|SUGGESTIONS FOR ONTOLOGICAL ETHICS
GARY C. MOORE
SUGGESTIONS FOR ONTOLOGICAL ETHICS
The best view I can think of for understanding
ontology is Wittgenstein's approach: "What
are the facts of the matter?" This is
essentially nominalist in that positioned
sense impressions within a field of perception
are related to each other by language. The
only possible purpose for apprizing "the
facts of the matter" is selfish, only
one's own desires since that is the only
possible starting point for thinking. One
cannot rationally assess others before one
assesses oneself. Also, essentially "oneself"
is identical with the situation of "the
facts of the matter". You project the
field of perception in which they are assessed
AND, as a whole, you are assessing yourself.
You are observing, in fact, the parts of
what you are and can never perceive how they
absolutely fit together, i. e., cannot completely
explain yourself, because you cannot stand
outside yourself. You are the seeing of the
whole per se but literal perception has no
clearly perceived boundaries. In field of
vision tests, there is no clear demarcation
which you cease to see an object when it
leaves the field of perception. It simply
becomes vaguer, more obscure until its form
dissolves. And there is no defined horizon
event when this happens, just either you
see it or you don't.
Then if the beginning of understanding is
necessarily and inherently selfish, the same
applies to relations to other people as being
part of "the facts of the matter".
Thomas Hobbes defined human nature on this
basis as being ontologically a "war
of all against all". That is, the "war
of all against all" will always be the
result of any complete breakdown of external
authority. If external authority breaks down,
humanity will always in every situation come
into a "war of all against all."
As Ivan Karamazov says, "If God does
not exist, then everything is permitted."
One is born with a "natural right"
to act according to one's inherent desires.
Therefore these are ontological statements
about human relations. They always apply
and need to be accounted for.
The first result of this observation Hobbes
brings out is that rationally no one sane
benefits from this natural situation. A thief
cannot 'own' anything because there are no
rights of property, no laws to protect them,
and everyone has the right to be a thief.
"Ownership" would essentially be
a meaningless word because it has no experienced
fact to support the concept. It is not "I
have it and you don't" because that
immediately implies the possibility that
it can be taken away. "Ownership"
is an agreement of mutual recognition of
legal rights. This is a fictive concept based
on the necessity of creating a situation
of peace which all desire even more than
the unbounded exercise of selfish desires.
In a state of "war of all against all"
no one can be happy and enjoy the desires
one can exercise without immediate opposition.
To establish laws historically means two
equally powerful parties come to an impasse
in trying to dominate the other. So, instead
of enduring fruitless struggle to no point,
they agree on boundaries of rights that settle
in peace "the facts of the matter".
Each party gives up some of its natural selfish
rights in order to freely exercise its other
naturally selfish rights that do not come
into conflict with the other. To do this
upon an enduring basis so future conflicts
can be resolved without self-damaging violence,
"government" is established. In
the broadest sense, "government"
means associating with others in such a way
that everyone acknowledges and obeys the
same set of rules of association. One basic
rule is that everyone has a right to make
suggestions, "to have their say"
about how "the facts of the matter"
are. As something constraining, it is called
"law". As something positive, i.
e., "desiring to hear what others say"
and "having others listen to what you
say" it is called "politeness".
"Politeness" opens a field of sensual
perception so "the facts of the matter"
can interact and re-arrange themselves to
satisfy the desires of all the participants.
Those who violate the rules of "politeness"
are "rude" and become excluded
from such society.
This is still ontological because this is
the only way to obtain the mutually agreed
upon ends. Any fundamental change would necessarily
be a violation that naturally calls out retaliation
and results in a return to humanity's natural
state of "war of all against all".
There is also the "fact of the matter"
- "What is the fundamental end of selfish
desire?" The answer is a fundamental
determination of individual character. What
the specific determination is ceases to be
ontological and becomes ontic, that is, a
fact of the matter. But that this determination
must occur is ontological. The primary determination
is, "Does one most desire to be absolutely
self-sufficient" or "Does one want
things from other people?" This is the
basic political situation in Aristotle when
he defines man as a "political animal".
Absolute self-sufficiency applies only to
a beast or a god and this includes the abrogation
of language itself. Either determination
(not really 'choice' - it is rather you either
are that way or you are not) is purely selfish.
The "political" determination necessarily
operates by the laws stated above. This "fact
of the matter" is also exactly the same
situation with which I started this discussion.
The ontic "I" is the basis for
the existence of the ontological, i. e.,
"the facts of the matter".
The best examples of the operation of all
these aspects are Doctor Hannibal Lecter
(the Thomas Harris novels, not the movies)
and Jeremiah Johnson (Robert Redford). They
are most relevant because they change fundamental
aspects, they evolve either from being a
beast or a god to being a political animal,
such as is fully delineated throughout HANNIBAL
and very well resolved at the end of the
novel - and gutlessly left out of the movie,
or vice versa a political animal gives up
its human aspect as, at the end of JEREMIAH
JOHNSON, Robert Redford can barely speak
and has become something utterly beyond,
having lost all human relations, the ordinary
human mountain man that originally introduced
him to living in the wild. Ontological ethics
basically resolves down to this - If you
want that, you must do this. The form of
the statement is ontological. Filling the
words with specific meanings is ontic.
Nihilism in this scheme has no place. Nihilism
is based on preconceived expectations, that
"meaning" already exists at hand
or should exist, i. e., be given to one from
an external source. Thomas Hobbes, a truly
sly old devil, uses precisely this aspect
and his aspect of "natural rights"
to change the whole conception of Christianity
completely upside down. Instead of God authorizing
man, man authorizes God. The state determines
the ground of its own authority. You believe
in salvation because the government orders
you to. The ways of God are not to be found
in private inspiration from scripture but
the public and mutually enforced laws of
man. Few people realize that when the Arian
Constantine the Great convened the Council
of Nicea to finally determine the definition
of orthodoxy that he was legally and fully
recognized as the absolute head of the whole
church, certainly not the Pope in Rome, and
that NO ONE contested this fact. Constantine
did not give a damn what conclusions the
Council came to, so long as they came to
full and firm conclusions applicable to everyone
in public observance of religion. Private
conscience was of absolutely no concern to
him as long as it did not effect public actions,
and he himself maintained his Arianism even
as to the priest who gave him his last rites.