In this blog I will consider morality apart from formal religion, religious texts and God. This article is not meant to work as the say all end all. The purpose is to provide a simple rational basis of morality that is observer independent. It is rational to assume an objective basis of morality that does not resolve to opinions, personal judgments, emotions, personal intentions, codes, rules, foreseeable consequences, outcome, yields, religious texts, laws, etc.
There is an aspect of ethics that is observer independent. You will be surprised how cold hard reason yields the objectivity of morality. The fact that the world has substantially lost it's understanding and application of objective morality condemns it and demonstrates that she has become more and more selfish. For the objectiveness of morality is rooted in the other i.e. the objective human target object who undergoes a change effect induced by a human mediator.
Ethics also known as morality is a study of human actions usually narrowed down to what are called intentional actions. Ethics seeks to apply critical thinking and rational analysis in a study of intentional actions. The study stems from ratio, or rational thought. Humans have the singular ability to think rationally, and this is why and how they are able to isolate human actions in a universal analysis that subsumes all history so as to determine whether a mode of action is rational or irrational. The rational analysis is applied to a pre-defined context, namely, pre-defined humans who are related by blood, physically connected, and in dynamic relations.
An action refers to a concept that resolves to a relational mode between two or more objects. In context to ethics/morality, the concept resolves to a intentional relational mode between a minimum of a single mediator and a single target where the mediator and target is/are a human(s). A mediator performs an intentional action that inherently directed toward a target. The mediator and target, in this context, need not come into surface-to-surface contact as in the case of a rape. For example in an analysis of the human action labelled 'grand theft' the mediators who perform the grand theft may never come in physical contact with the targets they harm, namely, the owners of the stolen items. Action is modified by 'intentional' to indicate that the action is known to be performed by the agent and that it is performed for a some purpose (detached from an analysis of the action 'itself').
A human is able to isolate a human action in a hypothetical manner and rigorously analyze that action so as to determine whether that action, which necessarily invokes two or more human mediators and targets qualifies as rational or irrational. In context to ethics rational is a synonym for moral and irrational is a synonym for immoral. The critical analysis is focused on the objective target connected to the objective mediator who performs a mode of relational action.
An act performed by a human is consummated and now we apply cold hard reason to determine whether or not that action was rational or irrational. Humans have the unique ability to reason about reality and the reality of the present is that humans are always performing actions which are inherently connected to one another. Mediators impart causal actions on a target, targets undergo change effect for the duration of the action, and the outcome can also induce a chain of change effects rooted in personal identities.
Since real human actions are supposed in morality it is possible to kill the observer in a diagnostic so as to determine whether or not this action is rational or irrational. To deny this statement would be to shoot oneself in the foot and whitewash all critical thinking and rational analysis along with all science, philosophy, physics, biology, etc.
An Objective Basis and Criterion of Morality
An intentional action is inseparable from a target in spite of opinion, personal intent, circumstance, consequences, outcomes, laws, codes, morals, texts, etc.. The moral agent is a mediator (Human Object A) who imparts a causal action on a target (Human Object B). The target undergoes change effect for the duration of the dynamic relation. The action is supposed to be consummated and is rationally analyzed.
Lets take the example of rape. A mediator (Male, object A, in his forties) performs a manner of causal action on a target (Female, object B, in her teens). The mode of the relational action is described as sexual assault. Now we kill the observer and apart from opinions, personal intent, judgments, consequences, outcomes, rules, codes, laws, religious texts, etc. WE ask:
Is this mode or relational action between two humans rational or is it irrational? Is it rational for a male to sexually assault a female? Yes or no. Any rational individual ineligible for the insane asylum would answer that this mode of relational action is irrational. Fine. Now why? What is the single objective criterion that can be applied to all modes of intentional human actions so as to determine whether they qualify as rational or irrational?
Harm. The answer is harm. If the action of the mediator directly harms the target that action is irrational, insane, immoral, etc. The rapist imparts a causal action on the human target who undergoes a harmful change effect. The harmful change effect undergone by the female child who was raped by a 40 year old male does not depend on my opinion, your opinion, and all the opinions of all humans in all history. The mode of relational action labelled rape ALWAYS harms the target in spite of opinions, in spite of religious texts, in spite of rules, codes, purposes, personal judgments, laws, etc. Even if the rape was committed in a time that rape was legal and considered to be a good, the act the rape (when rationally analysed in isolation) directly harms the target. I do not think that anyone can even possibly argue in a sincere manner against this rationale.
Harm is a sort of moniker or place holder or abstract concept nesting any sort of deprivation or damage imaginable whether physical, psychological, emotional, vital, monetary, property, etc. pending the human act in question. Example: Murder directly deprives the target of his or her life. A devil's advocate once presented to me the scenario that a consensual act of sex between virgins imparts harm to the sexual organ of the female target and makes her bleed. This is an indirect and unintended consequence of the consensual act of sex. On the other hand a vaginal mutilation performed by a mediator toward a female target would qualify as imparting direct harm to the female sex organ as would a rape directed toward a virgin. This is a conceptual issue. The problems of human actions are solved using the brain, detached from sensation and perception.
If you are not convinced this weave of thought is rational I suggest you volunteer your 18 year old daughter to be kidnapped, beaten, sold, drugged, raped and then murdered so that you can realize that your opinion, my opinion, the rapist's opinion, the judge's opinion and all opinions of all humans who have ever lived have nothing to do with the harm directed at an objective target by the mediator. Harmful change effect rooted in the target human of a relational action is in this context observer independent. The harm or lack thereof directed at the objective target of a human action in question is an objective basis of morality detached from all observers even God. God cannot change the fact that the kidnap, beating, selling, drugging, rape, dismembering and murder directly harms the target victim. Nor can the opinions and judgments of history. This is a conceptual issue resolved by the mind apart from sensation, perceptions, etc.
Does the specific mode of action directly harm the target or does it not? It is as simple as that. There is no question that other bases of morality are subjective for example personal intent and a judgement of foreseeable consequences. Why the male mediator knowingly chooses to rape the under aged female target and what he foresaw to get out of that action is subjective. These aspects amounts to his personal opinion. But in critical thinking/rational analysis we say WHO CARES? His personal opinion and the personal opinions of all the humans of history does not change the fact that the action in question directly harms the target and thus is irrational, immoral, insane, etc.
This analysis is objective, observer independent and detached even from God. Anyone who thinks that morality resolve to rules, opinions, emotions, feelings, laws, personal judgments, religious texts, or what mom said must be out mind because the reality is that human actions performed by mediators can possibly inflict direct harm on targets. It happens ALL the time. Welcome to the real world. Human are directly harming humans in relational actions. This is why there are judicial branches of governments. If there were no humans directly or indirectly harming humans and if all humans directly and indirectly helped all humans always . . . law-enforcing governments would be out of work. That is the reality. So if you are interested in taking down the government you can start by applying the objective bases and criteria of morality.
In reality no one cares what your OPINION is. The victim of the kidnapping, beating, and rape does not care what anyone's opinion is on the matter. The fact is the assailant directed harm to her person, and she knows more than all that the assailant's action is immoral. I hate to even say this, but I say it for my critics: Even if the victim of rape happened to enjoy being raped this DOES NOT change the fact that the victim is directly harmed or undergoes harmful change effect induced by the mediator of this most irrational of actions. In a matter of twenty four hours, she could even have a new life growing in her womb without a father and resources. And it is easy to see the chain of consequences. And one can of course develop a detailed explanation of WHY the rape directly harms the target victim in spite of everything.
Those who deny an objectivity of human actions or deny that all human actions can be rationally diagnosed are insane. And those who teach that there is no objective basis and criterion of morality are actually harming their audiences whether they know it or not and in spite of their ulterior motives.
A List of Human Actions of which the Mediator directly harms the Target
So now we run down the list of possible human actions and we ask does this supposed human action performed by a mediator or mediators directly harm a target or targets, or does it not?
Slavery (narrowly defined not to include indentured servitude)
Mutilation of any body part imaginable
Helping yourself to your neighbor's wife
Severely drugging another . . . etc.
Are the targets involved directly harmed by these hypothetical relational actions consummated by a mediator or mediators? Yes or no? Why or why not? If yes they are irrational and immoral. If no they are possibly rational and moral (but one must also analyze intent and consequence do these directly harm targets). And one can develop ethics by attempting to answer why 'rape' or any other deliberate human action directly harms or helps an objective target. Opinions, rules, codes, judgments, texts, intentions, purposes, goals, circumstances, consequences, the whims of the times, etc. do not determine whether or not the targets were directly harmed by the mediator imparting the relational action.
Opinions do not change the fact that slaves where harmed in connection to their owners. No one or no idea can change the fact that a target is harmed in this mode of action. I repeat no one or no opinion. The harm directly imparted by the mediator to the target is effectually rooted in the objective target who has a pre-defined shape and a life. Morals are determined by the mode of dynamic relations between living human mediators and living human targets. The female victims of human trafficking and sexual slavery are harmed regardless of opinion. And their lives are ruined whether you care about morality or not. And it DOES NOT matter WHEN this mode of relational action was performed. The target women are harmed by mediators performing kidnapping, trafficking, drugging, and raping whenever these relational actions are performed, whether today or 5000 years ago.
Just because it was the opinion of most of the past human family that slavery was 'o.k.' does not change the FACT that the slaves were directly harmed in that type of relation. A slave owner's or society's ignorance or lack thereof, care or lack thereof, sincerity or lack thereof does not change the fact that slaves were directly harmed in this relational mode of action. Morals are rooted in the other . . . in the target who is directly harmed or not harmed BECAUSE of a mediator. Our fathers were guilty of status-quo bias and a host of other biases until a few rational persons stood up to fight the the harmful relations consummated in slavery and slave trade. And they, through hard thankless work won a victory, not first for God, or even for rationale, but for the objective victims who were harmed and their children.
Can suicide be rationally analyzed? Of course. Suicide is a mode of relational action where the same human . . . acts as mediator and as target. A human imparts a directly harmful causal action to himself. He is the mediator and the target of the action in question. Suicide, isolated from personal intent and consequences, is an irrational act. The person performing a suicide directly harms a target who is none other than himself and as a consequence he possibly imparts harmful change effects on those who are intimately related to him whether by blood, agreement, or friendship. But these are consequences of his actions and they have nothing to do with the fact that he induced a direct harmful relation to a target. It doesn't matter that the target is the same as the mediator. A moral agent can possibly consummate actions directed to himself, e.g. the rational/moral actions of eating, sleeping, washing as well as the irrational/immoral action of masturbation.
Does self-defense directly harm a target? The answer is no. The mode of relational action called self-defense directly saves an innocent target or targets. A mediator performs a causal action that directly repels an irrational assault directed to harm self or others. Hopefully, the repellent's act directly saves a target(s). It does NOT harm a target(s). Thus the act of self-defense isolated from all subjective considerations, is rational or moral. One has to impartially penetrate the specific relational mode in question.
In conclusion those human actions that directly harm an objective human target are irrational and in context to ethics: immoral. No person or idea can possibly change the reality that another was directly harmed by a mediator in a relational action. This analysis is rational and firmly rooted in reality.
The ideas presented in this article are a basic understanding of morality with the purpose of establishing the objectivity of morality. There are other bases of morality but to analyze these was not my intent. Avoiding all actions that directly harm a target is a minimum requirement for those who care to live a moral life.
But remember there is no limit to actions that directly help a target or targets. And this is one of the purposes of morality/ethics so as to enlighten individuals so as to confirm them to help others as much as possible.
And so I end with my personal favorite expression of morality taken from the Mother character in Terrence Malick's film called Tree of Life:
Help each other . . .
Every ray of light
The Two Fundamental Categories of Ethics
A Grand Moral Dilemma from the Film Sunshine (2007)
Subject-Object Relations in Human Actions
A Brief Critique of Consequentialism