relationships between entities are complex in their own right, however sexual orientation is an amoral decision that in no way compromises or assists ones moral integrity. Other moral quandaries regarding relationships can be assessed using the afore mentioned rules of this ethical code.
Killing other sentient entities for food and other useful materials
The question of what can and what cannot be morally consumed is another tricky subject for if we were merely to decide that creatures with a profound degree of irrationality gave up their right to life a) it would not be caring towards them and b) it would logically allow the consumption of small children who are often quite irrational. So to continue this line of thinking it is important that we refer to the differences between life, life forms, entities, and rational being. Since under this moral code one does not have a moral responsibility to objects or life forms that are not sentient, it would make sense that inanimate objects, plant life, and animals (e.g., bacteria) lacking a nervous system required to perceive the self or interact with other entities are consumable since one cannot act immorally towards them. However the morality concerning the consumption of other entities is much more delicate. Since the moral code characterizes entities depending upon their degree of rationality and sentient capacity (the quality and awareness of their consciousness) one cannot arbitrarily assert that some lack of rationality would allow the first fundamental rule of caring to no longer be in affect, nor can one draw a distinct line that would divide the animal kingdom into irrationally edible entities without endangering the lives of the irrational young or mentally defective members of any group, not to mention the quandary apparent in western society in which many consider dogs and dolphins to be at a point of rationality worthy of non-consumablity while considering other enmities to be unprotected. Therefore one must at the very least invoke the second rule of the moral code i.e. don't be negligent, which implies that one is to tread carefully through areas where empirical information and experience (allowing for distinct lines) may be lacking. So in an effort to err on the side of caution a being attempting to act with caring can assume all sentient creatures to be entities that must be intended to be cared for and therefore not slain for the sole benefit of the slayer. Thus vegetarianism is validated by this ethical code but it is important to remember that actions themselves are neither moral nor immoral. So that the act of eating meat is not immoral but the intention of contributing to the uncaring treatment of other entities would be immoral. For example if a meat producing entity was to die of natural or unfortunate means which were not the intention of a moral individual it would be moral to consume the meat available without an uncaring intention for the entity producing the meat since it is no longer a life form (obviously since it is dead) and therefore does not require caring treatment. However one must also be careful not to allow oneself to indirectly act immorally through others. Thus the act of buying meat at a grocery story while similar to the finding a dead piece of meat that is not protected from consumption since it is not longer a life form, the act of paying for said meat indirectly contributes to the death and uncaring behaviors of one entity towards another. Thus buying meat would contribute to the harm of an entity thus making one negligent and or uncaring if one were to hire someone else to kill an animal for them or cause another animal to be killed to replace the meat just purchased. On the other hand, a tiger or a man that kills another sentient entity is not necessarily acting immorally. However a tiger or man who kills when killing is unnecessary is acting immorally. Thus the decisions space of an omnivore is more expansive morally then the decision space available to a carnivore since it is unnecessary for an omnivore to survive through the consumption of meat. The circumstances under which killing a fellow sentient entity can be moral are discussed below.
Self-preservation, self-defense, and the defense of others -- which includes some Wars.
Since there are specific situations that allow one entity to kill another entity morally, pacifism and absolute non-violence is not necessarily a moral outcome of this code. For if someone were to attack another with the intent to harm and kill them, they have proved themselves immoral and thus irrational enough to have decisions made for them which could eventually lead to the decision as to whether or not they continue to live. If it is outside the skill level of the rescuer to avoid the casualties of those responsible for violence then they might be forced to act in ways that risk the life of the attacker. Nevertheless, one cannot ignore rule one and cease the intention to act caringly towards even the "enemy," Thus we rely on the concept of relative decision space to determine a moral level of restraint. One who is trained in respects to the violent arts (marksmanship or martial) would be more able to execute an intent of caring in which the aggressor could be restrained or immobilized without killing him; however one with a more limited decision space would have less available options in such a struggle. Without the option to prevent, capture or subdue instead of kill (except perhaps in a hostage situation where the time required to subdue might result in the deaths of innocents) one is left only with the option of killing the aggressor in the most caring way possible which would no doubt imply swiftness and the minimization of pain, etc. Remember this hypothetical situation was built upon a condition where preventing, capturing, or subduing the aggressor was impossible. This result applies to all sentient entities including vermin. It tells you when you can morally kill as opposed to relocating a raccoon. For example, if a hive of wasps made their home on one's front porch, one should first attempt peaceful cohabitation, if however the wasps are aggressive and continue to sting one and one's guests and since moving them is impossible and subduing them would obviously cut them off from any food source effectively killing them slowly, one's options are reduced to one. Without the knowledge ability or decision space required to apprehend or implant an alternate method a moral person is able to dispose of the wasps in as caring a method as can be contrived.
Drug use (legal and illegal)
Many drug uses directly inhibit ones ability to reason making one for a period of time less rational and thus less able to produce the most moral of decisions that would have been available to them had they been utilizing the full potential of their rationality. Thus drug use falls under the category of negligent behavior in situations where the objective is the "high" sensation whether this is illegal drug use or nicotine and alcohol use. Theoretically on a desert island where no one else could be affected it would become an amoral choice, however within society contact with others while intoxicated would be probable and to intentionally make one irrational would be obvious negligence.
Prostitution, oddly enough, is quite simple, if both participants act caringly towards one another during the transaction then they are both moral in completing an exchange of cash for sex. i.e. the customer was caring in his or her interaction and the supplier was also caring in his or her interaction. In this case there would be no immoral properties inherent in the act of prostitution. However if the society under which it is accomplished held irrational ideas of guilt or worthlessness to such a profession and its patrons then special care would need to be taken to ensure that neither party in the exchange suffered legal, mental, or emotional repercussions (such as low self esteem) from the traditions of an irrational society. In western societies where such stigma's influence human behavior heavily it might be impossible to create such an environment of caring however there is nothing in the action itself that that voids the ability of its participants to hold caring intents. In ancient Greece for instance some positions of paid companionship were a religious custom and the priestesses were held in high social regard within the society. Other such environments can be found in the literary works of Robert Heinlein and Joss Whedon
One might assert (incorrectly) that this code necessitates socialism since it could arguably be in the best interest of another if one were to give that other economical assistance, however it has been shown that welfare is not always in the best long term interest of its recipient and that the arbitrary (political) redistribution of wealth may not be in the best interests of a motivated productive society. Also, it is perfectly acceptable that free trade taking part between individuals (capitalism) can also be done with both parties caring for the well being of the other. Fair trade that seeks to create a win-win situation is the engine of sustainable capitalism much more than exploitation. The preference of socialism or capitalism is not a moral choice because morality depends upon the intent motivating the action, not the action itself. In the face of such different avenues for choosing to act out ones caring intent, it is best to examine both so that one can non-negligently decide which system is more conducive to the creation of a caring intent. Both systems can be initially motivated by a mixture of moral and immoral intents. However, in a peaceful world, after both types of economies mature, grow, and stabilize, and after moral and practical learning re-invents each system iteratively, I would suspect that both would migrate to a socially aware and compassionate capitalism that would take care of both business and people to create an optimized society.
Limits of the Practical application of morality through law
The practical application of this moral code is problematic in that intentions are not always known and laws can only dictate the appropriateness of actions thus a system of laws is a tool that cannot perfectly apply the moral code to a society however they can be helpful in attempting to mold a society as closely to the moral code as can be contrived through rational processes. Thus laws that encourage individuals to realize an optimal caring intent and inhibit individuals from realizing non-caring intents are beneficial to all members of the society. The purpose of moral law, as defined by the code, is to generate and maintain a moral society dedicated, by definition, to the optimization of individual interactions with everyone and everything. Laws that prevent someone from attempting to realize a caring intent are obstructive to the overall morality of ones society. Thus laws have the potential to be a practical evolving societal application of the moral code. Because law can never truly represent the moral code precisely due to the difficulty in ascertaining the truth of intentions, one must dictate laws according to the interpretation of action, which we have seen can never be attributed with absolute certainty to being moral or immoral. So, just laws (i.e. laws that were created in an attempt to mirror this moral code) become an imperfect but steadily improving application of morality within a society whose members are generally making an effort to be moral.
A morality code defines the rules by which rational creatures should choose to interact with other entities.
Entity - life-form with sentience and free will
Life form - A living organism that must be capable of existing independently as a self sufficient viable entity in its own right, assuming that it has ample food, shelter, water, space, etc.
Sentient entity - a life form with an intelligence structure capable of being self aware and interacting directly with other sentient entities (example: dog, pig, human, cow, monkey - not: tree, bacteria, sunflower, yeast, amoeba). In other words, an entity with sufficient moral decision space to morally interact with other sentient entities. Self awareness merely describes a nervous system capable of receiving input and formulating output thus allowing the creature to comprehend something happening to it and react accordingly.
Intent - 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
An action in the overall best interests of others - this implies that the intent of the action is not just to act in the person's immediate interests i.e. produce some result they might desire in one particular moment which might not actually be in the person's best interests once likely potential future implications have been calculated. The overall best interests of others implies the long-term maintaining or improvement of the physical, mental, and emotional, wellbeing of all others who are affected directly or indirectly by the action and its results
Moral duty - The result of a caring intents effort to correct mistakes created by caring intention leading to unintentional results that turned out to be not in the overall best interests of others. Also, the intender's responsibility to deal with the repercussions of actions that were not mistakes, whatever the case may be. Additionally, one's obligation to become as moral and rational as possible and to not be negligent.
A rational being is a sentient entity that has achieved sufficient reason and maturity to develop a consistent caring intention toward others.
1. An ethical code that hopes to assert any meaningful truths must be objective and apply equally to all sentient entities.
2. Morality only applies when one sentient entity interacts with another
3. Any action is either executed with the intent of caring for the overall welfare of others or it is not
4. Significant decisions involving interaction with others are either primarily motivated by caring or not primarily motivated by caring. Insignificant decisions involving no interaction with others are irrelevant to morality.
5. Caring decisions are more moral then un-caring decisions
6. Only rational beings are capable of comprehending the differences between right and wrong through reason. Only life forms that are sentient entities can be rational beings.
7. It is rational to be moral and is irrational to be immoral. A rational society/individual must be in the process of becoming a more moral society/individual.
1: to act purely out of the intention of caring for all others involved in any given interaction or situation.
2: to act caring in a negligent manner is truly not to act with the intent of caring at all.
3: Intentions are the basis on which the ethical core is founded because one cannot ensure more then a positive intent when one attempts to perform an action.
4: one rational entity can not morally assert oneself to make the decisions of another fully rational being. Moral entities may be in a position of responsibility for making the decisions of another if the decision space (moral/rational capacity of the consciousness) of that other is inadequate to make caring decisions for itself. All other rules still apply.
5: any entity that intends to act immorally is not a fully rational being and thus their decisions can be made for them in proportion the severity of the moral transgression.
Diagram (Hierarchy of entity levels)
Rational beings --> sentient entities (more rational --> less rational) --> life form --> inanimate object
Return to Moral Code - Part I
Return to the Central Linkage Page for Tom Campbell's Lectures