An axiomatic approach to Ethics

He is speaking here poetically, saying to us: do something to help the world improve. You will then have made a difference; your life will not have been in vain. At the same time though, as an educator he very much believed in self-improvement for all. Individual Ethics and Social Ethics are compatible studies; both are equally important and will get equal emphasis in the following theory, with its many implications for living a trouble-free, harmonious life.

Ethics is relevant both to living well and to having better relationships.

I will leave it to you, dear Readers, to figure out some of the deductions and implications that follow from these postulates; and to visualize the kind of world we would have if this ethical system were taught in classrooms wherever on this planet there is literacy, or there are people of intelligence.

Definition One: When an individual is Intrinsically-valued one has entered the field of Ethics, for Ethics may be defined as: the Intrinsic valuation of an individual, or a group of them. [It s a perspective on individuals which was explained at some length in Katz – BASIC ETHICS: a systematic approach (2014) ]

Axiom (I) An ethical individual wants to make things morally better and approves of, and endorses it when conditions are made better.

Implied imperative: Make yourself better! - Make things better!

Axiom (II): The ultimate goal for Ethics is to provide a quality life for all.

Implied imperative: Work for Social Justice.

Optimal living, well-being, is enhanced by peace both within the individual and in the world in which s/he lives. Be aware that without justice there is no peace. By their nature most human beings have a capacity to detect, and to disapprove of, injustice. At every opportunity ask yourself how you can add value to the situation.

Axiom (III): The more the individual improves, the more the world which we inhabit becomes a better place in which to live; and the more the world improves (becomes more peaceful, cooperative, and full of people feeling good will toward each other) the better off is the individual who lives in that world.

Definition Two: “Morality” in this paradigm will mean: self being true to true self. It implies authenticity, honesty, and transparency. When the self-image (the self-ideal) of an individual contains some moral principles and it matches, to some measurable degree, the conduct of that individual (the actual observable self), then to that degree we may accurately speak of that person as moral.

Morality is a very dynamic concept, for it can grow in at least two ways: One may add more moral principles to one’s self-ideal; and one may more-and-more live up to those high ideals. Thus “morality” may be also understood as: “increasing correspondence with an improving self-ideal.” As the actual self better approximates the ideal Self, morality is the measure. Morality is self-motivated - it is our guide to a better life, health, happiness. Moral principles are not rules; they are merely guidelines to a more-comfortable, more-trouble-free life.

An ethical person would not have fun, nor ‘get ahead,’ at the expense of others. Furthermore, in an effort to make things better, ethical persons would have this attitude: “We care about people and our planet; and we want to share our good fortune with those who need a helping hand. Also we will do whatever we can to increase upward social mobility.” Such a view could well be part of a moral self-image possessed by a person of good character.

Theorem 1. Do no harm.

This follows from Definition 1, for if human life is valuable, if an individual is, as Ethics requires, uncountably valuable - then it is irrational and counterproductive to deliberately cause that person harm. Be mindful that harm or abuse can be both psychological and physical. When something is done to hurt others, whether it is ridicule, bullying, or what is called “collateral damage,” value is lost. As we go toward zero-value we are going in the direction of inertness, apathy, and death. In contrast, as we go toward more positive value (as we add more properties, enrich the concept) we are going in the direction of life …of life more abundant.

Implied imperative: Work to alleviate and reduce human suffering.

Axiom (IV): Each of us has a moral obligation to be morally good, to be happy, and to dispel unhappiness.

Note that ants, tigers, and anteaters have brains, albeit somewhat primitive. Normal human beings, however, have developed a functioning cerebral cortex in the frontal lobes of their brains. The primitive brain, the amygdala, tells us to over-eat us and to have frequent and indiscriminate sex, while the cerebral cortex tells us it is not wise to over-indulge – that it is not in our best interest. That is our mind working for us.

Implied imperative: Be mindful :exclamation:

Becoming the best possible person facilitates our living the best- possible life, and living an ethical life enables us to become the best we can be. Living a healthy, flourishing life on an ongoing basis necessitates our possessing a good character. [Note the section devoted to this topic which provides further details as to what this entails. See pp.7-8 in: Katz - LIVING WELL: how ethics helps us flourish - ]

Becoming an early adopter of this new paradigm for ethical theory and practice will make you wise. Do you want to be? Do you want to take part in this paradigm shift?

Your comments are welcome !

:arrow_right: We need to care about each other. We need to practice being happy.

Have you noticed that happy people do not become terrorists, or whiners, or those feeling like victims?

We need to find ways of facilitating upward social mobility and providing folks with greater opportunities. This applies to all of us: Be a do-er not just a talker. Get something worthwhile done :exclamation:

:bulb: It is suggested that you read over the whole original post, and the references offered in the signature below, in order to get more of the full picture as to what is intended in this axiomatic treatment of Ethics, and as to as to where the model might take us with regard to political behavior, to family relationships, to societal justice, etc.

Then - if you will be so kind - tell us your impressions of it as a body of related concepts. [I grant you in advance that it needs more work to refine the concepts and to tie them all together. I hope you forum members and guests will help out with this project.]

The set (of related, interacting, axioms and definitions) offers a frame-of-reference to which other points from the history of ethics can be meaningfully attached. As I see it, this is the start of A Science of Ethics. :bulb:

Notice that an implication of ‘Do no harm’ is: Don’t do to someone else what you wouldn’t want them to do to you.
Here we recognize a form of a very ancient, and virtually-universal, precept known as “The Golden Rule.”
:sunglasses:We see, thus, that this radically-new paradigm shift has within it the potential to generate a traditional concept from the history of ideas in Moral Philosophy.

What say you?

Would you say poetry is more or less unethical? I’d say, yes it is. It saturates the king’s mind, when he could be using his mind for science.

What purpose does poetry have, for truth? Poetry is meaning making, making meaning. It is a feminine ordeal, it should be read to children as bed time stories, and for that it has a home, or entertaining at dinner time, or festival. It has no place in philosophy. Yes, even the court jester has more place in philosophy than it!

I believe clarity and Truth is the best philosophy…for example, you make yellow buttons to direct ocular attention, and I appreciate that! More philosophy should be like that, colorful and directive, rather than obscure and poetic!

I appreciate your appreciation :exclamation:

Now tell us what you think about the set of axioms and their relevance to Ethics. Are the axioms acceptable to you as, perhaps, more or less self-evident? Do you see how they are fertile ideas that can generate an entire ethical theory? Would you want to help in this project?

Everyone: tell us your impressions…

You left one out already:
Axion(0) An ethical person knows better from worse.

And of course, the real problem is that people actually don’t and thus the other axioms become pointless and lead to arguing and making things worse because they have the imperative to do what they falsely believed to be better (convert the world to Islam, to Communism, to X…).

Axion(0.1) An ethical person knows higher quality from lower.

Probably true by definition, but a bit tautological.

“Self being true to true self” is much too ambiguous. Ethical people strive to avoid ambiguity, as it impedes honesty.

Some of the greatest harm done is by pious, self-righteous people believing themselves to be both moral and ethical in their decisions.

That one is a meek reflection of MIJOT.


Wrong thread.

Wrong thread.

The package is to be taken as a whole. That includes the theory described in the links offered below. I agree with James that one ought to know his/her values. In earlier posts I have defined the concept “better” as well as the term “good.” This background is assumed since this axiomatic presentation of Ethics has Formal Axiology as its meta-language. Both the College Course and Basic Ethics make this clear.[.v.

The system of Ethics is useful when put to use.

A reminder: We need to care about each other. We need to practice being happy.
I agree with anyone who claims that further work is required to refine this axiom-set and to show more-exactly the relations among its concepts. However, I assumed that if one was interested enough in this paradigm’s perspective on ethic, one would click on one of the reference links below and study the contents, or read my previous threads here, and thus discover a more-extensive expansion on the model and its vast implications.

Of course in one post, such as the o.p. - which some would consider already too long to bother studying - I am not going to tie together all loose ends, or apply it to every aspect of ethics. In BASIC ETHICS a reader would find examples which would fill out the picture as to where the model might take us with regard to political behavior, to family relationships, to societal justice, etc. The papers and brochures listed below explain more deeply, and connect the dots.

Axioms aren’t meant to follow from each other.
When Axiom (I) is put into imperative form it reads: [If you want to be ethical, you will] make things better !! Then what follows from that is [This includes]: Make yourself better :exclamation: - For more details, see the two chapters in BASIC ETHICS on the topic of self-improvement. I cannot agree that everyone finds either of these imperatives to be obvious; far too many do not.

For an interesting description of what makes society more “just” see pp. 8-12, “On Justice” in the essay, Ethical Adventures.

Wouldn’t the very first “axiom” have to be the very purpose, as it relates to every individual, for living and doing anything at all? From there and a few other axioms, logic can truly dictate what must be the better things to do.

One cannot ethically be commanded to DO, only to try.

How does a mule train himself to be a thoroughbred? And what comes of trying?

All living beings - especially the human beings - are beings of trying, copying, training (learning), changing (varying, modifying, … dying). If they were not, they would be not more than genetically programmed beings. So living beings and their doings are always surrounded by variations. So if one is commanded to do „x“ and does „x“ without any variation, then there is no cultural change of doing „x“. During almost the whole Stone Age, many doings happened without any cultural variation resp. with the cultural command of preventing any natural and cultural variation - as far as it is possible, of course. The opposite has been becoming true since the beginning of the Neolithic Revolution, especially since the beginning of the European Industrial Revolution. Variation leads to change (development, evolution, history), and doing the variation means trying.

Modernity means much, probably too much trying. So modern humans should not try too much any more, because they have already changed the world too much. In other words: modern humans should become unmodern again, more genealogical again, more traditional again, more conservative again. If they will not do this, then they will die out. Since the beginning of the Neolithic Revolution, especially since the beginning of the European Industrial Revolution, the humans have been changing the world too much, and the price will probably be the extinction of the humans, if they will not stop changing the world too much. So again: do not try too much, because your offspring will have to pay the price for your trials, your trials as your errors.