The Moral Nature
The Requirement For Life Principles
[NOTE: Though this chapter is called, "The Moral Nature," it does not refer to what is usually meant by the terms, "morality," or, "ethics." Those terms have been totally corrupted by philosophy and religion. By the, "moral nature," I mean the unique nature of human beings that requires them to live by conscious choice, which is why they need principles for judging how to best live their life. I call those principles, life principles, because they are the principles a human being must observe if he chooses to live successfully as a human being.
The terms, "morality," and, "ethics," have come to refer to one of three very mistaken views: 1. that right and wrong (or good and bad) are determined by some form of mandates, duties, or obligations imposed by some kind of authority, like nature, God, or some mystic cosmic force, 2. that values are intrinsic with no overt objective, purpose, end, or goal else 3. right and wrong (or good and bad) are determined by some objective or purpose other than individual human beings, such as, nature, some unspecified, "others," society, humanity, or the future of the human race. There are no such moral values.
Positive values are those things one acts to acquire, achieve, or preserve, because they benefit the individual. Negative values are those things one acts to forego, evade, or eliminate because they harm the individual. Life principles are those that identify which kinds of things are truly benevolent for human beings and should be pursued.]
I recently overheard a lady say, "my cat has better morals than most people."
I'm sure she meant her cat's behavior was better than the behavior of most people, but neither her cat or any other animal has morals, primarily because they don't need them.
I have no idea why so many people attribute morality to animals. I suspect it is because they have no idea what moral principles are or why human beings need them and animals do not. The difference is that human beings have a moral nature, which is the reason human beings even care about morality. It is why human beings are always discussing and debating ethics, writing books about virtues, and constantly concerned about the moral state of society. Perhaps you've noticed the animals never discuss ethics, never write books about virtues, and really have no interest at all with the morality of their own, or any other creature's, behavior.
The Moral Nature
What makes human beings different from all other animals is a thing called volition. Volition is that aspect of human nature that requires human beings to consciously choose everything they do.
Of course that does not include those aspects of human physical nature which is shared with most of the higher animals. The biological functions, reflexes, the behavior of the autonomic nervous and endocrine systems all operate without our conscious control. It is everything we do consciously that we must choose to do.
Volition is the necessity and ability to consciously choose everything one thinks and does. Volition is the moral nature.
Volition is often confused with an old idea called, "free will." The idea of free will is that human behavior has no cause or explanation, that what an individual does is simply whatever he, "wills," to do. The difference between free will and volition is that volition does not mean choice is without cause or explanation, but that the cause is an individual's use of the means of choosing provided by his nature and that nothing outside an individual's own consciousness determines what an individual chooses and does.
Why Human Beings Must Choose
Except for human beings, most animals are able to do everything their nature requires them to do to live successfully, often within a few hours or days of their birth. They are able to walk, run, fly or swim, perform their biological functions, find and acquire the kind of food they must eat, prepare whatever shelter they need, mate and raise their young. Human beings are born unable to do anything their nature requires them to do to live as human beings.
A human being cannot do any of those things their nature requires them to do, even to live, much less to live successfully, and until they they have learned those things, most of what their life requires must be done for them, and it will take years of learning to be able to live as a human being.
All the things a human being must learn in order to live is called knowledge. The human requirement for knowledge is, along with volition, what distinguishes human beings from all other forms of life. A human being must learn, or be taught, how to do everything it must do to live.
What We Can Learn From Animals
One of the greatest mistakes of the modern world is the belief that human beings can learn how to live by observing how the animals live. It is a uniquely human mistake.
No other animal makes the mistake of attempting to model its life on how any other animal lives. Every creature has its own unique nature that determines how it must live to live successfully, and no creature, other than man, attempts to live in any other way than how its nature determines it must live.
The fishes do not attempt to fly or live out of water and the birds do not attempt to live under water. Cattle to not attempt to eat flesh and cats do not attempt to live by eating grass. Every species has a unique repertoire of behavior which perfectly fits the requirements of its nature. Furthermore, their natures provide them with the exact characteristics their nature requires. Those who must dig or climb are provided claws for digging and climbing. Those that must fly are provided wings like bats and birds and many insects. Meat eaters are provided with tools of teeth and claws for capturing and tearing the flesh of their prey. Grazers are provided with teeth for chewing and special digestive systems for processing grasses.
What we can learn from the animals is that every organism has the exact attributes it requires to live as its nature requires and that what every creature does is exactly what its nature determines it must do to live successfully as the kind of organism it is, and most importantly, every creature is unique, with unique attributes and behavior fitting its peculiar nature.
Unique Human Nature
How a human being must live is also determined by human nature. Except for human beings, every creature behaves exactly as their nature requires because its nature also determines that behavior.
The unique nature of human beings does not provide them with any specific predetermine behavior.
It is human nature that determines what human beings must do to live successfully as human beings, but human nature does not provide that behavior. Instead, human beings are provided with the ability to discover what their natures require and the ability to choose that behavior. The first requirement of human nature to live successfully is to learn what human life requires.
Like all other creatures human nature provides human beings with the exact characteristics and attributes required for them to live as the kind of beings they are. Since their nature does not provide their behavior, they are provided with the ability to consciously choose what they do (volition). Since they must discover what their nature requires they are provided with the ability to learn and gain knowledge of what those requirements are (intellect). Since they must choose their behavior they are provided with the means to use their knowledge to think and judge which behavior to choose (rationality). These three attributes, unique to human beings, are the human mind. Only human beings have minds, because only human beings need them.
[NOTE: The behavior of all other animals which is provided by their nature is the attribute called "Instinct." Human beings do not have that attribute. Human beings, instead, have the attribute of the, "Mind," which they must use to determine their behavior.]
For all organisms except human beings, the distinguishing characteristics that defines their nature are physiological. The distinguishing characteristic that defines a human being's nature is psychological. Since it is an organism's nature that determines the requirements of its success as the kind of organism it is, for all organisms except human beings, those requirements are physiological. For human beings the fundamental requirements of their nature are psychological.
For most organisms it is the physical attributes that determine their behavior and their success. Human beings have a physical nature like all other organism, and it is necessary to attend to the biological needs of the body. But a human being is born totally ignorant of how to do that. He must learn or discover what the requirements of his physical body are and how to acquire or fulfill them. He must learn what food is, (as opposed to poison), and how to acquire and prepare it. He must learn in most climates that he needs clothing and shelter and must discover how to provide them. This is true of all his physical needs—none are provided from water to medicine and all must be discovered and acquired or achieved by an individual's own chosen effort. The mind is the only human faculty that makes that achievement possible.
It is that human nature and its requirements that determine what a human being must do to live as a human being.
The Primary Choice
Human nature requires human beings to live by conscious choice. The ultimate choice a human being must make, and all human beings do make, either implicitly or explicitly, is what the ultimate objective or purpose of their life is. There are two possible choices: 1. the ultimate objective or purpose is one's own life, or 2. the ultimate objective or purpose is something other than one's own life.
Nothing dictates which course any individual must choose as their ultimate objective or purpose. Many do not choose either extreme and are willing to settle for something less than success as a human being. There is no principle or law that determines which alternative one must choose.
If one chooses their own life as their ultimate objective, there are principles that determine which kind of behavior will achieve that objective, and which will not. I call those principles, life principles, because they are the principles that determine how one must live and conduct their life to live successfully as a human being. They are the principles that conventional and traditional views of morality or ethics ought to provide, but do not. Life principle are the only true moral principles.
If one chooses anything other than their own life as their ultimate objective, (which most do by default), there are no principles for how one should live and conduct their life. Failure to live successfully as a human being is the default condition and requires neither choice or effort to achieve.
Life principles pertain only to individual human beings who have chosen the success of their own lives as their ultimate objective. Just as every organism has a specific nature that determines how it must live to be successful as the kind of organism it is, human beings have a specific nature that determines how they must live to be successful as the kind of beings they are.
As already noted, the primary attribute that defines the kind of organism human beings are is the human mind. A human being is a volitional, intellectual, rational being, and it is those aspects of the mind that determine how a human must conduct his life to be all he can be as that kind of being.
To Enjoy One's Life
The purpose of your life is to live it to the fullest and enjoy it! This is not a profound philosophical explanation of, "the meaning of life," it is the simple observation that if living and enjoying life is not its purpose, the purpose would be the opposite, to suffer and die.
There are folks who really believe life is meant to be endured, almost as a kind of punishment, as though their very existence made them guilty. (This is exactly what many religions teach in various forms.) They are the ones who regard their life as a kind of duty which must be endured, at best, or more likely sacrificed to some mystic obligation. For those with such ascetic views, like those who do not choose their own life as their reason for living, there are no life principles. If one's ideal is suffering, no instructions are required. Suffering, failure, and regret require no special effort. If one does not do anything to make their life a success, suffering and failure will certainly be theirs.
Most people do not want to suffer, they want to enjoy their lives, to succeed and be as happy as they possibly can, living their lives to the fullest and being all they can possibly be.
Life Principles are those that describe and define how a human being must live to achieve that kind of life.
Human Nature And Responsibility
It is the moral nature, the necessity to consciously choose all one does that makes human beings responsible for all they think, choose, and do. It is the reason we do not hold any other animal accountable for what they do—they do not choose it; but why we do hold human beings accountable for what they do—they do choose it.
Unfortunately, the idea of responsibility, like the idea of morality itself, has been twisted around to mean responsible to someone or something else, like God, or society, or nature, or the future of mankind. One's responsibility is only to one's self for one's own life.
Responsibility means whatever one's life is, they are the sole reason or cause of that life. Except for those aspects of reality which are beyond anyone's control, all that one has, or lacks, suffers or enjoys, are the product of that individual's own choices and actions. One's success of failure is determined solely by what that individual chooses to do and how they choose to do it.
Responsibility means one cannot blame anything else for their failures and problems, not their evolution, genes, chemicals in the brain, instincts, society, poverty, or desires. Nothing makes a human being do anything they do not choose to do. If an individual has problems, no doubt, they are the problem.
Life Principles Are Objective
It is the real world one lives in and one's own nature as a human being that determines how an individual must live and conduct his life if he chooses his own life, success, and happiness as his ultimate objective or value.
The physical world and one's own physical nature determine the scope and limits of what is physically possible, which, so long as one does not attempt to evade the physical nature of the world, are almost limitless.
The most important aspect of reality that determines what one must do to succeed are the requirements of one's own nature. Just as one cannot attempt to violate the laws of physics, chemistry, or one's biological nature and get away with it, one cannot violate the requirements of one's own nature as a human being and get away with it.
How a human being must live to be successful as a human being as determined by the nature of reality are life principle.
The principles are not imposed on an individual by any other beings or agency. No one is, "required," or has a, "duty," or is, "obliged," to observe life principles, but to evade or defy them can only result in an individual's disappointment with life, at best, and more likely regret and self-destruction.
Important Life Principles
It is not the purpose of this chapter to address the question of any specific life principles. Nevertheless, the following will serve as a general introduction to those principles.
The Necessity To Choose
For a human being, conscious choice is not an option. Everything a human being thinks, believes, and does must be by consciously chosen. If one's life is to be successful one must have a means of determining which behavior will achieve one's objectives, and which will not. Life principles are those that define which kinds of behavior will succeed in the pursuit of one's life, and which will not.
Since it is a human beings nature that determines how one must live, and conscious choice is a fundamental requirement of one's life, the first choice must be to intentionally choose all one does—to not evade the necessity of choice by allowing anything other than one's own reason and intention to determine one's choices, to never evade the necessity of choice by blaming something else for one's behavior, like their desires, genetic predispositions, evolutionary tendencies, their whims, fears, or superstitions.
All one is and ever will be is determined by what one chooses to do with their own life.
"Nobody can help what they are," the excuse begins. Well, one can't help whatever characteristics they are born with. No one choose their complexion, stature, physical skills, or whatever talents and mental ability they are born with, but those things are only the raw material out of which one makes oneself into the person one chooses to be. None of those things make a person what they are.
What one is, the kind of person one is at any moment of their life, is the sum of all the things they have done, achieved, and accomplished, or failed to do, achieve, and accomplish up to that point in their life. That means everything from the way one talks, walks, and stands, how one grooms oneself, how one interacts with others, what one knows and what one is able to do are how one has chosen to develop one's self, what they have chosen to learn, and what they have chosen to do.
No matter where one is in life or whatever they have done with it so far, how they will live in the future and what they will be in the future is still theirs to choose. The only difference one's past makes is to what degree one's past choices have limited possible future choice by whatever harm one has done to himself physically, mentally, and financially. Obviously, the earlier one starts living by choice, the more one will be able to do with their life, but it is never to late to take charge of one's own life and to choose to be the best one can possibly be.
The Necessity Of Knowledge
There is nothing your life requires you can have without knowledge. When you are first born it is not your own knowledge that keeps you alive, fed, clothed, sheltered, and safe from the dangers of life, it is the knowledge of those who choose to love and nurture you, but it is still their knowledge of how to provide those things that make your young life possible. As you grow older, more and more of the things your life requires will depend on the knowledge you gain as you grow and mature. By the time you are an adult, most of how you live will depend on your own knowledge.
There is not a single thing a human chooses to do that can be done without knowledge. From the simplest daily routines of life to the most difficult tasks, of one's occupation. By the time we are able to dress ourselves and prepare our own meals the enormous amount of knowledge required to perform such tasks is taken for granted, but none of them could be performed if one did not know left from right or front from back, or how to use a can opener, or what a refrigerator is. Everybody takes for granted how a faucet, a light switch, and a stove work, how to boil water, hammer a nail, or use a knife. No animal knows any of these things or needs to, but a human being could not live without knowing them.
For human beings knowledge is the first and most important necessity of life. Things like water, food, clothing, and shelter are sometimes called the necessities of life, but for human beings, without knowledge none of those necessities would be possible. For human beings, knowledge comes before all other things. Whatever else a human being does the first must be to learn because, for human beings, it is learn or die.
Learning is such a fundamental aspect of human nature that a great deal of it happens without intention or effort. That early simple knowledge, however, is not sufficient for guiding one's life. All important knowledge must be gained by intention and real effort, and the more important and valuable knowledge is, the more difficult it is to acquire.
A human being may choose not to lean all he can. Most people choose ignorance over knowledge. Ignorance does not mean knowing nothing. Everyone knows enough to live from day to day, but they make little or no effort to learn any more. They learn enough to feed themselves, do their shopping, do whatever job someone else has provided, find their favorite TV program, the latest sports scores and what's going on in the world of celebrity. They believe, for example, the little they've learned is "good enough." "It is about the same as everyone else knows," so they're, "just as good as anyone else." That, at least, is true. It's just that they and everyone else are not much good, to themselves or anyone else.
Their ignorance does not provide them with the means to discover the reason their lives seem so shallow and meaningless is their own failure to learn all they could to make their life worth living.
The Necessity Of Work
Reality (or nature) does not supply human beings with any of the requirements of their life—neither food, clothing, shelter, medicine, wealth, or knowledge. Everything a human being wants or needs to live successfully and happily must be acquired and produced by intentional conscious effort. Living, for a human being, means producing all that one's nature requires to survive and prosper.
The whole purpose of knowledge is to know how and what to do to be a productive human being, accomplishing and achieving all one must to live a fulfilled and satisfying life. What you are is what you have done, what you have accomplished and what you have achieved.
One of the most important requirements of a human being's psychological nature is the requirement to know one is worthy of life, competent to deal with everything living in this world requires, and that the life one is living is the best it can possibly be. That psychological state is only possible to the individual who knows, all they have and all they enjoy, they earned and deserve because they have produced it by their own effort and that all they are is what they have achieved and accomplished by their own chosen work.
The opposite psychological state is the state of disappointment, first with oneself and secondly with life itself. The individual who does not choose to learn all he possibly can, to work and produce all he possibly can, and make of himself the best possible person he can be will never be fully confident in his ability to face the challenges of life and will know that he is not all he could be. The dominant psychological state of such an individual is not the enjoyment of life, but disappointment and regret.
Work is not a curse, work is human life and the whole reason for living and the only means to a fulfilled life.
The Necessity Of Reason
The ability reason is the only means a human being has for using knowledge to judge and choose which actions will achieve one's objectives and which will not. Since everything a human does must be consciously chosen, using knowledge to think and judge is the only means an individual has for making right choices. To succeed as a human being, one must always use their reason to the best of their ability about everything they believe, think, choose, and do; which means, they must never accept a contradiction, never surrender their reason to feelings, whims, desires, passions, or fears, and never just accept anything as true they do not themselves understand how and why it is true.
Those characteristics of an individual that are called virtues are the inevitable consequence of living by life principles. Some of those virtues are: integrity, honesty, self-confidence, strength of character, productivity, justice, wisdom, and self-esteem.
The moral virtues are natural consequence of living by objective principles. The moral individual's highest virtue is integrity, having no contradiction between any aspect of his being, his values, his thoughts, his beliefs, his choices, and his actions all agree and spring from the same understanding and love for reality. He is honest because he cannot be a fake or cheat denying his own nature. He is self-confident because he knows he has done everything he possibly can to learn and be competent to live his life successfully. He is strong, whether physically strong or not, he has that strength of character that comes from knowing he is right enabling him to persevere in the face of any difficulty or opposition. He is productive because all he is and has he must know he has produced by his own effort and deserves all that is his life because he has earned it. He is just because he allows nothing but truth and reason to determined his judgment. He is wise because he does not allow himself to be influenced by appeals to his irrational feelings, sentiments, or desires, discerning the truly important from that which has no real significance, both immediate and long-term. His self-esteem is his inevitable awareness of all he is and has made of himself and of his true worth, both to himself and those others that matter to him. These virtues are true happiness, ranging from simple pleasure to ecstasy.
Because the terms, "moral," and, "ethical," have been so corrupted, an individual who lives by right life principles that might be referred to as, "moral," or, "ethical," will to be referred to as, virtuous.
The Emotional Nature
It is a human being's emotional nature that requires one to know they are virtuous. The human emotions are one's immediate consciousness of one's own entire psychological state determined by all one is conscious of, thinks, believes, values, and does. His general emotional state will reflect is own consciousness of who and what he is.
Please see the chapter, "Emotions," for a complete explanation of the human emotional nature.
Only those who live by rational life principles are capable or worthy of benevolent social relationships. Benevolent social relationships are those in which every individual that is part of that relationship benefits from that relationship and is part of the relationship by their own choice.
Social relationships are not automatically benevolent. The idea that human beings are, "social beings," like some animals, (or any other pre-determined kind of being), implies that society of any kind is good. But history and present day facts prove that most societies are the source of worst kinds of social relationships, from crime to cruel oppression.
Human relationships have the potential of being infinitely benevolent and the virtuous individual will seek the best of such relationships, but to seek them, one must know what kind of human relationships are truly benevolent and which are malevolent. Please see, "Why Live In Society—And Who Is Worthy Of It?"