Part of series: Statehood

To write wrongs and wrong rights


~700 words


Last modified: January 30th, 12,018 HE

Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

This part was originally going to be included alongside my discussion of statehood. I realised, however, that perhaps a mere offhand remark that it is obvious that there is no morality external from ourselves required further elaboration. In this third piece of my Statehood series, I shall attempt to better lay the groundwork for this next section.

I have previously written about the concept of natural rights. In short, there exists in nature, objective and separate from human intervention, no concept of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ distinct from the physical distinction between ‘possible’ and ‘impossible’. As Stirner puts it, whoever knows how to take, to defend, the thing, to him belongs property.

Any proposed delineation of things that are ‘right’ and things that are ‘wrong’ must accept, by virtue of it having been proposed and not having instead been self-evident through observation of the world in which we inhabit, that it is a constructed delineation. Whether the constructor is claimed to be man or god makes little difference.

Any such proposal will, obviously, aim to dissuade those things it classes as ‘wrong’ (and encourage those things it classes as ‘right’). This must, necessarily, bring it into conflict with those natural rights bestowed upon all inhabitants of reality. If nature remains silent when one creature slays another, then an attempt to prohibit such activity must necessarily infringe on one’s natural right to do so. That’s not to say that this is an undesirable state of affairs—I’m rather fond of the social consensus that we should discourage murder—but merely to say that any human-created morality must be enforced at the cost to nature-granted freedom. We all write our own senses of ‘wrong’, and in doing so must unavoidably wrong our rights and others'.

An addendum to this is that these moral codes form the basis of relations between individuals, allowing them to group together and form superstructures. The ants do not have this problem, when it comes to creating (or, more accurately, causing) colonies, as they are not aware of doing so, nor of their own individuality. When economic theory is criticised for operating on the faulty assumption that humans are purely rational agents, this is exactly the issue it runs into—all other living creatures, bar humans, are. All of this will be further explored in the next part of this series.

All this then leads to an obvious question: which delineation of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ is the correct delineation?

Humanity have spent centuries attempting to figure this one out, and we appear no closer than we did in Year 0. This suggests that the question is unanswerable. This is the case even with a belief that one’s moral code has been handed down to humanity from an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent god (or gods). A central part of religious belief is the concept of ‘faith’, and Kierkegaardian leaps thereof. In short, the statement that I cannot know this is true, or prove it to be so, but will believe it nonetheless. Intriguingly, religious faith begins at the same assertion of uncertainty as agnosticism—it simply reaches the opposite conclusion on what to do about it.

As long as there are disparities between individual humans—as nobody would seriously dispute—there will be different delineations that work best for different collections of individuals. Morality is created by collections of humans, and serves those collections of humans—it is not, and cannot be, one-size-fits-all.

This fundamental uncertainty—again, even religious belief tends to state that judgement shall come only after death, rather than during life—means that one must accept the imperfection of their own morality. We would call mad, and rather aggravating, the one who refused to accept that another favoured a different colour to them. No, they cry. Blue is objectively superior for red! Colour favouritism is as subjective as morality, and must be treated as such.