To make one's way in the world, with one's Integrity intact, a System of Ethics is more than helpful.
After 30 years of development, I figger now is as good a time as any to set down mine...
For my boys.
There are several anecdotal maxims that I consider to be at the Core of my own, personal System of Ethics.
First among these is the Idea of Reciprocity....variously stated in the Golden Rule, the Rule of Hillel, the Wiccan Rede and (in thousands of words) Mill's On Liberty.
My favorite, and (in my opinion) the most succinct, is the Rede:"An harming none, Do as thou wilt."
Can you imagine what the History of Mankind would've been like if everyone had taken this Maxim to heart?
Kant said pretty much the same thing, with his test of Morality/Good..."is what I contemplate something that I would make into a Universal Law?"
or, "Would the action I am about to perform , if Universalised, be a Good thing?"
These things, which are just different ways of stating the same thing, all require us to Think about the Consequences of our Actions....like the Iraquois, down to the Seventh Generation.
The Second Maxim is as follows: There is a Prohibition on First Use of Force...with the exception of defending the defenseless...but even that caveat is, at root, a Defensive stance.
The Idea is that one should not, under any circumstances, Initiate Violence...only defend against the Initiation of Violence by Others. Again, what would History look like?
This Maxim can be shoehorned into those areas where actions are not Violent, per se, but merely contain the Threat of Violence...however veiled.
Coersion, as in the Tax Man, the bully, the Dictator...
The PaleoLibertarians extend this concept to the Mundane. If some dude opens up a factory of some kind next door, belching noxious vapours and emmitting loud noises, deep into the night...he has initiated a kind of Violence onto the Peace and Tranquility of the neighborhood. He has lessened the Quality of Life.
The PaleoLibertarians insist that he must make recompense, or cease such Violence.
I wholeheartedly agree...and find that, altogether, this Inclusive use of the term quite marvellous in maintaining Peace.
The Third Maxim: The Purpose of Life is to Learn and Experience.
Trite cliches, such as "it's the Journey, not the Destination" are applicable, here. We, endowed with Conciousness,can be thought of as the Universe Contemplating Itself....an Idea I find Profound and, ultimately, comforting.Consider, Life's grand March on this small World has been a March toward greater and greater Conciousness....From Cyanobacteria to Plants to Amoebae to Dogs to Us (as far as we know...see below).
Greater ability to Introspect...greater capacity for Understanding. With Greater Understanding should follow Greater Compassion...but it is seldom so.Which leads to the Fourth Maxim...and the most Important.
Socrates said, "I know that I do not know"...and thus, was the Wisest man in Hellas.
Socratic Perplexity is the first step to Wisdom. It's opposite is Certainty.
Consider...if one is Certain, if one believes that one's own worldview is, necessarily, correct, without Error...Inquiry, Introspection, are shut down.
One is immune to Compromise. One has Reached the Destination...no further argument is needed. This, invariably, leads to the Crimes we see throughout our History.
It is Fundamentalism; Religious, Political or both. When we are Certain that we have the Truth, the Journey is over...we are free to force others to adhere to our view.
This is particularly odious where Religion is concerned: "We are Right, because we have the Word of God, in this Book...of unknown, questionable Providence..and as we interpret it....therefore, we are doing God's Work when we slaughter these Infidels and Heretics ("Faithless Choice-Makers")". This mindset, of Certainty, leads inevitably to Violence...after all, if God is "on your side", you can do no wrong...Inshalla,it is God's Will. Who can counter this?What Reason can penetrate Certainty...this is the Fundamental (pun intended) Problem of our Time.
The Remedy to this is Perplexity..."I know that I do not Know"....in the face of that Arrogance, that Presumtion of knowing the Mind of God...I am Humble in my studied Perplexity.
I Do Not Know.
This doesn't mean that I don't have some Ideas. On the contrary, I have constructed a Model of the Universe that satisfies me...untill new data is found that shatters the Model.
We all construct Models of the Universe....most don't realise it, and accept the Model that has been handed to them...never questioning the Foundational Assumptions that lie at the root of all such Models.
I have Foundational Assumptions...the sky appears Blue....Oxygen readily bonds with two atoms of Hydrogen..there is a Thing behind Things...indeed,.all manner of assumptions.
The difference is that I am willing, and ready, to cast out my Foundational Assumptions when and if some new evidence is found that makes them Unworkable.
Jesus shows up on my rooftop...revise my thinking that Xianity is Superstitious Nonsense.
I expire, and wake up in Hell...well, you get the idea.
I do not presume to Know, for Certain...anything. All my Knowledge is Provisional...Subject to Revision, pending new data.
I readily admit, that this is a more difficult way of interacting with the World....but I believe (untill new data disproves it...) that it is the only Honest way.
This Perplexity, this UnCertainty, is an effective shield from the stupidity and violence we find everywhere. If I Don't Know, am I likely to follow someone in doing Violence to the Other?
No, I am likely to follow my own Mind...since the Great Leader can't presume to Know, any more than I can. The Pope, the President, the King, the Crime Boss...all are just as fallable as me...just as Perplexed. They just don't know it...and I do. I , alone, am responsible for my own actions...not to God, or the King...but to myself, and my own Integrity. And. not because I fear punishment, but because I wouldn't respect myself if I went against my own counsel.
That's it...that's the Ethics of Amfortas the Hippie.
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