link: science of ethics




Theme: The 'science of ethics' is based on the 'science of man' or 'human nature'. Human nature is a function of  natural principles of human existence. During normal human growth, the ideal human potentialities unfold and become actualised. In the process of 'self-actualisation', ethical values or 'norms' for excellent living are discovered according to the laws of nature. Discussion of 'science of ethics' depends on definition of ethics as natural values...'human values'... chosen on the basis of the organism's inherent tendency toward self-actualisation... values which do not involve any cognitive or conceptual thinking... values by which the organism operates... the 'operative values'. An example: an earthworm will prefer a smooth path if given the choice between that and a path paved with sandpaper. (Unnatural values conceived as being symbolically desirable... 'conceived values' are those based on symbolized concepts such as 'honesty is the best policy'.) The 'science of ethics' becomes the study of moral development.

"Scientists and humanists should consider together the possibility that the time has come for ethics to be removed temporarily from the hands of the philosophers and bioligicized... ...the full exploration of the neural machinery of ethical judgement is desirable and already in progress."(Edward O. Wilson Sociobiology: The New Synthesis Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, l975b  p.562)

 Traditional systems of ethics based on mistrust of human nature  For centuries the attempts to formulate a system of ethics have been based on the dichotomous concept of ethics in terms of the contrast between 'what is' and 'what ought to be'. The age-old axioms of ethics perceive reality in terms of classes and concepts which are mutually exclusive - male-female, adult-child, selfish-unselfish, good-bad and so on. The dichotomous concept of ethics is a result of centuries of teaching people that the intrinsic human instincts of 'human nature'  are immoral and bad and not to be trusted. The misrust in human nature was the false premise upon which many so-called 'systems of ethics' have been built in the style of Aristotelian logic. Although they are intrinsically logical, such systems of ethics give rise to fallacies and pseudoproblems which are impossible to solve. One such fallacy is that the interests of the individual and of the society are mutually exclusive and must therefore be antagonistic. Civilization must therefore be functional in the control and policing of natural human impulses. The pseudoproblem then arises: how can the interests of the individual be reconciled with the interests of society? The pseudoproblem gives rise to a real problem: teaching people to despise their human nature ("I am only human") prevents them from respecting their own motives for behaviour or 'human needs'. The lack of respect for human needs results in the lack of understanding for the needs of others and the emotional forces which determine their thoughts and actions i.e. 'intrinsic motivation'.

"traditionally, philosophy had been a struggle to discover and to live the good and virtuous life. Socrates is probably the best example of this quest....

 "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 Malslow A.H. (ed) New Knowledge in Human Values. New York: Harper, 1959, 16)

 Modes of conceptualization guiding precept or 'ethics': The most well known is the theory of the 'social contract' (Locke, Rousseau and Kant). The precept has been rewoven into a solid philosophical system by  based on the imperative that justice should be the object of the original contract as well as being integral to a system of government (John Rawls A Theory of Justice l97l). The principles of  'justice as fairness' are the same as those of free and rational persons who wish to define the fundamental rules of an association for positions of equal advantage. Another mode of conceptualization called 'ethical behaviourism' holds that moral commitment is entirely learned and the dominant mechanism is children's internalisation of the behavioural norms of the society i.e. 'operant conditioning'. (J.F. Scott Internalization of Norms: A Sociological Theory of Moral Commitment. l97l) Opposing this theory is the'developmental-genetic conception' of ethical behaviour... a structuralist viewpoint which is based on the studies of Piaget who used the expression 'genetic epistemology'.  The termis used to label the general concept which can be incorporated into a broadened developmental biology and genetics. According to the 'cognitive-developmental' model the child progresses through six sequential stages of ethical reasoning ('sociocognitive stages') in a process of mental maturation... moves from a primary dependence on external controls and sanctions to an increasingly sophisticated set of internalized standards. (Lawrence Kohlberg Stage and Sequence: the Cognitive-Develomental Approach to Socialization. l969)

Evolutionary approach to the study of ethics makes it possible to resolve the question 'what is the source of guiding values?  (Answer is developed conscience... wisdom of creative intelligence or 'intuition' i.e.'ethical intuition'. Intuition is the emotive judgement of the developed mind which must be developed, mature, i!ntelligent... 'emotional intelligence' of the transpersonal level of consciousness... 'enlightener mind'.. The enlightened mind has a direct awareness of true right and wrong that it can formalize by logic and translate into rules of social action...'humanistic ethics')

 It is possible to resolve the age-old philosophical questions "what is the source of guiding values?" and to formulate a 'science of ethics' on the basis of the real nature of  the human organism as a social organism i.e. 'human nature'. The important problem is the .. requirement for an evolutionary approach to ethics... 'genetic evolution of ethics' .

There is an important aspect missing form the study of moral development, that is an explanation of the 'genetic evolution of ethics'. "what is missing is the 'evolution of ethics'!" (Wilson. Sociobiology 564)

"The crucial question to be asked is: can science discover the values by which men should live? I think it can and I have advanced this thesis in various places supporting it with whatever data I could muster. (Maslow : New Knowledge in Human Values, Toward a Psychology of Being, Notes on Being-Psychology, "Fusions of Facts and Values" American Journal of Pschoanalysis XXIII, 1963, 117-131; Religions, Values and Peak Experiences, "Criteria for Judging Needs to be Instinctoid", in Human Motivation: A Symposium, ed. M.R. Jones. Lincoln, Nebraska: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1965; Eupsychian Management: A Journal. Homewood , Illinois: Irwin-Dorsey, 1965)

  As the biological organismic valuing process is 'embedded' in the biologically based developmental process then the 'evolution of ethics' is a part of the evolution of growth and psychology of normal human development. If morality is a function of intelligence and intelligence is a function of adaptation and survival in human evolution, then the 'evolution of ethics' is a term which refers to a significant part of human evolution generally - individual psychological development in terms of survival vlaue. Evolution of 'ethical' behavior could be explained in terms of a natural selection process.

Scientifically objective approach to formulate a 'science of ethics'   An understanding of human motivation allows for a scientific approach to the formulation of a 'science of ethics'. A science of ethics depends on investigation into the real nature of the human being as a unique social organism and member of the human species. As a member of the species, each individual inherits an unconscious perception of human nature and human needs i.e. moral consciousness or 'conscience'. The conscience is the human 'soul'. Realisation of human potential for development of conscience. depends on education for 'moral development'. Each individual has a unique potentiality for growth to maturity and fulfillment or 'self-actualisation'. Self-actualisation depends on a balanced process of personal decision making based on the individual's will, strength, courage and sense of responsibility.

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.'

Respect for human needs  The scientific formulation of a natural value system is based on understanding of  proper growth and development as dependent on resepect for human needs. First the distinction must be made between the 'higher' needs and the 'lower' needs. The 'lower' needs include the basic physiological needs and the psychological needs, (the needs for safety and security, for belongingness - love, respect and care and for self-esteem and self-respect). The human lower needs vary in strength in terms of urgency or prepotency and they are related to each other in hierarchical fashion. The need for food is more urgent than or 'prepotent' to the need for safety, which in turn is more prepotent to the need for love and so on. The 'lower' needs rely on sources outside the individual and depend on others for their gratification. They are also known as the 'deficit' needs or deficiency needs (D-needs). The individual motivated by D-needs makes personal decisions on the basis of the need which must be gratified before being  motivated by other  needs. Decisions are made within the framework of the equivalent value system i.e. 'deficit-values' (D-values). Motivation by deficiency needs is deficiency motivation or 'deficit motivation'.

Deficit motivation The deficiency motivated individual perceives other people in terms of their usefulness as sources of gratification for his need deficiencies. Dependence on others requires  flexiblility and responsiveness to their reactions. Reliability on changeable factors in a non-reliable social environment leads to anxiety, to hostility and ultimately to a lack of freedom. Interpersonal relationships are limited and interchangeable because they are based on need gratification.

    During normal development, once the basic 'lower' needs are gratified, the individual becomes less dependent on others for the gratification of the 'higher' needs for growth, creativity and productivity - 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 changing 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). Motivation by the Being needs... spiritual needs or 'metaneeds'... for growth is 'growth motivation'... Motivation by the metaneeds is  'metamotivation'.

Self-actualisation The growth motivated individual becomes independent of other people  for the gratification of his growth needs to spiritual maturity and independence or 'self-actualisation'. The self-actualised individual is characteristically autonomous and self-sufficient, enjoying the pleasure of insight and productivity or 'work' i.e. true 'freedom'.In the process of successfully adapting to changing social environment, the truly free person makes decisions in his 'true' self interest. At the same time, those same decisions are in the interest of others and the society at large.  perceives others in terms of their intrinsic qualities, has a non-judgmental, non-interfering attitude towards others, 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.  The self-actualized individual lives in accordance with natural biological laws and the evolutionary process.

A 'science of ethics' can be formulated on the basis of the 'higher' human values by which the self-actualised individual lives. 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... 'moral science'.

The science of ethics as metaethics involves the study of moral consciousness or 'morality'

Implications for education  Both science of ethics and science of education can be formulated in terms of the natural unfolding of human nature during proper psychological development towards self-actualisation of the natural ethical core of the human organism i.e. 'humanness'. Education for development to self-actualisation ...holistic education ...involves fostering of the individual's instinctive responsibility to himself and his own needs. Healthy culture - education - fosters universal self-actualisation.

Very important to a 'science of ethics' is the study of the correlation between character orientation and social structure.

The study of a specific character orientation which is common to most members of the culture explains some of the causes for the formation of character... and indicates which powerful emotional forces are instrumental in molding the social character and the functioning of the society. The personality of the average individual is determined by the socioeconomic and political structure of the society in which he lives. (Fromm Man For Himself)

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Lawrence Kohlberg Stage and Sequence: the Cognitive-Develomental Approach to Socialization.l969) In D.A. Goslin, ed., Handbook of Socialization Theory and Research, pp. 347-480. Rand McNally Co., Chicago. .

 Edward O. Wilson "Sociobiology: The New Synthesis" Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, l975 (562)



 According to Webster's dictionary, there are two definitions of the word 'ethics'. The term is defined as both "the science of moral values and duties" and as "the study of the ideal human character, actions, and ends." The word 'ethics' is derived from the Greek word 'ethos' - a root which meant 'custom' as well as 'character'. In its original sense, the 'ethics' of a group was determined by its character and its customs. The ethics of a group formed an 'ethos'. Ethics was understood to be concerned with the formation and perfection of human character. In the original broad meaning of 'ethics', the concern was with positive human excellences or virtues. (See Aristotle's 'Ethics') In the great philosophical tradition, "ethics is but to all human beings...and for everything that is alive. There is only universal human ethics applied to specific human situations." (170) Ethics is a matter of 'conscience'- not the authoritarian conscience or 'superego' (internalized authority of father or society). Ethics is a matter of 'humanistic conscience' - the 'inner voice that calls us back to ourselves', the inner core which is common to all human beings, our 'human nature'. The term 'ethics' came to mean the 'science' dealing with the ideal of human relatedness. The confusion between custom and ideal character still exists. Sometimes the word 'ethics' is used to refer to a code of behavior - code of ethics - which is valid and desirable for a particular person or a particular situation. There is a code of medical ethics, business ethics, military ethics and so on. A code of ethics for a specific situation can easily degenerate into a code which serves the interests of those within that situation. 'Medical ethics' can become a code of ethics which serves the interests of those in the medical 'profession'. 'Business ethics' can become a code of ethics serving the interests of those in business. (Erich Fromm, The Dogma of Christ, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco 1963. ) The modern American meaning of ethics is based on the modern American concept of morality.

  "Acting out of freedom does not exclude the moral laws; it includes them, but shows itself to be on a higher level than those actions which are merely dictated by such laws. Why should my action be of less service to the public good when I have done it out of love than when I have done it only because I consider serving the public good to be my duty? The mere concept of duty excludes freedom because it does not acknowledge the individual element but demands that this be subject to a general standard. Freedom of action is conceivable only from the standpoint of ethical individualism." (Steiner, R. The Philosophy of Freedom. London: Rudolph Steiner Press. 13)

 "...the full exploration of the neural machinery of ethical judgement is desirable and already in progress."(Edward O. Wilson "Sociobiology: The New Synthesis" Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, l975

 The study of moral development The human conscience is the natural expression of a biologically based interest in the properly integrated functioning of the whole personality - the guardian of the individual's true self-interest. "Conscience is a reaction of ourselves to ourselves. It is the voice of our true selves, which summons us back to ourselves, to live productively, to develop fully and harmoniously- that is to become what we potentially are. It is the guardian of our integrity...of our love for ourselves". (Erich Fromm Man For Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics 159)

 It should also be clear that no single set of moral standards can be applied to all human populations... To impose a uniform code is therefore to create complex, intractable moral dilemmas

Keywords for research purposes: 'ethical intuitionism,' the belief that the mind has a direct awareness of true right and wrong that it can formalize by logic and translate into rules of social action... must be the 'enlightened mind' of Buddhism.

 SCIENCE OF ETHICS The formulation of a rational ethical system is based on the knowledge of human nature. Valid ethical norms of a naturally human ethics is based on the respect for the dignity of human existence. Ethics is defined as both "the science of moral values and duties" and as "the study of the ideal human character, actions, and ends." Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary An inquiry into human nature forms the basis for a valid theoretical construction of a rational ethical system. This is revealed in the so-called 'productive' character which values the affirmation of the truly human self. As the ideal human potentialities naturally unfold and become actualized, ethical norms for excellent living are discovered according to the laws of nature and human existence. The actualization of an individual's particular potentiality and disposition reveals a core of human qualities which are common to all members of the human species. The individual human being is instinctively responsible to himself for his own potential development or 'self-actualization.' This natural responsibility to his own biological and psychological existence and self-actualization constitutes the ethical value called 'virtue.' Sharing the existential dichotomies inherent in the human situation, all human beings have a natural sense of responsibility for their self-actualization, virtue and happiness. Depending on the unchangeable constitutional temperament and the changeable acquired character, each human being has a unique way of solving his human problems. Significant to a science of ethics are the conscious and unconscious motivating factors which determine the individual's character, based on the mode of relatedness to the world. Akin to the animal's instinctive apparatus for self-preservation, the individual's character orientation has a biological function. Each human being is instinctively motivated to acquire the things he needs ('assimilation') and to relate to other people for defense and for work ('socialization'). An individual's character is expressed by the mode of orientation by which he relates to the world - loving, hating, competing, cooperating. Character is formed by social and cultural patterns and constitutes the basis of the individual's adjustment to society. The child develops in response to the character of the parents and their cultural background, becoming adjusted and adapted to a particular social structure. The individual's uniqueness of character is the result of the combined effects of his constitutional temperament, the different personalities of his parents, and the specific social environment in which he grew up as a child. The individual's specific character determines the way he feels, thinks and acts - his 'behaviour.' Fundamental change in behaviour only occurs with fundamental change in character. (Fromm, Erich. "Man for Himself: an Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics." Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, New York, l947)

 SCIENCE OF ETHICS: HUMAN DEVELOPMENT AND HUMAN VALUES... VALUE SYSTEM (ETHICS) IN CULTURAL CONTEXT... ORGANISMIC VALUING PROCESS... universality of organismic valuing process...there is an organismic base for an organized valuing process within the human individual. In accordance with the biological need for self-preservation and adaptation, the human organism has the natural capacity to adjust its behavior and reactions to a continuously changing environment... the operative values... the valuing process in the human being is effective in achieving self-enhancement to the degree that the individual is open to the experiencing which is going on within himself. The infant and the psychologically mature person are examples of individuals whose valuing process is in harmony with their own experiencing. A child's proper inner development to maturity depends on his/her being prized as a separate person with the freedom to experience his own feelings without feeling threatened. The freedom of self-expression insures development to maturity and inner freedom.

 Throughout human history theologians and philosophers have sought the same basic values. They have tended to look for guiding values from some sort of god, sacred book, ruling elite, or ruling individual - always from some source outside the human organism. The guiding values which have been prescribed by religions and philosophies can be found within a person's consciousness.

"Human values originate in the genetic makeup of the human species. Parental love is ingrained in the mammalian genetic make-up of man. Parental care of progeny is a characteristic of all mammals. As a social animal, man benefits more from amicable disposition than pugnacious disposition and behavior". Dobjansky in Maslow(ed) New Knowledge in Huamn Values. NY Harper Bros 1959)

Theme: biological basis of 'virtue' and value sytems:

The science of values investigates the natural origins of human values and the human conscience. makes value choices and decisions in accordance with ...according to ...its own organismic valuing process, living by values which facilitate its own survival, adaptation and self-enhancement as well as the enhancement of the human species.. Like other animal species, the social human animal behaves in accordance with an organismic valuing process enabling it to adapt to a changing social environment... value judgements of the human organism ...operative values... criteria for good and bad - 'ethics' - are derived from the meaningfulness of human existence

"The word 'ethics' comes from a root which means, originally, custom, and eventually, ethics comes to mean the science dealing with the ideal of human relatedness. This confusion between custom and ideals still exists in the minds of many people."(169) Sometimes the term 'ethics' is used to refer to a code of behavior which is desirable for a given situation. There is a code of medical ethics, business ethics, military ethics. In the great philosophical tradition, "ethics is not a code of behavior valid in reference to this or that person or to this or that situation but to all human beings ...and for everything that is alive."(170) "There is only universal human ethics applied to specific human situations."(170) Separated from universal human ethics, a 'code of ethics' for a specific situation can easily degenerate into a code which serves the interests of those within that situation. 'Medical ethics' can become a code of ethics which serves the interests of those in the medical 'profession.' 'Business ethics' can become a code of ethics serving the interests of those in 'business.' Ethics is a matter of 'conscience' - (See Man for Himself) not the authoritarian 'conscience' or 'superego,' the internalized power of the father and 'society.' Ethics is a matter of "humanistic conscience" - "an inner voice that calls us back to ourselves." "Ourselves' refers to the "inner core common to all men" or 'human nature.' (171) (ERICH FROMM, 1963, THE DOGMA OF CHRIST, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco)