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"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they recover their senses slowly, and one by one." - Charles Mackay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, 1841

Thoughts on Life and Ethics
07/18/2018

It seems to me that all sentient beings start out with a desire to live, to retain and expand life.  Because of tragedy, pain, lack of fulfillment or hopelessness some lose this desire and even cross over the line to desire the cessation of their "life," but this is clearly the result of evil, and many—most even—that experience great evil still retain the desire to live.

Desire/need in general (and specifically this desire for existence) is one of the more primary things, along with a fuller range of volition (see below) and intellectual/spiritual dimensions, that separate homo sapiens from any kind of machine no matter how complex or programmed.  A more extensive range of desire/need, intellectual/spiritual dimensions and volition also distinguishes human beings/homo sapiens from the animals, which are considered to be of less value partially because of this.   In other words, desire/need is absolutely a part of, and necessary to, life.

There is, or should be, a clear distinction made between "life" and biological functionality.  Biological functionality only derives its value from "life," and when life is absent, biological functionality loses its value.  This is being said in a different or partial way in paragraph 1.

We make decisions based on this principle every day.  When we use mouthwash in the morning we destroy many biologically functioning units with impunity.  We poison wasps, ants, roaches, mice, rats, etc. with psychological or emotional impunity.  When we sit down to eat a chicken dinner, unless we are hypocrites or are being insensitive, we are perforce deciding that the loss of the chicken's biological functionality is not as valuable as the sustenance of or enhancement to our own lives.

When a homo sapiens demonstrates that he is devoid of the ultimate spiritual elements that define humanness or humaneness, such as love, caring, and compassion and simultaneously wreaks or threatens to wreak havoc or evil, we as a society decide to eliminate (sometimes kill, not to put too fine of a point on it) that threat or source.  It was Bonhoeffer, a noted German theologian and noted humanitarian and pacifist that, when he finally understood the extent and ramifications of the evil being promulgated by Hitler, decided to renounce his conscientious objector/pacifism stance and then became involved in a plot to kill the dictator.

All of the above implies that "life" should be defined primarily in terms of spiritual elements and secondarily in terms of the materialistic.  In my mind the material structure and its functionality are just elements necessary to life; are the matrix upon which life is imposed.  However the fulfillment of materialistic desire/needs has a lot to do with the sustenance and enhancement of life, and the bottom line is that there is no life apart from some material structure or body and satisfaction of its needs.  A body is essentially a vessel for the spiritual and an interface unit to the materialistic realm.  I cannot imagine, nor would I desire, any kind of life that would not have an interface to the material realm of reality.  The physical or material realm is part of the medium of the creative process, and I am quite used to it also being a source of pleasure and enjoyment and quite insistent that it remain contributing to such.

A simple equation-definition for life might be:

Life = Desire x satisfaction x need x Fulfillment x Body x

            (Purpose + Success + Happiness + Ecstasy + Joy + Love + Freedom, etc.)

where any one of these terms being zero means that life is zero also .

Before anything specific can be said about ethics, we need to be reminded of the ethical context in which we live.  In a reality where there is no evil, ethical decisions are made between what is good and what is better.  In a reality where there is evil, many times ethical decisions are made between the lesser of two evils, where even the right ethical decision can be easily decried by the simplistic as having evil results.

One very important ethical distinction has to be between enlightened self interest versus selfishness. The selfish person is one that doesn't care to see the greater context or picture, and is not enlightened about how to share instead of take or compete.

I think we also need to come to terms with the distinction between a homo sapiens and a human being.  All human beings are homo sapiens but not all homo sapiens are human beings.  The term homo sapiens is a zoological designation for a certain species of animal (I'm an animal, but not just an animal), whereas a truly HUMAN being or humane and noble being clearly has some finer or more sacred dimensions than some homo sapiens have.  Some homo sapiens are born with just a minimal brain stem that supports biological functionality for a while, and apart from a miracle have no potential to develop into a human being.  This does not mean that a human being has license to treat a homo sapiens with contempt or a demeaning manner, because part of being a human being means that one would treat any other sentient entity in the most constructive manner.  As for Philosopher Kings, that is another matter!

As far as the abortion (termination of biological functionality of an embryo, a fetus) moral issue goes I think the "life value" of the form is related to the nurture investment made by other life forms, and also related to the ramifications of whatever circumstances exist for that particular situation.  Some socio/familial circumstances are such that most probably not enough of spiritual nurture investment will be made to engender a contributing member of society.  The mother (and father) up until birth have certainly made an ongoing and cumulatively greater physical nurture investment, but there is no clear-cut spiritual nurture investment made until the communication capability is more advanced.  When the foundation is laid for them, and inspiration, ideas, purpose, values, etc. begin to be instilled and when the finer, higher, more sacred qualities and potentials begin to be stimulated and awakened and developed is the point when serious spiritual nurture investment takes place.

In an ideal world there would be no such troubling issue, no dilemma, no line would need to be drawn in general or in particular cases.  When the line IS drawn by the mother and those that perform, and the decision is made to terminate the life form, they are not necessarily acting coldly, callously, selfishly, or immorally.  In the final analysis I favor erring on the side of freedom of choice by the mother, since even in our modern society, the mother performs the role of taking on the greatest nurture investment.  I know that abortion is not the preferred way to control population, but this whole issue does stand in the context of an over-burgeoning population on the Earth—in my mind a threat to even my own future well-being as well as the future well-being of my own son.

I was asked the question, "Do you think that God values some souls (individuals) above others?"  I feel the question deserves a careful answer.  First of all in my thinking, "God" is a corporate entity or agency and consequently its primary interest and caring would be for the corporate family comprised of the human race.  This agency doesn't like being in the individual evaluation business although temporarily forced to be by circumstances.  Probably only insofar as one or a group of individuals were (temporarily) more important to the welfare of the corporate or potential corporate being would God value and/or protect them above others.

            VOLITION

Probably that aspect of human nature that is most closely associated with being human is our Volition.  Volition can be defined as that sacred quality or attribute and creative power in humans that deals with our desires and needs by consciously choosing what to believe, selecting what to purpose, refining values, directing thinking and contemplation, and deciding what to do.  These are all different aspects of volition and we need words that are defined well enough so that they will symbolize and only symbolize whichever one of these aspects we are addressing.  In the interest of making these distinctions available for easy communication the following words originally had meanings that were close to those that are given below.

            DEFINITION/DESCRIPTION OF VOLITIONAL ASPECTS

A fully functional human being has volition or free will in that he has power to choose what to believe and thereby direct his purpose and will and organize his conscience, which will affect his emotions, behavior and destiny; and he has power to make decisions within the limits of response to his individual nature, his perception of conditions and his previously made choices or beliefs. 

Choice is that most fundamental and powerful aspect of human volition that operates in the realm of believing; you choose what to believe; you choose what to believe; if you don't it is programming or conditioning instead of conviction.  Choice is the human creative power that allows us to believe one idea or another in the realm of those things not knowable or dictated  by facts, information and knowledge.  Choice of belief is the root cause of all significant change or growth; it determines within limits our emotions and behavior, it determines within meaningful limits who and what we really are, and it effects our living or dying.  Choice does not operate in the arena of feelings, emotions or behavior, but choice engenders and constrains these.  Choice is that vital aspect of human volition that is so lacking in much of the human race today, so much so that many even deny there is such a thing or that it has any meaning in a world where we are seemingly so controlled by external factors.  Many people have an extensive set of "beliefs" but have never chosen them, have only been programmed with them.  These are the demi-humans who are not free in the highest sense in that they are only wound up and pointed by others.

Decision is the mental response to a given state or situation in conjunction with the conscience which initiates some kind of action, or the lack thereof.  The given situation includes our individual physical, mental and psychological and emotional disposition, our nature matrix.  The range of decisions is bounded by or determined by limiting factors in the given situation and by the conscience process resulting from previously made choices, and it operates in the arena of behavior.  In contrast to choice, which is a truly creative power, decisions are more or less logical outcomes from EXISTING choices, knowledge and other situational factors.

Conscience is the science or system process, based on one's knowledge and chosen beliefs, of systematically culling, sorting out, and building constructs of what is right and wrong.  Conscience operates in the realm of both knowledge and belief and is the selection process based on acquired values.  The resulting set of values and guidelines is also thought of as our conscience.  It is not a little organ in one's head, but is a continuing process that can be focused and concentrated.  Nor is it an infallible guide, in that it is surely restricted to be only as good or valid as the beliefs that have been chosen and the correct knowledge that has been retained and brought to bear on an issue.

Will is that aspect of volition which is the combination and culmination of knowledge and belief, in conjunction with need and desire, that relates to purpose and values; a person's purpose in conjunction with his values.  Willpower, although influenced by other nature matrix factors, is surely commensurate with the intensity of conviction concerning the beliefs that are held.

Having been given our nature matrix, traits and characteristics by heredity and an environment both of which are not of our own selection, the only way WE can truly affect ourselves fundamentally is to choose what we believe, which literally and ultimately determines our self-identity.  What we choose to believe in conjunction with our nature matrix determines our emotions or feelings which determine our behavior, and may determine far more than of what we are aware..

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