Unfortunately in today’s world human beings are treated like animals and serfs rather than thinking human beings. What do I mean by this? Well, examine the incentives you have in your life for living honorably. Consider the deterrents given for not acting in a way abhorrent. Are these measures given in society ones that respect both the subject and the object as human beings or as petty, selfish, vane, vengeance driven beasts? Man is lower than beast, for while animals will pursue pleasures, and only moderately for most, the extent to which Man pursues both pleasures of the flesh and of his Ego are limitless, and not only that but he has the notion of justification for suffering that is unknown in the animal kingdom save for Man.
There are ultimately three forms of reasoning for the rightness or wrongness of an action:
1) The inherent rightness of it (wrongness is included here, for to say that an action or sentiment is wrong is to implicitly give, if only subtly, a framework of reasoning and argument that is presumed to be right). This “rightness” or appeal to an external standard exists in various moral philosophies. Utilitarianism, Virtue Ethics and Deontology being the main three.
2) Argument from authority. The view that something is right based on who said it. The two main forms of this are Divine Command Theory (or appeal to religious authority; equally mindless and based essentially on D.C.T. for if you refer to the Pope as automatically correct – correct by his very being the Pope – then it is based off the insipid belief that God is automatically correct, and no further inquiry is necessary) and Rule of Law. Now, it is two different things to say that that the State or God (assuming one existed) decides what is right and what is wrong and arguing either generally or in a particular instance it is best to follow the dictates of the State or God even though they are in an instance wrong. Someone could argue for example that even though God commanded the Israelites to perform much evil, they were not wrong in performing wrong for they were afraid of God’s frailty and wrath if they disobeyed him. However this would be to say that the moral status (of whether or not someone or something is suffering) of the Israelites is of greater importance than that of who they slew. Or of who the Israelites slaughtered were of no moral consequence at all. This leads me to my third argument or rationale for the rightness of something.
3) Argument of sensation or desire. The view that something should be done or is right because someone wants to do it. Essentially Egoism. This is the prevalent motivation for most human beings most of the time. It is also the basic operations of all living beings on the planet. Desire to copulate and continue biological existence rather than a defense of Natalism and child-birth for example. Most people are selfish and uncritical of themselves nor their opinions of things or others. They live neither fully in the moment nor in themselves but in some foggy realm where they can never truly know themselves, the nature of the moment, and therefore can never have a connection with others or this world. The sensual pleasures disconnect us from anything meaningful or lasting, instead they promote a senseless sensuality that does not in the long-run reduce suffering in the individual nor in the world.
The second two are invalid forms of arguing but are used far-more than the first in discourse. Fear of punishment and awe of God or State; appeal to pleasure and vanity, rather than an external criteria in which one knows that one is performing good or ill – at-least to the extent that their epistemology is reliable. Anarchism is a moral force largely because it so readily relays on the first – the external standard of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ – rather than appeals to authority and one’s own selfishness which are the hallmarks of all religions, the State and our modern economic system of Capitalism. Even the most compassionate Christian who defends Divine Command Theory becomes a moral relativist and in-effect a Moral Nihilist while even the most freedom loving Liberal becomes a Statist in defending the police enforcing laws even they find to be unjust and disastrous.
Again, one can attempt to make a consequential or derivative argument for why in an instance the priest or police officer is to be obeyed – either he said something sensible in which case he “coincidentally” conformed to the external standard (like Christians acknowledging it is wrong to kill but not knowing why it is wrong – if they claim it is because God said so then they are wrong) or he said or did something wrong but any approach one wishes to give would be in violation of the external standard. For example, it would cause more suffering to kill the police officer who takes away your freedom – both for you and for the police officer’s family. That does not mean the police officer who deprives many of freedom is right – it merely means that not every way of resisting him is categorically right from the sole fact that he is wrong.
We must always argue for and make appeals to the external standard of what is right. Not references to meaningless facts like a person’s gender or sexual orientation, nor references to authority or Ego. Now, someone could ask what is it we do then when we appeal to the scientific community. Good question. If one were to say that what the scientist said is right because he is a scientist – that would be wrong. If however, one entrusts that a man of learning would know more than an ignorant man, and one uses his mind to listen to the scientist, hoping to learn, and it seems like everything is honest, fair and conforms to the external standards one has previously established, then scientists, generally speaking, should be listened to as protectors not creators of the external value of truth. We rightly refer to others who know more than us in certain fields, but it would be wrong to give up scruple and never ask question in fear of giving offense or in the belief that to question the authority on his respective field would be wrong.
Human beings are unique creatures because they alone can be motivated by and reason upon what is the external standard for normative claims. Whether the normative realm for other higher animals exists is questionable, but only in humanity is there a presumption that what one should do is the right thing to do. But unfortunately we make great shows, and make a large fuss about these moral pretentions, but in our daily lives care for them very little. Human beings are the superficial species of acting. They love to appear good, but being good is a concern for few. They love to be seen as understanding but fail to have the desire to understand. Human beings are animals that are capable of reaching the “good” but instead feel more compelled to be yearned after, or admired for some idea, some appearance of “goodness” or value, but never once attempting or being concerned with the actual thing.
The Ancient Greek Cynics in a sense were early proponents of what I speak of. Human beings are compelled by sensuality, for them, and they appeal to the norms, customs and laws of society instead of appealing to what is right. Despite Epicurus wisdom, in his ethics he is a Hedonist (as opposed to a Utilitarian) so he is implicitly Egoist. That is to say, despite his wisdom there is little if any moral concern for other beings in his ethics, one shouldn’t commit injustice for him not because others will suffer but because the unjust man is likely to suffer as result of his injustice. In this sense this sense Diogenes is more wise than Epicurus, both in philosophy and in methodology of having social concern (perhaps not going about it in the right way however) for the Polis while Epicurus told us to tend our own garden and not be involved in the world; a sentiment Voltaire was to reiterate in his Candide.