Using logic in the search for supreme values
Love, Power and Justice: the Dynamics of Authentic Morality
By William S. Hatcher
Bahá’í Publishing Trust
These questions have engrossed philosophers and thoughtful people everywhere since ancient times. The answers have come in great variety, from Plato's theory of ideal forms to more recent concepts of cultural relativism and situational ethics.
The relevance of these questions today is highlighted by discussions about the need for a new paradigm of global ethics and the accompanying search for universal values. These discussions are perhaps most heated in areas like human rights, where there is continuing disagreement over the degree to which all possess the same rights or whether cultural and religious factors give rise to different rights for different groups of people. But the questions - and the answers they generate - also loom large in the background of contemporary debates over the environment, educational methodology and media ethics - not to mention more straightforward issues like military intervention and national sovereignty.
For these reasons even the most hardheaded of policy makers, as well as thinking people in virtually any culture, will find new and important ideas in the latest book from William S. Hatcher, an American-born mathematician, philosopher and educator at Laval University in Quebec, Canada.
Love, Power and Justice: The Dynamics of Authentic Morality offers a bold and creative philosophical framework for understanding these great questions and more. Quite specifically, the book seeks to define the nature of "authentic morality" - a term that Dr. Hatcher uses to describe a moral system that conforms with "an accurate perception of the structure of reality."
In the process, Dr. Hatcher outlines a series of philosophic constructs that assert with convincing logic the existence of an all-powerful Creator, the ultimate nobility of the human being, and the necessity for viewing altruistic love as the guiding value in human relationships. Dr. Hatcher's work also defines the legitimate use of power and the prerequisites for establishing justice.
The logic he employs goes far to prove the universality of such values and, by extension, to establish the universal nature of human rights, the downfall of cultural relativism and the demise of situational ethics. Another by-product is a stunning critique of some of this century's most vibrant ideologies, including fundamentalist religion, collectivist economics and the currently reigning idea that individualistic competition promotes society's best development.
The book begins in a straightforward and direct manner, with the simple assumption that the ultimate source of all intrinsic values is God, "for He is the Creator who has alone determined the inner structure and degree of refinement of each entity in existence."
As the supreme value in existence, the Creator by definition becomes the ultimate end and goal of all human moral striving, Dr. Hatcher says. Further, he asserts, "[b]ecause the 'reality of man' (the human soul) is capable of reflecting all the attributes of God, the human being is the apex of creation" and "the highest created value." He continues that since "the God-given value of humankind is inherent in our essential nature, it is intrinsic and, since it is shared by all humans, it is universal."
This, of course, is all quite similar to what has been taught by most of the world's religions. And such ideas have also been hotly disputed by materialistic philosophers who argue that there is no God (or no reliable proof of God) or any evidence of the human soul, and so on. Yet it would be wrong to say that Dr. Hatcher, who is a Bahá'í, looks to the past for his ideas, and that his call for the acceptance of absolute truths and universal values is a return to traditionalism.
Rather, Dr. Hatcher says he has drawn on and been inspired by the Bahá'í writings for the insights that have led to his new formulation. Further, Love, Power and Justice is distinguished for its almost exclusive reliance on pure logic for its conclusions.
Indeed, what makes the book so important is its use of new forms of logic, based on mathematical concepts discovered within the last 100 years, that, in subsequent sections, are used to prove the existence of a universal, unique and uncreated Creator [see below] and, by logical inference from that, the existence of a supreme and universal system of values. Dr. Hatcher reasons, for example, that since God is the unique, universal Cause, God must also be the most refined entity in existence and, accordingly, the most valued entity in existence.
With these conclusions established, Dr. Hatcher then fills out the rest of his book with an exposition of what such a reality must mean for human morality - deriving what he considers to be "authentic" morality from this hierarchy of values.
Authentic morality begins with our relationship with God, as the highest value in the universe, and our relationship with other humans, as the highest created value. "Since the human being is the supreme value in creation, it is our interactions with other humans that have the greatest degree of moral implication," he writes. "So much is this so, that we can say that the most specific goal of morality is to establish authentic relationships with other human beings.
"The mark of authenticity in interhuman relationships is the presence of self-sacrificing love or altruism. Non-authentic relationships are based on various forms of egotism and self-interest and are characterized by conflict, disharmony, manipulation, cruelty, jealousy and the like."
In examining further what such a concept of authentic relationships must mean in terms of moral actions in society, for example, Dr. Hatcher takes a look at other models of reality and finds them deficient. He is especially concerned with any ideology or system that holds ideas or things to be more important than human beings.
For example, he writes, although all religions have taught of the necessity of authentic relationships (such as Christ's commandment to "love God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as they self"), he concludes that many religious groups have become more concerned with doctrine, rejecting authentic morality and instead defining morality as a set of rules or beliefs that must be accepted above all else, even if doing so means harming others.
"Indeed, militant and exclusivist fundamentalist ideology seems to have become predominant within many of the world's major religions in these closing years of the twentieth century," he writes.
Dr. Hatcher likewise examines various humanistic ideologies. Communism and other collectivist ideologies were doomed to fail, he suggests, because they hold that the only possible source of individual value is what may be attributed by society, rather than the intrinsic value that stems from the God-created soul. "We must each conceive of ourselves as having value, for to consider oneself worthless is to perpetrate spiritual or psychological suicide," Dr. Hatcher writes. Since the only source of self worth in a collectivist society is, by definition, the value attributed to the individual by society, the individual soon realizes, whatever the rhetoric, that his or her value is determined by his or her position in the status hierarchy.
In this situation, he writes, "[p]ower and authority allow us to compel others to recognize our worth." Hence the tendency to seek dominance over others, which causes great unhappiness and inherent instability.
The ideology of individualism in the West is also flawed, Dr. Hatcher believes. "Recall that individualism gives value to personal ability that is demonstrably above the perceived norm in society," he writes. "Individualism is the supervaluation of the special. In a society where all accept the individualistic notion of value, we can avoid the self-perception of worthlessness only by demonstrating special ability in some way. This is done primarily through competition, i.e. by constantly striving to outperform others and thereby to demonstrate our superior ability in a given area of endeavor."
One problem is that sometimes the optimal strategy for winning a competition is sabotage or corruption - and, without authentic morality, there is in the end no ethical reason to abstain from such behavior.
A value system based on authentic relationships - and in particular an authentic relationship with God - gives rise instead to the pursuit of excellence, whereby one's self-worth is measured not through competition with others but by the degree to which an individual improves his or her talents (or, rather, strives to develop one's God-given qualities).
There is much more to this book than outlined here. Dr. Hatcher spends considerable time looking at how his theory of authentic morality applies to questions regarding the pursuit of power and the creation of justice. Power should be used only to promote justice, never for revenge or for purely selfish motives, for example.
In contemporary philosophy, then, the metaphysical theory outlined in Love, Power and Justice is in a category virtually by itself, diametrically opposed to the dominant schools of post-modernistic relativism, materialism and deconstructionism.
The book adds up to a powerful exposition on global ethics - even though it has none of the usual set of "dos and don'ts" that one usually associates with other attempts to formulate a universal prescription for living. Rather, Dr. Hatcher presents us with something much more intriguing: a new framework for ethics that he believes can be logically proved to be universal and authentic.
To read an excerpt from Dr. Hatcher's book, which specifically discusses his mathematical proof for the existence of God, see below.
The Existence of God
The following is a except from pages 82 through 86 of Love, Power, and Justice: The Dynamics of Authentic Morality by William S. Hatcher.
Copyright 1998 by William S. Hatcher
Posted with the permission of the author
Chapter 3, section 4
The Existence of God
In the foregoing, there has been much talk of the causality relationship and the fundamental role it plays in the whole process of moral and spiritual development. We need now to take a closer look at some of the general logical properties of this relationship, as well as the logical connections between causality and a few other fundamental relations. Our purpose in undertaking this study is to establish the existence of God on a totally objective basis, as a necessary logical feature of the overall structure of reality itself.
By the term reality we mean the totality of existence, everything there is. A phenomenon is some portion of reality, and causality is a relationship between two phenomena A and B, which holds whenever A is a cause of B (symbolized A → B). This means that A contains asufficient reason for the existence of B. More generally, everything B that exists must either be preceded by a cause A different from B (A → B and A ≠ B), or else contain within itself a sufficient reason for its existence (B → B). In the former case, we say that B is caused orother-caused and in the latter uncaused or self-caused. The principle that every existing phenomenon must either be caused or uncaused (and not both) is the principle of sufficient reason.
Another basic relation between phenomena is the relation of part to whole: we write A ∊ B whenever the entity A is a component of the system (composite phenomenon) B. Notice that A may also be composite, but must be an entity (not just an arbitrary system) in order to be a component of another system B (whether the latter is an entity or not). Two systems (whether entities or not) may also be related by one being a subsystem of the other. We write A ⊂ B whenever A is a subsystem of B. This means precisely that every component E ∊ A is also a component E ∊ B. For example, a single leaf would be a component of a tree, but all the leaves together would constitute a subsystem of the tree. If E is either a component or subsystem of B, then E is a part of B.
From the strictly logical point of view, the defining or characteristic feature of an entity A is that A can be a component of some system B, A ∊ B. In other words, entities are components while systems have components (they are composite phenomena). Moreover, some systems also are components. Thus, with respect to composition, we have three distinct categories of phenomena. A phenomenon may be noncomposite (have no components), in which case it is necessarily an entity. A phenomenon may be a composite entity, in which case it both has components and is a component. Or, a phenomenon may be composite without being an entity, in which case it has components but can never be a component.
Causality and composition are related to each other by the obvious potency principle, which says that if A → B, then A must also be a cause of E, where E is any component or any subsystem of B. In other words, to be a cause of B is to be a cause of every part of B -- its components and its subsystems. This means that our notion of causality is that of complete cause (philosophy recognizes several different notions of "cause").
Finally, the existence of a whole system obviously cannot precede the existence of its components (rather, the constitution of a whole obviously supposes and depends upon the prior or simultaneous existence of its components). We thus have the principle of limitation,which asserts that, for every composite phenomenon A, A cannot be a cause of any of its components.
It follows immediately from these principles that no composite phenomenon can be self-caused, for suppose A → A where A is composite. Then, by the potency principle A → E, where E is any component of A. But this contradicts the limitation principle.
In fact, from these valid principles of causality and composition, we can logically deduce the existence of a unique, noncomposite, self-caused, universal cause G. This entity, whose existence we prove, is God (by logical definition). This God is not some abstract figment of our imagination but the actual, ultimate cause of all existing phenomena and entities, the origin of all being.
Since the proof is easy, we give it here in full. However, the reader who already accepts and understands the existence of a universal uncaused cause (i.e., God) can safely skip the details of the proof without diminishing his or her understanding of the subsequent sections of the course.
Let V be the collection (universe) of all existing entities. Since V is composite it cannot be self-caused (see above) and so must have a cause G (different fromV itself). Thus, G → V, G ≠ V Moreover, every existing phenomenon A is either an entity, and thus a component of V, or else a system all of whose components are in V -- in which case A is a subsystem of V. Thus, G is either a component or a subsystem of V. But, in either case, G → G by the potency principle. Thus, G is self-caused and hence noncomposite (no composite can be self-caused as shown above). Finally, since G → V and every phenomenon A is a part of V then by the potency principle, G is a universal cause (the cause of every existing phenomenon, including itself).
Finally, we show that G is the only uncaused phenomenon, for suppose there is another such phenomenon G'. Then G → G' (since G is a universal cause). But since G' is self-caused it cannot be other-caused by the principle of sufficient reason. Thus, G = G' and the uniqueness of G is established.
This clear, logical proof of God's existence and uniqueness is due in its essentials to the great Muslim philosopher Avicenna (ibn Sina, 980 - 1037). By making use of a few notions of modern logic, our presentation here somewhat simplifies Avicenna's exposition.
The relationships of causality and composition, and the logical connections between them, give us the knowledge of God's existence. This naturally raises the further question of God's nature (what is God like?). To answer this, we need now to consider the value relation ≥, mentioned in chapter 1, and which only holds between (i.e., is meaningful for) entities. To say that the entity A is as valuable as the entity B, A ≥ B, means that A is either more refined(higher) -- or at least no less refined -- than B.
For example, in the physical world, humans are higher (more complex) than animals, animals higher than plants, and plants higher than minerals (inorganic substances). In the spiritual world, the relationship of higher to lower is the relationship of universal to particular (e.g., the relationship between the form of the human in the mind of God, embodied in the Manifestations, and any particular individual human soul).
The fundamental logical connection between causality and value is given by the refinement principle: where A and B are entities,
if A → B then A ≥ B. This means that any causal entity must be at least as refined as its effect. Since God is the unique universal cause, God is also the most refined entity in existence.
In particular, humans have the positive qualities of consciousness, intelligence, feelings, and will. Moreover, although each human soul has these qualities to a specific, finite, and limited degree, there is no limit to the degree that these qualities can exist generally in human beings. (For example, no matter how intelligent a given human being may be, it is possible for another human to be more intelligent.) Since God is the unique cause of every human being, God must have these positive qualities (and undoubtedly others) to a degree greater than every limited (finite) degree, thus to an unlimited (infinite) degree. Hence, God is infinitely conscious, infinitely knowing, infinitely loving, and infinitely willing (all-powerful). In fact, since God is the only Being whose existence is absolute (i.e., uncaused), God has these qualities to an absolute degree.
Thus, the logical answer to the question "what is God's nature?" is to say that "God is like us except for possessing none of our limitations and all of our positive qualities to an infinite degree." Of course we cannot really imagine what it means to possess such qualities as consciousness or will to an infinite degree, but the refinement principle does nevertheless gives us at least a minimal, purely logical notion of God's nature.
16. We have already observed (cf. chapter 1 above) that an authentic relationship with God constitutes the very basis of authentic morality. However, there is a widespread conception that knowledge of God's existence can only be based on subjective emotions or an act of "blind faith." By establishing God's existence in an objective and logical manner we seek to implement 'Abdu'l-Bahá's definition of faith as. "…first, conscious knowledge, and second, the practice of good deeds." (Bahá'í World Faith, p.383) Once we have attained to the conscious knowledge of God's existence, we have fulfilled the first of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's conditions of faith and can then proceed to the second stage, which is "good deeds," i.e., the establishment of an appropriate (authentic), ongoing dialogue (relationship) with God.
17. For more on the proof of the existence of God, see appendix II, pp.139-141. Professional philosophers should take note here of my somewhat broader (and thus slightly nonstandard) definition of the term "phenomenon." This usage is consistent throughout the present work.
18. For an extended discussion of this proof and its historical context, see The Law of Love Enshrined, pp. 19-42.
Excerpted from Love, Power, and Justice: The Dynamics of Authentic Morality by William S. Hatcher (Bahá'í Publishing Trust: Wilmette, IL, 1998) pp 82-86.
© Copyright 1998 by William S. Hatcher