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 A Theory of Moral Objectivity (Section 6a: metaphysical agnosticism and psychological integration)

By Robert M. Ellis, originally written as a Ph.D. thesis 'A Buddhist theory of moral objectivity' in 2001. This html version copyright 2008.

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a)      Metaphysical agnosticism and psychological integration

i)                    Metaphysical agnosticism


The starting point of non-dualism is metaphysical agnosticism, which means the systematic refusal to adopt metaphysical beliefs about the existence or non-existence of concrete or abstract objects. Adopting metaphysical agnosticism is not a simple act of voluntaristic will, of representing the idea of metaphysical agnosticism to myself, or even of publicly stating my commitment to it, but requires the psychological correlate of provisionality. I cannot claim to develop complete metaphysical agnosticism all at once, because I will not even be able to appreciate all the implications of metaphysical agnosticism without correlative psychological development. In purely philosophical discussion, then, I can only begin with a statement of the desirability of metaphysical agnosticism, and attempt to show the justifications for attempting to gain a belief in it. As I will argue later, this is not a merely voluntarist position[1].


In philosophical terms, metaphysical agnosticism is justified by the fact that it is the only position which cannot be defeated by Sceptical arguments. As should have been demonstrated in Part 1, both positive and negative metaphysical positions are subject not only to doubt as regards the representational truth-claims on which they rely, but also to pragmatic criticism when the moral effects of holding metaphysical beliefs are considered. Much more needs to be said, however, about the precise nature of the metaphysics which is to be overcome in non-dualism. Is a claim metaphysical because it puts forward claims of any sort (even provisional ones) about reality, or because it puts forward claims which are clearly beyond any verification or falsification? What exactly, it may be said, is the metaphysics about which we should be agnostic?


To attempt to make a clear definition of metaphysics in answer to this question is to land in a dualist trap. If we admit that even the most provisional claims are metaphysical, it may then be claimed (with some justice) that metaphysics is ubiquitous and unavoidable, and thus that the term “metaphysics” should not be used pejoratively as the basis of moral distinctions. The gates of rationalising speculation are then opened wide. If, on the other hand, we offer a narrow definition of metaphysics based on a determinate rational criterion, we go down the positivist road of a narrow dogmatism which is itself based on negative metaphysical assumptions. The answer must thus be a characteristically non-dualist one: there is no complete rational definition for metaphysics (and thus not for metaphysical agnosticism), but there is nevertheless a basis for judgement in each case based on incrementality. Some claims are more metaphysical than others.


The mere possibility of turning a metaphysical claim into a hypothesis is evidently not enough to make it clear how metaphysical or otherwise it is, for as a test it is merely formal. Even a belief in God could be seen as the adoption of a hypothesis, to be proven by eschatological verification, as has been suggested by John Hick[2]. The degree of holism involved in a claim also appears to offer an initial indicator of metaphysicality, as one feature of the metaphysics of dualism as I have traced it in Part 1 is its tendency to make large positive or negative claims about the universe or human nature, but as a criterion this may also be misleading, since a methodological individualism which attempts to oppose itself to holism merely makes holistic assumptions about the “parts” or “aspects” of an entity with which it deals. Even the degree of caution with which a metaphysical claim is expressed may not make it clear how metaphysical or otherwise it really is, since that caution may be an indication of a balanced recognition of ignorance, or it may merely be an expression of dogmatic scepticism.


The designation of a theory as metaphysical can thus only be made on the basis of a broad contextual survey of the kind I attempted to make in each case in Part 1. By the examination of many different aspects of a theory in both its theoretical and practical context, including both its premises and its implications, one may reach a provisional judgement about its metaphysicality which can be clarified, confirmed or overthrown by further evidence. Thus while metaphysics in its traditional philosophical sense may at first appear to offer an independent philosophical criterion for dualism, on closer inspection it proves to be only a very preliminary one. “Metaphysical agnosticism” is a starting point only because it offers an initial rational purchase on the assessment of theories and a criterion by which they may be incrementally assessed, not because it is immediately apparent on purely rational criteria which theories are metaphysically agnostic and which are not.


Nevertheless, an approximate description of the type of theory which is metaphysically agnostic may be attempted. Such a theory will attempt to create the conditions in which understanding may advance, and thus it must avoid impeding that advance a priori through the dogmatic assumption of positive or negative premises in any area. Such a theory will nevertheless be situated, and recognise its own cultural and personal situatedness in time and space. Its situatedness will also imply that it may be specialised, but in its examination of one area it will not make an a priori exclusion of assumptions from other areas. For this reason it must be capable of growth and extension into new areas, and when thus extended new dualisms should not appear. In this sense a philosophical theory which is metaphysically agnostic must also be potentially a psychological theory, a scientific theory, an artistic theory, a political theory and an economic theory, even if the person who first produced it is not capable of thus extending it. A theory of mind must also be potentially a theory of body, a theory of reason also one of emotion, a theory of knowledge also one of values. Most importantly, a theory which is metaphysically agnostic must also have practical consequences, being fruitful in making practical predictions and thus in guiding action.


All this follows merely from the avoidance of common philosophical dualisms, for by adopting a dualism we set up a dogmatic a priori value in favour of one side of the dualism with which the ego identifies, rejecting the other side and thus cutting off the correlative area of our experience from active examination (in some cases even from meaningfulness). Metaphysical agnosticism could easily create a new dualism between “agnostic” and “non-agnostic” positions (again being unfaithful to its psychological basis) if it was not open to the examination of metaphysically committed doctrines and able thus to establish the reasons for the relative successes and ultimate failure of such doctrines. In the terms of Lakatos’s description of successful scientific theories, it must be able to account for previous apparent confirmations and falsifications[3]. Consistent non-dualism of this type, because it requires psychological as well as philosophical conditions, is thus a reliable indicator of metaphysical agnosticism.


It becomes increasingly evident from this description that metaphysical agnosticism alone inescapably implies the adoption of hypotheses. Whilst a purely rational consideration of Sceptical problems might lead us to conclude, like Hume, that metaphysical agnosticism leads only to inaction[4], the requirement to avoid premature negative rejections of any area of our experience found in a full and systematic metaphysical agnosticism requires positive assumptions and thus positive values. Such values, however, cannot be derived from any source other than our desires themselves, because any attempt to attribute them elsewhere will be immediately defeated by Sceptical argument. Our desires remain, regardless of cognitive hypotheses, and though they can be modified together with those hypotheses, they cannot be withdrawn from the field of view, since they are part of the very constitution of that field of view. Metaphysical agnosticism, then, commits us to some form of value based on our desires.


Since our desires are correlative to our beliefs, they must be taken to exist independently of the epistemological considerations which are often used to impose a dualistic acceptance or rejection on either beliefs or desires. Whilst my desires and beliefs are hypothetical, I am in the process of investigating their truth by whatever methods are fruitful in doing so, and to specify that method in advance would thus be to compromise their provisionality. A specification of either internal (introspective) or external (behaviouristic) modes of knowledge in advance is thus incompatible with metaphysical agnosticism. Desires, then, cannot be subjected to prior epistemological specifications any more than beliefs, for our mode of knowledge of them (whether we speak “privately” as individuals or “publicly” as cultures) is as uncertain as that knowledge itself. If I base my understanding of the nature of my desires on introspection, that understanding must be capable of yielding further predictions for observation of my behaviour which may enable me to go beyond the limitations of the initial mode of investigation.


Much more needs to be said in the next subsection, though, about exactly how the positive values to be found in metaphysical agnosticism relate to (and indeed justify) the model of psychological integration offered  in chapter 5.


ii)                  Desires and objective integration


According to the psychological hypotheses of chapter 5, the process of the integration of desires can be seen in three distinct stages relative to that of belief: (1) temporary and partial integrations of desires such as those in the dhyŒna experience, (2) objective (though still temporary and partial) integration of desires occurring correlative to integration of belief, and (3) residual integration of desire which takes place following the complete integration of belief at stream-entry, until the point of enlightenment when complete and permanent integration of desire takes place. In order to understand the ways in which metaphysical agnosticism justifies engagement in psychological integration, then, clarity with regard to this three-staged process and the relationship between desire and belief which it posits is crucial.


According to my psychological hypotheses, it is possible to integrate desires without a corresponding shift in beliefs, either because that corresponding integration has not yet occurred (and is not required by the integration of desires, which takes place within a very limited context of coherence), or because it has already occurred completely. However, it is not possible to integrate beliefs without integration of the corresponding desires, because the beliefs to be integrated are only integrable in their implicit nature (which contains a strong affective component) together with the explicit. An “integration of belief” is not a superficial cognitive process, but a process in which confidence (as described in 4.d.iii) is accessed and utilised to enable an open heuristic process of engagement with what lies beyond the ego. This confidence involves not only the cognitive belief that the heuristic process can be successful, but the desire to engage both with bold theorisation and the acceptance of challenges which modify or even defeat that theorisation.


For a philosophical justification of this it is necessary to consider the relationship between coherentism and foundationalism. As I have argued in Part 1, neither coherentism nor foundationalism can evade Sceptical challenges, and each leads to unacceptable consequences when applied to ethics. What foundationalism and coherentism have in common[5], however, is their dualism: each involves a limitation of acceptable knowledge to a sphere of coherence (in the case of foundationalism this coherence being based on consistency with a foundation) and a rejection of any possible knowledge which may lie beyond that sphere and appear “incoherent” or to threaten the foundation.


Given the Sceptical challenges to both coherentism and foundationalism, metaphysical agnosticism requires us to go beyond sole allegiance to either of them. In Part 1 I have already suggested that the alternative lies in holding the two types of epistemology in tension: the only type of foundation acceptable to metaphysical agnosticism, however, is one derived from it, which I have called negative foundationalism. This is the assumption that all views are ultimately limited: a sceptical view which is saved from dogmatism by its purely pragmatic status as the basis of a retreat out of metaphysics (and its associated representationalism) and into practice. When negative foundationalism is held in tension with coherentism, the coherence becomes a much more provisional one based on pragmatic rather than representational modes of meaning: for the basis of meaning relied upon to build up any coherent cognitive “picture” can always be questioned from the viewpoint of negative foundationalism. Without coherentism, no positive theorisations can be made, but without negative foundationalism, theorisations remain stuck in a narrow sphere of representation.


Objective integration, then, can be philosophically described as beginning to occur when coherentism and foundationalism are brought together in this way, thus providing the only available method of meeting Sceptical challenges as to the limitations of either. The beginning of objective integration involves not merely the integration of belief through non-dualism, but the interdependent integration of desires associated with those beliefs. The completion of objective integration occurs likewise with the complete integration of belief and its correlative desires, which is marked philosophically by the compatibility of coherentism and negative foundationalism. From this point, since non-dualist views have been completely adopted, for the stream-entrant coherence has become precisely the coherence of negative foundationalism: this is simply the most coherent way to understand the universe, and no conflict is perceived at any point between negative foundationalism and a coherentism which is now based purely on a pragmatic understanding of meaning.


The valuation through desires implied by metaphysical agnosticism thus moves incrementally through these three stages of the integration of desire according to the relationship with belief. In the first stage of mere coherence, the value implied is merely an aesthetic one. If it has been achieved in the context of some allegiance to non-dualist beliefs, rather than merely dualistic ones, the temporary integration of desire achieved may be re-invested to enable objective integration subsequently, in which case it becomes of indirect value, but otherwise no objectivity of value has yet been achieved because metaphysical agnosticism has not yet been sufficiently adopted.


In the second[6] stage of objective integration, metaphysical agnosticism is being fully applied to bring coherentism and negative foundationalism together. Both psychologically and philosophically, we can now justify describing this integration as (incrementally and dispositionally) objective, since, although the judgements of the person concerned are still subject to conditions which produce pragmatic and representational errors, the psychological conditions now apply which can produce maximum objectivity of judgement in the particular situation of the person concerned. The conditions to be taken into account are not only the non-psychological conditions, which produce errors of judgement (due to lack of information or limited capacity) even in a stream-entrant or enlightened person, but also the psychological conditions of prior egoism, which place limitations on the speed at which non-dualism can be adopted. Even in the case of an animal or a child, then, we can speak of advances of objective integration where the application of an entirely new paradigm (perhaps due to some position of great stress: the functional equivalent of negative foundationalism) creates a massive shift in the scope of learning engaged in[7]: a more complex neural pathway has now opened which allows the shifting between existing habitual pathways.


The objectivity of the integration which takes place here is sustained only as long as the non-dualism of approach is sustained by the holding of coherentism and negative foundationalism in tension. As I explained it in chapter 2, this also means taking psychological states to more nearly approximate to the truth than philosophical propositions: the basis of a functional definition of non-dualist states over dualist ones, whereby the Scepticism of negative foundationalism is brought to bear on all philosophical claims. When non-dualism ceases to be actively applied in this way, then maximum objectivity is no longer being applied and, although objective integration may be said to have taken place, it is no longer advancing and may slip back.


The objectivity of desire in this second stage is thus a direct result of the application of metaphysical agnosticism, and the unification of values that takes place in this context is one which is philosophically justified by metaphysical agnosticism. At the culmination of the whole process in the third stage, at the point of enlightenment where desires are completely integrated, this justification no longer applies because the degree of psychological integration has moved beyond the sphere where philosophical justification can be applied. Enlightenment, it may be said, simply lies beyond the sphere of philosophical argument. Nevertheless, the metaphysical agnosticism used in justifying objective integration up to the point of stream-entry can be extrapolated in its support.   


The relationship between metaphysical agnosticism and psychological integration is thus more generally indicated. The part which it plays is both central and essential, even if it is off-stage in the first and final scenes of the drama. Without the structuring influence of metaphysical agnosticism in some form (and the forms may conceivably be very various), psychological integration on the model I suggest can neither be caused to occur nor be justified as objective. Conversely, without psychological integration, metaphysical agnosticism has no practical application. Despite the central role of beliefs, though, the process of psychological integration is fundamentally one of desire, because in the first and third stages desire can still be integrated independently of belief. Whilst desires are scattered and unintegrated, so is the value they represent, but with the application of metaphysical agnosticism they become much more powerful.


More questions still need to be answered here to support the linkage I want to make between this integration of desires-as-values and normativity as it is conceived in the Western tradition of moral discourse. However, this will be left to chapter 7, which focuses on this central issue. For the moment I turn to other philosophical issues which support my central claims about moral objectivity. 


iii)                Continuity and discontinuity


Throughout Part 1, a recurring basis for my criticism of dualist ethics was its reliance on a discontinuity between absolute and relative. It may appear, then, that one of the features of non-dualism is its reliance on continuity and incrementality between absolute and relative. However, this is another philosophical feature of non-dualism that requires some clarification to try to ensure that it is not understood in too rationalised or decontextualised a manner, since like other aspects of non-dualist philosophy it has only a generally indicative and provisional role (which is not to underrate its importance at that level). For continuity only becomes a feature of non-dualism when it pragmatically supports the recognition of ignorance, rather than being another metaphysical feature.


First I will recall the importance of continuity as I have argued for it. This is based on the way in which provisionality, as a psychological state, is philosophically reflected by continuity. In hypothesising the existence of a provisional object with provisional features, we do not thereby give it metaphysical features and thereby cannot consider it to be at one pole of any metaphysical dualism. A mind as we experience it, for example, cannot be metaphysically “purely physical” nor “purely mental”, since to place it in either of these categories is to apply a dogmatic assumption rather than a provisional one. However, we could certainly make provisional use of some of the attributes generally associated with one or the other type of metaphysics (e.g. intentionality or causal explicability) to help make hypotheses about the mind in conformity to our experience, and in doing so attempt to place the mind or its features at an approximate point in a scale of magnitude[8].  Similarly, in describing our moral values, neither “absolute” nor “relative” can be applied without dogmatism, but in the provisional application of terms describing our values we can place those values on a continuous scale according to the magnitude of the apparent characteristics[9].


It may nevertheless appear that discontinuity is an unavoidable part of our experience and of even provisional descriptions of it. In the very use of language describing objects, attributes and actions we circumscribe some areas of our experience and contrast it with other areas from which it is discontinuous in that what is propositionally claimed for those areas is assumed not to apply to other areas. In this sense discontinuity is essential to the positive process by which hypotheses about our experience are framed, and it represents the egoistic side of the harmonious interaction between egoistic and counter-egoistic energies which is required in order to produce integration. Discontinuity at this verbal level is compatible with provisionality, although it is linked to metaphysical discontinuity by the fact that metaphysical discontinuity consists in the substantialisation (or de-substantialisation) of verbal discontinuity. Take the case of two dogs, each of which I describe as “black” and “grey” respectively, although each of them could be more accurately described as being at different points along a scale of colour from blackness to greyness. To call them “black” or “grey” is to introduce a verbal discontinuity, but I can do so either with an awareness of the possibility of a more accurate description or without such an awareness. Without such an awareness I effectively assume a metaphysical discontinuity as well as a verbal one, for I assume that there are some grounds beyond my experience for applying the label “black” or “grey”. With such an awareness, however, my use of verbal discontinuity becomes purely provisional. This distinction could be practically tested if I was in some situation where the degree of accuracy of such descriptions became more important than it usually is. Suppose a despotic government has issued an extermination order on all black dogs, for no better reason than the ruler’s subjective dislike of them. With an awareness of the provisionality of the term “black” as it applies to the dog, I could argue that it is not black, but a darker shade of grey. The government dog-exterminating official who insists that it is black is operating a metaphysical discontinuity just because, compared to me, he is operating at a lower level of accuracy where dualities are imposed unreflectively, and in this respect reflecting the ineptitude of his master[10].


This comparison between more and less accurate description can be applied mutatis mutandis to any level of specificity of description, up to and including the furthest point of exactness available to human beings. For the most precise scientific description depends on the theoretical framework within which it is created, so that provisionality in such a description consists in an awareness, not of the immediate possibility of greater specificity, but of the Sceptical doubts which can be applied to the description. Similar considerations apply to non-scientific defeasibility contexts: an artistic or mythic account of an experience, for example, can be similarly dogmatic or provisional depending on the degree of awareness of the limitations of the categories being used. In this way the relative avoidance of metaphysical discontinuity must be seen as applying along a scale which is ultimately pragmatic, because although in some cases it may be pursued within a given defeasibility context, in others it must be pursued between defeasibility contexts.


Strictly speaking then, metaphysical discontinuities, like metaphysics in general, can only be distinguished in a given context relative to merely verbal discontinuities which form part of a hypothesis. It is thus not the absence of discontinuities themselves so much as awareness of discontinuities which indicate a degree of provisionality: the criteria are ultimately psychological. The broadest possible context always needs to be used in assessing whether this awareness is present in others, since the use of continuous language in one restricted context may be offset by a much broader discontinuity expressed elsewhere, or the use of discontinuous language in one context may be offset, on the other hand, by a broader continuity. As I suggested in Part 1, Wittgenstein offers a particularly good example of the first kind (though any of the dualist thinkers or movements considered in part 1 may also serve), because he explicitly defends continuity and indeterminacy in some contexts, whilst maintaining a strong discontinuity of meaning. Non-dualism, on the other hand, may well be defined as “discontinuity within a context of continuity”, with the further proviso that the outermost continuity is not merely metaphysically specified, but pragmatic. 


Discontinuities within the context of continuity may be mere descriptions of stages along a path (such as the path described in the previous subsection, which begins with the first objective integration) or they may be descriptions of points along a spectrum of qualities. A path or spectrum may also be conceived as having discontinuous end-points, but strictly speaking on a continuous paradigm these merge into further possible paths or spectra, or disappear beyond an indeterminate horizon of experience. In each case, the application of a non-dualist awareness, even if it be only momentary, leads to the recollection of this greater continuity, not only in theoretical definition, but at moments of practical importance when further objective integration may be achieved. To speak of a discontinuous point in the very process of integration, such as “stream-entry”, is a verbal discontinuity only justified insofar as it supports integration by facilitating rational comprehension of the path through theorisation appropriate to that level: a higher level of accuracy, however would go beyond the degree of discontinuity between belief and desire still suggested by stream-entry (though in the process it would go beyond the limits of what is theorisable in language, the limits of belief represented by stream-entry itself). This discontinuity thus exists within a broader context of non-dualist continuity.


It remains, then to apply this account of continuity more specifically to philosophical issues which may have a bearing on the whole credibility of my case. The most central of these, which I will consider before moving on to a more general critique of metaphysical dualisms in the next section, is the distinction between dualism and non-dualism itself.


iv)                The uses and abuses of duality


In the light of the above account of continuity and discontinuity, an account of pragmatically justifiable and unjustifiable uses of duality can be constructed. The object of this is to provide a clear response to the dualist charge of hypocrisy: the dualist may argue that dualisms are inescapable and that this is illustrated by the non-dualist resort to a distinction between dualism and non-dualism. In response to the argument that non-dualism relies on incrementality, she may go on to claim that wherever rational distinctions are made between differing points on an incremental scale a dualism is being introduced.


The best response to this lies in the distinction between duality and dualism which is already implicit in the distinction between verbal and metaphysical discontinuity made in the last subsection. A duality is equivalent to a verbal discontinuity, or to the marking of the boundary of a defeasibility context. If I used and understood language in a context where dogs are only black or grey, never anything in between, then the mere idea of anything between black and grey would be indefeasible in that context: if I were to talk of a particular dog as “blackish-grey”, nobody would be able to correct me as the term would simply not make sense. But in fact the context of Western educated discourse is certainly sophisticated enough to take in the conception of blackish-grey, or indeed to model the whole relationship between black and grey on a continuity: it is more profound and formative areas of discourse that are discontinuously modelled.


The model for explaining the distinction between dualism and non-dualism is not necessarily only one of non-dualities within dualism or dualities within non-dualism. Conceivably a still greater broadening of the context might add further yet unsuspected levels at which what we took to be dualism or non-dualism turns out to be mere duality or non-duality. What we thought to be foundational in a given theory, in other words, might yet turn out to be merely coherent. Levels of duality and non-duality might conceivably form an indeterminately long series of alternate encompassings, fitting inside each other like Russian dolls. Our theories may still be surpassed in this way at any point, even (one assumes) the point of enlightenment. The enlightened person may have achieved the maximum possible integration and still have completely wrong theories, for he has lived in an inescapably restricted context. Any judgement of dualism or non-dualism thus has to be provisional.


A further response to the accusation of inescapable dualism can be couched in terms of logic. Logic consists in the formalisation of verbal discontinuity and thus in duality, not dualism. The formulation of logics which attempt an element of non-duality through fuzziness, three-corneredness or dialectic thus does not necessarily aid us in breaking down dualism if the larger context in which that logic operates is dualistic. The insistence that such a logic provides an absolute or universal framework of understanding likewise does not avoid dualism given that this very insistence introduces a duality between aspects of experience that can be explained in terms of the logic and aspects that cannot (and are therefore rejected). There is thus no reason why traditional Aristotelian logic should not serve the purposes of non-dualism as well as other sorts, provided its limitations are appreciated. It is the appreciation of the limitations of dual logics to particular defeasibility contexts which makes non-dual logics useful, but in pointing out the limitations of a particular duality they do not thereby show themselves to be at the outermost level of the Russian dolls.


The duality of Aristotelian logic also appears inescapable at the level of action: we can only act on the basis of a clear conceptual model of our desired ends in acting, for without such clarity, our actions remain without clear direction. Such a clear conceptual model excludes any middle between the achievement and non-achievement of our desires, even if the cognitive background to such achievement includes the most sophisticated non-dualities.


The answer to the dualist charge of hypocrisy is thus to concede that it may be true that dualities are inescapable at the operational level, but that this by no means implies the inevitability of dualism. For dualism involves not merely the use of dualities but metaphysical dogmatism as the basis of belief. In the next section I shall be thus giving more specific indications of the nature of the distinctions between dualities and dualisms in a number of specific cases. This should also reveal ways in which dualisms may be revealed as supportive of the whole structure of dualist ethics discussed in Part 1, and an alternative approach to the same problems suggested by the substitution of mere dualities.


[1] See 6.b.v

[2] Hick (1964)

[3] See 2.b.iii

[4] See 4.b.i

[5] Together with those philosophies which may be taken to hover indefinitely between them, such as Kant’s.

[6] Not “second” in a temporal sense, or requiring the first stage to be traversed first, but only “second” in the fact that it represents a stronger movement towards objectivity.

[7] Such shifts for animals appear far more likely to be phylogenetic (i.e. to occur in the context of the biological evolution of species): however, I do not wish to make any claims here about the objectivity of evolutionary development, which depend on the debatable relationship between ontogenesis and phylogenesis. As in the case of ethical naturalism in general (which may seek an evolutionist justification by stretching the relationship between phylogenesis and ontogenesis a little too far) we can only note the apparent relationship and admit our ignorance.

[8] For more development of this position on mind and body see 6.b.iii

[9] This raises the ancient question of whether, in moral characteristics, one or many characteristics should be described – the problem of the unity of the virtues. I shall be discussing this in 6.b.vii.

[10] It may be objected that in this example the law which is being applied is stipulated as being unjust, whereas there is no necessary connection between the justice of the law and the accuracy of its application. A law enforcing the extermination of black dogs might be justified if, say, they were particularly subject to some highly infectious disease which might spread to other animals. However, in this case the very justice of the law depends on the accuracy with which it is formulated and applied, for if some dogs are exterminated which are not subject to the disease, then the justice of the law is in inverse proportion to the size of its margin of error. Justice in this case is thus dependent on the objectivity of both lawgivers and enforcers in maintaining an awareness of the provisionality of discontinuities.


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A Theory of Moral Objectivity: quick links to other sections


1. introduction

2a. Psychology of belief

2b. Heuristic process

2c. Psychology & philosophy

3ab. Eternalism

3cd. Plato

3e. Stoicism

3f. Christianity

3g. Kant

3h. Hegel

3i. Marx

3j. Schopenhauer

3kl. Utilitarianism

4a. Nihilism

4b. Scepticism & Aristotle

4c. Hume

4d. Analytic Philosophy

4e. Wittgenstein

4f. Pragmatism

4g. Nietzsche

4hi. Existentialists

5. Integration

6. Philosophical Problems

7. Normativity

8. Middle Way Ethics

9. Conclusion

10. Appendix



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