Saturday, October 30, 2010

Appendix G: Synthesizing Golden Rule Variations and Competing Ethical Theories

Appendix G: Synthesizing Golden Rule Variations and Competing Ethical Theories

None of the competing theories in Ethics, only the Golden Rule, answers the Question aspect of the Moral Truth Litmus: Moral truth must describe the answer to “How and why should we be or behave with the Other and self?

(L1.1) The How and Why (Means and End) Dialectic

(See Objection 9 in Appendix E.)

Thesis: ‘Why’ (the internal end) is more important than ‘how’ (the external means) (consequentialist theories).
Antithesis: ‘How’ (the external means) is more important than ‘why’ (the internal end) (conduct theories).
Synthesis: A ‘how’ (means) without a ‘why’ (end) is pointless; a ‘why’ (end) without a ‘how’ (means) is impossible to apply [Golden Rule is both ‘why’ (love) and how—see Objection 16 in Appendix E on the GR being love].

(L1.2) The Be or Behave Dialectic

Thesis: ‘Be’ is more important than ‘behave’ (virtue theories).
Antithesis: ‘Behave’ is more important than ‘be’ (conduct theories).
Synthesis: The nature of the “doing” affects the nature of the “being” and vice versa. We should be a loving person so that we will be more inclined to do love (Golden Rule), and we should do love so that we will become a more loving person. The word ‘more’ is meant to remind the reader that anyone who asks the question of ethics, anyone who has the question in them, is ‘already’ a loving person who does love (simply by being hospitable to the question) (67). This “doing” and “being” is the only sort of creating and choosing which creates toward the eternal; chooses the eternal (see Objection 13 in Appendix E). If you think of “doing” as a verb, like the “e” of e=mc^2, and if you think of “being” as a noun, like the “mc^2” of the same equation, then it would be right to say that we cannot be (noun/mc^2) without doing (verb/e), and we cannot do (verb/e) without being (noun/mc^2) (62). By the way, check out Chuang Tzu’s theory of mutual production (5j).

This “being” which “behaves” is called “self” (41)—leading to L1.3:

(L1.3) The Other and Self Dialectic

Thesis: The Other or out-group should always benefit, whereas self or in-group should never benefit (self-abusive theories). Be a doormat.
Antithesis: Self or in-group should always benefit, whereas the Other or out-group should never benefit (egoistic theories). Be selfish.
Synthesis: In every in-group and out-group, a self is an Other, an Other is a self (65; Objection 19 in Appendix E), so however we should treat Other/self is the same as how we should treat self/Other (56). Also, since we can reason without thinking of the Other (or, for that matter, the self), theories which exalt reason fail to answer this aspect of the question of ethics. Would we even ask how/why we should be or behave if there were no self/Other?

Earlier in the paper it was shown how the impulse of relativism simply misapplies the Golden Rule, which is a more basic and essential aspect of each theory (see Objection 12 in Appendix E, and the Moral Diversity dialectic). Bentham and Mill grounded their universalized happiness principle in our shared need for happiness, whereas Kant grounded his categorical imperative in fairness to everyone’s shared moral sense (see the Love and Logic, “Law was Made for Man” Dialectic). Sartre said we choose our own purpose and grounded this in our shared freedom, whereas Aristotle thought every man’s virtue is built in to reality (see the Existential Essentialism Dialectic, and Appendix F). They were all at least partly right—we are all free and responsible to choose the best purpose (God’s essential Golden Rule love), we all need to be happy (to love and be loved, despite the circumstances), we all share (65; Objection 19 in Appendix E) a moral sense (of Golden Rule love, not merely double-standard and undermined intention), and the highest virtue (Golden Rule love) is the ‘final cause,’ the meaning of life beyond the beginning—treat the Other as self (Golden Rule).

The Golden Rule (treat the Other how you would want to be treated) includes the Platinum Rule (treat the Other how they would want to be treated), considering we would want the Other to put themselves in our shoes in their interactions with us (however, we would not in the process adopt someone’s values who is not applying the Golden Rule to self or Other) (56).

The Platinum-Golden Dialectic

Thesis: Give the Other what they want (over-simple Platinum Rule).
Antithesis: Give the Other what you want (over-simple Golden Rule).
Synthesis: Give the Other what a self in its right mind would want (essence of the Golden Rule, which includes the Platinum Rule).

If correctly applied, one will reach the same conclusion, whatever version of the Golden Rule one uses, be it the Platinum Rule, or the negative form (Silver Rule) referred to in the section on Relativism, because (in the case of the negative form) Sartre was right when he pointed out that even the choice to do nothing is still an act. Notice that if we “do no harm” it is less ‘active’ than doing good (at first glance)—however—consider that ‘not’ doing good, could be considered ‘doing harm’ (so that “doing no harm” would involve actively “doing good”) (62).

The Silver-Golden Dialectic

Thesis: To avoid doing to the Other what you would not want done to you (to do the Silver Rule) is to not do anything at all.
Antithesis: To avoid doing to the Other what you would have them to do you (to avoid doing the Golden Rule—to do nothing) is to actively do to the Other what you would not want done to you (to break the Silver Rule, in bad faith, as Sartre would say—to refuse to choose, to do nothing, is a choice).
Synthesis: To avoid doing the Golden Rule (to do nothing) is to do harm, so in order to avoid doing to the Other what you would not want done to you (to do the Silver Rule) you must actively do the Golden Rule.

To avoid treating the Other how you would not want them to treat you (silver version of Golden Rule), you must actively treat them as you would have them treat you (gold version)—this includes putting yourself in their shoes, as you would want the Other to do the same for you (platinum version) (see Objection 15 in Appendix E). When Jesus sacrificed himself for us on the cross, he avoided letting our sin get between us and him (Silver Rule), by actively taking it upon himself (Platinum Rule)—all of that fulfilling the Golden Rule, because when we treat the Other the same way, it is the same as treating him that way (Matthew 25:35-40). He was treating us how he wants us to treat him—how he wants us to treat the Other: full of his grace and truth.

In case you’re still wondering how to apply such a general rule:

The Greater Good Dialectic

Thesis: The third-alternative view.
Antithesis: The lesser-evil view.
Synthesis: Contextual (or graded) absolutism, or the Greater Good View [(1), with some adaptations].

(The Greater Good Dialectic is fleshed out here:

See also Objection 18 in Appendix E.

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