Book:Universally Preferable Behaviour/6

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In a relatively short time, we have covered an enormous amount of ground. The greatest challenge of philosophy is the definition of a universal, objective and absolute morality that does not rely on God or the state. The moment that we rely on God or the state for the definition of morality, morality no longer remains universal, objective and absolute. In other words, it is no longer “morality.”

The invention of imaginary entities such as “God” and “the state” does nothing to answer our questions about morality.

We fully understand that the invention of God did nothing – and does nothing – to answer questions about the origin of life, or the universe. To say, in answer to any question, “some incomprehensible being did some inconceivable thing in some unfathomable manner for unknowable purposes,” cannot be considered any sort of rational answer.

The gravest danger in making up incomprehensible “answers” to rational and essential questions is that it provides the illusion of an answer, which in general negates the pursuit of truth. Furthermore, a group inevitably coalesces to defend and profit from this irrational non-answer. In the realm of religion, this is the priestly caste. In the realm of government, this is the political caste.

When a real and essential question is met with a mystical and violent “answer,” human progress turns to regression. The science of meteorology fails to come into being if the priests say that the rain comes because the gods will it. The science of medicine fails to develop if illness is considered a moral punishment from the gods. The science of physics stalls and regresses if the motion of the stars is considered the clockwork of the deities.

When false answers are presented to moral questions, questioning those answers inevitably becomes a moral crime. When illusions are substituted for curiosity, those who profit from those illusions inevitably end up using violence to defend their lies.

And for evermore, children are the first victims of these exploitive falsehoods.

Children do not have to be bullied into eating candy, playing tag, or understanding that two plus two is four. The human mind does not require that the truth be inflicted through terror, boredom, insults and repetition. A child does not have to be “taught” that a toy is real by telling him that he is damned to hell for eternity if he does not believe that the toy is real. A child does not have to be bullied into believing that chocolate tastes good by being told that his taste buds are damned by original sin.

Saying that morality exists because God tells us that it exists is exactly the same as saying that morality does not exist. If you buy an iPod from me on eBay, and I send you an empty box, you will write to me in outrage. If I tell you not to worry, that my invisible friend assures me that there is in fact an iPod in the box, would you be satisfied? Would not my claim that my invisible friend tells me of the iPod’s existence be a certain proof that the iPod did not in fact exist?

If morality is justified according to the authority of a being that does not exist, then morality by definition is not justified. If I write a check that is “certified” by a bank that does not exist, then clearly my check is by definition invalid.

The same is true for enforcing morality through the irrational monopoly of “the state.” If we allow the existence of a government – a minority of people who claim the right to initiate the use of force, a right which is specifically denied to everyone else – then any and all moral “rules” enforced by the government are purely subjective, since the government is by definition based on a violation of moral rules.

If I say that I need the government to protect my property, but that the government is by definition a group of people who can violate my property rights at will, then I am caught in an insurmountable contradiction. I am saying that my property rights must be defended – and then I create an agency to defend them that can violate them at any time. This is like being so afraid of rape that I hire a bodyguard to protect me from being raped – but in the contract, I allow my bodyguard – and anyone he chooses – to rape me at will.

Because “morality” based on the state and on religion is so irrational and self-contradictory, it requires a social agency with a monopoly on the initiation of force to function. Since everyone is just making up “morals” and claiming absolute justification based on imaginary entities, rational negotiation and understanding remain impossible. We do not need a government because people are bad, but rather, because people are irrational, we end up with a government. False moral theories always end up requiring violence to enforce them. Moral theories are not developed in response to violence – false moral theories cause violence – in fact, demand violence.

The moral subjectivism and irrationality involved in answering “What is truth?” with “God,” and “What is morality?” with “government,” is so openly revealed by the framework of UPB that it is hard to imagine that this concept is not more widespread.

One central reason for this is that truly understanding UPB requires the very highest possible mental functioning. It is relatively easy to be rational; it is very difficult to think about the implicit premises of rationality, and all that they entail. It is relatively easy to debate; it is very difficult to tease out all of the implicit assumptions involved in the very act of debating.

It is easy to catch a ball – it is hard to invent the physics that explain motion universally.

Thinking about thinking is the hardest mental discipline of all.

At the beginning of this book, I talked about a “beast” that terrified and enslaved mankind. This beast is always located on a mountaintop, or in a deep cave. People are afraid of the beast in the world, which is why the beast has never been defeated.

The beast has never been defeated because the beast is an illusion.

The beast cannot be defeated in the world, because the beast is within ourselves.

The collective fantasy that there exists a “null zone,” where morality magically reverses itself, called “the government” is exactly the same as the collective fantasy that there exists a “null zone” called “God” where reality reverses itself.

If we define “morality” according to the subjective fantasies of mere mortals, then it will forever remain under the manipulative control of power-hungry tyrants. Since God does not exist, anyone who speaks about morality in relation to God is just making up definitions to serve his own purposes.

Since “the state” does not exist, anyone who speaks about morality in relation to government is just making up definitions to serve his own purposes.

Until we can define an objective and rational morality that is free from the subjective whims of each individual, we will never make the kind of progress that we need to as a species.

Morality, like physics, biology, geology and chemistry, must join the realm of the sciences if we are to flourish – and indeed, perhaps, to survive at all.

However, if we can sustain our courage, it is this discipline alone that can set us, and our children – and all humanity in the future – free from the tyranny of the greatest beast: our own moral illusions.