Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Virtue, Transcendence and UPB

Virtue, Transcendence and UPB

      The history of ethics from Aristotle to the present day has been a history of failures, of grand holes within incomplete theories that the State used for his own ends, a history of serving evil. The acolyte of Aristotle conquered the known world; the Christian ethics was – and still is - but a means to maintain obedience both to the light-wielding masters and the fellow slaves; Kant is, well… let’s just quote Leonard Peikoff here, who wrote “[t]hose who accept any part of Kant’s philosophy—metaphysical, epistemological or moral—deserve it;” utilitarianism slumbers deep within the heart of statism, and so on.
      Therefore I would let the endless quarrel on the works of madmen such as Descartes and Plato to those academics whose aim is not to help the world, but to bar its progress.
      Progress can be found within the ethical framework of Stefan Molyneux, the Universally Preferable Behavior, which will be the foundation of our current efforts to discover and define virtue. In short, he argues that any ethical theory (that we present as ‘it is universally preferable to do X’ or it is ‘ethical to do X’) must be universal, applicable to all human in any given time. Ethical theories must be consistent.
      He also proposes two thought experiments as the methods of testing a theory, the first is what he calls ‘coma test,’ which says that since the logical opposite of a moral theory is immoral behavior, if we put forth a positive moral proposition such as ‘it is moral to give to the charity,’ a man in coma, or in a situation in which he cannot give to the charity becomes immoral, therefore no positive moral proposition can be universalized. The second thought experiment is what is called, its name derived from ancient Greek, ‘two guys in the room,’ in which we are trying to establish whether the given moral proposition (such as murder, rape is universally preferable, or altruism is moral) can be achieved simultaneously by both parties.
      Going further into the realm of virtue, we will need the second thought experiment, the ‘two guys in the room.’ Propositions such as ‘eating is UPB’ would pass it, but ones such as ‘theft is UPB’ would not. For the detailed explanation of this see Universally Preferable Behavior: A Rational Proof of Secular Ethics, written by Stefan Molyneux, pages 75-81.

      Let us examine what we mean by virtue in our everyday language. First off, apart from those interested in philosophy, the word ‘virtue’ is not too often used. But I believe all men and women whose minds are reasonably healthy and refrain from violent behavior would recognize some form of virtuous behavior if they see it. The concept of a superhero evokes this feeling of admiration, of respect that one feels when he encounters with virtue. Or upon seeing the lone “Tank Man” of Tiananmen Square one feels a certain kind of awe and respect, and the smallness of his own self.
      But virtue, I would argue can manifest itself devoid of life-threatening adversity.  A man who fights and wins against his addiction of drugs to regain his health and his family would almost universally be considered virtuous, yet he fights only against his own soul. An entrepreneur who believes that his product can change the human landscape, and works for endless, midnight hours until he can sell it would be considered virtuous. Even if he does it for his own ends, not because he desires to help mankind, but because he finds joy in doing so, seeing the determination and strength would evoke the same respect.
       Now, let us note that trying to define what virtue is from an emotionalist standpoint would never work, for that it is completely subjective. An objectivist would feel tremendous respect by looking at the last example, while a Kantian altruist would find no ethical value in his works, or Marxist would call our hero an oppressive capitalist, and would want to sacrifice him to the good of the collective.
      There is however a more objective effect of a virtuous behavior, a notion that I propose in my novel, Rebirth of a Theocracy. I call it Transcendence, and I define it as an event of historical explosion triggered by the accumulated life experience of an individual gained through virtuous behavior, which results in significant personal alterations and has major, objectively measurable interpersonal or cultural impact.
      What it means is that virtues such as the Four Cardinal Virtues, or determination, or fortitude have consequences in a society. And those consequences act as an explosion, spreading a meme, a thought, an idea, a role model, an emotion through the interconnected web of the human world. The end product of virtue, the data that is sent through this system, whether it is a product that greatly enhances the human experience, a poem that resonates with countless hearts in pain, a new way of thinking about life, about existence and the physical domain or a great feat of architecture that looms over men in the crowded metropolis is the objective way of detecting virtue.
      No great work was done between two hedonistic orgies; they were born by the dedicated hard work of an inspired soul. An infinite idea that would have changed the face of human landscape was lost for that it was not followed by virtue, and in the end Transcendence.
      And we can also see the value of the consequence of virtue if we imagine a man who invents the scientific method and the basic principles and discoveries of physics, chemistry or any other sciences in the year 2015. He would not be celebrated as a great thinker; he would be mocked, laughed at, or at best, he’d be given a prize of participation from true heroes of the world.
      Let us finally connect all these with UPB.
      In such cases as fighting back a bully, truly defending a homeworld or saving a victim from a robbing we can clearly see the nature of the actions; they fight back the darkness. Such actions defend basic rights upon which any thriving society is built, the right to life, liberty and property. They fight the entropy that wants to devour the data of the human soul.
      However the nature of those virtues that would be propagated by Ayn Rand, such as the independent and creative work of a human mind differs. It creates value instead of protecting it, though the protection itself is a kind of creation since the protector is the cause of the value’s further existence, but let us drive through this corpse for now on and pretend that the Randian virtues are the only that create value just for the sake of easy understanding.
      The creation of a technological, scientific, artistic and entrepreneur achievement furthers the existence of the community. It helps the individuals within it survive in an environment of plenty instead of predation. Devoid of those there are no products to consume and services to use; society falls back into the primordial primitivism and darkness, giving way to the initiation of force as a highly rewarding means of survival. Without the labor and adversity thinkers, artist and philosophers face there is no morality to guide men’s actions. Without science there can be no understanding of the world around us, and the void will be filled by myths and superstitions. Without technology and without the work of a ‘capitalist,’ there are no means to reach the masses with the knowledge of the thinkers.
      And so without the Prime Movers, the world falls back into a state in which violence is more profitable than production.
      So what is the nature of the second kind of virtuous behavior? It fights back the darkness the same way as the first does, by offering an alternative path to the wielder of the dark: the path of prosperity, of health and joy within a cooperative world that bows in obedience to any consumer demand.
      Let us go back to Stefan Molyneux’s UPB. He argues that there are certain behaviors, such as those that violate the non-aggression principle that cannot be universal, those that we deem evil. And in the spirit of UPB, my conclusion about virtue is that virtuous action is that which actively and either directly or indirectly opposes behavior that cannot be universal.

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