(I did not intend to post the following; however, this post coxed me to publish the following with some additional material. )
An Answer for Briggs.
The answer, rather than presupposing a distinction between science and morality, is that morality is a science – a underdeveloped branch of science, but a science nonetheless.
Much of what Mr Briggs says is correct, but if one re-frames the problem, then one sees that the false dichotomy between morality and scientific knowledge and the scientific method can and should be rejected.
Let’s define terms.
What is the purpose of morality? The purpose of morality is to regulate or constrain human behaviour. Morality consists of principles, rules and actions.
What is the purpose science? The purpose of science is the discovery of truth; specifically, science is, on the one hand, a systematic body of knowledge discovered and designed via the use of facts, logic, hypothesis-testing and theory building on the other.
Ethics, meanwhile, is broader in scope than morality. Ethics concerns questions not only of value, but also of character and intellectual and moral development.
That which is Good is to be promoted or sought after.
(On the meta-ethical question of the Good, I am both a naturalist, and a realist – I believe that for humans, given their natures, it is objectively true to say that certain mental states and forms of living are better – in terms of lived experience – than others. )
Something which is Right is either an action or an inaction.
(As a consequentialist, the Right thing to do is to promote the Good, or design and implement rules or principles that will promote the Good.)
Obligations, meanwhile, concerns duties – voluntary or involuntary.
(As a formalist, there are no unassumed legal duties; furthermore, there are no unassumed, (Formal) moral obligations either because HUME.)
Moral science is the project of discovering – using the methods of science and the reflective, analytical tools of philosophy – what is Good, what is right and what obligations are necessary or advisable IF.
Facts and logic alone cannot create obligations, nor compel someone to do their duty; making and keeping obligations requires not only character but feeling; it also requires civilisation/civilising – family, education, law and social incentives.
What can “science” – in the sense of facts, logic and theory – tell us about “morality” then?
Firstly, I will set down where I agree and disagree with Mr Briggs.
Science, you will recall, tells us what is or what might be about the contingent. It never says what should be.
Agree. As Hume says “whatever is, may not be.” (Italics mine.)
2: But the good of a species, whether that species thrives or expires, is again a judgement and is not scientific.
Scientific practice and scientific knowledge requires judgement. The mental act of forming a conclusion or rejecting a hypothesis is an of judgement. You cannot have science without judgement just like you cannot have a omelette without using a egg.
Two choices are thus possible. If ones want to swear allegiance to reason and science only and to nothing else, then one has to admit rape is not wrong, and it’s not right, either. It just is.
A third option exists which requires one to reject all of these false distinctions, oppositions and walled gardens between science and philosophy etc – there is only ABSOLUTE REASON, SYSTEM and the SYSTEMATIC PHILOSOPHER (to be a little bombastic) which is sovereign over all questions and all areas of inquiry.
This view is scientism, the argument that only scientific judgments count.
Self-contradiction. So science does require judgement?
The second choice is to look outside science, to philosophy, metaphysics, and religion.
The third choice is to change your frame from looking at the landscape as consisting of little walled citadels to a frame of a mega-city – where all is connected; from looking at the whole field – meta-philosophically – as one giant spider’s web – or a network.
(Ironically, my philosophical naturalism and understanding of philosophy as a system is closer to say St Thomas Aquinas than most modern philosophers. )
I view knowledge, wisdom and understanding (which includes ethics and morality) as Scientia. One philosopher (who is an incorrigible progressive, though sometimes right) describes Scientia it in the following way:
Scientia is a Latin word that means knowledge (and understanding) in the broadest possible terms. It has wider implications than the English term “science,” as it includes natural and social sciences, philosophy, logic, and mathematics, to say the least. It reflects the idea that knowledge draws from multiple sources, some empirical (science), some conceptual (philosophy, math and logic), and it cannot be reduced to or constrained by just one of these sources. (DR: bold mine.)
(That’s the short version of my answer to Mr Briggs Below, is a the “longer version” which is from a pre-prepared piece that I decided not to use for an earlier post.)
The Long Version or the Neoreactionary Philosophical Formula.
First and foremost, the fact/value distinction must be rejected because such a rejection only benefits the Modern Structure.
Secondly, and more philosophically, the distinction must be rejected because positive political science – public policy – cannot be done without reference to values. Some set of foundational, and usually implicit, values will always be “baked into the cake”.
More fundamentally, facts relate to values in the following way:
1: Facts can determine the means to your ends (values).
2: Facts can help explain the origins, nature, and the (biological/social) purpose of moral emotions, human relationships and behaviour. (This knowledge has implications “up the chain” as it where.)
3: Facts can undermine or refute secondary or subsidiary values, assuming of course, a cardinal value or moral first principle; facts can also falsify an ultimate moral first principle.
4: Facts can, in addition to a moral first principle, call forth new secondary moral values or principles.
5: Facts can, in addition to philosophical reflection and logical reasoning involving values, justify – in a non-deductive, non-foundational, contingent way, what our moral first principle should – all facts, reasons and reflections considered – be.
Claim 1 – which is means/end reasoning – will scarcely admit of disagreement.
Claim 2 – which is explanatory, not justificationary – will also not admit of disagreement from sober, intelligent people.
Claim 3 – which is not only rational evaluation of means-end reasoning – which will also, except for a few dogmatists – not admit of disagreement; however, it also involves philosophical reflection and “scientific” thinking and knowledge in additon. For example, one could critique a value or a principle on the grounds of its conceptual confusion or incoherence; lastly, one can critique a value or principle by showing that the non-moral, factual assumptions it is based on are false.
Thus, “science” – including things like history and the social sciences – can disprove or falsify basic moral or political axioms – in principle.
The value of equality is one such example in practice.
Humans are not equal; equality (uniformity) is an impossibility and what is impossible is neither moral nor desirable.
Claim 4 is also not controversial.
Let’s suppose you value honesty in human relationships.
If the available body of facts, combined with the your value, and your use of logic, showed that allowing free expression, but also a social order where lying was not only detectable using technology but was fined via the use of peer 2 peer legal contracts (such as between a university and a professor) adjudicated via private courts (which become wealthy via delivering sound verdicts.)
Thus, given your value of honesty you will come to value things like personal liberty or freedom of speech; formalised contracts (formalism) and private courts (profit-making institutions – capitalism – over public ones – communism.)
Already, moral science (and not “can science answer moral questions”) as a science, has one foot on dry land. Let’s now close the deal.
Claim 5, however, is the one which will causes the most disagreement because this involves trying to found the axiom or first principle.
In 5, the question is what the purpose of morality is, or should be.
I will say more about philosophical reflection and moral reasoning below, but first I will talk about basic moral assumptions and why this will cause irreconcilable disagreement, especially in a democracy.
Coming – via argument – to widespread social agreement in a democracy about ultimate moral principles is impossible for a number of reasons. Let’s examine a few.
Firstly, the most important gulf is between those who have a God-centred view – a Mind First view and those who have a Godless or Matter First view.
This basic, axiomatic difference, structures people’s beliefs, values and practices across the entire spectrum – morality, politics, economics, law and warfare. Thus, GNON is important because it is both truth and useful.
Secondly, to those who are genuinely committed, there is no possible widespread and sufficient agreement or rational change of belief via argument between left and right – what Thomas Sowell refers to as the constrained and unconstrained visions.
Thirdly, rational, widespread, agreement concerning basic moral assumptions, across different cultures and civilisations, is also not possible.
Nevertheless, the neoreactionary answer, or at least the Moldbuggian one, is that such agreement – or its pursuit – is neither necessary nor desirable; indeed, the attempt to do so it is to fall prey to the very Universalist assumption that neoreactionaries criticise. The answer, as with all things neoreactionary, is to be found in the political, and not in the moral.
Sorting Out the Is/Ought Confusion.
No factual premises (such as from physics, chemistry or biology) can ever entail a necessary moral conclusion – Hume’s guillotine.
Dovetailing with the fact/value distinction, ethics or morality, as a consequence of this distinction, becomes the process by which we rationalise our desires. In other words, persuading and manipulating others.
The philosophical answer to the problem is to make use of moral bridge premises. The use of moral bridge premises is premised on viewing morality as a practical endeavour because the aim of morality, ultimately, is either to act or not to act (individually) and what (from the state’s point of view) to either permit or prohibit (which is law). Practicality in morality, like in engineering, or medicine, is built right into the cake.
Naturally, this assumes A: some end. B: the end is tied to a moral first principle. C: the moral first principle forms part of a worldview or form of life or a SYSTEM.
Since moral first principles are impossible to establish in a democracy, the problem appears insoluble – practically and philosophically.
So what is the solution? Let’s now examine the second distinction which is to be rejected.
2: The Ethics/Politics Distinction.
What then, is Moldbug’s neoreactionary answer?
In short, neo-cameralism – as a system of governance and law – is separate from any substantive, religious, philosophical, political or moral values.
The meta or constitutive or necessary values of neo-cameralism are peace, security, law and liberty on the one hand (customer values) and profitability on the other (company values).
Moldbug’s answer is a nothing less than a political Copernican revolution in our conception of government.
We can present Moldbug’s philosophy as a choice between three conceptions of government:
A: Government as a charity.
B: Government as a business.
C: Government as a mafia.
To the left, indeed virtually everyone, government is conceived of as a charity. The goal of the government is to do good. Again, following Moldbug, we can call this the formal conception of government.
However, in reality, this formal conception of government is not A but C. Government is a mafia: a criminal enterprise.
All governments, like all mafias, comprise of a small minority – an oligarchy in political terminology – who rule via force and fraud.
Perhaps, like with Tony Soprano, mafia members do conceive of themselves as “soldiers” in a war; that is, they conceive of themselves as noble, principled, and public-spirited. In reality, their “good-works” have only ever made them rich and powerful and everything else worse.
Tony Soprano takes, he does not ask because gangsters are a “law unto themselves” – this is what is meant by “rule of men”, and not “rule of law”.
So, when gangsters demand that shopkeepers pay “protection money” there is no difference between this and a government demanding taxes. Nevertheless, to use Nick Land’s charge, the “collective criminality” of the Modern Structure infinitely dwarfs the crimes of any Tony Soprano or Michael Corleone.
To take just one example, USG subverts and destroys countries around the world. USG does this without any kind of consent from Congress, never-mind the people; it entangles every single American – left or right – in a war; a war that makes every single American citizen a target for terrorism – in every single location on the planet. To add insult to injury, USG then “resettles” the people from these destroyed countries in the American homeland. Some of these refugees, however, rape, rob and kill Americans; meanwhile, the more intelligent and ambitious members of these “communities” enter into a political alliance with the ruling class which seeks to dispossess and defeat the native residents of the American nation.
This is the reality behind “government as a charity.”
Sincere and sober people – from both left and right – who are aware of all this horrible reality, and who seek to rectify this situation, wish to either return to or move to a government that actually does behave like a real charity.
Moldbug’s solution is categorically and absolutely different, however.
Moldbug’s “Copernican revolution” is to completely reject the conception of “government as a charity”.
For Moldbug, government is a business.
For Moldbug, good governance is “good customer service.”
The purpose of neocameralism is therefore to secure the following Goods, in the following order:
4: Personal liberty.
For a neocameralist formalist, informal moral obligations are – if the parties voluntarily agree – to be formalised as a system of legal contracts which the neocameralist state, or its secondary sovorgs, enforces.
Consequently, the question of what is moral Right and Wrong is transformed into what is legally permitted, obligated or prohibited.
For the neocameralist state, law can be divided into two fundamental categories: Basic and Emergent.
Basic law is the set of rules which the Sovereign sets by an act of Sovereign fiat; Emergent law is the set of rules which emerges via the spontaneous, voluntary interaction, of neocameralist residents.
A neo-cameralist answer to Mr Briggs over the wrongess of rape is the following.
Rape is wrong because it is the infliction of involuntary harm; rape is agression and the basic axiom of formalism is that conflict should be eliminated because if not, then conflict tends to expand and intensify until utter disorder, anarchy and barbarity ensues.
Mass murder – the 20th century – caused an incomprehensible amount of both human suffering and a waste of human life – lives that were worth living – to both the victim and the state.
So, in neo-cam speak, the 20th century was neither good for “customers” or for the “state” – at least the states that were not USG (which assumed a monopoly position).
That’s the political and legal problem which neo-cameralism solves – morality is irrelevant.
However, let’s finish the meta-ethical problem – even if it is now only an “academic” problem.
Peace, security, law and liberty on the other hand are values that are not only perfectly consistent with science, but are supported – though never deduced (as Briggs correctly notes) – from facts in combination with logic and theory.
Why should you (currently USG’s serf and NUSG’s potential customer) value a peaceful, secure, lawful and free society?
Because, for you, these values, even in probabilistic terms, provides you (as a customer) with the best chance to achieve whatever your Good or final end happens to be.
Moldbug, in a sense, has furnished us with a transcendental argument for neocameralism (from a customer’s perspective), because even if you’re a psychopath who loves to cause others to suffer, your best served by an orderly society of “marks” to prey upon; moreover, even if you’re in a mafia or a war-band like ISIS you will still value (within the group) peace, security, law and liberty.
From a state’s perspective however, peace is, in the final analysis, very profitable – though war – or the threat of war – can be very profitable too. My other blog works that angle.
Nick Land, in one of his best pieces, also explores what I’m calling the transcendental nature of Moldbug’s thought with the following:
Yet, however ominous this drift (from a romantic perspective), MNC does not tell anybody how to design a society. It says only that an effective government will necessarily look, to it, like a well-organized (sovereign) business. To this one can add the riders: (DR: bold and underline mine.)
a) Government effectiveness is subject to an external criterion, provided by a selective trans-state and inter-state mechanism. This might take the form of Patchwork pressure (Dynamic Geography) in a civilized order, or military competition in the wolf-prowled wilderness of Hobbesian chaos. (DR: bold mine.)
b) Under these conditions, MNC calculative rationality can be expected to be compelling for states themselves, whatever their variety of social form. Some (considerable) convergence upon norms of economic estimation and arrangement is thus predictable from the discovered contours of reality. There are things that will fail. (DR: bold and underline mine.)
Thus, as Wittgenstein would say: ” our spade has turned.”
If the above is a transcendental argument for the neocameralist state, then what follows is a transcendental argument for a basic axiom of moral value.
Why does suffering matter morally to you or anyone?
If values (as I defined above) exist, then in order for anything to be valuable and can thus be valued, the thing of value must necessarily – physically, logically and practically – be capable, in principle, of affecting human experience.
Human experience – or consciousness – depends, necessarily (physical necessity), on the human brain.
The brain is a physical organ, which, though we have yet to fully map it, obeys physical laws (cause and effect).
Science (natural science) is a system of knowledge concerning the laws of nature.
Moral science is the system of knowledge concerning the laws of of cause and effect – effects, for example, resulting from political, economic and social systems – and how they affect human consciousness; specifically, the conscious experience of suffering such as from war, violence, poverty and rape.
Why, again, should suffering matter or serve as the cardinal value of morality?
I answer that nothing else could possibly be more fundamentally important than the prevention – the constraining of humans using rules, principles and laws – of unnecessary human suffering.
The single, greatest source of human suffering war – mass, organised violence.
It is the most serious problem we have.
Neo-cameralism’s main purpose for Moldbug is to prevent mass violence, so now we have a perfect consilience between morality, law and politics.
Again, our spade has touched “bedrock”.
Nonetheless, to use the philosophical jargon, this judgement is not one based on epistemological foundationalism or coherentism.
Like with neoreactionary political theory, neoreactionary epistemological theory recognises no epistemic imperium in imperio.
The philosopher is not the queen, but the emperor of all sciences. Judgement is always conserved and it is the philosopher who reserves ultimate judgement, but not necessarily ultimate power or authority.
In summary, we need to see everything as a interconnected, holistic SYSTEM and modern thought with its distinctions and dichotomies between science and philosophy, morality and law, politics and economics as the intellectually “atomised” equivalent of social atomisation that the Modern Structure causes due to its need to level any competing or independent institution to the ground.