Freedom and Morality

June 30, 2019

Freedom is an essential element of human flourishing. It is also a fundamental prerequisite for any form of moral code. If you are not free, then it is not your choice whether you are ethical or not. You have been intimidated or coerced into your actions. In so far as you have no choice, you have no responsibility. Your behaviour is restricted to doing as you are told under threat of pain, deprivation or death. You may choose to die rather than act immorally, but this is a hard decision to make. If you do not, if you live on, and if the scenario of enforcement is often repeated, then even this small degree of choice recedes: obedience becomes imprinted upon your psychology. You are truly a slave.

Resistance is harder still if those you love or who depend upon you suffer also for your acts of rebellion. Under such conditions, ethical choice is virtually eliminated. Survival and the minimisation of suffering for yourself and for those you love prevails. Moral decisions outside of these constraints become the least of your worries. It is therefore at the heart of ethics, and of anyone who lays claim to morality, that we commit to human freedom: that people are sufficiently sustained and liberated to be able to make moral choices, even to the extent that they can choose whether or not to be moral. Ethics without freedom is a hollow shell.

Yet we must ask how this reconciles with the deterministic view of human nature held by some philosophers and many scientists. What of our increasing understanding of the genetic and neurological causes of human behaviour and the ever-improving ability of sophisticated software to predict our actions and decisions?

There are two immediate answers to these questions. Firstly, a deterministic account of the universe which excludes all possibility of randomness, chance and choice is by no means set in stone. In fact, from a scientific perspective, our ability to prove determinism, to predict everything and to fully exclude all elements of randomness and spontaneity is receding rather than drawing closer. Chaos, complexity and quantum mechanics do not greatly contribute to the case for free will, but they do undermine a philosophy of brutalist determinism.

Secondly, even if human actions, in conjunction with the physical environment in which they operate, are in principle open to deterministic explanations, the scale and scope of these explanations will be so great that no human consciousness could comprehend them in their totality. We are embedded in our universe, looking at it from the inside out, and are therefore faced with a structural limitation upon how much of that external universe we can encapsulate within our minds, how much we can personally causally explain. There are limits to the data our brains and minds can process, and those limits are necessarily smaller than the totality of all there is to be known. This is true – and will always be true – even of our most powerful computers. In simple terms, the universe is bigger than our minds, and the entire picture is therefore both practically and in principle out of our reach. As a result, since we can’t know everything, our minds have no choice but to employ an assessment-and-decision-making process.

The argument becomes:

  • As individuals we only have access to a finite amount of data.
  • That data isn’t sufficient for us to be able to create causal explanations for all the events in our environments or to predict with any certainty the precise outcomes of our actions.
  • Therefore it is a function of our minds to act as if we are free: to assess the data we are able to access, to make decisions based on the limited knowledge we have to hand, and to act accordingly.

In other words, our cognitive limitations require a decision-making mechanism whether or not the universe is causally determined. I cannot fully know the causal outcome of alternative actions, therefore I must make my best assessment and choose the action I am to take. Even in a rigidly deterministic universe our minds would be unable to operate as they do if it were not for this assessment-and-decision-making mechanism. Even if we could prove that our world is utterly deterministic and fundamentally predictable, the structure of our minds means that we have no option but to operate as if this were not so. In fact, this assess-and-decide ability is what freedom feels like. Allow us to use it and we feel free; take this power away from us and we feel enslaved.

This is also reflected in the fabric of the human world. Our societies operate on the assumption that  free will exists. We are asked to make choices, or coerced by laws or punishments not to. Some behaviours are rewarded while others are discouraged, all on the basis of the choices we are presumed to have made. Most of our religions, all of our laws and all of our codes of behaviour assume we have choice. The way we live our everyday lives reflects this. Those of us who are not coerced or enslaved live as if we can make choices, as if we are free. We act and react to others as if they are free also: we judge them negatively or positively for the choices they make. Even in a fundamentally deterministic universe it is hard to see how society could operate differently – how society could function without assuming that those of us who are not coerced or enslaved are free. An assumption of free will appears to be a functional necessity of the social realm.

Evolutionarily, it can also be argued that our nervous systems and brains have evolved to provide precisely this: the ability to assess the state of the world around us, to register changes in our environment, and to permit an interrupt between immediate response and considered decision. If the world were fundamentally causal and predictable, why evolve this organ of assessment and choice? Why not stick to more autonomic and reactive lifeforms, possessed of a portfolio of built-in responses allowing for the various predictable events in a deterministic and predictable world?

This decision-making mechanism in semi- or fully sentient beings has demonstrable survival value and evolutionary worth. Why else would it be so prevalent in the more complex lifeforms on our planet?

The evolutionarily evolved interrupt between immediate response and considered decision sets us free. It privileges us with the ability to choose whether to obey our instincts or not; whether to gorge or fast; whether to strike out or to extend the hand of peace.

We are capable of choice:

Stone: Kicked by child

=> Reaction: stone skitters away along the road.

All causal. No interrupt.

 

Adult human: Kicked by child

          =>  Interrupt of cognition

          => Assessment (it’s only a child)

          => Decision:

Speak gently to child about inadvisability of kicking strangers

OR

Laugh indulgently

OR

Shout at child and reduce poor mite to tears.

 

The more we know about the adult, the child and the environment which they inhabit, the more we will be able to predict how the adult will behave. However, it is impossible that we will reach the position of always knowing enough to invariably predict all human actions or reactions – and the more complex the interaction between individuals and their environment the less reliable will be our predictions. Our minds are not built to hold in immediate awareness all the data we would need in order to predict everything. Our brains therefore must assess on the basis of limited information, and must make choices based on that assessment.

The nature of our minds and the limitations of our knowledge mean we must act as if we are free. This adoption of freedom – an ability to assess data and make decisions – is unavoidable, whether or not there are deeper, causal explanations for our behaviour which might in principle be found.

Our human interactions, our moral codes and our societies have evolved on this basis – upon the assumption of free will – and they, too, could not function without it.

Intelligent Ethics takes human freedom as both existential and axiomatic. Intelligent Ethics asserts our right to exercise this freedom, deriving our entitlement to freedom from our inherent equality as sentient beings.

Intelligent Ethics affirms our right to be free.

 

Luke Andreski

June 2019

Please also see:

“Intelligent Ethics” (recommended by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams): www.amazon.co.uk/Intelligent-Ethics-Luke-Andreski/dp/1794618732

“Ethical Intelligence”: www.amazon.co.uk/Ethical-Intelligence-Luke-Andreski/dp/179580579X.

 

http://www.ethicalintelligence.org

@EthicalRenewal

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Moral Authority

June 2, 2019

In this article I discuss the nature of ethics and how a compelling source of authority is essential to any meaningful morality. I then look at how this moral authority is provided by Intelligent Ethics, as defined in my book of the same title.

 

The Is/Ought Divide

There is no formal logic which allows you to deduce what ought to be from what is. The facts of a and b only entail other facts – if they entail anything at all. The facts of a and b only entail that you ought to do c if another element is brought into the equation – a moral imperative, the element of moral authority. A ‘because’ is required.

If a is true and b is true then you ought to do c because

Without the ‘because’, the facts of a and b may help you discover other facts, but they will not tell you what ought to be done with them or about them. An example might be,

Fact a:   Kim is hungry

Fact b:  José has food

What should Kim or José do? Or what should we do, who know these two facts? With these facts alone, standing in isolation, there is no means by which to determine what we should do. With these two facts and no additional moral imperative, we cannot deduce any action that ought to be taken.

We can perhaps deduce some other facts:

If Kim is hungry then Kim is a creature who requires nutrients for sustenance but something has prevented him or her from locating or ingesting such nutrients.

If José has food then José must have acquired this food in some way, perhaps through farming, perhaps through hunting or gathering, perhaps through barter or purchase.

If José has food then there is food to be had.

Should José share the food? Why?

The facts themselves cannot tell us why. You might shrug your shoulders and say, “Well, just because…” But that because merely assumes the presence of the missing ingredient. It smuggles in the moral imperative. It really says, “Because… it’s the right thing to do.” The meaning implicit in your words, if explicitly stated, would say, “Well, José should share the food because it is the right thing to do. If one person has food and another does not, then the person with food ought to share it.” And thus the ought is brought into play. Without the because and the ought the facts merely list the facts. Only the ought tells us what to do about those facts.

You are really saying, “Share that food, José, because it is the right thing to do.”

 

The authority of ‘Ought’

Having moved beyond the facts, you have now let us know that José ought to share his food. We have learned that it is ‘the right thing for José to do’…

Unfortunately this presents us with a new question: “Why is it the right thing to do? Why ought José share?”

Another “Just because…” isn’t enough.

Another “Just because…” really doesn’t carry sufficient weight. How will it convince anyone who thinks that José should keep his food? Maybe José has a hungry family. Maybe José needs his food for later… Why shouldn’t he keep it? Why should he share? Your “Just because…” offers little help. The person who disagrees might say, “Well, I think José ought to keep all his food for himself, just because…”

So the ought that we have introduced to tell us what to do about these facts itself needs something more. It needs a source of moral authority.

This source of authority cannot be, ‘Because I tell you so’, since someone else may tell us something different and claim it’s right because they tell us so. And it can’t be “Because I feel it in my heart,” or “Something deep within me tells me it is so,” or “An inner conviction convinces me of it,” because anyone else can experience those same things but derive a totally different ought. One person’s inner conviction may tell you the exact opposite of another’s…

In fact, ought isn’t truly ought if there’s nothing substantial to back it up, if it’s just a feeling, a conviction, an ‘insight’ or an intuition. None of these things adds the element of moral imperative to the facts of a and b. A different person’s feelings, convictions, insights or intuitions may come up with a totally different set of oughts, so where is your ought then? Without a source of potent moral authority your ought is just hot air.

To say, “Because it is your duty” merely begs the question, “Why is it my duty? You may feel it is your duty, but why should I feel the same?” Duty, too, requires a meaningful because.

Humans have tackled this problem by laying claim to an unlimited list of sources of command – the because behind the ought. ‘Human nature’, ‘alien instruction’, religious doctrine, ‘the historical imperative’, ‘economic necessity’, the words of ancient sages or modern cults, a ‘divine purpose’, an ‘intelligent design’, ‘the power of love’, a miscellany of ancient myths and texts…

And all of these attempts have been entirely valid in their purpose, since for ought to have any power or meaning there MUST be a because – and it must be a because that is able to convince us, to gain our commitment, our willingness to recognise its authority and to place it above random impulse or selfish whim.

Without a because there is no ought.

 

The because of Intelligent Ethics

Intelligent Ethics accepts the Is/Ought divide. It accepts that facts are not the basis for action; it is our interpretation of those facts and how they impact on what we wish or intend to do that determines how we act. It accepts that only ethics gives sense to human activity. If we do not have a moral code, then on what basis do we make our decisions? We cannot function let alone thrive without a compass to guide our behaviour, giving it meaning, consistency and purpose. Human society could not operate without an ought, and our ought is valueless without a because.

Intelligent Ethics accepts the Is/Ought divide. It offers a moral code defining what we ought to do, how we ought to behave. And it offers a because.

The because of Intelligent Ethics is as simple and self-evident as possible. The because of Intelligent Ethics requires no leap of faith, no interpretation by others, no hierarchy of prophets or priests, no epiphany or insight restricted to the privileged few.

In Intelligent Ethics Chapter 1, the Affirmation, I suggest that nothing has meaning if there is no life. Life alone has motive, drive, purpose, urgency, agency. For inorganic matter morality is meaningless. Morality is created by life and can only have meaning in the presence of life. The Affirmation of Intelligent Ethics says,

     1-xiii   There is no meaning without life.

     1-xiv   There is no purpose to human action if life ceases.

     1-xv     There is no morality, no duty, no ethics without life.

And concludes,

     1-xvi     Therefore the source of morality, duty, ethics is life.

But the fact that something is the source or origin of morality, a prerequisite for morality, does not in itself provide moral authority. We must take a further step:

     1-xvii    Therefore IE defines our first duty as the commitment to life itself.
This statement is simple and compelling, but it nevertheless demands a commitment on our part: to accept and affirm this definition and to place it at the very heart of our morality. Intelligent Ethics makes the divide between is and ought as narrow as possible, and a bridge is provided, but it is through an act of decision and commitment on our part that we cross this bridge. Intelligent Ethics defines our first duty as the commitment to life itself… and so must we.

The step is not a large one. Without life we have no meaning. Without life there is no morality, no duty, no ethics, no purpose, no point. Therefore nothing is more fundamental, more central to our existence, than life itself. There is no better or plainer source of meaning, point or purpose. It is to life that we must commit ourselves. It is in life that our duty lies. Make this affirmation, take this small step, accept this because, and you are gifted with a moral code. You have a compass for your life – and what better compass could there be? You have committed yourself to the very essence of what you are.

 

The necessity of Intelligent Ethics

Beyond this easily understood commitment a pragmatic case for Intelligent Ethics can also be made. At this point in human history, in the early years of the 21st Century, Intelligent Ethics is necessary.

Without shared and consistent codes of behaviour, enabling cooperation and understanding between communities, races and nations, humanity could never have come to live together in such large numbers, in such close proximity, with such success.

Yet a gradual failure of these shared ethics, a falling away of systems reliant on the thought pattern of belief, is leading to a crisis of culture and civilisation – a retreat to such basic moral codes as ‘You ought to do x, y or z simply because it benefits you.’ Or, which is similar, ‘You ought to do x, y or z or we will cause you suffering or loss.’ Neither of these – this bribe or this threat – are sufficient to sustain a diverse and thriving humanity in a flourishing biological world. They do not support the extended nature of moral authority, which transfers duty to those far beyond the reach of threats or bribes.

We have reached a point in our history where morality has become an essential survival trait. Without a renewal of morality modern civilisation, and perhaps even humanity as a species, may not survive – and our beautiful environment and all complex life upon Earth may join us in our fate.

 

The benevolence of Intelligent Ethics

The Affirmation of Intelligent Ethics offers three powerful assists for everyday life.

It provides a moral compass to guide our decisions and actions, one which can be shared with others: a basis for the reconciliation of disagreements and disputes; a framework for analysis, judgement and decision; a structure within which our actions make sense.

It provides a purpose for which to live – a mission both for ourselves as individuals and for humanity as a whole. Humans need purpose. More than that, we crave Not just as an essential element of social cohesion, but also as a source of transcendence of the self, as a grounds for fulfilment, as a measure of achievement, as a connection to others which reaches beyond our personal mortality and the mortality of our culture and times. Intelligent Ethics provides this. Our purpose is the human mission, the fulfilment of our core moral aims: the nurturing of others, the nurturing of ourselves, the nurturing of all life and the sharing of life with the empty reaches of the solar system and the stars.

It provides a code of behaviour which encourages kindness, understanding, compassion and love. It is our duty to nurture others, to nurture humanity and to nurture all life. This is part of what a commitment to life means. And these are elements of human nature which allow human society to work, succeed and flourish. They are elements of our nature which must be nurtured if society is to thrive.

 

The reward of ethical behaviour

There is an apparent selfishness in ethical behaviour which should not be used as an excuse for not behaving ethically. To be ethical sometimes offers rewards of personal fulfilment, contentment, a sense of well-being and even of pride.  We might therefore ask, “Why are we being ethical? Is it simply to make us feel good about ourselves?”

The answer is, “It matters not.”

 

Ethical rewards

 

Any reward resulting from ethical behaviour is incidental. The moral imperative which governs our actions is independent of such rewards. Our Affirmation of Intelligent Ethics means we are duty-bound to behave ethically whether or not our behaviour rewards us with self-approval, satisfaction, fulfilment or happiness. Moral action is central to our commitment to life, to the Affirmation of Intelligent Ethics. Even if unrewarded, we must behave as our ethics dictates.

The psychological and emotional rewards that come to us as a result of our ethical behaviour are merely a result of human nature: a satisfaction gained from fulfilling our instinct to care for others, to take pleasure in their well-being, and to take pride and find fulfilment in doing good. These are evolutionarily valuable instincts which we will wish to nurture and encourage in an ethical world; they will assist our purpose and help us in furthering the human mission. Yet these could never provide the authority behind our moral acts. The authority is provided by our commitment to life, our affirmation of the human mission.

Not all human nature is unreservedly good or conducive to morality. Some of our instincts and appetites must be defanged or harnessed to good ends. They evolved for hunter-gatherers over millions of years; we are no longer hunter-gatherers. We must survive and live together in our billions by cooperative means. Apart from the energy we may gain through their redirection, many of our more assertive, aggressive or acquisitive traits are now counterproductive. But those of our instincts and traits which make being ethical a pleasure are instincts which we should encourage, instincts which will enable our species to flourish and our world to survive.

 

The transcendence of Intelligent Ethics

Intelligent Ethics sees life as the centre of all meaning. Life in its complexity, diversity, tenacity and beauty is something we must nurture and share to the fullest extent of our capabilities. Through the sensation of life, through our contribution to life, through the sense of life’s immanence, we can transcend ourselves and connect with a purpose far greater than the fleeting pursuits of everyday existence. Through nurturing others and connecting with all life we achieve a form of immortality. We connect with the very thing that creates meaning in our universe, with a force of enduring existence and purpose and worth. We connect with life. There is every reason to feel joy at this connection, to feel reverence, to feel a sense of wonder. Look in the mirror… Look at the smallest of the creatures around you… and you see manifestations of life which connect you to every other living entity upon this planet, which connects all of us to four billion years of evolution and existence – something of unutterable subtlety, complexity and beauty. Look around you. Look within you. What you see is life: transcendent and wonderful, complex yet elemental, multitudinous… yet each and every one of us unique.

 

Happiness, humour, irreverence and joy

To be ethical does not mean to be humourless or solemn. The ethical laugh, cry, joke or play as much as any other. The ethical can be emotional, exuberant, childishly happy, gleefully ecstatic or, if they so choose, dour, morose and glum. It is our choice who we choose to be or how we choose to express ourselves. Freedom is central to ethics (see Freedom and Free Will, below) and the ethically intelligent are free to be whomsoever they please. The ethical seek to nurture themselves and others. They help people thrive – and part of thriving is autonomy and being your own self. Humour, irreverence, flippancy, laughter and play are as much a part of our thriving as seriousness and solemnity. In fact, thriving humans in a thriving, ethical world might find that laughter comes more easily to their lips than it does in a world which idolises ruthless competition, endless consumption and disproportionate wealth.

 

A renewal of trust

Who can you trust in a world where success is rated more highly than morality? Where the manipulative impact of words is prioritised over their meaning? How can we renew our trust in our politicians, our corporations, our journalists after so much discord and conflict?

Morality offers a pathway to the renewal of trust.

If to be moral means to be committed to nurturing others, to nurturing humanity and to nurturing all life, then the person who is moral is by definition someone you can trust. A moral person’s motives are your well-being, your thriving and your fulfilment as well as their own.

We are disillusioned because those who work within our governments, our corporations and our media have forgotten to prioritise morality They have prioritised other things: profit, advancement, narcissistic self-esteem, power…

What must our governments, our corporations and our media do if they are to regain our trust?

The answer is profoundly simple. They must rediscover their morality. They must become moral.

Renewal of trust

 A moral journalist is a journalist you can trust. A moral businesswoman is a woman you can trust. A moral congresswoman or parliamentarian is a congresswoman or parliamentarian you will find yourself able to trust. How can we know which of our leaders can be trusted? We can trust the ones who are moral. If none are moral, unseat them. Put someone who is moral in their place.

 

How to become ethical

There are no criteria of membership for Intelligent Ethics. You are ethical if your actions are ethical; you are not if they are not. This text provides guidance towards ethical action and assistance in understanding what being ethical means. A first step is to engage with, understand and affirm the core moral aims of Intelligent Ethics, dedicating and committing yourself to life as the source of moral authority. Then, with the core moral aims as your guide and the fourteen expressions of Intelligent Ethics as your templates for moral action, you are well positioned to be moral.

But positioning is not enough.

A person is only truly ethical when their thoughts, plans, intentions and words are translated into ethical action.

If you are to consider yourself a good person you must further the human mission through action. You must nurture others, you must nurture yourself, you must nurture humanity, you must nurture all life.

Ethical action is your uniform, your badge of honour. There is no other.

 

Luke Andreski

June 2019

www.ethicalintelligence.org

@EthicalRenewal

 

Ethical Intelligence and Intelligent Ethics are available from Amazon in paperback and ebook format:

UK:

Ethical Intelligence:

www.amazon.co.uk/Ethical-Intelligence-Luke-Andreski/dp/179580579X

Intelligent Ethics:

www.amazon.co.uk/Intelligent-Ethics-Luke-Andreski/dp/1794618732

US and International:

Ethical Intelligence:

www.amazon.com/Ethical-Intelligence-Luke-Andreski/dp/179580579X

Intelligent Ethics:

www.amazon.com/Intelligent-Ethics-Luke-Andreski/dp/1794618732

 


The color of ethics is green

April 21, 2019

The second core moral aim of Intelligent Ethics is:

   1-xviii.ii   The nurturing of humanity

And the third:

   1-xviii.iii  The nurturing of all life *

The flourishing of humanity and of all life are subject to and dependent upon a flourishing environment. Given this, the ethical are necessarily environmentalists. If you are committed to the nurturing of humanity and to the nurturing of all life, then you must also commit yourself to the nurturing of the environment. The former are dependent upon the latter. Almost by definition, the colour of ethics is green.

Many scientists, climatologists and environmentalists are now certain that if climate change continues at its present rate our planet will experience either:

  • a failure in multiple ecosystems leading to the death of a significant proportion of humanity and the potential collapse of our civilisation;

or,

  • the extinction of all complex life on Earth, including ourselves.

For those who wish to see humanity flourish in a flourishing natural world these are dire warnings.

As ethical environmentalists, and in fact for all humanity in the 21st Century, there is therefore no environmental issue more important than climate change. If we wish to be ethical, then it is essential we also become climate aware and active on behalf of the environment.

But what of objectors? There are some who claim that the climatologists are mistaken and the risks exaggerated.

Our answer to this must be, “Is there any possibility that these predictions are right?” And the clear conclusion: “The possibility cannot be dismissed.”

No one can categorically demonstrate that there is no such risk.

Therefore, if we care about humanity and the future of our children, our duty is the same as if the worst of these predictions were correct. We must apply the precautionary principle. Our duty is to take every necessary measure to make sure these appalling eventualities do not and cannot come about. If we care about humanity and the future of our children there is no wriggle room. We must tackle this risk head on.

 

*See Ethical Intelligence:

UK

www.amazon.co.uk/Intelligent-Ethics-Luke-Andreski/dp/1794618732

US

www.amazon.com/Intelligent-Ethics-Luke-Andreski/dp/1794618732

And… http://www.ethicalintelligence.org

 


Ethics in the Age of Trump

April 12, 2019

The New World

I’ll begin with a blunt statement: from a moral perspective, in just a few short years, our world has been transformed.

As a result of this transformation we now live in a new world: a world where ethical values have been hollowed out, where integrity, honesty and intelligence are devalued, a world where the overload of information, opinion and belief has left us disorientated and confused. This is the world epitomised by Donald Trump. It is the world of Brexit in the UK, of Putin in Russia, of Netanyahu in Israel and Bolsonaro in Brazil. In this new world – as Donald Trump, Netanyahu and Putin repeatedly warn us – we must not trust our judiciary, our civil servants or our elites. Teachers, journalists, academics and experts of all kinds are not to be taken at their word. Here, in this new world, we are no longer able to trust even each other. Take the briefest look at social media and you will see the truth of this. A war is underway. Our new world is one of conflict and distrust, of friction, outrage and fear.

This world has not of course sprung from nowhere, unannounced. Its origins are as clearly visible in the eras of Clinton and Blair as they are in those of Reagan and Thatcher: in the increasingly political use of our language; in the centralisation of power and wealth amongst an unaccountable elite.

Yet one name represents our new world more than any other – and even before I say that name you know precisely of whom I speak. The flag bearer of our new world is the President of the United States: the intensely hated and intensely loved, divisive Donald Trump.

 

In Praise Of President Trump

Despite what his critics say, President Donald John Trump is not wrong in his assessment of himself. By his own measure and morality he is the most successful US president there has ever been. Let us pause for a moment to consider his achievements.

  • Beyond doubt Donald J Trump has created the strongest and most pervasive leadership brand ever encountered in the modern world. What distant and secluded land would you have to inhabit for him to be unknown to you? Who on Earth hasn’t heard of him? Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage or any other of our home-grown UK populists are PR novices in comparison to President Trump. What a triumphant branding success!
  • He has placed himself well and truly at the centre of world attention. The world’s media await his every tweet. With almost neurotic anxiety the world’s leaders ponder his every move. He has inserted himself into all our lives, on social media, on television, in the papers… even, it sometimes seems, into our thoughts. What celebrity, what brand leader, what president, even, could have hoped for more?
  • He has wrong-footed his critics and opponents at every turn. Criticism on ethical grounds, on fiscal grounds, on the grounds of political procedure or presidential responsibility seem not to matter. Nothing sticks. And for those of his opponents who want to work with him, to compromise… They might as well seek compromises with a stone.
  • He has achieved levels of polarisation, disruption and division greater than he could possibly have desired. He has created and exulted in crisis after crisis. Disruption gives rich pickings in the dog-eat-dog world in which he believes. The outcomes of Crisis A, Emergency B or Catastrophe C hardly matter so long as they don’t personally harm Donald Trump. The manufacturing of each crisis is its own success.
  • He has undermined the checks and balances of governance, both within the United States and internationally. Neither he, nor the types of leader he admires (Putin, Kim Jong-un, Erdogan) believe in such checks or balances. They are an impediment and a nuisance – and best got rid of.
  • He has increased the wealth of the corporations and the super-rich, himself and his family included.
  • He has eased the path of big business in the United States, removing the regulations and controls hated by his billionaire allies and friends.
  • He has reinforced the power of the political Right, giving them an edge in the highest US courts for generations to come.
  • He has inspired a network of mimics – would-be oligarchs and plutocrats – all around the world.
  • And, despite all the above not seeming to greatly benefit the average citizen of his country, and despite his inherited wealth, his privileged schooling and his focus on personal gain, he has convinced large numbers of voters that he is a man of the people – that he is working for them and fighting their corner.

I could go on. These are not the achievements of a failure. In fact, in the light of such successes, Barack Obama looks like the small change in Donald Trump’s pocket.

But there is a catch. The wins of Donald Trump do not easily translate into wins for ordinary Americans. In fact, from an ethical perspective, President Trump’s many successes are already delivering considerable harm.

 

The Impacts Of Donald

President Trump is not an inconsistent man. Though his opponents may claim otherwise, they are inspecting him at too small a scale. Close up, decision by decision, he seems unpredictable, unreliable and contradictory – but if we step back we can see that he lives by a clear and well-defined moral code. His morality, if we may call it that, is “What’s in it for me?” It’s the morality of “Winner takes all” and “Whatever it takes to get you what you want, that’s ok.” He makes no bones about this being his criteria of good conduct. And he applies it with rigor.

And here is another of Donald Trump’s great triumphs. His ethic of “I’m in it for Number One” has taken our world by storm. It has become the dominant meme of our television and social media, the dominant philosophy of our politics, our economy, our everyday working lives. The more traditional ethical codes have been swept aside. They are part of the old world, not the new.

Donald Trump’s tenacity and ability to follow through on this ethic (supported by his media allies, by the majority of US wealth-hoarders and by the religious right) has had a profound impact. It has legitimised:

  • The demotion of truth

If self-interest is more important than truth, then why should truth matter? If truth doesn’t serve your interests, discard it. If a lie serves you better, use it. After all, winner takes all. This is core Trump morality: truth comes second; personal gain comes first.

  • The relativity of truth

It is commonplace now to suggest that we all the owners and sole arbiters of the facts. “Facts are subjective,” we are told. “Everyone has their own facts.” And given the demotion of truth to the role of subservient bystander, it is not surprising that the world of truth and fact should seem this way… Truth has become whatever we assert is true in order to serve our own interests… so why should one person’s truth be any better than another’s?

  • A tolerance of lies

If personal gain is everything, why wouldn’t you tell lies to achieve that gain? It’s a no-brainer. President Trump lies and gets away with it. More than that, President Trump lies and achieves adulation and wealth. And look at our elites – the rich, the educated and the powerful – they all tell lies… so why shouldn’t we?

  • A polarization of opinion and the weaponisation of memes

The ascendancy of self-interest goes further. If self-interest is paramount, then why shouldn’t I believe in anything I want to believe in, in whatever suits me or appeases my whim, my inclination, my latest, basest appetites or instincts? And if truth is – in our new world – fundamentally irrelevant, then why not stick to my self-approving and self-interested opinions and beliefs no matter what? They don’t need defending in any intellectual sense since they are my truths. They become a form of territory. The old-fashioned version of truth has no bearing on the matter. I’ll defend my territory no matter what. And I’ll assert my territorial rights to my opinions over your territorial rights to yours by whatever means available. Facts are just tools to support a cognitive imperialism. Areas of contention (vaccination, taxation, Obamacare, Brexit) are just weaponised memes deployed for self-interested purposes. The truth? Who cares about that?

  • An encouragement of distrust

In our new world, where our code is “Dog eat dog” and “Each for his own”, how can we possibly trust anybody? In fact – and this is on-message Trump – you shouldn’t trust anybody. They are out for themselves – and that’s how it should be. That’s how they succeed. And it’s how you should be, too. We are isolated individualists. This is a win or lose world. The only person you can trust is yourself.

  • The hollowing out of morality

So the message is very simple. In fact, its simplicity is its attraction. You don’t have to think too long or hard about the impacts of what you do. You don’t have to worry too much about the further ramifications or longer term implications. Other people need to stand on their own two feet. Success and goodness are one and the same. Why worry about complicated things, like having integrity, like caring what happens to others? Just look after yourself. That’s the way the world works. It’s a dog eat dog world – and it’s best not to interfere with a dog while it eats. Look after yourself. All the other stuff is irrelevant.

  • The neutering of integrity

So, in this simple and straightforward world where self-interest is king, integrity has become as irrelevant as truth. What does it even mean? Whatever gets me what I want goes. Idealists, communists and fantasists may hark on about integrity – but we live in the real world. Let’s focus on what matters. Let’s look out for ourselves.

  • The politicization of language

Given all the above it becomes clear that to use words as a mechanism for meaningful communication, a sharing of understanding or a way of achieving intellectual agreement is a non-starter. Why go down that route? It’s arduous and slow and doesn’t serve self-interest. What does it matter if what we say is consistent or inconsistent, true or false, kind, unkind, moral or immoral – it only matters that it gets us what we want. Words are tools of manipulation. The language of our new world is the language of the bludgeon, the language of the bully, and, almost by definition, the language of propaganda. The super-successful President Trump (super-successful by his own measure, at least) reflects this use of language. He is a genius of manipulative verbiage, a super-producer of propaganda. And since propaganda is not a discussion, it means that aspiring to meaningful dialogue with Donald Trump is problematic. It’s a little like trying to speak Latin to a fish. Propaganda isn’t communication. Latin isn’t a language which a fish understands. The propaganda needs to be dealt with first, on its own terms, as propaganda. Talking can come later.

 

These impacts are not accidental. They are perfectly consistent with the ethic of self-interest. Their message is appealingly simple. Go for what you want. Do what you want to do.  Use language how you like. Use truth if it suits you. If it doesn’t, don’t. Brazen dishonesty is honesty: it’s being honest about being dishonest. And being dishonest when it serves your interests is what any sensible person would do.

But just because these Impacts of Donald are coherent, consistent and attractively straightforward, this does not make them beneficial. In fact, the reverse is true.

 

How Societies Survive

In my book Intelligent Ethics I argue that a coherent ethical code is essential to the survival and flourishing of human civilisations. A shared moral code is both the glue that holds us together and the oil that allows the wheels of society to turn. But not any code of behaviour will do. The capitalism which has carried our world towards the greatest levels of prosperity humanity has ever known would never have been so successful if, right from the start, you couldn’t take a person for their word. It would never have worked if ruthlessness and vicious self-interest were the only factors at play. Other essential inputs were needed, like integrity, like honesty, like a determination to repay your debts – like a recognition of fairness in the making of a deal – codes of behaviour rooted in the religions and moralities of the day. And, for businesses to thrive throughout a whole nation or across the whole world, these other factors require universality. I don’t just need to know that I can trust you when you’re right here in my face; I need to know that I can trust you when you are four thousand miles away – and yet somehow connected to me by our cleverly constructed web of commerce and social interaction.

In the ethics of our new world, the world of Donald Trump, there are only two drivers of behaviour: self-interest and fear. Do whatever best serves your self-interest or do what you are forced to do by fear of repercussions or reprisals. But these two codes don’t give you the universality that a functioning morality needs – the type of functioning morality that any human society needs if it is to flourish or even merely survive. A morality capable of sustaining flourishing societies needs to be transferable. It can’t be based on just doing a thing because it suits you or me, here and now. It needs to be based on doing it because it is the right thing to do. Do it wherever you are, no matter what the immediate benefits or costs, no matter whether or not you are being watched. Do it because it’s your duty. That’s how moral people behave.

Pure selfishness cannot give you this universality, this transferability on which social cohesion depends. Even the selfishness of groups, clans, classes or nations won’t provide this. Nor will fear. We have seen again and again throughout history the fate of societies whose ethos has atrophied into one based on selfishness or fear. They are no longer with us – or, where they are, they are failing to thrive. In the main we now live in the most successful civilisation there has ever been: billions of humans working together to sustain the modern world. But this has only been possible because of shared systems of value inherited from the past. Value systems which our new world, the world of Donald Trump, the world of Netanyahu in Israel and Bolsonaro in Brazil, is pushing to one side. Our wonderfully successful civilisation is in danger of failing because it is losing the systems of value which allowed it to arise.

And other dangers, too, are coming to the fore: The overweening power of monopolistic corporations. The jaw-dropping centralisation of economic power and wealth. Technological disruption and the unregulated advances in genetic engineering and AI. The ransacking of the natural world and the appalling risks of climate change.

The ethos of our new world, the demotion of truth, the encouragement of distrust, the hollowing out of morality and the politicization of language cannot cope with these dangers – it is in fact sustaining and fuelling them.

Something else is needed. An ethos which can tackle both the dangers that we face and the incredible opportunities that await us.

 

Ethics Reimagined

In Intelligent Ethics I reimagine an ethics capable of addressing these encroaching opportunities and risks. I identify a source of moral authority which is simple and profound, which is easy to affirm and yet retains the features of universality, transferability and intelligence. But there is no need to agree with the source of moral authority which I identify – you may still agree with the core moral aims which I derive from it, moral aims which it appears to me are now essential to the survival and flourishing of the human world.

I illustrate these aims below:

smaller compass

The moral compass of Intelligent Ethics

 The first two of these core moral aims – the nurturing of humans as individuals and the nurturing of humanity as a whole – are not unusual. They are common to many ethical systems of the present and the past. They are what allow us to trust one another. The moral person is not just looking out for themselves, they are looking out for the people around them, also. The moral person doesn’t just care about their own isolated community of neighbours and friends, they recognise that we are all in the same boat, all part of the same species, and that for a child to suffer on the other side of the world is as bad as for a child to suffer in our neighbour’s home.

The third moral aim of Intelligent Ethics is the nurturing of all life. This is an aim which it is essential for us to embrace if our biosphere is to be restored to good health, if we are to prevent life-threatening climate change. In asserting this aim, we assert that we must value not just the thriving of each other and of our species, but also the thriving of all the life around us, of the biological world upon which our civilisation and potentially the very survival of our species depends.

And the fourth?  This is subsidiary to the first three. No matter the ambitions of our billionaires or our governments, they will never succeed in delivering sustainable life to other habitats or planets if we are unable to sustain life here on Earth… And yet the sharing of life with the solar system and the stars is not a trivial ambition. Imagine if we are able to renew our world, if we are able to create an Eden of justice and sustainability upon Earth. What then? Humans are not built to idle away their lives in Utopia, even if such a Utopia is achievable. Our species needs a project, and what greater project could there be, after we have resolved our issues at home, than the sharing of life with the bleak spaces beyond the boundaries of our world? Life gives meaning to a universe of dead matter. Why not take that meaning to places where none has been before?

 

A New Way Of Seeing

But asserting our commitment to humans, to humanity and to all life is not quite enough. We are still trapped in a world of propaganda, a world of manipulative language, of dishonesty and division. If we want our society to survive, if we are keen to reorganise it along ethical lines, then we need to learn how to see through the barrage of information, disinformation, fake news and spin. We must unshackle our minds. We must liberate the power of sight.

My second book, Ethical Intelligence, a companion to Intelligent Ethics, offers a number of techniques toward this end:

7 Disciplines inner circle

The seven disciplines of Ethical Intelligence

 Or in more detail:

  • Think first

Don’t wait until someone or something else – be it person, algorithm or machine – does your thinking for you.

  • Embed your thinking in the moral context

Question the things that social media, your politicians, your elites and even your friends are encouraging you to agree with or do. How do they fit into what ‘doing good’ or ‘being a moral person’ means?

  • Use the language of understanding

Adopt the language and the thought patterns of understanding. “My understanding is this…” “With the information I have so far it looks as if…” “Help me understand…”

Understanding encourages tolerance. It encourages true communication rather than the use of words to bludgeon or to bully. Together we can come to a mutual understanding. If we have disagreements we can reassess the basics of our understanding, the evidence on which it is based, and come to an improved understanding on which we both agree.

  • Be ambitious in your thinking

Humanity has accomplished wonders – and we have only just begun. Why not create the beautiful, the astounding, the original? Why not turn our world around and make it work in brand new ways?

  • Be honest

Value honesty in your words, in your thinking, in your self-awareness and in your actions. Value it also in the words and actions of others. A dishonest person cannot be moral. A person does not have integrity if they lie.

  • Root your thinking in reality

Base your understanding on the evidence. The more closely your personal ‘map of the world’ meshes with reality, the more empowered you will be in owning your own life, in understanding what is influencing you, in controlling that influence and in contributing to an ethical world.

  • Aim for ever greater understanding

It is in the nature of understanding that it can always improve. It is the nature of our universe that total, inflexible certainty about just about anything is almost certainly a mistake. Far better to be alert to new evidence and prepared to adapt and improve.

With these disciplines to assist us, and with our core moral aims to hand, we are now better prepared to deal with the transition that has overtaken our world.

 

The Restoration Of Trust

The demotion of truth in the  world of Trump, in the world of Brexit, of Bolsonaro and of Netanyahu, depends upon truth’s usurpation by self-interest. But if we assert and affirm the moral context it becomes clear that self-interest alone cannot provide the weight or authority necessary to sustain our world. If societies are to work then we must apply a more sophisticated morality, a morality where other people matter, where truth cannot be whatever I choose it to be. My truth needs to be your truth also. It needs to be universal: to apply in your neck of the woods as well as mine. If we are to work together to sustain a complex and thriving society, one capable of delivering fulfilment and happiness, one capable of restoring the balance of nature, then the normalisation of dishonesty must be reversed. This is not even a moral statement: it is just common sense. Dishonesty undermines cohesion. Dishonesty damages our ability to work together to produce wonderful things, like science, like medicine, like wind turbines and solar power, like electric cars and the internet.

A flourishing society and a thriving civilisation needs a morality that hasn’t been hollowed out, it needs an ethics that is not a husk of what it is meant to be. It needs values that affirm integrity, intelligence, reliability, selflessness. And it needs a language which is not politicised, a language which resolves conflict rather than exacerbates it, a language of communication and understanding rather than one of propaganda, manipulation and control.

Repeatedly our politicians, our journalists, our administrations and elites ask, “What can we do to regain your trust? How can we restore your faith in us?”

There is a simple answer to this question.

You can trust a moral person.

You can trust a moral person because a moral person cares about you as well as about themselves. A moral person tells you the truth. A moral person does not seek wealth, power and prestige to the detriment of others. Their morality justifies your trust.

Honesty, morality and integrity, in our politicians, our journalists and also in ourselves, are the stepping stones to a world of trust. Not Trump’s world. Not Netanyahu’s world or Putin’s world or Erdogan’s world. Our world. Our new, ethical world.

 

Luke Andreski

April 2019

www.linkedin.com/in/luke-andreski-ethics

@ethicalrenewal on Facebook and Twitter

UK:

www.amazon.co.uk/Ethical-Intelligence-Luke-Andreski/dp/179580579X

www.amazon.co.uk/Intelligent-Ethics-Luke-Andreski/dp/1794618732

US and International:

www.amazon.com/Ethical-Intelligence-Luke-Andreski/dp/179580579X

www.amazon.com/Intelligent-Ethics-Luke-Andreski/dp/1794618732

 


Intelligent Ethics – My Story

April 8, 2019

A Good Person

For much of my life I’ve puzzled over the question of what it means to be good. How do you become a good person? How should a good person behave in our complex and confusing, highly integrated and yet intensely conflicted 21st Century world? And how should I behave, with my particular abilities, limitations and experiences, if I want to be or to do good?

Towards the end of 2017, a year into the Trump presidency and a year and a half after the Brexit vote, I realised that there was one thing that I couldn’t go on doing whatever my definition of goodness might be… and that was to go on doing nothing.

Admittedly, I hadn’t been doing absolutely nothing. I’d held down a well-paid job. I’d shared in bringing up a family. I’d written a couple of books… But I wasn’t able to say I’d done anything particularly worthwhile for my community, anything particularly unusual or beneficial for the society into which I was born.

Within weeks of this realisation I gave in my notice at work and by March 2018 I was unemployed.

I was ready to become a different person. I was ready to start doing good.

 

A Divided Life

I’ve written all my life. While at school I scandalised my family with poetry that was so blood-thirsty and apocalyptic it was only a cat’s whisker away from self-parody (if that). Later I wrote science fiction, emulating writers like Ursula Le Guin, John Brunner and Philip K. Dick. From there I moved on to more literary work, completing my novel To The Bridge, a love story set in modern day Bristol but with a walk-on part for Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Yet all of this was only one aspect of a divided life. I wrote in the evenings, at weekends and between jobs, and in my real life I supported myself and my family through a frequently stressful but often enjoyable career in IT.

But I wasn’t going to live a divided life anymore. I was now settled on one life: a life that contributed significantly to others, a life where I tried to be a better person.

The only problem was, I still didn’t know what ‘being a better person’ really meant.

 

A Change Of Direction

Looking around me at the world of Brexit, the world of Trump, at our fears of climate change and global warming, at populism, inequality and the proliferation of fake news, I wondered whether I was alone in feeling that we live in a realm of ethical quicksand, where one person’s good is another person’s bad and where just about everyone across the world seems to have their own interpretation of which is which.

It came to me then, fairly unexpectedly, that perhaps I could do a little good by using the time I now had  to document what ‘doing good’ actually means for our turbulent moment in human history.

By April 2018 I’d settled down to serious research. I was jobless; there were few distractions; and I had enough savings to tide myself and my family through. My project quickly became a passion. I worked twelve and fourteen hour days. I read countless books, from Yuval Harari to Rutger Bregman, from Aristotle to Mary Warnock. I quizzed friends and contacts about their feelings about morality, about how our world could change for the better. I wrote, discarded, wrote, re-wrote. I continued at this pace for almost a year, injuring my shoulders and back from the weeks spent huddled over my laptop, yet ploughing on regardless. And it was all worthwhile. By February 2019 I had completed not one book but two – and developed the outlines for several more that I wanted to write.

 

Ethics Reimagined

Both my completed books were fairly ambitious – which isn’t surprising given the field I’d chosen to explore. In the first, Intelligent Ethics, I attempted to reconstruct an ethics capable of tackling the key risks and opportunities of our times: the dangerous and yet potentially wonderful technological transformation overtaking our lives; the demand for beneficial political change versus the uprise of populism and fake news; the frightening prospect of climate change.

In the early chapters of this book I consider the very basics of what it means for our lives to have meaning, and how the fact of life itself, of being alive, creates meaning – and I construct from these foundations what I hope is a coherent and encompassing moral code. I try to show that an ethical code is necessary for social cohesion and flourishing, but that any successful ethical code must also have a source of powerful moral authority. And I attempt to find just such a source…

This is no small challenge – yet there is no need for people to agree with the specific source of moral authority which I identify; they can still agree with the core moral aims I derive from it, moral aims which appear to me to be crucial to re-establishing trust and cohesion in our conflicted world:

  • To nurture others
  • To nurture our species as a whole
  • To nurture all life
  • To share life with the empty reaches of the stars

The first two of these aims – the nurturing of humans as individuals and the nurturing of humanity as a whole – are not unusual. They are found in many ethical systems of the past. They are what allow us to trust one another. The moral person does not just look out for themselves, they look out for the people around them, also. The moral person doesn’t just care about their own isolated community of neighbours and friends, they recognise that we are all in the same boat, all part of the same species, and that for a child to suffer on the other side of the world is as bad as for a child to suffer in our neighbour’s home.

The third moral aim of Intelligent Ethics is the nurturing of all life. This is an aim which it is essential for us to embrace if our biosphere is to be restored to good health, if we are to prevent life-threatening climate change. In asserting this aim, we assert that we must value not just the thriving of each other and of our species, but also the thriving of all the life around us, of the biological world upon which our civilisation and potentially the very survival of our species depends. This is a core moral aim now embraced by a multitude of people and organisations across the globe, from Greenpeace to the IPCC, from the Vatican to the young climate strikers in our schools.

And the fourth?  Imagine if we are able to renew our world, if we are able to create an Eden of justice and sustainability upon Earth. It’s a marvellous ambition, and many would say unattainable – but just imagine if it were possible – what then? Humans are not built to idle away their lives in Utopia, even if such a Utopia is achievable. Our species needs a project, and what greater project could there be, after we have resolved our issues at home, than the sharing of life with the dead spaces beyond the boundaries of our world? Life gives meaning to a universe of dead matter. Why not take that meaning to places where none has been before?

smaller compass

The moral compass of Intelligent Ethics

 

A New Way Of Seeing

So far so good. A great number of people will agree with the majority of these aims. But is asserting our commitment to humans, to humanity and to all life enough, if we are still trapped in a world of propaganda, of manipulative language and of dishonesty and division? If we want our society to flourish, or even just to survive, if we are keen to reorganise our world along ethical lines, then we need to be able to penetrate the barrage of information, disinformation, fake news and spin which presents itself to us every day of our lives.

My second book, Ethical Intelligence, outlines techniques for seeing the world clearly and ethically. These can be summarised as follows:

  • Think first

And why not? This has to be preferable to waiting until someone or something else – be it person, algorithm or AI – does your thinking for you.

  • Place your thinking in the moral context

If we are to become more ethical then it is essential to question, from a moral perspective, what our social media, our politicians, our news sources and even our friends are encouraging us to agree with or do. How does what is being asked of us fit into what ‘being a moral person’ or ‘behaving with integrity’ means?

  • Use the language of understanding

In Ethical Intelligence I argue for the importance of using the language of understanding rather than that of dogmatic opinion or belief. Language such as “My understanding is this…” Or “With the information I have so far it looks as if…” Or even “Help me to understand…”

After all, ‘understanding’ has a built-in implication of tolerance. It encourages communication rather than the use of words to bludgeon or bully. The suggestion is that together we can achieve a mutual understanding. If we have disagreements we can reassess the basics of our understanding, the evidence on which it is based, and reach an improved understanding on which we both agree.

  • Be ambitious in your thinking

Why stick with the way things are now or the way “they’ve always been”? Humanity has accomplished wonders and we’ve only just begun. Why not create the beautiful, the astounding, the original? Why not turn our world around and make it work in brand new ways?

  • Be honest

In both my books I suggest that honesty is integral to morality. I argue that we must value honesty in our words, in our thinking, in our self-awareness and our actions. We must also value it in the words and actions of others and, particularly, in our leaders and politicians. A dishonest person cannot be moral. A person does not have integrity if they lie. An unethical politician is not a politician in whom to place your trust. A dishonest person is almost by definition a person who may very well let you down.

  • Root your thinking in reality

An essential aspect of understanding is its basis on the evidence. The more closely our personal ‘map of the world’ meshes with reality, the more empowered we are in owning our own lives, in understanding what is influencing us, in controlling that influence and in being empowered to contribute to an ethical world.

  • Aim for ever greater understanding

Lastly, a central characteristic of understanding is that it can always improve. The rapidly changing world in which we live is one where total, inflexible certainty about just about anything is usually a mistake. Far better to be alert to new evidence and prepared to adapt and improve.

7 Disciplines inner circle

The seven disciplines of Ethical Intelligence

 

An Ethical Toolkit

I hope that with these two books I have created a toolkit capable of helping people navigate their way through our polarized and conflicted world. I touch on many other issues: the tricks we need to be alert to in propaganda; the lies we tell ourselves; the internal logic of morality, and the social transformation we will need to embrace if we are to be moral. I touch on free will and equality, on the importance of integrity and involvement.

I know that my investigations into what ‘goodness’ means have already changed me. While writing these books I became a vegetarian – not for dietary or health reasons but for ethical ones. I’ve become more politically involved and not just an armchair observer. I’ve begun to attend political meetings and to participate in demonstrations. My determination to try to be a better person has, if anything, increased.

My books are now available on Amazon, and I’m encouraging all those I can reach out to to read them, to share them and to respond to me with their own thoughts and observations about what it means to be moral in the 21st Century. My main social platform is LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/luke-andreski-52166b33) but I have just set up the Twitter account @ethicalrenewal and I can be contacted by email on ie (at) ethicalintelligence (dot) org.

Next on my agenda? To campaign for teaching ethics in schools… and to write a version of my books which children might enjoy.

 

Luke Andreski

April 2019

 

Ethical Intelligence:

www.amazon.co.uk/Ethical-Intelligence-Luke-Andreski/dp/179580579X

Intelligent Ethics:

www.amazon.co.uk/Intelligent-Ethics-Luke-Andreski/dp/1794618732

www.ethicalintelligence.org


What is the point of ethics in the Age of Trump?

March 6, 2019

 

We are living in an age of moral ambiguity, polarised opinion, media bias and political spin. So-called fake news, disinformation and a monumental overload of data add to our confusion. How can we tell what is true or what is false in such a world? How can anyone know what is right or what is wrong? And why should we care?

Answering these questions is precisely the point of ethics.

It is because of questions like these at times like this that ethics needs to exist.

 

Morality first!

Morality trumps all other frameworks of human action or thought. All human action is subject to moral assessment. No human activity or artefact can evade its moral context. Morality trumps ideology. Morality trumps politics. Morality trumps even religion. No matter how righteous you may appear to be, or how prestigious, no matter how powerful, how famous or how wealthy, it is the morality of your behaviour that counts. If you are immoral, whether out in the open or behind closed doors, then every success to which you lay claim, no matter how greatly or widely admired, is tainted, its value profoundly devalued.

 

Humanity first!

Intelligent Ethics is about how we are all in this together. It is about how the whole of humanity are in the same boat.

These are dangerous times. We face a perfect storm of economic uncertainty, political distrust, technological disruption, catastrophic climate change. A moral compass is needed to guide us through these treacherous waters – and then to lead us onward, towards a new and better world. Intelligent Ethics defines this moral compass, ethical intelligence shows us our direction of travel, and our shared humanity sets us upon our course.

 

Honesty first!

Honesty is elemental to morality. How could it not be? Can a moral person be dishonest? Can a person be moral without integrity? Yet we have come to a point in human history when dishonesty reigns supreme. We have lost trust in our politicians, our elites, in our journalists, in experts of all kinds. Repeatedly they ask us, “How can your trust be restored? What can we do to regain your trust?”

There is a simple answer to this question.

You can trust a moral person.

You can trust a moral person because a moral person cares about you as well as about themselves. A moral person tells you the truth. A moral person does not seek wealth, power and prestige to the detriment of others. Their morality is their guarantor.

Morality justifies our trust.

Honesty, morality and integrity, in our politicians, our journalists and our experts, are the necessary stepping stones to any possible renewal of trust.

 

Life first!

Intelligent Ethics puts life at the heart of human action and endeavour: the lives of the humans around us; the life of humanity as a species; the lives of all the creatures that live beside us upon our beautiful world.

But why make this commitment to life? Why commit ourselves to the essence of what we are?

…Because there is nothing that trumps life.

…Because there is nothing that is simpler than the affirmation of life.

Occam’s Razor applies to ethics as it does to science. The simplest answer is probably the best one. Intelligent Ethics affirms life because without life there is no sense, no meaning, no morality. Life is the source of meaning, of sense. A universe of dead matter is a universe without meaning, morality or significance. Life is what drives us. Life is what imbues us with agency, urgency, motive, cognition. And a commitment to life, an affirmation of our duty as being to life itself, needs no fairy tale explanation, no labyrinthine justification. It does not ask us to leave our rationality at the door. Here is a morality which embraces our intelligence, our compassion, our empathy and our humanity. Why look further?

 

Make humanity great again!

For much of human existence we have been asking the wrong question. Again and again we have asked, “What is the meaning of life?”

Our question should have been, “What meaning is there without life?”

Life is our meaning.

We must nurture life, and make of it what we can.

Our potential is astounding… With our technology, our numbers, our energy, our natural human genius, why shouldn’t we be capable of creating a sustainable and just world, a renaissance of human culture and civilisation? Why shouldn’t we live up to our incredible potential and promise?

 

Intelligent Ethics

My book, Intelligent Ethics, is about

  • the importance and necessity of ethics
  • a radical new morality for the 21st Century, capable of addressing the risks of inequality, climate change, technological disruption, social upheaval
  • what we must do as a society to put a morality along these lines into action.

Key themes in Intelligent Ethics are

  • the redirection of human purpose towards humanity and life
  • the centrality of action not words
  • the critical need for structural social change
  • the need to make human artefacts – from AI to armaments, from institutions to constitutions – subservient to humans and humanity, not the reverse.

 

Ethical Intelligence

My book, Ethical Intelligence, is about

  • how to think clearly in a world of disinformation, bias and spin
  • how to protect our identities from algorithm-assisted and increasingly sophisticated media manipulation and control
  • how to affirm our moral purpose in a morally ambiguous world
  • how to decipher and disempower propaganda and deceit.

Key themes in Ethical Intelligence are

  • human freedom and how to become more free
  • the thought-mode of understanding and how this can replace the thought patterns of belief
  • the reality of the real and the universality of the good.

 

The point of ethics in the Age of Trump?

The point of ethics in the Age of Trump is

Morality first!

Humanity – and all life – first!

Honesty first!

And…

Making humanity great again.

 

Links to my books are:

United States and International

www.amazon.com/Ethical-Intelligence-Luke-Andreski/dp/179580579X

www.amazon.com/Intelligent-Ethics-Luke-Andreski/dp/1794618732

UK

www.amazon.co.uk/Ethical-Intelligence-Luke-Andreski/dp/179580579X

www.amazon.co.uk/Intelligent-Ethics-Luke-Andreski/dp/1794618732

 

 


Who would not want to live in an ethical world?

February 26, 2019

In March 2018, in the context of political, social and environmental upheaval all across the world, I began work on two books of ethics. In the intervening year our circumstances have only increased in their seriousness: storms, droughts and fires have raged across our planet, both environmentally, in real and frightening terms, and metaphorically: droughts of truth, droughts of compassion, storms of disinformation, wildfires of opinion and belief.

My two books are an answer to these events.

The first, Intelligent Ethics, defines a radical new morality for our times, one capable of addressing both the risks and dangers of the modern world while also embracing the astounding technological and social opportunities opening out before us.

The second, Ethical Intelligence, supplements this ethical code with guidance on effective thinking in a media landscape dominated by fake news, political spin, populism and propaganda.

Together these books provide a toolkit for survival in the face of a perfect storm of economic instability, inequality and potentially catastrophic climate change. They are a call to arms to those who hunger for an ethical – and sustainable – world.

If you would like to read more, the Amazon links are:

UK:

Paperback

Ethical Intelligence:

www.amazon.co.uk/Ethical-Intelligence-Luke-Andreski/dp/179580579X

Intelligent Ethics:

www.amazon.co.uk/Intelligent-Ethics-Luke-Andreski/dp/1794618732

ebook

Ethical Intelligence:

www.amazon.co.uk/Ethical-Intelligence-Luke-Andreski-ebook/dp/B07P1CCCW6

Intelligent Ethics:

www.amazon.co.uk/Intelligent-Ethics-Luke-Andreski-ebook/dp/B07NZ7CMRT

US and International:

Paperback

Ethical Intelligence:

www.amazon.com/Ethical-Intelligence-Luke-Andreski/dp/179580579X

Intelligent Ethics:

www.amazon.com/Intelligent-Ethics-Luke-Andreski/dp/1794618732

ebook

Ethical Intelligence:

www.amazon.com/Ethical-Intelligence-Luke-Andreski-ebook/dp/B07P1CCCW6

Intelligent Ethics:

www.amazon.com/Intelligent-Ethics-Luke-Andreski-ebook/dp/B07NZ7CMRT