Morality as a scientific field

Morality is about what actions can lead to a highest expectable global happiness.
This field of inquiry might be split into two questions.

One question is, what are the logical connections (causalities) by which someone's actions influence effective circumstances or other situations that people will face.
The second question is how these circumstances will affect their happiness.

Since all these things (actions, circumstances and happiness) are observable, and the very object of morality is how actions influence happiness in this way, this suffices to make morality a genuine field of science.
This call for considering morality as a science, and more precisely, for the same reason, that it must be a consequentialist (utilitarian) view, has ready been made by other authors, especially by Sam Harris. Unfortunately, while he had the merit to have claimed it loud by repeating and reexplaining this same remark over and over again, it is a pity that he hardly went any further in the effective study of this field. But we are going to present an effective start of such a work here. And the obsessive repetition of a single elementary principle without going further, is a philosopher's mania rather than a scientific work.

So, let's go a little further. We said, the issue can be split into 2 questions. Let's have a look at the second one: how do circumstances affect happiness ?
One may assume this question to be obvious, and its answer as directly accessible to our senses, just as we said that the measure of happiness is directly accessible to our senses: to know what someone needs for being happy, it would suffice to ask the question : "What do you need to be happy ?"

Assuming this measurement tool to be correct and thus focusing on the first question (what actions can better lead to specified concrete consequences) as the hard part, the science of morality is reduced to something quite practical, far from the mysteries of psychology, a field where scientific methods can fully apply as all the relevant elements and causality relations are, in principle, accessible to our senses and understanding (and, just like in any other sciences, the only problem is that they are very complex). This may be seen as encompassing all applied sciences for how their specifications of how to produce specific individual tools and objects. But a crucial aspect is how actions from several, many or all individuals can connect and interact together to globally lead to such wanted outcomes.
This is the field of economics and politicial science.
In this sense, the science of morality is quite old, and already took note of readily available solutions.

Concretely, a typical solution to find out and provide what objects people may best need for their daily life, is to put them in a supermarket and let them choose what to buy. But this would only address the needs currently satisfiable by buying something, which are not all needs.
Anyway, supermarkets are but a particular case of a general principle of self-help that already works in many areas (and more reasearch can be done to still extend its efficiency to more areas), so that the self-awareness of one's needs (if correct) motivates the actions that lead to the optimized consequences (with no need of any explicit measure of individual or collective welfare by outside observers).

Economic and political sciences are dealing with the global flow of actions as resulting from everyone's strive for their respective goals, and how well this all leads to the accomplishments of the expressed goals. So, these fields can in good approximation be considered as synonymous to the science of morality. Or, they can be seen as another aspect of the same more general science. This more general science is the science of how politico-economical systems and individual actions in these systems affect a sort of global sum of the satisfaction by everyone of their respective wants.
Inside it, the political and economic questions are to compare these satisfactions as depending on the system or the policy, for a fixed set of behaviors; while the morality questions are to compare the effects of different possible behaviors of an individual inside a fixed politico-economic system.

Sometimes both questions may coincide, when individuals have the power to change the system or policy.

In other ways, we can consider morality as more general than economics, as it includes the consideration of all actions and their consequences (including among people who interact informally, maybe because they know each other well, disregarding the formal rules of the more global society), while economics and politics deal more specifically with the only actions that go through collective formal processes (markets...) and are concerned with the formal rules of society as a whole.
However, as I already explained in other texts and will develop in Part IV, new economical and political solutions can be developed through technology, extending their usefulness beyond their traditional scopes, so as to make the economic and political fields nearly as general as morality.

So, the problem with economics and political science is that they are currently far from perfect and need to be further worked on.

Now let's come back to the second morality question (what do people need), that we suggested to dismiss as trivial : this is the "self-responsibility hypothesis" assuming everyone's needs to be expressed by their respective intentions or wills (opinions about one's own needs). For practical purposes, economic theories often hold this self-responsibility hypothesis as true.

Now, is it possible to disagree with the self-responsibility hypothesis, and build a morality system over some negations of it ? Such a view is paradoxical as it presents a conflict of opinions: it puts forward an opinion about people's needs that is in conflict with their respective opinions about their own needs. This view is quite bold as requires :
How can this be ?
We can observe three methods (conceptions of other's needs and their associated "solutions") that have already developed on a large scale: the Socialist method, the Buddhist method, and the Christian/Muslim method.

The Socialist method involves 3 ingredients: a fool, a doctor and a coercion system.
The doctor's role is to define the fool's needs in contradictions with the fools own opinions (wants).
The role of the coercion system is to keep the fool's life under the doctor's control.
However there is a limit to this system, as the doctor is but a human just like the fool, and thus can be mistaken as well. As the doctor's errors would lead his will to harm the fool's needs (while the fool's foolishness only harms himself), this is rather called madness.
Thus its reliability somehow requires 2 more ingredients: a meta-doctor and a meta-coercion system.
The role of the meta-doctor is to find out whether the doctor is sane or mad.
The role of the meta-coercion system is to give the means for the meta-doctor to defeat the coercion system ifever the doctor is found to be mad.
Examples such coercions already in force:
So, the doctor's role is usually played by the government, the meta-coercion system is given by democracy (assumed to be enough, but quite miserable in practice), so that the meta-doctors more or less coincide with the fools themselves. This way of closing the chain of doctors and coercion systems into a loop, saves us from the need to specify meta-meta-doctors with meta-meta-coercion systems and so on ad infinitum. But it turns out when following the chain of dependencies of the socialist coercion system, that after its "democratic" meta-coercive system, it has two meta-meta-coercive systems, one is constitutional, and the other one is educational, thus only differing from the Buddhist method by the compulsory nature of public education.

With the Buddhist method (or rather, a method more or less followed by many religions), the fool is called a "disciple", the doctor a "Master", and the coercion method is purely dialectic. It goes as follows:
  1. The Master claims to have got a direct perception of the naked reality (called Awakening, Enlightenment or the like) while the disciple would be living in illusion;
  2. The disciple starts trusting the Master more than his own senses;
  3. The Master claims that the satisfaction of desires leads to suffering;
  4. The disciple, trusting this, makes a tabula rasa of his own wills.
Here again, the meta-doctor is the disciple himself, who is free to follow the master of his choice, or to follow none and keep his own mind, as Buddhism is tolerant and openly acknowledges the diversity of ways and the disciple's personal responsibility in making his own choices (so as to save the Master from any responsibility in case his guidance would be wrong). (But other religions with a similar method don't so liberally recognize the value of this meta-coercion system).

Note that such a method develops more as a sefish than a moral work, as most of the work is the one done by the disciple to change his own will for the sake of some assumed better personal happiness.

The Christian/Muslim method is the simplest. The fool (pious person) just needs to express his wishes to God in prayer. Then if these wishes don't happen to be fulfilled, he will conclude that they were not God's will.

No coercion system is needed, as God is assumed to be omnipotent anyway (or to say it otherwise, God's will is redefined as the outcome of the vacuous coercion system identified as destiny), so that even the attempt to wonder what this coercion system could be, would be condemned as blasphemy (a doubt towards God's omnipotence).
For the same motive of blasphemy prohibition, no meta-doctor can be tolerated either.

Now let us sum up the whole field of research in morality by the list of the main questions it is made of, some of which will be later examined in more details:
  1. What is the range of goals that should be seeked for, and their respective importances: human happiness, animals happiness, God's happiness (through worship or anything else), afterlife purposes, environmental preservation
  2. How valid are the above traditional methods to correct the expression of needs, from their natural form to any more correct expression of the real needs (specifying the direct circumstancial conditions of happiness);should such corrective methods be abandoned or further worked on, and can such methods be done sufficiently correctly and obtain worthy enough accomplishments compared to the coercitive works and collateral damages associated with risks of errors and other perverse effects (with the people's tries to avoid this coercion)
  3. By which means and towards which forms can and should the system be changed, and what laws would need to be adopted, either now or in later circumstances or systems. For example, can a system help to "make people more rational" by better informing them on what intermediate purposes they should follow to more efficiently serve their expressed ultimate needs ; how morally efficient can be works to improve the system, as compared to works to develop personal moral actions inside the existing system(s);
  4. As innovations and revolutions (hopefully towards better systems) cannot go on forever but will have to converge to some form or stability sooner or later, and anyway cannot be everybody's task, what are the main features of morality issues (the right rules, principles...) to be expected in the world, first in some near future, then in some ultimate system, in terms of one's actions in a fixed system (out of exhaustion of the needs for improving the system) - because the very purpose of legal systems is to forbid evil actions and try to prevent them from happening.

See also: Origins of evil and how to cure them

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