A lot of things I wanna write about today. One is that I know I’m not unusual in being self-analytical. Most neurotics are, and most people with IQs above 114 are neurotics, or more out of it, as I must be. Of course, I contend that I am also not at all neurotic–’cause I’m in charge of my neurosis. What I mostly wanna say on this topic right now is that most self-analytical peoples iz not quite a self-analytical as I.
For instance, and from now on I’ll try to stifle my cuteness of style, which is mainly, I think, a defense against pretentiousness. For instance, I seem to need to search for a Proper Reason for so much that I do. Certainly for what I write. I hardly ever just sit down to my keyboard and begin typing. If I do, I almost always pause to wonder just what it is that I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I’m not a Dull Boy, though, for I’m quite capable of concluding I’m just having irrlevant fun, and continue.
But under that is my long-held view that recreational activities of no value in themselves are a sine qua non for a productive life. A productive life. I continue to hold as inalienably true that I was born with an over-sized need to have a productive life. Not that most people don’t have a similar need, but . . . I guess their definition of a productive life is less megalomaniacal than mine.
Anyway, today my main goal is to fill a few pages with notes for a definitive study of human morality. (It was hard to keep from saying that uncutely, I must tell you.) I thought the ideas I had two days ago, thinking in bed about the topic would automatically yield such an essay, and woke up yesterday morning still sure it would, but after leaving the house for tennis, my confidence evaporated.
Because I was no longer endocrinologically capable of confidence? The was part of it, no doubt, but I believe the loss of confidence was rational, too: my ideas were not well-organized, and didn’t cover my entire topic. Ergo, I went into what I call my null zone. I could not write a definitive essay on human morality, there was therefore no way I could write anything on the topic that would contribute to a productive life (culturally productive, I am reminded to say–note: I am going to post what I say here without revision–except for fixing the typos I notice, for the sake of posterity, which will certainly be grateful for all my first drafts, following the thinking of Grumman being for them approximately what following the thinking–make that Thinking–of the Almighty was for medieval Western philosophers).
This morning, though, I snapped out of the null zone with the realization that simply jotting down my recent thoughts about morality would be worth doing on the grounds that they might be an effective first step toward a definitive study of morality–someone else’s if not mine. Wahgoo, said I aloud to myself, I will compile mine notes–nay, I will write a Magnificent Familiar Essay around those notes. And, behold, that is what I have begun.
I began thinking about morality shortly after beginning an excellent article in Free Inquiry (August/September 2014, Volume 33, Number 5) called “How Morality Has the Objectivity that Matters–Without God,” by Ronald A. Lindsay. I thought I’d be saying much different things than he had, but when I returned to his article the day after beginning it, I found that I had very few disagreements with what he said. In fact, that may have been part of the reason I toppled into my null zone. But I now feel I have enough to add to what he said for a worthwhile essay.
I will be using a term he used (and may have invented): “intersubjective validation.” It means about what I’ve meant when I’ve used “wide consensus of opinion in support,” or the like, in my philosophizing (or whatever it is I do) as a requirement for “maxobjective truths” or in my literary criticism as a requirement of an interpretation of a poem or other artwork. I think I would elitistly prefer the term, “interalphasubjective validation,” though, meaning the validation of an idea’s validity not by a broad range of people in support of it but by a sizable majority of people who have shown they have sufficient intelligence and experience with what they are validating for them to most likely be doing the right thing. Of course, that they do have the right qualifications is a matter of opinion. That, I would leave up to simple intersubjective validation.
Interesting: I seem to have forgotten all the different, unconnected topics I was going to babble about here. I’ve tunneled my way to a one-topic focus. Now all I need is an organizing priciple. But I can’t think about that–I gotta begin my thought-scatter.
Perhaps my most central thought concerns the final subjectivity of every moral belief. I have an example which should make that clear: my own dogged belief in the sanctity of freedom of speech, meaning the right to say or write whatever, not what all the world’s governments mean by it. So fanatically in favor of it am I that I am on record (if only in my private diary until now) of stating that the main reason Hitler should have been executed for crimes against humanity was his abrogation of the relative freedom of speech his citizens had, not his genocide. Nonetheless, I understand that my belief in the sanctity of freedom of speech is, at bottom, subjective.
Why? Because I recognize that it can be harmful to some people. I would argue that the benefits of freedom of speech far outweigh their evils because truth, for instance, is more important than hurt feelings–and because (as I always say) it is tyrannical to outlaw something simple because a miniscule minority will misuse it. As what I call a “constitutional anarchist” (i.e., a Jeffersonian, not a Thoreauvian), I could make this essay book-length or longer going on to defend what I ultimately consider mankind’s chief right: the right to own private property (i.e., one’s material possession, including one’s body, and one’s thoughts) and do with it as one sees fit so long as what you do with it significantly harms some other innocent person without his permission without interference by any government. Here, though, my concern is merely to describe what to me is the inevitable final relativity of any moral belief.
Lindsay recognizes the same limitation and, it seems to me, deals with it about the way I do: by ruling that intersubjective validation (or interalphasubjective validation, which I will drop from now on as unnecessarily complicating) is sufficient for an effective morality–genuine full objectivity is not. I use the term “maxobjective” to indicate a view sufficiently valid objectively for any sane person to accept, and about as close to full objectivity, which is impossible, as we can get.
So, a morally refined person should be willing to concede that no moral belief he holds is absolutely valid. When it is opposed, this recourse is thus to provide rational, maxobjective reasons that it will do what a moral should do better than its opposite would. I go along with Lindsay’s definition of morality as that code of human behavior the function of which is “to serve these related purposes: it creates stability, provides security, ameliorates harmful conditions, fosters trust, and facilitates cooperation in achieving shared and complementary goals.” Or: it promotes social cohesion for the greater good.
My partial solution to the free speech problem would be to allow a person to ban or allow any kind of speech he wants to on his own property, and allow him to form groups with meeting halls they own in which they decide what can be said and not said. I would prefer a nation whose government owns practically no land, but–being realistic–would want the government to set aside free-speech areas and nice-speech areas. I would even allow a government to make all electronic speech nice–BUT give computer, radio and television manufacturers the right to make computers that could receive and transmit anything whatever. Hence, offendables would be protected from political incorrectnesses and the like for free while people like me would have to pay some (small, I hope) fee to have access to any idea or image anyone feels like making public, and make our own ideas or images available.
TO BE CONTINUED