Tigers With Wings

My brother told me to do it.

Category: Philosophy

Why ethics matters to modern lovers

What is ethics or morals, and how does what matters in life depend on it?

At the most straightforward level ethics is values. Ethics say what is of value and how to value it.
The values we hold are what ascribe meaning to our existence; ethics provide a framework for purpose and meaning.

Valuing cannot be neutral. There is no way to appreciate the value of anything without implicit judgment.

As soon as there is value, there is a hierarchy. There are many object-gradations between: trash and treasure; friendship and loneliness; wisdom and ignorance. There are also subject-gradations, for example between: like and unlike; need and indifference. These gradations of value and valuing are dependent on evaluations and judgments.

Therefore, to care about anything is to be moral.
This is why many argue that love is the highest moral value, and it makes sense because love is our ultimate expression of valuing.

Even though love is hard to define, and it seems to mean different things to different people, what cuts through its ambiguity is that it stands for our highest form of valuing. What I love, is what I value above all else.

The problem with placing love itself at the top of the moral hierarchy of values is that love is subjective. Everyone loves differently. As the cliche goes “One person’s trash is another’s treasure.” Giving the moral throne to love as the summit of all values is the cause for the avalanche of reasoning that buries many well-intentioned lovers in the nihilistic rubble of moral relativism.

Why do I argue that valuing life is more valuable than valuing love? Actually, I would prefer to say, “valuing life is more purposeful than valuing love,” or to put it another way: to love life is more ethical than to love love. Because life is objective.

I must be alive to… anything: to think, to feel and even to be and especially to love. To be alive is the pre-prerequisite for any value. Anchoring value to anything but life is at the root of all moral confusion.
Why is it so hard to see that the love of life is the ground of all value? Even love is just a boat without a sail on a sea without land if it is the love of love itself. To love, or to value greatly, is meaningless without Being.

Why ehics matters to modern lovers

To value life above all else is the ultimate expression of love. To love life is the essential purpose of all beings. The love of life is a simple and universal moral code that applies equally to aliens, dogs, intelligent A.I.s, mothers and modern lovers because the “ing” of all beings is life.


Life: A Universal Moral Code

Many argue that there is no universal ethics. It is commonly held that morality, like the word “mores,” just means what is customary, at best maybe social contracts, but beyond cultural habits and conventions, there is no absolute morality.

I am confident that there is a universal moral law, and it is life.
The problem people have with this is that all forms of morality up until now have been normative, or authoritative and rely on some form of “might = right.”


The other very popular source of ethics is Nature or “the natural order”, which is the belief that nature is righteous and good and to oppose nature is bad – just the term unnatural is evidence of this assumption. But I think this is a sheltered view of nature. Evolution is based on random mutation and fitness which is never personal but arbitrary.

Here is a thought experiment: An alien craft is approaching Earth; this assumes an advanced and complex species. They study the beings on Earth and open up a dialogue. They want to know how to interact with us, so they look at how we interact with the other creatures on our planet. They ask us how we classify ourselves in relation to other beings. We say we are human animals and we classify ourselves as intelligent mammals. They ask if we eat other mammals. We say we eat less-intelligent mammals. They ask if we do this out of necessity. We say, no, there is a minority of us who chose not to eat any class of animal. Consistent with this, they then eat those of us who eat less intelligent creatures, they say that next they will eat predators-by-necessity but they will leave the vegetarians.

I do not choose to be vegan because it is pleasurable, or easy, or convenient, or peaceful, or healthy, or less environmentally destructive. Not because but in spite of its complications I chose to be vegan because it is morally superior. Yes, I said it. Why should I pretend otherwise? If it did not make me a better person why would I make so many sacrifices for it?

I do this because life itself implies a universal moral hierarchy.
Those that value life, in their behavior and attitudes are in this hierarchy. Those who do not, are not. This is because life is the prerequisite for value, without it there is no value. It makes no sense to value anything if you do not first value life. Without life, time and space are worthless.

To have any values at all you must be alive. Life is the one prerequisite for all worth. A set of values that flow from anything other than life is self-contradictory. Valuing life is a universal moral baseline for all beings; valuing your own life is the only way I can trust that you will value mine.

All normative standards of behavior falsely assume life, as if all living beings could be obliterated and these principles and rules however loving and just would be unaffected.
Normal is not moral and nature is not moral, because they do not place life first. We cannot turn to what is normal and natural as a moral guide.

Self-awareness/consciousness does not magically confer on us any moral superiority. Animals without this poorly defined and untestable attribute are not innately inferior. On the contrary, self-awareness would only add weight to moral responsibility. We intuitively know that the wolf and lion who kill out of necessity are superior on the moral hierarchy to the self-aware human who eats steak on Friday because it is a social norm. With self-awareness comes ethical complexity.

We are complex beings. Valuing life is a complicated challenge. Those who simplify what is complex, are morally inferior. We cannot simply defer to the so-called “values” of nature or social customs to justify our oppression and subjugation of the less successful aggressors. In the universal moral hierarchy of life, the superiority of predators and prey is reversed. The power of the oppressors does not confer on them any rights. Prison is for predators.

Universal rights are intrinsic to valuing life. The greater the rights, the greater the value of life. Those who do not value life first and foremost do not have any moral claim to rights.



Is the right to life human?

Who here wants to be good?
Who thinks this is the same as being a good human?
Is the highest good for humanity whatever benefits the human species?


Is there universal good?
Is there a state of goodness that would include living beings from other solar systems and dimensions?

Who here thinks they would change if they learned something about themselves that turned out to undermine their standing as someone who wants to be good?

Is killing a Nobel laureate worse than killing a homeless person?

If what makes killing wrong is not the mental or social status of the victim, then what about their state of being self-aware justifies killing non-human beings?

We only take life in war because we see no other option. Many have sacrificed their own lives to defended our right to life. This contradiction points to universal values that go beyond the utilitarian view of morals.
The difference between killing in war and taking life when there is a choice is not subtle.
We who want to be good, know that needless killing is the deepest wrong.

We know intuitively and rationally that taking life does profound harm to goodness. What is the value of a world without good?
When there is no other option but to kill, we do not say that killing itself is right. All killing holds the shadow of an incompatible action that is only provisionally justified by the good lives we must then live – a burden that is too bright for many war heroes to bear the sight of.

What if the right to life is not ours because of our arguably undefinable state of self-aware consciousness?
What is our right to life, if it is not conferred on us by our superior evolutionary status?

Without technology how human would Steven Hawking be?

Do superior powers: of thought, of tech, of strength, or of awareness, bestow on their holder special exemptions from moral responsibility?
Or, do responsibilities increase with these abilities?
What ethical decisions come with the gift of our consciousness.

Is it morally wrong to normalize unnecessary death?
Is “humane” defined as “kind to all humans” or “kind to all”?
Is “humane killing” humane if it is unnecessary for humans?

Is the right to life weighted by the degree to which a member of “species X” fits into his/her own self-defined criteria of “species X”-ness?
Humanness is mired in circular solipsism.

What technology tells us about non-human animals is that they are also beautiful and complex, challenging our understanding no less than the mysteries of our own human species.

When we discover an exoplanetary alien species with complex brains and senses equivalent to those of farm animals, will we be moved to celebrate them and marvel at the wonder of their lives?
Would we be justified in taking alien life to sustain human life? What if they were incapable of defending themselves? What if we could eat beans instead and live in peace?

How much intellect does it take to leap beyond human biases to the simple insight that the universe is better with living beings than without? A respect for life is the universe respecting itself.
Respect for our own lives is morally inconsistent with disrespecting the lives of others.

Is it wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering and death on beings who’s only deficiency is their inability to defend themselves from us?

Is normalizing the taking of lives that lack higher consciousness compatible with my own right to life while I am sleeping?


Morning flight to New York, my seat marinated in thousands of colony forming units per square inch, I breathe recirculated eructations from a menu of two and four-legged miracles of evolution that need no purpose but to be sliced thinly, and sealed tightly in plastic, for the minty fresh mouths of the decent and God-fearing. Tell me, what justification scheme simplifies years of nurtured growing into all-natural Bacon? Is it our all-natural superiority to every doomed creature that is not human? Compare an animal kill shelter to the hillsides where a future farm-to-table dinner stands, as I stood on vacation, taking in the same world, and feeling like I am thinking, but what is thinking if I do not understand? What is the carcass merit of a five-senses being, raised to be farted into the seat of an airplane, while I scroll through stories of saggy faced Republicans on my smartphone? Who are you to judge the hipster farmer who, while lovingly raising friends who warmly recognize him, calculates their dressing percentage, drop credit and twelfth to thirteenth rib marbling?



Mad Intelligence

What is intelligence?
It seems obvious: it is taking input from an external source and using reason to test the consistency of it and building knowledge based on those tests.

It is surprising that there is an assumption that the human species is intelligent. All this evolution we stand atop with a smug air of “here we are, the crowning achievement of it all.” Using random mutation the chances against evolving a cow from a fish is more than the number of fundamental particles in the observable universe. How on earth did evolution manage to find its way blindly to so many viable life forms? Yes, if natural selection explained anything it would make the evolutionary story of any microbe the ultimate triumph over entropy. So what the fuck is human intelligence if our best theories lack any understanding of the universe we live in.

I will skip the philosophically rudimentary unraveling of reason. I will also assume no confidence in any attempt to judge the externality of a source. Add to that the concept of consistency which might as well be a creation of reason in its blindly circular game of knowledge that only serves to prop up its own solipsistic validity.

Any serious claim at intelligence is insanity. Anyone, be she scientist or priest, who claims to be intelligent is mentally ill by any standard you chose. To even claim ignorance is an aspiration beyond the attainment of all but the mad genius.