On another blog i contribute to–ecobobble–i recently replied to a co-author re: the ‘meaning of life’ … Here’s an excerpt of my comments, which basically reflect my inklings of |truth| (more to come):
Like many, i’d been struggling with this q how to derive ‘ought’ from ‘is’ for years. Somewhat recently, i stumbled upon something which, it seems, happens to work quite well. It turns out similar schemas have been around in ‘mystic’ [i cringe at this term], esoteric religious traditions since time immemorial; so, accordingly, i lay no claim to it.
Essentially, begin by stripping away all assumptions, regardless of whether they seem true or not. This is in the spirit of pure logic; the ultimate rationalist approach to reality. What you are left with, if you cross the rubicon of Descarte’s assumption of individualist agency (i think therefore i am, etc.) … is, well, nothing!
No assumptions at all leads to a kind of metaphysical nihilism; emptiness; non-existence… nothing… 0. (…this might resonate with those familiar with Buddhist scriptiure …)
…now, how helpful is that for functioning in the world? Not very.
Ok, so let’s make the next simplest assumption… …something… ‘existence’ … ‘everything/time/place/space,’ etc. … 1 … ‘the axiom’ … |reality| …
(note the similarity to the 1/0 binary system used in technology) … its essentially choosing 1 over 0… this is a belief–an assumption… trust in existence, |reality|, |truth|
…stop here! yes, stop!
…Now, if you keep to this–|truth|–as the most ‘real’ assumption possible, how should you then act? …
This worldview implies that our subjective experiences are merely miniscule, inherently ‘imperfect’ or ‘incomplete’ subsets of our primary axiom (i.e. 1, |reality|, |truth|…the set of all sets, etc.). [Although we perceive ourselves as ‘separate’ entities, which we must do in order to function, at root, ‘we’ are in fact unfathomably interconnected parts of one whole. This can have interesting implications for what we assume to be individual, separate ‘consciousnesses,’ ‘intentions,’ and so on, although perhaps that’s best left for another post.]
What we view as in our own individual interest, therefore, is most apparent to us, and we should not ignore it. But, in terms of how we behave … [towards entities we perceive as separate and distinct from ourselves, in the spirit of truth, we must then do our utmost not to lose sight of our primary axiom: namely, that there is only one reality, one complete, absolute truth; that the ‘independent’ existence of ‘separate’ things is relative, transitory and ultimately less than absolutely true.] … it then follows we should try to imagine what others’ (social groups, humans, animals, etc.) ‘view’ as in their own interest , [regard this as our very own interest (since our ‘distinctiveness’ is transient and relative)] and act accordingly… if our actions are related to something more abstract, with less perceived ‘agency,’ like a landscape, or population of a given species, etc., we have to really exercise our moral imagination and act according to what *we* think is in our objects’ best interest … this, of course, has to be weighed with the interests of everyone/thing else of which we’re aware!!
[In a way, the normative implications of this non-dualist assumption is to make an effort not to act like autistic children with respect to the world around us. Autistic children have a genuine inability to imagine how others think and feel. Being non-autistic, but acting as if you were, is essentially ‘untrue’ in a metaphysical sense, insofar as it flies in the face of our primary axiom/assumption of non-duality, and is arguably akin to ‘evil,’ in the moral sense.]
That’s pretty much it.
Sounds simplisitic at first, but as you can see, the implications get quite complex, as we must constantly apply this principle to all the temporal and spatial contexts of our everyday lives.
This, in my opinion, is where religions (or personal philosophies, such as GerBear’s) have key roles to play … they’re basically heuristics for applying this rather daunting principle to the exigencies of day-to-day banality.
Along the same logic, certain religions/philosophies emerge, and catch on, in certain temporal-historical contexts.
A problem with this is that contexts continue to change… all these heuristics are only *relatively* true/helpful insofar as they are products of their time and place.
E.g. stoning adulturers to death may well have been the necessary execution of our |reality| in the socio-historical context of ancient Canaan. Today, obviously, this is no longer the case. Similarly, 1000 years from now our present-day norms may well appear ‘barbaric’ or ‘backwards’ … this is normal.. with respect to our axiom (|reality|), it is apparent that we live in a contingent, incomplete world (a factor, i postulate, of our perception of time as linear..but who knows)… change is a constant from our limited human perception (although rate of change is also subject to change) …
Where problems arise is when people mistake the temporally-contextually specific heuristics for the axiom they aim to approximate.
…anyway, these are just some thoughts on my inherently imperfect, incomplete heuristic for deriving the ‘ought’ from ‘is’ ; )