The Search for Guiding Values as the 'Problem of Ethics'
theme: The concern for the so-called 'problem of ethics' (how to make people virtuous) is the search for guiding values in the resolution of human problems. So what is the source of guiding values? Resolution of the perplexing issues of 'ethics' is possible with analysis in terms of biological principles rather than in terms of philosophical speculation. The guiding values which have been prescribed by religions and philosophies can be found with development of moral consciousness or 'conscience'... moral or 'spiritual' development as an emergent property of brain functioning in the process of making meaning of experience or 'experiential learning'. The human conscience is the source of moral intelligence and the natural ethics of 'morality' required for effective adaptation to the complexity of changes in the social environment. Morality is exercising the human responsibility for living in reality as it is living in the 'truth'. ...requires the holistic perspective and objectivity of that state of consciousness which is beyond the egotistic perception of the ego self... 'self transcendence'.
"Making choices and decisions according to his own organismic valuing process, the individual lives by values which facilitate his own survival, adaptation, self-enhancement and the enhancement of the human race. Like other species of the animal kingdom, Homo Sapiens, the social human animal, naturally behaves in accordance with an organismic valuing process which enables him to adapt to his changing social environment .... With the recognition of the potential universality of the organismic valuing process of the human being, the perplexing issues of values and ethics could be resolved. (Rogers, C. "Person to Person: The Problem of Being Human" Real People Press, Lafayette, California l967)
Development of a rational conscience is 'moral development' as function of respect for human needs...
Development of rational conscience depends on actualisation of human potential for moral development...
Mistrust of human nature as basis for relativistic concept of ethics or 'ethical relativism'...
The so-called 'problem of ethics' is peculiar to American capitalist culture...
Approach the problem of ethics from a holistic perspective of human nature...
What is the meaning of the word 'ethics'? Ethics is a branch of philosophy known as 'moral philosophy' about life and how it should be lived... the philosophy of life and how it governs our dealings with our fellow human beings and the world we live in. The word 'ethics' comes from the Greek word 'ethicos' and derived from the root 'ethos' which originally meant both 'custom' and 'character'. The customs of a community are the social mores which form its character or 'ethos'. This original broad meaning of the word 'ethics' came to refer to the formation and perfection of human characterand later the word was used to define the human virtues. Eventually it was used to define the philosophy dealing with the ideals of human relatedness... the philosophy of moral values and as the study of the ideal human character. The modern meaning of the term 'ethics' is based on the American concept of morality as ethical conduct dictated by external authorities i.e. 'moralism'. According to the dictates of moralism, a social community is possible only if all the individuals are united by a communally fixed moral order. The moralistic view is based on a mistrust of human nature and belief in the innate wickedness of human nature i.e. 'evil'. '
Age old teaching of mistrust in human nature Traditionally, throughout human history natural human desires and needs have been considered to be annoying and even threatening. As a result of centuries of teaching people that intrinsic human instincts are 'animal instincts' and they are therefore immoral and not to be trusted. Theologians, political philosophers and economic theorists have considered people's happiness in terms of improving their conditions with a view to eliminating their 'unwanted' desires and needs... conceived of various strategies to remove, deny or avoid them. For centuries they have attempted to formulate systems of ethics based on the mutually exclusive contrast between the 'what is' and 'what ought to be'. The age-old axioms of human nature and ethics are based on the dichotomous perception of human reality in terms of polarities which are mutually exclusive.. classes and concepts such as good/bad or 'evil'... selfish-unselfish and so on...The assumption that human nature is basically corrupt and evil and therefore needs guiding values to live by. In the style of Aristotelian logic, attempts have been made to formulate ethical systems... systems or codes of ethics... which are based on the premise that ethical values belong to a domain, the spiritual domain, which is external to human nature and one must depend on some external authority to find them.
In spite of the intrinsic logic, the fact that ethical systems are built on a fallacious premise results in the creation of unresolved pseudo-dilemmas and pseudo-problems. The dichotomous view which perceives freedom in terms of selfish interest of the individual and of the society as mutually exclusive and antagonistic... and social responsibility to be as separate... therefore the function of civilization is to control human instinctive impulses. The pseudoproblem which emerges... how to reconcile the interests of the individual with the interests of the society? The question is impossible to resolve since it is meaningless... since in fact the interests of the individual are not at odds with the interests of the society when the individual is mature with a sense of social responsibility... the two are interconnected. The notion of true freedom implies responsibility for the needs of others.
The so-called 'problem of ethics' is peculiar to American capitalist culture. Capitalistic economic theories of modern technological society teach people that their aim in life is the successful fulfillment of their duty to work. They are made to believe that they need to work for money, prestige and power in order to achieve happiness. They are persuaded to make everything important except life and the art of living. They act against their basic instinct for self-preservation while under the illusion that they act in their own self-interest. Ignoring their true self, their integrity and their intrinsic faith in human dignity and courage, they lose sight of the fact that it is in their 'real' self-interest to live in harmony with themselves and their fellow human beings. Instead they value themselves (and others) on the basis of material success. This coercive social system leads to a confusion of values: 'freedom' is confused with licence, 'adaptation' with conformism, 'discipline' with submissiveness, 'independence' with anti-authoritarianism, 'equality' with uniformity, 'individuality' with selfishness. The distortion of social values produces an infantile attitude toward the social system, mirrored in the child's reaction to dominant and intolerant parents and further cultivated by the demands of the system. Not valued for their intrinsic morality, people become morally confused. In their moral confusion, they learn to depend on behavioural norms which are prescribed in the form of codes of ethics.
Based on the mistaken idea that the interests of the individual and of the society are mutually exclusive and antagonistic, the notion that the function of civilization is to control instinctive human impulses gives rise to insoluble pseudo-problems or 'problems of ethics' such as the following: 'How can the interests of the individual be reconciled with the interests of the society?' 'How is it possible to formulate a philosophical system of ethics which can be applied to the teaching of values? How does one teach the virtues? How does one formulate a 'science of ethics?' 'How can people be made to lead ethical lives?'. Answers to such questions have been attempted for centuries. Theologians and philosophers have sought the same guiding values, theology depending on the authority of dogma and philosophy denying it. The religions have looked to some external authority - a God, sacred book, ruling elite, ruling individual or some set of universal principles such as the Ten Commandments. Philosophy has tried to formulate systems of morals in terms of universally fixed sets of ethics. According to the law of moral universality, ethics is a matter of universal morals which are applicable to any specific human situation. Humanists have attempted to construct a naturalistic value system that could be derived from a knowledge of human nature i.e. 'humanistic ethics'. And scientists have attempted to use the scientific method of the impersonal model of science in its narrow meaning of science as orthodox science or 'scientism'. The fatal weakness of scientism is its inability to deal impersonally with human problems of individuality, consciousness, ego-transcendance, values and ethics.
"How is a social life possible for man if each one is only striving to assert his own individuality? This objection is characteristic of a false understanding in moralism. Such a moralist believes that a social community is possible only if all men are united by a communally fixed moral order. What this kind of moralist does not understand is just the unity of the world of ideas. He does not see that the world of ideas working in me is no other than the one working in my fellow man....A moral misunderstanding, a clash, is impossible between men who are morally free...To live in love towards our actions, and to let live in the understanding of the other person's will, is the fundamental maxim of free men."( Steiner, R. Philosophy of Freedom: Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. The Basis for a Modern World Conception. Some Results of Introspective Observation Following the Methods of Natural Science. London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1970 139) "Persons who are free in this sense only obey themselves. Persons who are not free in this sense are 'unfree' - they submit themselves to control." (Steiner Philosophy of Freedom p. 140)
Mistrust of human nature as basis for relativistic concept of ethics or 'ethical relativism' Mistrust of human nature is derived from the notion that human existence involves separate material and spiritual realms a notion which originated with the scientific revolution of the eighteenth century 'Enlightenment'. The conceptual dichotomy between matter and spirit was incorporated into the 'scientific' worldview and forms the basis of the discontinuity between natural and 'supernatural', the person and 'God'. The profound mistrust of human nature is derived from the 'Fall/Redemption' theology' of 'orthodox' Protestant Christianity which was adopted by the Protestant Calvinist and Puritan movements. According to the theology, as a result of the original 'fall' from God's grace, each individual is brought into this life tainted with sin and is therefore inherently corrupt and must suffer in this life. Even an afterlife without suffering depends on God's redemption. In the moralistic view, the individual is expected to be morally responsibile for restraining the evil impulses of their basic nature even though they are considered to be powerless and insignificant. Since it is not possible to live without values and norms, people are expected to rely on the authority of strict codes of civil law and moral standards set in the form of 'codes of ethics'. Codes of ethics are codes of morality based on external authority... The ethical codes are irrational value systems which are formulated according to the interests of different social institutions... 'medical ethics', 'business ethics', 'military ethics' and so on. This relativistic concept of ethics makes value judgements and ethical norms a matters of arbitrary preference. Ethical relativism is based on the belief that there is no way to make objectively valid statements about ethics. Only those individuals who abide by the codes are considered to be ethical and only they can be made responsible for teaching and preaching the moral life.
The problem of ethics cannot be resolved if it is stated in the form of a question which in its very asking makes assumptions that render the question meaningless.
"It was primarily the physicists and the astronomers who created the Weltanschaung and the subculture known as 'science' ...including all its goals, methods, axiomatic values, concepts, languages, folkways, prejudices, selective blindnesses, hidden assumptions. The impersonal model failed with the personal, the unique, the holistic... the fully human person... The fatal weakness of science is its inability to deal impersonally with the personal, with the problems of individuality, of consciousness, of beauty, of transcendance, of value, of ethics. (Maslow Psychology of Science xiii)
Approach the problem of ethics from a holistic perspective of human nature. The problem of ethics is a product of logical deduction from a false premise. It is the falsity of the premise which creates the moral dilemma. The dilemma is a pseudo-dilemma resulting from ignorance of the holistic perception of human personality or 'human nature'. With wholistic perception many so-called 'problems' become pseudoproblems resulting from an ego-centered mental process which dichotomizes and distorts reality. A wholistic perception of ethics eliminates the dichotomous perception of reality... understand the unity of the world of ideas. The 'problem of ethics' - is a pseudoproblem resulting from the premise that the basic nature of the human personality or 'human nature' is corrupt... immoral 'evil'. In fact human nature is not corrupt and there is no problem of ethics.
It is possible to formulate a 'science of ethics' using a scientifically objective approach but this requires an investigation into the real nature of the the human personality or 'human nature' on the individual level and on the collective level ... as a unique social organism and as a social species. As a member of the human species, each human organism has a biologically inherited 'intrinsic conscience' which is based on their unconscious perception of their own human nature and their human needs. In addition each individual has a unique potentiality which is manifested in a personal decision making process based on their own will, sense of responsibility, strength and courage. The necessary basis for a scientific value system is the understanding that for proper growth and development, an individual's instinctive needs must be understood and respected. When people are taught that they should despise their human nature ("I am only human") then they cannot have respect for their own needs and the impulses towards their gratification. The age-old problem of ethics can be resolved if it is based on the assumption that human nature is potentially good and productive.
"The fatal weakness of science is its inability to deal impersonally with the personal, with the problems of value, of individuality, of consciousness, of beauty, of transcendance, of ethics." (Arthur Wirth. Forward xiii in Abraham Maslow. The Psychology of Science: A Reconaissance. New York and London: Harper and Row 1966)
The problem of ethics is one which deals with the personal, the unique and the holistic. It deals with those aspects of human nature which give rise to the expanded consciousness of 'humaness' i.e. 'ego-transcendence'... defines the core of the human personality or 'human nature'.
The problem of ethics must be approached from the perspective of a science which incorporates the expanded consciousness of the human mind i.e. 'holistic science'. A scientifically objective approach is possible if the objectivity is based on a holistic view of the human organism as a social organism and human nature as a social nature. The assumption that the human individual is naturally unsocial is false. It makes no sense to assume that civilized social life is incompatible with freedom.
"The greatest philosophers of the modern age have attempted to found a
science of ethics on the method of natural science - and failed. The reason is
that the world of value is of such a nature that mathematical and empirical
methods cannot be applied to it. Ethics is thus an elusive game; unless you
approach her just right she will change in your hands and vanish; like the
princess in the fairy tale who, when 'caught' appears as a deer. This autonomous
nature of ethics, which we will call 'nonnaturalistic', was seen by Plato, but
the philosopher who established it in modern times was Kant. Hartman, R. The
Science of Value in Maslow A.H. (ed) New Knowledge in Human Values. New York:
Development of a rational conscience is 'moral development' a function of respect for the intrinsic biological necessities of human nature the human needs.... spiritual growth... unconditional love. The scientific formulation of a natural value system based on human needs requires that a distinction first be made between the so-called 'higher' needs and the so-called 'lower' needs. Both 'higher' and 'lower' needs are shared by all members of the human species. The 'lower' needs include the basic physiological needs, the need for safety, the need for belongingness, the need for love and the need for respect. With varying strength in terms of urgency they are related to each other in a hierarchical fashion. The need for food is more pressing, more prepotent, than the need for safety, which in turn is more prepotent than the need for love etc. Also known as the 'deficit' needs (D-needs), the 'lower' needs rely on sources outside the individual and depend on other people for their gratification. An individual makes personal decisions on the basis of the need which must be gratified before he can be motivated by another 'higher' need. He naturally makes decisions within the framework of an equivalent value system, that of the so-called 'Deficit-values' (D-values). Motivated by deficiency needs, he can be described as 'deficiency motivated.' He perceives other people in terms of their usefulness as sources of gratification for his need deficiencies rather than perceiving them in terms of their own intrinsic values. Dependent on other people, he must be flexible and responsive to their reactions. Thus relying on changeable factors in a non-reliable social environment, the 'deficiency motivated' individual is prone to anxiety, to hostility and ultimately to a lack of freedom. His interpersonal relations are limited and interchangeable because they are based on need gratification. Once the individual has gratified his basic 'lower' needs during a normal growth process, he becomes less dependent on others for the gratification of the 'higher' needs for growth, creation and production, also known as 'Being needs' (B-needs). The 'higher' values are those biologically based constitutional ethical impulses revealed during the proper development of psychological health. They enable the individual to adjust to the realities of a social environment. For gratification of the B-needs, the individual relies on his own inner resources. Making his personal decisions on the basis of B-needs, he naturally makes his choices within the framework of the equivalent value system, that of the 'Being-values' (B-values). Motivated by the Being needs for growth, he can be described as 'growth motivated.' The growth motivated individual becomes independent of other people for the gratification of his growth needs. Characteristically autonomous and self-sufficient, he experiences 'true' freedom and enjoys the pleasure of insight and production. The truly free person has capacities which are characteristic of 'self-actualization' to make decisions in his 'true' self interest; to perceive other people in terms of their intrinsic qualities; to have a non-judgmental, non-interfering attitude towards others; to perceive reality holistically. His comprehensive understanding of other human beings which forms the basis for meaningful interpersonal relations constitutes successful adaptation to a changing social environment. In the process of successfully adapting to a changing social environment, the 'self-actualized' individual is capable of making decisions in his own 'true' interest. At the same time, those same decisions are in the interest of other individuals and of the society at large. The self-actualized individual lives in accordance with natural biological laws and the evolutionary process. In this way the so called 'science of ethics' becomes a natural value system which is formulated on the basis of the natural laws of the nature and existence of the human individual as a social organism.
When human needs are met, the rest follows naturally because each individual has a unique potentiality for personal decision making based on their free will, their sense of responsibility, strength and courage.
It is the rational human conscience which is the source of the guiding values sought by religions and philosophies.
Development of rational conscience depends on actualisation of human potential for moral development. Ethical living or 'ethicality' is a question of moral intelligence or 'morality'. The values found within the intrinsic conscience of the human organism are raised to the conscious level of brain functioning ('consciousness') during development of conscience i.e. 'moral development'. Moral development involved in the construction of rational conscience depends on realisation of human potentialities for growth, for happiness, for love and for reason and results in the manifestation of characteristically human traits - the natural human values of 'morality'. But the innate potentialities are like seeds. They become manifest in later life only if provided with the right enviromental for spiritual growth and development i.e. self-realisation or 'self-actualisation'. Self-actualisation is a function of growth in the context of freedom from external authoritarianism which breeds fear i.e. spiritual freedom or 'inner freedom'. Inner freedom depends on the security of productive 'unconditional love'. The authoritarian conscience is characteristic of adult immaturity. The objective study of fully developed and healthy self-actualized individuals reveals information about the end result of normal human growth and provides a basis for the formulation of a natural 'science of ethics'.
No single set of moral standards can be applied to all humans...To impose a uniform code is therefore to create complex, intractable moral dilemmas - these, of course, are the current condition of mankind.
The dilemma is a pseudo-dilemma resulting from ignorance of the holistic perception of the nature of the human personality or 'human nature'.
The problem of ethics is a matter of individual freedom and moral consciousness or 'conscience'. The human conscience is the unconscious perception of human nature and human motives i.e. 'human needs'. Human needs are human values and they include spiritual needs for spiritual growth - the 'metaneeds'.
When people are taught that they should despise their human nature ('I am only human') then they cannot have respect for their own needs and without respect for their own needs, they cannot have respect for the needs of others.
Each individual has a biologically inherited potential for moral consciousness i.e. 'intrinsic conscience'. Development of the conscience depends on recognition and respect for of the intrinsic biological necessities of human nature...
The fully developed human conscience is the source of a moral consciousness or 'morality' as 'natural ethics'. True morality is the morality of free conscience. free morality... 'true 'freedom'.
In the context of the premise - human nature is basically evil and corrupt - the
'moral problem' of man and society today is . ...
A 'science of ethics' and a 'science of education' are both concerned with the full development of the individual's powers and potentialities in the process of becoming fully human. In order to achieve his full human potential as a human being, the individual is instinctively aware of his own basic biological and biologically based psychological needs. They must be satisfied in order for him to achieve his full humaness, his potential as a 'whole' human being. 'science of ethics' and a 'science of education' both depend on the knowledge of human development for the knowlege of the real needs of the developing human being. Both depend on the 'science of man' (science of human nature) as a basis for determining what constitutes man's natural self-interest - his natural and real self-interest in happiness, not in terms of material success but in terms of an ethical and productive life.
Science of Ethics as Natural Ethics Changing the basic premise for a 'science of ethics' involves the assumption that human nature is potentially good and productive. Some of the age-old philosophical questions could easily be resolved if they were asked on the basis of this new assumption and within the framework of the new paradigm.
Lowry, Richard J., A.H. Maslow: An Intellectual Portrait Brooks/Cole Publishing Co., Monterey, California, l973
Hartman, R. The Science of Value in Maslow A.H. (ed) New Knowledge in Human Values. New York: Harper, 1959
Abraham Maslow. The Psychology of Science: A Reconaissance. New York and London: Harper and Row 1966)
Rudolph Steiner Philosophy of Freedom )
Carl Rogers, C. "Person to Person: The Problem of Being Human" Real People Press, Lafayette, California l967
Erich Fromm Man For Himself: Psychology of Ethics