Friday, September 9, 2016

Moral Discovery

H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr. notes in his book The Foundations of Bioethics(2nd Ed.) that "a canonical, content-full secular morality cannot be discovered".  This means a secular, universal moral code is not to be found.  This is difficult for many to accept.  If true and it is then mankind must undergo a qualitative change in order to avoid extinction.

While it is true that certain first principles key to maximizing peace and prosperity in society have been discovered and applied across civilizations and historical time frames; I think these first principles are not human universals. First principles are not found in abundance but merely occasionally "(re)discovered" in various cultures throughout time.

There is no universal moral code that can be applied across all mankind.  You can use force, that is aggression, to enforce a moral code from one group to another but this has long term problems.  The only long term choice is property. The hope for peace and prosperity lies in property.

If you cannot defend it, it does not belong to you. If you cannot exclude from it, it does not belong to you. If you cannot acquire it, modify it, transact using it, or transmit it, it does not belong to you. If it does not belong to you then it belongs to someone else. If you (aggressively) take a thing from someone else they will hate you. They will manipulate against you, they will seek to turn the power that you used to steal from them to their own use. They will use it against you. The more frequently  this behavior occurs the greater increase in violence.  A technologically advanced people cannot afford to underpin a culture using philosophy of violence.

A forced secular moral code in a technologically advanced civilization will have disastrous results. We are beginning to see the early effects.


  1. Excellent article, and a great point on the source or moral code that is often overlooked. I am curious, though: the only hope for peace and prosperity may indeed lie in the ownership of property, but doesn't the acquisition of that property often bring about the very expressions of force, manipulation, coercion and even violence that we too often witness? What are your thoughts?

  2. The (libertarian) theory of property does not lay claim to eliminating conflict only that it provides the greatest reduction and prevention of violence over any other known social system.
    Your deeper point is well taken-as long as man remains fallen in a fallen world there will be conflict and violence.

  3. You said, "A technologically advanced people cannot afford to underpin a culture using philosophy of violence." Would you consider writing a companion article to expound on that statement? I'd like to learn more about that.