Monday, May 12, 2008

Basic Ethics

There are actually only two rules to follow.

Treat people's property according to their values.

If you don't know their values, assume they are the same as yours.

Property is simply the product of one's self control. You control yourself, so you are your property. If you pick up a rock in a free state, it becomes your rock; you control it as well as yourself. If you had no expectation of controlling that rock, you wouldn't bother to pick it up.

Because you own yourself and I own myself, we own the products of ourselves. You expect to control your products, and conversely I expect to control mine.

This law is refined from this, plus Stefan Molyneux's Universally Preferable Behavior, along with the Golden Rule. In fact, people already follow this ethical standard, but do so imperfectly, lacking a definition.

Because we assume other people share our values, we can, seemingly paradoxically, precisely determine other people's values.

For instance, if someone tries to murder me, I know for a fact that they do not value human life, so I can murder them back without violating their values. Thus, this formulation of ethics fully justifies self-defense, while simultaneously forbidding the things we expect to be crimes.

The actual law would go like this; "The defendant attempted to murder the citizen Alrenous, without first ascertaining Alrenous' values on life. Since this act attempted to contravene Alrenous' values, we charge that the defendant does not value other people's values, and therefore it is not a violation of the defendant's apparent values to order (reparation, prison time, death, or whatever.)"

This formulation of ethics is the only one I know that inherently justifies legal sanctions. It's simply the fact that you have values and I should follow them, and therefore since I have values you should follow them.

Also, it's a bit strange to object. The question is; do you want me to treat you according to your values? Yes, or no? The only coherent answer is yes. It would appear that everyone agrees with this principle, by definition.

The only question is whether it fully delineates the concepts defined by 'ethics' or not.


joshua love weaver said...

The obvious problem, of course, is that some people have particularly low values for themselves. Most people do not immediately know other people's values, so besides the awkward posturing of property to cover every moral situation, the whole thing begins to fall apart once someone with low values applies the golden rule when dealing with someone with high values. Logistically, there are also problems even if you do know the values of every other person, as it would be somewhat difficult to keep track of the subtle differences in people's values, assuming that most people's values are fairly unique and that any given person usually knows a handful of people.

The golden rule is a nice guideline, but it's pretty crude as normative theories go.

Alrenous said...

It's not the golden rule, it's a reversal someone else called the platinum rule.

Ignorance is a defense.

You don't know better what someone else's values should be than they do.

If the property thing doesn't work, don't just say so, point out how...if you can.

I think that about covers everything.