A simple guide to avoiding contradiction, inconsistency and hypocrisy while nurturing personal growth.
The most important thing to understand when attempting to construct a rational moral system is the difference between moral premises and moral positions. In a rational moral system positions are upheld by premises. In irrational moral systems there are only positions, and often those positions contain intrinsic premises which are applied inconsistently among other positions. Let me show you an example.
Position – Anti-rape
Right off I want to say that I support this position. But I support it because it is consistent with my foundational moral premises – self ownership, bodily autonomy and personal agency. There are a lot of people who hold this position that are otherwise okay with violations of those premises. For instance, if you support a systematic apparatus to counter rape, that apparatus will eventually erode self ownership, bodily autonomy and personal agency- BECAUSE THAT SYSTEM CAN ONLY OPERATE USING FORCE AND WILL OFTEN MISUSE IT AS A NORMAL COURSE OF HUMAN MISTAKES AND AGENDAS.
Those who support violating self ownership, bodily autonomy and personal agency (SOBAPA) in the form of an organized monopoly on force by systematic structures and hold an anti-rape position will argue that their reason for being anti-rape is because it is traumatic. However anti-trauma as a moral premise is highly flawed. In the case of rape a victim may not experience trauma for a number of reasons, such as being in a coma or being conditioned and groomed to see it as normal. Would those rapes be moral? I don’t think so, but that is because they still violate SOBAPA.
However it would be better to be consistent to anti-trauma as a moral premise when constructing your moral positions than have no moral premise at all. Consistency is the foundation of cooperation. If others can understand and anticipate where you are coming from based on consistent moral premises, then it opens up room for discussions and growth. Those who eschew premises and rely on outrage and appeals to emotion are too slippery to trust or cooperate with.
Now let’s get on to the building part.
The first thing I am going to do is decide what is most important to me. Morality is subjective, and my choice will be subjective, but I can still be rational if I remain consistent. What is most important to me is the sanctity of the individual. As a human, we are inherently individuals. We do not have a hive mind or birthright function. Cooperation is one of our evolutionary strong points, but cooperation can only truly occur between equals, and so the supremacy of the individual over the group is a prerequisite of cooperation. Healthy individuals form healthy cooperative groups.
The best way to preserve the sanctity of the individual is the aforementioned SOBAPA, so that will be my moral premise. Any moral position must therefore recognize and support SOBAPA, or it is inconsistent and makes me subject to contradiction and hypocrisy.
As a side note, the sophist argument that harming others would also be guaranteed by SOBAPA is false. Harming others violates their SOBAPA, so it is not rational or consistent. To see how this boils down into a simple moral philosophy read my correction of the golden rule.
Now let’s explore how my most informative moral position follows from the SOBAPA premises.
I am against centralized, hierarchal structures – ie: the state. The state cannot operate without obedience and that obedience must be enforced by a monopoly on violence, which itself becomes the most pervasive abuser of individuals. Therefore if somebody violates my SOBAPA I must deal with it in a way that does not violate the SOBAPA of uninvolved individuals. This leaves me the options of retaliation or radical acceptance. Since retaliation usually ends in a cycle of violence, the best choice is usually radical acceptance. However I am also interested in exploring local, decentralized models of social organization which provides resources for restoration and rehabilitation.
Am I discussing anarchism? No, not at all, I am discussing voluntaryism – a system of social organization which groups like minded individuals who can come to mutually agreeable terms on how their community functions without relying on force.
You may disagree with me on all of this, but do you recognize the vein of consistency running through my moral positions? Do you see how it would make it easier for you to find common ground so we can have a discussion that is respectful and productive, rather than reactive and irrational? Do you see how you would be able to hold me accountable for any inconsistencies, and the onus would be on me to resolve them? Rational morality provides a transparent foundation that facilitates problem solving, whereas irrational morality almost always results in frustration, anger, division and intolerance.
Think of morality like math homework – you have to show your work because how you got the answer is more important than having the right one. Showing your work, your moral premises in this case, makes it possible to see where mistakes were made and so you can learn from them. Being open to growth and learning is far more important than being right, given that morality is subjective, and only a rational approach provides the impetus and opportunity for personal evolution.