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1. Good and evil are not entities, but parameters. The only moral fact is death, and morality is the attitude towards death: everything that leads the system to destruction is evil; everything that overcomes the death of the system is good. The open-question argument is removed without appeal to a naturalistic fallacy.
2. All problems are linked to death. What does not lead to death is not a problem. Any obstacle, barrier, difficulty, or limit is a problem for us only if we know how it can kill us.
3. To understand death as a problem, we need a system of tenses. Any understanding is the transfer of a real event as an abstract symbol from the past to the future, and then the perception of the abstract future in the real present. The only known system that can operate with time is the human language. Human is the only socio-cognitive system that has understood death as a problem.
4. Ethics is a method of development.
5. The purpose of development is to overcome the problem – to obtain freedom from the limitations of death. Beginning with situational problems: hunger, cold, diseases, and external threats; up to the absolute problem: death as such. Overcoming these problems breaks Hume’s guillotine not by logic, but by the phenomenon of will. Overcoming is a transition from a naturally existing limit is to prescribed by a free reason ought.
6. Survival and overcoming death are not the same thing. Survival is the avoidance of death, the selection of forms and behaviors that allow not to face the problem. Death for Natural Selection is a tool of development, and Death for overcoming is a subject of development.
7. Achieving the development goal is the transition of the system to a new qualitative state. A New World and a New Man, free from the problem of death, will have no need for morality and ethics.
1. The act of understanding death gives birth to the essence of human being. Based on this definition, any social-cognitive system that understands death will be human, ranging from any species of living beings to an artificial intelligence.
2. Understanding is possible only in the system of tenses of the language. The system of tenses is the defining quality of human language, unlike all other information exchange systems, from natural RNA/DNA to animal communication systems. In fact, the abstract time machine of language is the mind.
3. Reason makes it possible to relate to death. Understanding and reasoning about what leads to death or what overcomes death provides a human an attitude towards death.
4. The attitude towards death is a dichotomy of good and evil. Thus, good and evil are not entities, but parameters of the relationship to death as a single entity.
5. Ethics is a method of development. Knowing the limit and its parameters, we get the opportunity to overcome the limit. Now, the capabilities of the available tools are never enough for a human. If it is known how the function can be performed better or worse in relation to death, then the development flywheel is launched towards a goal.
6. The goal of development is to overcome death. All problems come down to death. What does not lead to death is not a problem, does not require ethical evaluation, and does not require development and overcoming.
7. By achieving the development goal of the system, the system then transitions to a new quality. After overcoming death there will be no need for an attitude towards death – no need for morality or ethics and no need for development and overcoming. The New World will define new parameters, limits, and essences for the New Man – a Superman.
1. Subject: the phenomenon of awareness of death. Hypothesis: awareness of death is a unique phenomenon in nature, which gave rise to a system of a new quality, human being. Only the awareness of death makes it possible an attitude to death.
2. The attitude to death forms morality as an experience of causes of death and ethics as a method of overcoming death. The ethical method gives humanity a unique ability to overcome problems, causes of death. Thus ethics is a method of development based on a hypothesis of freedom.
3. The wild nature has no awareness of death, no attitude to death and no method of development. Therefore, nature develops through natural selection of random errors. So death is a tool for the development of nature. It is impossible to overcome death as a problem by death as a tool.
4. Humanity is a socio-cognitive phenomenon, a system that has understood the problem of death. So we break the binding of a concept of human to the animal species Homo Sapiens. Any socio-cognitive system that understands the problem of death can be called a human being.
5. The understanding is a system of abstract symbols in the system of tenses. The understanding of any phenomenon necessarily implies the movement of an abstract model of this phenomenon in abstract time relative to reality. Therefore, mathematics without a system of tenses of its abstract symbols is not a full-fledged language.
6. Development is a transition from one quality of developing phenomenon to another, by overcoming the limits of phenomenon.
7. The idea of development for a human being is overcoming the problem of death. Beyond that limit will no longer be a human, but a Superman, or New Man. The values, ideas and problems of the New World will be qualitatively different.
To be, or not to be, Ay there’s the point…
– William Shakespeare, Bad Quarto
Considering Aristotle’s work Nicomachean Ethics, I would like to draw attention to a key point that characterizes the generally accepted and erroneous approach in all studies of the question of good and evil to the present day.
Aristotle looks at the good as an entity: «…every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim.» As if good is something that can be defined; a phenomenon that can be arrived at; as if it were some kind of independent entity. But this is not the case.
This position is an error that reduces all ethical reasoning from Aristotle to George Edward Moore to invariably contradictory results. Reasoning exclusively about the good implies simplification: as if evil is something opposite to good, a kind of good with a minus sign, as antigood. But evil is not equal to good with a minus sign, as well as evil with a minus sign is not equal to good:
EVIL ≠ – GOOD or GOOD ≠ – EVIL
I claim that good as the entity, that served as the starting point in Aristotle’s reasoning, was chosen incorrectly. It is wrong to talk about good outside of its constant connection with evil, endowing them with the properties of certain entities independent of each other. We should not forget that good and evil, benefit and harm, virtue and vice are a dichotomy. So, when it comes to such a phenomenon as dichotomy, the representation of subclasses as independent entities entails the loss of the general meaning of the dichotomizing system, the dichotomizing entity. The loss of the meaning of the system of good and evil occurs the moment we replace one true entity with one of its subclasses, while endowing the subclass with a complete essential, or complete object character. By doing that, we take ourselves away from the true subject on the research of ethics. If we do not have the true essence of a subject, then we are liable to talk about anything except the truth. It is sad that philosophers, following Aristotle, persistently repeat this mistake even when the dichotomy of moral categories is known to everyone.
Fig. 1. Graphic dichotomy: the trick is that only the black subclass is drawn here, and the white one, without being drawn at all, manifests itself.
Without being separate entities, good and evil cannot be goals in themselves that we could strive for. Аnd for this reason, the good has wrongly «…been declared to be that at which all things aim.» Good and evil are parameters, level pointers, or relationships that allow us to come to the desired goal or desired entity. Thus, it is seen that both the substratum and the result of the action of a moral choice is that to which the attitude is expressed using the concepts of good and evil. It remains for us now to find out what kind of fundamental essence can manifest itself in almost any phenomenon around us.
Let’s look at this using the example of any measuring instrument that we use: speedometer, altimeter, thermometer, or fuel quantity indicator. These measuring instruments are excellent models of the «ethical method», their function can reveal the mechanics of its work. So, we may say that measuring instruments is designed primarily to show whether a process controlled by us either exists or is dying. On the instruments, we see on one hand the permissible range of the existence is the process that we launched, its existence right now. And on the other hand, the unacceptable parameters of the existence is the process when it is heading for death. And the danger of this death is important for us, because it is important to us that the existence of the process continues to exist.
If you bake a pie, then when you control the baking by the thermometer, the process is already underway, the pie is already baking and the process already exists. Now, consider the baking process chemically. As always, baking is a Maillard reaction: a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its distinctive flavor. Ideally, it exists in the range from 110 degrees Celsius to 140 degrees. A complete taste is formed, which represents numerous rearrangements of molecules, and as such, an ideal brown crust appears along with a characteristic pleasant aroma. If the temperature is less than 110 degrees, the Maillard reaction will be insufficient, and there will be no baking as we know it – a brown crust, a full taste, and the smell of the pie. It will just be a boiled, half-baked dough, raw and tasteless pie filling. On the contrary, above 140 degrees there will be caramelization of sugars, and above 200 degrees and the combustion of carbohydrates – so baking will also die.
In this example, we see that we have indicators of good for baking: from 110 to 140 degrees. We also have indicators of evil: less than 110 or over 140 degrees. And it seems that we naturally strive for the good, while avoiding the evil. Exactly as Aristotle told us. But is this really the case? Can we say that we received a goodness as entity at the end of the process, if it satisfied us? No, we got good pastries and nothing else. Even a good, delicious pie is not «…to be that at which all things aim», it is not a goodness as entity. If we burn the pie, we do not get the evil as entity either. The only thing that happened was that the pastries that we needed is died, but nothing else.
So, by controlling the baking with the parameters of good and evil, we did not strive for good as such. Just like we didn’t really embody any evil if we chose not to control the baking properly and burn the pie. In essence, we used the ethical method on the measuring instrument to prevent the death of the process that was important to us. Therefore, ethics is exactly the method of precisely overcoming specifically the death that threatens the existence of the process we need. This technique can be applied to any life situation.
The entity we are looking for, which we track by ethical parameters on the measuring instruments, is precisely the threat of death of the process, but not the presence of existence. It is important to grasp this difference. We already have the existence of the process, which is commonly known as existing right now. But we will respond to the signal of the parameters only in response to possible process problems, which the measuring instrument signals by showing unacceptable parameters on the scale.
Thus, when we see a favorable range of parameters, this can be thought of as is a goodness for the process, rather than a good as entity. In other words, a parameter of the essence of the process. And when we see an unfavorable range of parameters, an evil for the process appears, but not as an evil as entity. It is an undesirable parameter for the essence of the process.
Let us consider one more example. A plane going 200 km/h will be too slow and dangerous – risking the plane to fall into a tailspin every second and lose its footing, and then die. However, that same speed for a car (200 km/h) will be dangerously too high. There will be increased threat of collision, human death, and destruction from an accident. So, there is no evil, nor good, inherently in the 200 km/h speed itself. It is obvious that our attitude to this speed will change depending on the situation, as demonstrated just above.
By itself, the figure on the altimeter indicates the position of the aircraft above the ground. And the figure becomes evil only when it indicates a position that means the possibility of the death of the aircraft, and good if the flight can continue safely. The pilot applies an attitude to the figure: knowing which of are good and which are bad makes an effort towards the indicators of good on the instruments and avoids approaching the indicators of evil. So, the pilot does not achieve good by itself, and avoids not evil as a separate entity. It can also be mentioned that the same numbers on the altimeter can mean evil for the aircraft in one situation, and good in another. There is no contradiction in this and the situation is clearly understood by us.
From the reasoning about the indicators, it also follows that for any indicator, the index of evil is important. Sometimes, the device generates an alert light for the danger indicator, which simply signals the loss of the goodness in the process. And, as in Figure 1, even if there is no good on such an indicator, it is still always present there by not burning alarm mode. So, in order to know the good, we always need an indicator of evil. And the most important thing is that we are convinced of the inseparability of our parametric categories. It is impossible to be sure of getting the result of the process if guided only by the indicators of the range of good. Therefore, on any device, the index of evil is equally important to us. Parametric good and evil are inseparable – that’s why they are a dichotomy.
Therefore, good and evil cannot, and should not, be separated if we want to benefit from them. We always need to know the range of both parameters in order to find the right path. If our instruments only show the range of good, then how will we avoid evil without knowing about where is it?
Fig. 2. The ethical method means that the parameters of GOOD for the existing system or process are from 60 to 160, and parameters more than 210 mean EVIL, that is, they lead to the death of the system or the process.
At this point of reasoning, it may seem to us that the ethical method boils down to the survival of an existing one, but this is not correct. The concepts of overcoming death and survival are not identical. Survival addresses first to the energy of life, which is already exist and is looking for a way to continue, not paying attention to problems, and not even knowing about them. Survival is the path of natural selection. The tool of selection on the path of survival is death. The higher the energy of living systems and the number of attempts, the sooner the selection system gets the right option. No matter what the problem is, it is important to find and consolidate such behavior to the point of a form of existence that does not face a problem in the first place. Indeed, although there are infinitely many problems, animals do this without any research. Their instinct serves as the right way past problems, and they pay with their lives for wrong answers. As a result of the evolution of selection, all the wrong answers die, and only the right ones survive. Survivors, as it is seen, are the right answers in its purest form.
Overcoming death for a human, on the contrary, implies understanding the source of danger, and requires an investigation and research. It is possible to overcome only the obstacle that you understand, and which will be in the future. It is important to mention time, because if we are talking about the problem as a termination of existence of life, overcoming the problem is an action aimed at what is ahead. A collision with the problem already means the cessation of existence, termination of life.
Overcoming turns out to be orders of magnitude more effective than survival. Understanding and studying the problem allows you to do anything with the problem, to bypass it along any trajectory, and not just the one that was fixed by selection. It can solve the problem, transform the problem, and make it a support for further development. So, we destroyed the smallpox virus in one case. And in another case, they took an adenovirus and used it as a vector for a vaccine against COVID-19. See the diagram in Figure 3:
Fig. 3. Overcoming death and survival.
Let’s look at this difference in another example. Before the advent of airplanes, people did not fly by themselves, and therefore we do not have instincts and behavioral programs selected by evolution for safe flight. But still, experienced pilots learn to recognize dangerous situations thanks to the sensations from the experience gained, and, according to the readings of the instruments. The devices on the airplane are more complicated because good and evil do not manifest themselves unambiguously, as on a thermometer when baking a pie, but in a complex ratio of indicators of different devices.
Now imagine that an inexperienced pilot is sitting in the cockpit of an airplane: he knows how to fly correctly, but he is not yet able to recognize in time how the plane goes into a dangerous mode. His feelings have not yet been fixed, and he cannot quickly understand the complex correlations of instrument readings. In this case, when there is a problem with the plane, the pilot remains calm, after all, he is alive, his instincts are silent, and he does not try to survive despite the plane steadily approaching death. Not knowing how death is approaching him, the pilot does not try to overcome the problem. Survival in its purest form does not help.
Then there comes the moment when the pilot realizes that the instrument readings are out of acceptable parameters – he learns about the problem. What actions should the pilot do? He has no flight instincts, because he is not a bird, and he cannot rely on instincts. This means that before performing actions to save the aircraft, the pilot must know exactly what problem needs to be overcome. He needs to understand exactly what the problem is. The aircraft lowered its nose too much or lifted its nose too much at a given speed and current altitude. The speed is too high or too low for the known weight and size of the aircraft. The height is too large or too small with the existing terrain, and so on. But only after understanding it will it be possible to overcome the problem; only after the pilot finds out exactly what the problem of flight is. So, we see demonstrated what the difference is between survive and overcome the problem. Of course, in ordinary life we can use both concepts in the same situation, but survival is rather an animal state associated with instinctive and reflexive activity to avoid problems «here and now» and always in the present moment. Contrarily, overcoming the problem is a purely human condition associated with understanding what is happening in the dynamics of the system of times: the future, the past and the present.
Let’s set the situation: an inexperienced pilot in a falling plane is quite motivated to live, and he wants to live, and wants to be happy, to experience pleasure. But these desires in themselves do not motivate him in any way if he does not know about the problem that has arisen. The pilot is motivated only by knowledge of the problem.
We clearly see that the categories of good and evil show us the relation to the problem, and not to life, being, happiness or pleasure. If we start with an understanding of a separate and distinct good: life, happiness, the common good, an increase in universal pleasure, and so on – we will only come to contradictions, which will be discussed later.
Fig. 4. If an inexperienced pilot does not know about the corkscrew, then the desire to survive in itself will not help him in any way, because until the plane falls, nothing interferes with the pilot’s life. But only a pilot who knows about the death that is rapidly approaching due to a corkscrew can take actions to avoid a future death that exists only in an abstract model and does not yet exist for him in reality. So, the knowledge of death alone is more effective than survival.
In general, if we want to evaluate the flight as a whole, then we evaluate the ability to overcome death in the entire flight process, and not just the result of survival. Only a flight that has not had incidents and has not suffered a catastrophe will be undisputedly good for the pilot. If there was an incident in flight, even if it did not lead to a catastrophe, but just had a threat of catastrophe, then we will call this flight bad, although the result was still survival. The fact is that we knew about the risk of death in an emergency flight, which was significantly higher than in a good flight without an accident. So, we see that ethics evaluates the success of the process of overcoming death, and not the resulting survival.
Fig. 5. In the figure, survival corresponds to both the good and the not good, with an incident flight. Thus, good and evil does not correspond to survival, but rather expresses an attitude to the problem of death. This gives an assessment of not good to the flight with the incident.
We can also identify the essential binding of good and evil completely abstractly. For example, in the case of a game, when one person is looking for an object in a room, and another tells him, cold – warmer – colder – hot, we understand that we only conditionally color proximity to the goal with a certain physical connotation. So, when the seeker approaches a hidden object, warmer or colder means approaching or moving away from the goal, not the physical temperature of the goal. The desired object does not exude heat but is endowed with such a property for the convenience of communication. Therefore, the words warm / cold can be replaced without losing the meaning of the described game with positive / negative, or good / bad, and, finally, good / evil. In fact, nothing at all will change. Therefore, good and evil are not good or bad in themselves, they only allow a person to search for some fundamental essence. And this essence, as a result of the game, will not appear to us in any form of good or evil, such as the embodied negative / positive, warmth / cold, as you have already guessed.
Note, an interesting point: the result of the game resets good and evil. After finding the desired entity, we are no longer interested in these categories.
Further, it is necessary to clarify the following statement of Aristotle: «But a certain difference is found among ends; some are activities, others are products apart from the activities that produce them. Where there are ends apart from the actions, it is the nature of the products to be better than the activities.»
It is not clear why Aristotle defined goals in two ways: as activities and as results. In theory, only activity leads to result. Can there be an activity in itself as a goal that does not need the result generated by it? Probably, but then, if the result of such an activity-goal is still generated, can it be undesirable in the sense that such an activity-goal should always be unfinished or never ending? And wouldn’t it be easier in this case to call activity-goal simply goal, and efforts that do not allow it to result – activity? At least then we won’t have to mix the concepts together. When Aristotle mentions goals that exist separately from activity, what goal can we achieve without doing anything for it? Do we need a goal that does not need to be achieved in any way? Neither by physical actions, nor by thoughts – meaning, even desire. After all, in this case, we would rather call it not a goal, but a given.
In future work, Aristotle still makes an attempt to deal with goals and activities more constructively, but since the starting point is chosen incorrectly – the desire for good as a non-existent goal – then he does not logically come to understanding the problem, repeatedly returning to happiness, then to being as an activity.
«…For even if the end is the same for a single man and for a state, that of the state seems at all events something greater and more complete whether to attain or to preserve; though it is worth while to attain the end merely for one man, it is finer and more godlike to attain it for a nation or for city-states…»
So, trying to naturalize the good, Aristotle brings us to the concept of the good of the state, which can be interpreted as the good of society for the good of man, as the goal of any activity. But, as we found out earlier, if the good in itself does not mean anything, but is only a parameter or a guideline in the process of achieving some goal, then Aristotle, making a cross-linking of the good and the goal, gives a false goal in his presentation of ethics. Actually, he even understands this himself, «…And goods also give rise to a similar fluctuation because they bring harm to many people…»
After a few sentences, we see another glimpse of the thinker’s consciousness, «…because the end aimed at is not knowledge but action.» – that is, in this place, Aristotle sees an understanding that good and harm are only guidelines for activity to achieve something, pointers for activity, but not the goal itself. However, later on, Aristotle tries again to define good as something in itself, equating it with happiness, but immediately making sure that happiness is very relative, internally and externally contradictory, therefore in this context it cannot be a goal.
Here is a good point in the reasoning: «…but the term «good’ is used both in the category of substance and in that of quality and in that of relation, and that which is per se, i.e., substance, is prior in nature to the relative (for the latter is like an off shoot and accident of being); so that there could not be a common Idea set over all these goods.» Here it concerns the relationship and this is exactly what is needed. The parametric dichotomy of positive and negative expresses an attitude towards a certain goal as an entity. It remains only to find the most important thing, the being to which the attitude is expressed.
Here Aristotle, after wandering a few paragraphs in arguments that do not have a point of reference, still gives out a sober thought again, «Are goods one, then, by being derived from one good or by all contributing to one good…?» – yes, that’s exactly the point, I want to answer him, it’s just a pity that the source is located in a completely different direction from where Aristotle is looking for.
As a result, Aristotle relieves himself of the concern of searching for a single source, saying, «But perhaps these subjects had better be dismissed for the present… And similarly with regard to the Idea; even if there is some one good which is universally predicable of goods or is capable of separate and independent existence, clearly it could not be achieved or attained by man; but we are now seeking something attainable.»
Now let us turn to the part of Ethics in which Aristotle still touches the subject we are looking for, which on one hand does not allow him to achieve harmony in his ethical constructions, and on the other, this subject itself could serve as a solid core for any ethical search, if it were taken as a starting point. He says, «Now death is the most terrible of all things; for it is the end, and nothing is thought to be any longer either good or bad for the dead.» – indeed, but death is exactly what only man has understood so far, …but we are seeking what is peculiar to man. And it is death, according to Aristotle, that nullifies good and evil. If we are talking about good and evil as a relation to death, is not all the source of specificity of man here? Yes, that’s right, – the whole phenomenology of human is generated through his attitude to death.
How a human considers life and death, and how nature consider it, are fundamentally different. Nature has no categories of relations at all and there is no good and evil in nature. But a human has these categories, they give him a unique specificity. Therefore, if we understand the reason for the existence of these categories for human, it means to be able to define the phenomenon of human itself.
Then, Aristotle plunges into cyclical discussions of the golden mean, repeating the same thing over and over again, «… implying that excess and defect destroy the goodness of works of art, while the mean preserves it…» If you think about what is said here, it is possible that the main thing is not that it is excess or lack, but rather disastrous or beneficial. When Aristotle judges good or evil, the thought boils down to whether the subject (person, society, or state) perishes or continues to live. This question constantly appears in any reasoning, as if this is all that is being discussed, meaning the same thing in different formulations. To show this, Aristotle says, «…as we see in the case of strength and of health… both excessive and defective exercise destroys the strength, and similarly drink or food which is above or below a certain amount destroys the health, while that which is propo tionate both produces and increases and preserves it…; … temperance and courage, then, are destroyed by excess and defect, and preserved by the mean…; …and if one did the action they were to be saved, but otherwise would be put to death…» And so, time after time, almost about the same thing: to be or not to be, that’s the question. So, isn’t that really the question? Yes, it is.