February 2008

                                

                               

                               

                               

                               

                 THE FUNCTIONAL BASIS OF ETHICS

                               

                               

                               

                               

                               

  Key Words:  Ethics, government, society, functional, innate,

                      naturalistic fallacy

                                  

 

Elbert W. Russell Ph.D.

6091 SW 79th Street

Miami, Florida, 33143

USA

Tell: 305-667-3821

E-mail: ewr@bellsouth.net


 

Abstract

     Philosophy has been unable to provide politics and law an

adequate basis for ethics. The primary obstacle to the

development of any ethics is the naturalistic fallacy. This can

be overcome by using a functional approach, that accepts the

separation between fact and value in the creation of a normative

system. Norms are a system of rules, largely social, that

regulate human behavior and organize society. This prescriptive

normative system is ultimately derived from innate human

motivational imperatives. These exist as primitive prelinguistic

givens (natural categorical imperatives).  As givens they are not

derived from information (fact) and so do not violate the

naturalistic fallacy.  Innate motivations provide the basis for

ethics by determining the ultimate intrinsic ends of humans.

Utilization of information by intelligence creates the means,

mostly social and political, for these intrinsic ends. Ethics is

the discipline, that uses human science information and theory to

create the appropriate means, physical, social and legal.       

     


 

                 THE FUNCTIONAL BASIS OF ETHICS

                               

     The development of ethical theory in philosophy has been

forestalled for a century due to what is commonly called the

fact-value gap.  In addition there is a comparable problem in the

human sciences such that there is no rationally adequate means

for determining the basis for social values, politics and law.

 

The Philosopher's Dilemma

     About two and a half centuries ago, Hume (1748) demonstrated

that ethical terms or values cannot be derived from factual

information.  In 1903 Moore reformulated this conception as the

"naturalistic fallacy"; by which he meant that it was a basic

philosophic fallacy to claim that "good" could be derived from

any concepts obtained from nature, especially science. In order

to create a basis for ethics Moore had to deal with the

"naturalistic fallacy" himself. He avoided the fallacy by basing

ethics on a primitive attribute the "good" that could not be

defined by any other terms and was not derivable from scientific

information. While Moore was approaching a solution, his mistake

was considering "good" or any moral term to be a primitive term.

Philosophers have largely rejected the primitiveness of such

moral terms.

     R.H. Hare (1952) was able to formulate this separation of

fact and value more precisely than Moore. In its simplest form

his concept states that fundamental ethical concepts can not be

logically derived from information about the factual world. In

essence, value and information are two discrete aspects of the

universe.

     This fallacy confirmed a dilemma, which has obstructed

further development of ethics.  The dilemma is simply that one

cannot derive the axioms of a deductive system from within that

system. This has been known since Euclid.  Thus, no basic

propositions or foundational concepts for ethics could be derived

from within any ethical system. 

     The other horn of the dilemma was introduced when Hume and

Moore demonstrated that the basic propositions for an ethical

system could not be obtained from information derived from

without the system, that is factual knowledge.  This, of course,

meant that the basis for an ethical system could not be obtained

from either within or without the system.  Since this apparently

encompassed all possibilities, the conclusion was that it was not

possible to derived or justify the basic propositions of any

ethical system by any rational means.

     Consequently, philosophers have struggled with the problem

of deriving basic ethical concepts for a century without success.

The field of metaethics appears to have been developed to deal

with this problem. However metaethics has only refined the

understanding of the difficulty. Philosophy attempted to

circumvent this dilemma by examining the "common language" basis

of ethics.  However, of course, although ethical terms are part

of language and may be derived from language, this does not

justify them. 

     Another approach has been through examining the linguistic

function of ethics through the work of Toulmin, (1950), Urmson

(1956) and Hare (1952). Hare's concept, that ethics are

prescriptions, states ethics in the form of its linguistic

function.  While this may be an exact description of ethical

terms it does not justify any particular system.

     Finally in desperation philosophers have apparently

advocated the metaethical concept that good is what the fully

rational person after thorough investigation decides is good

(Baier, 1958) by presenting "good reasons" (Toulmin, 1950).

However, this theory is shipwrecked on the rocks of ethical

relativity. Simply listening to two fully rational people, who

are arguing on each side of various subjects such as abortion or

capital punishment, quickly destroys this theory.  Both are fully

rational and both can present good reasons, nevertheless, they

continue to reach opposing ethical conclusions.  Of course, each

side believes that the other side is not "fully rational" and has

not presented "good reasons".

     These attempts to resolve this dilemma imply that unless

resolved this dilemma means that discussions of ethics by

philosophers can have no ultimate foundation and so philosophers

have nothing substantial to contribute to society other than to

state that all ethics are relative. Relative ethics is rationally

self destructive. Any basis for stating that all ethics is

relative is by this reasoning also relative. Thus, it is not

acceptable.

 

The Human Scientist's Problem

     During the same period that philosophy realized its dilemma,

the human sciences, especially sociology, were examining the

function of ethics or morality in social life. This began with

the work of Sumner (1906), a contemporary of Moore (1903). 

Although sociology and anthropology have been extensively

concerned with ethics, different terms were used, such as

"folkways" (Sumner, 1906), "norms", "normative system" "mores",

"customs", "standards", "codes" (Landis, 1956; Roucek,

1978)"social control" (Landis, 1956; Roucek, 1978) and

"institutions" (Bellah, Madsen, Sullivan, Swidler, & Tipton,

1991). Psychology also has a field devoted to the study of

morality (Darley & Shultz, 1990).  These sociological terms are

often synonymous with the philosophical terms and both philosophy

and sociology appear to use the term "value" in a somewhat

similar manner.

     The human scientist's examination provided a greatly

increased understanding of the function of ethics or morality in

society. However, in spite of this different understanding the

human sciences arrived at the same impasse as philosophy.  They

could provide no way of determining the basis for a social,

political or legal normative system.  In psychology there have

been several periods in which there was a spate of articles

advocating that psychology should become more involved with

ethical problems (Lowe, 1959).  Although most psychologists

agreed with this, the enthusiasm died when no adequate method of

determining the basis for ethical analysis could be advanced

(Kendler, 1993).

     At the present time major members of sociology have

recommended that sociology become more involved in the study and

application of ethics to social problems.  However, again the

works by Bellah, et al., (1996), Etzioni, (1996) and Wolfe (1989)

present no adequate method for determining a foundation for the

ethics.  Wolfe (1989) believes that people in a society should

make their own moral rules but does not indicate how it should be

done. He implies that each community should make its own

morality.  However, neither he nor any human scientist would

support the morality that some communities have constructed in

the past or in the present.  The other authors failed to surmount

the same ethical obstacle.  Consequently, it appears that in

spite of a different approach, the human scientists have

encountered the same dilemma that has stymied the advance of

ethics in philosophy. The basis for ethics appears to be

relative, which provides no stable basis for any ethics.

     Thus, unless resolved this inability to establish a

invariant foundation for ethics or normative systems means that

human scientists have no basis for suggesting changes in society

or law. As such, they have nothing substantial to contribute to

society other than to state that all ethics are relative.

 

Function as a Basis for Metaethics This paper proposes that a

change in the orientation of metaethics to that of the function

which ethics plays in human society, would begin to provide a

solution for the major problems hindering the development of a

theory of ethics.  Many of the elements in this approach have

already been proposed (Campbell, 1985; Jordan, 1949; Malinowski,

1944; Maslow, 1954; Mayr, 2000; Wallach & Wallach, 1990; Wilson,

1978). The problem for this paper is to demonstrate how these

elements combine to provide a justifiable metaethical basis for a

normative system.

 

 

Function in Philosophical Ethics

     In philosophy a functional concept of ethics was proposed in

the 1950s (Hare, 1952; Jordan, 1949; Urmson, 1956). It was

demonstrated that ethical language can be analyzed from the

viewpoint of its function. Toulmin (1950) proposed that one

should "... look at the function of moral statements in our

ordinary use, rather than to defend a particular theory about

them". (Binkley, 1961, p. 107). Urmson (1956) examined the term

"good" from the aspect of its function as a method of grading.

Hare, (1952) proposed that ethical terms were prescriptions which

were used to guide human conduct.

     The problem with this philosophical functional approach to

ethical terms was that it is individualistic. That is each person

must rationally decide what is good and what he/she should do in

any particular situation using functional ethical language.

However, this still does not provide a basis for creating

prescriptions, since the decision is relative to the individual.

 

Function in a Normative system

      The human science conception of ethics also had a

prescriptive function for behavior. Consequently, the human

sciences have examined ethics in terms of the function that

various moral terms play in society and in human behavior

(Bellah, et al., 1991; Landis, 1956; Sumner, 1906; Wolfe, 1989).

     These human sciences have demonstrated that mores are

societies system of rules, which constitute a normative system.

Such norms enable social life to exist (Bellah et al., 1991)

Landis, 1956; Roucek, 1978).

     From this point I will attempt to use the term "norms",

"morals" or "normative system" rather than "ethics" for the

existing mores of a society. The term "ethics" will apply to

theoretical normative systems rather than to existing ones.

Ethics is the general term used to discuss all moral or value

terms. The primary purpose of ethics is to critique and to design

the normative system of a society. The term "metaethics" is used

to discuss the origin and nature of both a normative system and

ethics.

     Social control or regulation.  The sociological concept of a

normative system is that it is the primary means for social

regulation or control of its members (Roucek, 1978).   The term

"social control" has a long history in sociology (Roucek, 1978).

It has been used, with somewhat different meanings, by different

sociologists (Janowitz, 1978, pp 26-41.). Even when not

explicitly used, social control is implied, as in the definition

of an institution, as patterns of behavior, which are "...

enforced by social sanctions, both positive and negative."

(Bellah et al., 1991, p. 10).

     At present the term "control" carries negative connotations

for many people. However, here, the term "control" is used in its

broadest sense to include any psychological, social or political

activity that directs, guides, regulates or influences a person

to perform or refrain from performing certain actions. It is used

the way the term "control" is used in reference to the activities

of an air traffic controller.

     As Roucek (1978) states: "Social control may be either

informal or formal. Informal social control is exemplified in the

functions of folkways and mores.  Formal social control is

exemplified by the explicit establishment of procedures and the

delegation of specific bodies to enforce them (laws, decrees,

regulations, codes)" (p. 11). As such, a normative system

includes all control methods used by society (Bellah et al. 1991;

Janowitz, 1978; Roucek, 1978).

     Secondarily, control functions as the organizing force in

society, providing structure to organizations and institutions.

Through its regulative power a normative system provides not only

the rules for individual members behavior but it establishes the

very organization of a society. Every organization, whether

business, social or governmental, has rules to regulate the

behavior of its members and this regulation provides a

governmental structure to the organization (Martindale 1978).

     Individual morality.  Social directives face two directions.

One is toward the individual actor and this has been endlessly

analyzed by philosophy. The second direction, which is the one

emphasized in this writing, is toward society. Although an

individuals moral concepts guide ones behavior, to a large extent

morals or ethics are derived from social norms through formal

law, rules and informal mores (Bellah, et al., 1991). While

people create some of their own self controlling morals or

"ethics", only a small part of a person's moral system originates

with the individual.

     This social concept of ethics and norms requires a change of

perspective for metaethics from the individualistic approach

(Bellah et al., 1991; MacIntyre 1966; Roucek, 1978, p.3,) to a

social approach (Bellah et al., 1991; Jordan, 1949; MacIntyre

1966). The essential ethical controversies are generally, not

concerned with the question of how I as an individual should act,

but with the question of how the society should be designed or

redesigned in regard to its institutions and its laws

(Friedlander, 1978; Jordan, 1949). The question is not "should I

steal" but "should society condemn stealing in its mores and

laws". As such, it is more accurate to model ethics on law than

on an individual's conscience. No one thinks that laws are

individualistic or that they are something that a person can

intuit.

Control and Ethical Systems

     The functional approach of this paper contends that a

normative system is basically a control system or in ethical

terms, an imperative system.

     A computer analogy.  As a model or analogy computer

processing can demonstrate some necessary features of a control

system (Simon, 1992). Computer processing requires two systems to

obtain any organized output.  These two systems are the

information system, that is data or facts, and a control system,

the system of commands.

      In normal use a computer is not completely self sufficient,

rather humans are part of the command system in that humans tell

the computer what commands to use. However, when the computer

program has been designed to be self regulating a combination of

both information and commands are required to direct its

operation. In this case the operation of the computer is produced

by an algorithm which combines commands and facts. The

application of a command is usually based on an item of fact. For

instance an algorithm may state: "If there are more than 10 items

in category X go to C, if not go to D". Here, the information or

truth aspect of the operation (the number of items in category X)

is a fact that the command uses to make a decision. The command

does not operate as a fact within the system.

     Although commands interact with information, neither the

commands nor the facts are derived from the other. Information

and control are not interchangeable in the operation of a

computer program.  Commands are "do" statements, that is,

imperatives. Information statements in themselves, do not require

the computer to do anything. The end of the algorithm is to

produce an output, that may be to answer a question or to control

a physical process, such as telling the printer to "PRINT".

     It should be noted that commands can be stated as facts or

information. In the computer language "Basic" the command "LIST"

states the commands as information statements. A command when

listed, is information and can be treated as information. The

listing can be used to examine and modify the commands.

Nevertheless, in the form of information, the statements do not

function as commands. They can not do anything.

     The normative means system.  Information, in the computer

analogy, is equivalent to truth or fact in philosophy or science,

while the command statements are equivalent to ethical or moral

imperatives. Normative terms control human behavior in a manner

similar to the way commands control the computer.

     A major obvious difference between computers and people is

that the computer must obey the command while the human need not

do so. The situation that humans do not need to obey a command,

accounts for much of the difference between computer imperatives

and the various kinds of ethical concepts.

     Basic ethical terms.  Although ethical terms have varying

definitions, there appears to be a general understanding of the

nature of major ethical or normative concepts. This discussion is

designed to demonstrate that all aspects of a normative system

are related and not to argue for any specific definitions.

     An imperative simply commands without providing a

justification for the commanded action. Rather, it gains its

force through pure, and in a broad sense, irrational authority.

It also assumes that the recipient of the command has no choice.

     Throughout its history, ethics has been aware of the basic

nature of the imperative. Kant accepted the primariness of the

term when he used it as the central working concept in his moral

theory. Pure imperatives, of course, have no factual content

(Ayer, 1936).

     In contrast, normative terms along with the imperative

element was an implied choice (Stevenson, 1946). Most ethical

terms such as "should" imply that there may be disagreement

(Blake & Davis, 1964, p. 456). Thus, in order to persuade people

to perform the commanded course of action, reasons need to be

given. This is the justification of the imperative. To change the

imperative form into a persuasive normative form, the statement

is changed from "do it" to "You should do it". (As usually used,

"ought" is equivalent to "should"). Here, a normative statement

using "should" will be called a directive, which is equivalent to

a prescription as used by Hare (1952). 

     The "should" directive contains all the primary elements of

a social normative directive.  The term "should" has three major

elements: an imperative, the recognition of choice, and an

implied reason for obeying the imperative. Two of these three

elements are described by Segerstedt (1948) as being basic

elements in social norms. The element of choice is also the

reason that norms have been called "prescriptions" rather than

imperatives(Biddle & Thomas, 1966; Hare, 1952).

     As methods of social control, directives are given to

individuals with the implied understanding that directives need

to be justified. Consequently, the directives must be supported

by presenting adequate reasons, at least by implication.

     Values and what is termed "good" are also directives.

However, values are social attitude directives. They are the

means that society uses to control or regulate the attitudes of

its members and so their behavior. To call some act or object

"good" or valuable directs the listener to have a pro-attitude or

positive attitude toward that act or object. "Bad", of course,

indicates that one should have a con-attitude or negative

attitude (Nowell-Smith, l954) toward the designated object. Thus,

ethical terms are interrelated. They are social directives, rules

or prescriptions that function to regulate the behavior of the

members of a society.

     Logic of ethics. There is a logic in ethics or norms that

has been known, in one form or another, since the ancient Greeks

(Hare, 1952; Kant, 1781; Toulmin 1950). This is the means-ends

logic. Kant (1781) used a form of this logic in the concepts of

hypothetical and categorical imperatives. The primary person to

discuss the logic of ethics (norms) has been Hare (1952). For

this discussion the logical structure of normative terms is

greatly simplified.

     Roughly, the means - ends logic is the following. If A is an

end and B is used to obtain A then B becomes a means to that end.

This relationship may be expressed in a "should" statement. For

instance: if A is the end and B is the means then one "should"

use B to obtain A.

     The same logic applies to values. If A has intrinsic value

and B is used to obtain A then B becomes a means and acquires

instrumental value.  As a concrete example: If a tractor is used

to farm and farming is a good end then using a tractor is good as

a means to that end.

     Means interact to form a system so that there is a series of

ends - means steps in which each level is justified as a means

for a higher level end. A tractor is a means for the end of

farming and farming is a means for the end of producing food.

Food is an end for survival and enjoyment.  An end for a lower

means may become a means for a higher end.

     This means-ends logic forms a hierarchical arrangement in

which each lower hierarchical level is derived from a higher

level, since ends determine what is a means. The hierarchy can

become very complex, since several items may be means to a single

end or a single item may be a means to several ends. For

instance, there are hundreds of instruments used in farming. All

of these are means for farming. Also, farming may be a means for

items in addition to food, such as material for clothing or

chemicals for plastics. Nevertheless, in the hierarchy the lower

level ends are means to the higher level ends.

     An important point here is that information or facts

determine what is a means for each end. In the illustration above

it is the fact that a tractor can be used for the end of farming.

It is this fact that makes it a means.

     As an ethical construct the means-ends chain must begin with

an ethical directive. Then values and shoulds are transmitted

down the means chain. For instance, in the above illustration: If

farming (means) is required to produce food and food is good

(end) then farming for that end is good and if a tractor (means)

is used to farm and farming (now an end) is good then using a

tractor for that end (means) is good. The same chain is true for

shoulds By beginning the chain with a normative or ethical

directive facts make the entire chain a normative hierarchy.

     Thus, fact or information and ethical directives are

combined to determine the normative means for an end. The

normative system would not function if fact and directives did

not stay distinct. From a metaethical point of view the

fact/value distinction is necessary for norms to function. All

instrumental normative propositions require at least one factual

proposition and one normative proposition (Hare, 1952). While

they must stay separate, the two work together to direct and so

control human activities.

                   

                 The Primitive Source of Ethics

      The original directive, as an ethical axiom, is not derived

from the means-end hierarchy and it can not be derived from that

hierarchy. The source of such axioms lie in the nature of humans,

which includes their social nature. This source is what

philosophers call a "primitive" basis for a system. Like

sensation it is observable but not derivable from any other

source.

                              

The Function of a Society

     The concept of a functional social normative system explains

how a society regulates the behavior of its members and organizes

the structure of a society but it does not provide an ultimate

basis, that is the axioms or premises, for the normative system.

     This basis can be found in the nature of society, that is,

in the reasons for having a society at all. All societies are

supported and maintained by its members because the society helps

fulfill their motivations. A society does not last if it does not

fulfill the motivations of its members or at least the dominant

part of the society. Thus, fulfilling the motivations of a

society's members is the central function of a society. Thus, the

primitive basis for societies normative system is provided by the

basic motivations of humans. An understanding of the motivational

system of the individuals in a society is the method for

determining what the particular design of a society should be and

how its normative system should be designed.

 

Human Motivational System

     In recent years, the human sciences have been developing a

better understanding of the human motivational system. This

motivational system is quite complex and only partially

understood. It is derived from human evolution. Although

initiated by such psychologists as Maslow (1954), only recently

have inroads been made by biologists and other psychologists in

the understanding the basic, that is inherited motivations(Buss,

1991; Cosmides & Tooby, 1987; Damasio, 1994; Harper, 1989; Plomin

& Rende, 1991). There is not space in this essay to deal with

this subject in any detail. Nevertheless, the knowledge that is

now available is sufficient for the purposes of this general

theory of ethics.  

     Motivations are prelinguistic imperatives.  Human

motivations constitute the imperative driving force for human

activity. They are also the basis for the inhibition of behavior

and so for control mechanisms (Goleman, 1995; Goldsmith, 1991,

pp. 95-100, Smith, 1992). Thus, motives both energize and control

behavior.

 This motivational system is distinct from the human language

system. A motivation is a prelinguistic imperative. The essence

of motivation is not talk but doing. An animal that has no

language ability is impelled to seek food by its motivations. The

human motivational system originally evolved as a non verbal

system, which impels humans to act at a prelinguistic level.

 Innate and learned motivations. For the purposes of

metaethics the most important distinction is between two kinds of

human motivations, innate and learned. Innate motivations have

evolved. Learned motivations are derived from the innate

motivations through various learning mechanisms.

 It is accepted in all psychological theories that learned

motivations are derived from and are dependent upon innate

motivations. (Buss, 1991, P.461; Harper, 1989). It is also clear

that the relationship is not simply that of either innate or

learned motives (Damasio, 1994; Harper, 1989). Almost all overt

motivations are partly, perhaps largely, learned, first through

childhood socialization (Gandhi, 1978) and later by direct

teaching (Lottich, 1978). Thus, a major proportion of human

motivations are learned, at least in part.

 Human desires, as the manifestation of human nature, have

often been proposed as the basis of ethics. In particular, Hume

(1748) proposed that ethics consisted in the rules that were

necessary for society to enable each member to fulfill her/his

desires and needs. Kant (1781) attacked this concept by pointing

out that if human nature changed morality would change. He

insisted that if moral discourse had any validity its concepts

must be universal and binding no matter what were our tastes or

motivations.

 Kant's error was that he conceived of human nature as being

entirely composed of learned motivations. If it were true that

all motivations were learned desires, they would be changeable

both within the person and from one person to another. As such,

they would obviously be relative and could not form a stable

basis for any ethics.

 However, the human sciences have developed a more complete

understanding of human motivations than the knowledge available

to Hume and Kant. Ethologists and psychologists have demonstrated

the existence of invariant innate motivations (Buss, 1991;

Cosmides & Tooby, 1987; Goldsmith 1991; Plomin, & Rende, 1991).

Innate motivations are simply not changeable.

 Subjective perception of motivations. Motivations may be

viewed from two perspectives, subjective and objective. From a

subjective perspective a motivation is felt as a desire.  For

instance in regard to the motivation of hunger the person feels

hungry and desires food. In this way motivations function as

subjective imperatives.

 From a subjective point of view there is no derivation of an

imperative from facts. I do not derive my motivation from

knowledge. I am hungry; I feel hungry. Motivation is not

knowledge but a subjective primitive imperative.

 The subjective approach of feeling and desire is the basis

for Utilitarianism. However, people can not subjectively

differentiate innate desires from learned desires.  Consequently,

an ethics can not be based on subjectively felt desire. This was

one of the errors of Utilitarianism. Subjective desires may

provide ethics with its impulsion but not its guidance since

motivations may be learned and learned motivations are relative.

 Objective knowledge about motivations. The second source for

understanding motivations is that of objective or external

knowledge derived from psychological studies. This is knowledge

about motivation. From the objective factual view a motivation

can be studied as an item of knowledge. The study of motivation

is now an active field in psychology (Buss, 1991; Damasio, 1994;

Goleman, 1995; Plomin, & Rende, 1991). It is known that humans

are compelled by their motives, innate and learned. This

knowledge can be used to distinguish innate from learned

motivations and so provide a knowledge basis for all human

motivational activities, including norms.

 Information and intelligence. Another aspect of motivation

concerns its relationship to information or knowledge. The only

information aspect of pure motivation is to identify the things

toward which the individual is being motivated, the end of the

motivation.  For instance hunger is the motivation directed

toward the end of food. Knowledge of food is information.

Imperative motivations require information to function.  Each

imperative motivation is aimed at some general aspect of the

world. Such an aspect consists in information about objects that

is learned through experience or teaching.

 Humans can use objective linguist concepts concerning a

motivation to fulfill the pure prelinguistic imperative

motivation. They can set up farms and stores to enable people to

fulfill a subjective motivation. In this case the objective

knowledge concerning the subjective motivation is a means for

fulfilling the prelinguistic motivation.

 In order to obtain or fulfill these ends the organism needs

to have and utilize information.  The ability to utilize that

information is intelligence. This body of knowledge is the means

that the society and the person uses to fulfill his/her innate

motivations and to design the society that can fulfill those

motivations.

 

The Natural Categorical Imperatives

 This understanding of motivation provides a means for

determining the premises for ethics. To determine the premises

for an ethical system, Kant (1781) used the concept of a

categorical imperative.  He attempted to demonstrate that there

were certain a priori ethical imperatives that existed in the

nature of rationality. These imperatives were absolute,

unchallengeable and required particular actions of the

individual.  While there were major problems with his system

(Wolff, 1969), Kant did demonstrate that an ethical system could

be constructed on the concept of categorical imperatives. Thus,

the concept of categorical imperatives could provide the premises

of an ethical system.

 In this present study a categorical imperative may be

defined as a directive that is ultimate, universal, and

unchallengeable.  It absolutely requires humans to seek certain

objects. Initially these imperatives function on a prelinguistic

level.

 Such categorical imperatives exist in the psychological and

the social nature of humans. As such there are actually two

general forms of human categorical imperatives: the requirements

for the functioning of a society and the innate motivational

mechanisms of humans.

 Social cohesion categorical imperatives. Certain social

organizational arrangements are necessary for any society to

exist and function. These social requirements have been advocated

by some philosophers (MacIntyre, 1984). These arrangements are

necessary, universal and imperative and their requirement exists

logically prior to a society's normative system. As such, the

requirements are social categorical imperatives.  The social

imperatives are crucial for social cohesion. These are necessary

since society and its products constitute nearly the complete

means to human ends (Goldsmith, 1991).

 Motivational categorical imperatives. The second basis for

ethics consists in human innate motivations. These constitute

motivational categorical imperatives, that exist in the

psychological nature of humans. The set of human innate

motivational mechanisms is the imperative driving force for human

activity.  Since the set of innate motivations established by

human genes is the ultimate motivating force for humans, its

imperatives are ultimate and logically primitive. Since such

innate motivations are universal among humans, these imperatives

are universal. Since they do exist as part of human genetically

determined nature, which does not change, they are unchangeable.

Thus, human innate motivations are natural categorical

imperatives.

 One group of natural categorical imperatives are, in fact,

directly related to social cohesiveness.  These are the set of

affiliative, motivations which enable animals, including humans

to live in a society.  These motives evolved as a form of social

regulation to insure the survival of animals especially humans.

While many social motivations are learned means to more basic

affiliated motivations others are innate and therefore are

categorical in nature.

      Here we can return to the computer analogy.  In this

analogy the basic drives of humans are like the "wired in" or ROM

commands. They are part of the computer's built in makeup and are

unalterable except by rebuilding the computer. They determine

what and how the computer can use programs. This innate human

nature is the ROM chip for humans.

 Social organization imperatives are derived. Although social

cohesion requirements form a type of categorical imperative,

ultimately even the social requirements of human existence are

dependent upon the innate motivational nature of humans. For

instance, the moral concept that lying is wrong, may be a

requirement for the existence of society. However, if humans were

like some animals that do not live in societies lying would be

irrelevant.

 The entire group of innate social motivations is necessary

to support a society's existence. If people were not innately

motivated to live in a society the requirements for the existence

of a social organization would have no imperative force. Thus,

the social categorical imperatives have a more basic source in

the innate motives of humans.

 In addition, the basic social organization imperatives could

only provide a minimal structure or form of a society and not the

content. The social organization imperatives direct the

organization of society but these imperatives do not specify the

ends of that organization. They do not specify what people should

seek for themselves as human animals, such as food or love. The

content of society is provided by innate motivations.

 Ethical axioms are not derived. This concept, that the basic

human imperatives are innate motivations, does not mean that as

linguistic statements ethical axioms (categorical imperatives)

are "derived" from innate motivations in any manner. They are

descriptive not logically derived. There is no derivation of

value from fact. This is the crucial point in this metaethics.

The natural categorical imperatives are created by evolution and

exist in human genes prior to language or knowledge about them

both historically and linguistically. Thus they can not be

logically derived from any information, fact or language process.

They are what epistemologists call "primitive".

 Since innate motivations as natural categorical imperatives

do exist, one cannot meaningfully ask whether a person should

have these motivations any more than asking whether the sky

should be blue or a cormorant should hunt fish. One may

legitimately ask how one ought to fulfill the hunger drive but

one may not legitimately ask whether one ought to have a hunger

drive. These innate imperatives existed prior to any linguistic

normative system and so they are givens for human existence and

for the human normative system.

 The point, perhaps over emphasized here, is that knowledge

of a motivation does not mean that the imperative quality of

motivations is in any way logically derived from fact, that is

information. These imperatives are not a form of Moore's (1903)

"naturalistic fallacy".

 

                        The Means System

 Using the logic described previously the natural categorical

imperatives in conjunction with information about the world

create a normative means system for society and its members.

 

Intrinsic Ends

 As an innate motivation, a natural categorical imperative

requires a certain end, generally external to the individual.

This is the object or category of objects that the person seeks

or toward which the person's act is directed (Jordan, 1949). As

such the categorical imperatives determine their own intrinsic

ends. Intrinsic ends are usually general, in the sense that a

number of different specific objects may fulfill the requirements

of the end.

 

The Means

 The intrinsic ends, which are general, do not directly

establish the means to the ends. Knowledge, that is facts,

concerning a situation is necessary to determine the means. An

object that is used to obtain an intrinsic end constitutes a

means to that end. This is the beginning of the hierarchy of

means that has previously been discussed.

 Information basis for ends and means. While the ends for a

system of ethics are determined by human innate motivations, the

means to obtain those ends require information concerning the

external world including the society. Much of this information,

which is often scientifically derived, has already been

incorporated into the knowledge base and the normative system of

existing societies. This information includes all human knowledge

that is relevant, including an understanding of the human

motivations. Humans use this information to design their own

means and it is used by society and government in the form of

tools to design and build the physical aspects of society. The

social and political means are also built into society in such

forms as institutions, business organizations, government and

law. 

  Society is the primary means to human ends.  Society is the

means to almost all human ends. Humans obtain their food,

shelter, entertainment, sex and friendship through society. As

such intrinsic ends apply to the design of society. Since a

society is the means to human ends, a society should be designed

so that the intrinsic ends of its members should be the ends of

the society.  To a large extent this already exists. For

instance, an entire division of society, called agriculture, is

the means for producing food, which is an intrinsic end of

humans.

Ethics as a Means System

 Ethics in its applied form should be incorporated into

social institutions, such as governments, universities and

corporations, whose function would be to scientifically examine,

criticize and justify a society's structure including its

normative system. This normative system would be designed to

insure that ethics properly acts to fulfill its members innate

motivations. As such, applied ethics is or should be a major part

of society's means system used to fulfill the intrinsic ends

commanded by the innate motivations that exist in human nature.

The application of knowledge and intelligence, especially

science, as a means to human welfare is the function of ethics

(Jordan, 1949).

 This concept of ethics would become the basis for the

incorporation of ethics into the workings of a society (Jordan,

1949).  The mechanism of such incorporation is primarily through

the lawmaking system of a society, that is its legislative

government. This incorporation requires a knowledge of both the

ethical system and the political and social mechanisms that

operate in a society.  In addition incorporation requires a

mechanism for transforming that ideology into the form of society

such as legislation and law.  This mechanism is primarily

government and other institutions. The government establishes

laws and enforces them through its legal system. This theory

would enable philosophy and the human sciences to design a good

society and government.

                                   

                      Potential Objections

 There are several possible objections to this theory of

natural categorical imperatives that must be addressed. Most of

them are not cogent and the few that are somewhat convincing can

be answered.

 

Relativity of Motivations

 Many philosophers such as MacIntyre (1966, p. 268) claim

that the concept of human nature can not be used as a basis for

ethics because human nature is relative to history and culture.

However, this does not constitute a major objection to this

ethics since MacIntyre is incorrect. The human sciences have

established a nonrelative concept of basic human nature in the

form of human innate psychological mechanisms (Buss, 1991;

Plomin, & Rende, 1991). Although many of the concepts in this

field have not yet been settled a large body of general concepts

recognizes that human nature consists in a core of innate human

motivations that are determined by genetics. As such this human

nature is not relative to history or culture.  This innate human

nature is sufficient to provide the basis for a nonrelative

theory of metaethics.

 

Evolution

 Another objection to the concept of innate motivations has

been that these motivations are changeable due to evolutionary

processes (Campbell, 1985). While, in theory, this is true, in

practice it is not even a remotely meaningful objection. Human

evolution is extremely slow in producing even minor changes. The

origin of human species "Homo Sapiens" was at least 100,000 years

ago (Stinger & Andrews, 1988; Wenke, 1990). Genetic markers set

this origin at about 200,000 ago (Cann, Stoneking, & Wilson,

1987, p.186). Although there have probably been some superficial

genetic changes in the species, the primary components of human

nature including basic motivations could not have changed. Mayr

(1970) states "...the tremendous ecological evolution of man ...

has taken place with out biological evolution. Cro-magnon man,

who entered history 30,000 years ago, differs physically from

modern man no more than do various modern races of man from each

other" (p. 403).

 Consequently, the human genetic makeup has not significantly

changed for at least 30,000 years and probably not for about

100,000 years. It has certainly not changed since the

agricultural or neolithic revolution began, which was only about

10,000 years ago. This slowness of genetic change means that the

genetic constitution of humans will not change to any meaningful

extent through natural processes for at least another 10,000

years.  Thus, from the point of view of any meaningful ethical

theory the genetic make up of humans is fixed and unchangeable.

 

 

 

Conflicts Between Innate Motivations

 Another stronger objection is that since there are more than

one innate motive there may be intrinsic conflict between them.

Then this theory provides no way of resolving the opposition.  In

a contradictory situation, according to this theory each of the

motivations are wrong from the point of view of the other

motivation. This is potentially a compelling objection and

indicates a circumstance that must be resolved. There are

evidently two major sources of apparent contradictions between

innate motivations: situational and intrinsic.

 Situational conflicts.  By far the most common apparent

contradiction is situational. Such a conflict occurs in

circumstances in which the activities of some people are

destructive to the innately determined ends and even lives of

other people. In such situations, one person's or group's innate

motivations may appear to conflict with the ends of another

group. Such occurrences include famine, overpopulation, war,

class conflicts, pollution etc. In other words, this category

includes most of the major problems of human existence. However,

it is the situation and not human intrinsic motivations that are

in conflict. Many peoples coexist with a relatively low amount of

violence, indicating that under the right circumstances this is

possible.

 In the situations where people harm others, there is no

intrinsic contradiction within the person between the innate

motivations. It is the learned motivations or means that are

contradictory. Consequently, this is not a meaningful objection.

The contradiction is not within the person but in the

construction of society. Parts of a society or between societies

are in conflict and so should be changed (Jordan, 1949). The

ethics derived from innate motivations and the use of science and

intelligence can create ways to change these situations.  In

regard to famine produced by overpopulation the ethical problem

is how to control the number of people so as to eliminate

starvation.

  These situational conflicts, in truth, present an argument

for this theory of ethics and not an argument against it. The

concept of innate motivations is the basis for an ethics that

constitutes a means of determining what are situational wrongs.

This ethics utilizing science should provide the guidance for the

alleviation of these situations.

 In addition, this concept that the situation is wrong and

should be changed provides a solution to many of the traditional

ethical paradoxes or problems that philosophers are so fond of

presenting. These problems usually involve situations that place

an individual into impossible moral conflict. For instance,

"Should a person steal when his or her family is starving and the

person is unable to find work?". The answer is that the entire

situation is wrong and the social situation should be changed so

that these conflicts no longer exist (Jordan, 1949). The wrong

lies in the society that allowed such a situation to exist.

 When people are put in such situations their actions to save

themselves or their families are amoral, not immoral. Society has

placed them in a situation that is outside of the moral normative

system. They can not be held responsible in this situation and so

can not be subject to ethical criticism. In such a situation the

person's individual loves, i.e. ultimately their innate

motivations to protect their family, will probably determine

their actions.

 Intrinsic conflicts.  The second reason for objecting to

this ethical concept of natural categorical imperatives is, from

the point of view of justification, more potent. This is the

argument that there appear to be some intrinsic contradictions

between some of the innate intrinsic motivations, that is, within

the person. However, in normal situations each innate motivation

applies to a different area of life so they are not intrinsically

contradictory.

 However, some maladaptive contradictions within individuals

may be due to mutations. A genetic mutation in some few

individuals could produce motives and behavior that are in

contradiction to other innate motivations and/or to group

cohesion.  Probably schizophrenia and possibly some tendencies to

criminal or psychopathic behavior may be such "bad" mutation

produced innate mechanisms.

 These mutations are quite unusual and they are obviously so

destructive of the organism and/or group life that in practice

they are not a major objection to the theory. The ultimate answer

to this objection is that humans have evolved a group of innate

motivations that were designed to protect the group from

individuals who are destructive. These motivations eliminated

those destructive members. In order to maintain a society, the

rights of the vast majority of individuals and the need to

maintain the integrity of the society take precedence over any

genetic maladaptions of individuals.

 

Relevancy of Ethics to Human Sciences and Government

 The ethical concepts in this writing, obviously, are too

general to provide answers to specific ethical and political

problems. Such a discussion is beyond the scope of this paper.

 However, the ethical concepts discussed in this paper do

provide a basis for obtaining the answers.  This theory places

the human and political sciences  along with philosophy directly

in the ethical evaluation process and its answers are directly

relevant to law and human behavior. The social function of the

human and political sciences is to design a good society. As such

this theory establishes ethics as a major aspect of the human

endeavor. Since this ethics is derived from human innate

motivations the solution to ethical problems is a function of

human and political science as well as philosophy.               

 

Word Count: 7757

 

                               

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