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Abstract of
Ethics’ Dipolar Necessities and Theistic Implications
Presentation at the Ethics Section of the
6th International Whitehead Conference, July 5 2006
Duane Voskuil PhD

Every value judgment must consider both the ‘is’ and the ‘ought.’ Each moment of reality is a dipolar whole, a creating subject-whole grasping its factual casual past as object-parts within itself while evaluating its possible outcomes against an abstract, conceptual standard, a characteristic within itself. An argument is presented that the conceptual standard must be metaphysically grounded, that is, a characteristic necessarily found in every moment of existence. Five concepts of purported metaphysical generality are presented, without which ethical theory would fail to make sense: Two are necessities exhibited by the facts inherited by every moment of reality: Creative Freedom and Making a Difference; two others are necessities concerning the value of facts, namely, the Value Standard itself and the Principle of Co-Equal Values; and one expresses the global necessity of Dipolarity, that wholes can only evaluate their own actual and possible factual parts.

The principles necessary to make sense of value judgments imply theism, specifically neoclassical theism. Theism is either the only way reality is conceivable, or theism is meaningless since it is not a contingent possibility. Frank Gamwell’s similar conclusion in The Divine Good, is generally supported except for his belief that Creativity is the ultimate principle of value (182/3). Creativity is the means to the ultimate end of Beauty or aesthetic richness. Creativity is neutral to the positive-negative value scale except in the most attenuated sense of ‘something is better than nothing,’ but since ‘nothing’ is meaningless, being or coming-to-be in some way or other is on the ‘is’ side of the ‘is-ought’ contrast.

One cannot argue from the necessity of some creative freedom, to one ‘ought’ to have more freedom or creativity since, apart from the divine, freedom may be used to create ugliness. ‘Unsurpassable Ugliness’ as a divine attribute is rationally meaningless, but the necessity for Beauty to be unsurpassably fulfilled every moment can lay the basis for Beauty as creativity’s ultimate purpose which, as a value principle, is uniquely ubiquitous, and as such is the principle that ought to be fulfilled.

Ethics’ Dipolar Necessities and Theistic Implications
Presentation at the Ethics Section of the
6th International Whitehead Conference, July 5 2006
Duane Voskuil PhD

Spinoza called his magnum opus Ethics, since ethics, or perhaps better, aesthetics, encompasses the whole philosophical attempt to find a rational scheme to interpret experience. Specifically, an Ethic must explain the relationship between the ‘is’ and the ‘ought,’ namely, between (1) what has happened or must happen and (2) what should happen. Spinoza, of course, ultimately failed to have an ‘ought’ as is the case with every material or theistic determinism.

Plato saw that the ‘Good’ expresses how everything ought to be related––despite the intractability of the world’s mater. But Plato was unable to clearly express the dipolarity of the World and the Good, so unfortunately the history of theology floundered in dualism.

However, we no longer need to perpetuate the ancient, sexist bias denigrating, mater, the constantly recycled mother stuff. Plato’s changeless essences, the ‘I-deas,’ are not just the Goddess in each of us; they are also in the cosmically inclusive, concrete and ever-growing Subject that is far more than changeless I-deas. Neither need we continue to struggle, probably in vain, to formulate a non-theistic Ethic, an effort largely motivated by the endless failures of classical theism and pantheism to understand dipolarity.

Dipolarity has to do with the relationship of a whole to its parts. The ‘is’ and the ‘ought’ are both parts of wholes. What ‘is’ refers either to a whole’s contingent factual parts that came from the settled past, or to necessary characteristics that all wholes must exhibit just to be wholes. Facts have a dated origin, whereas the widest dimensions of potentiality, the completely abstract, generic characteristics of what might be, have always been, and must always be, exemplified by every fact.
What ‘ought to be’ is a subclass of what might be. Some future must occur, but just how it comes to be is created by present, contingent wholes. Only process wholes are concrete; all concreteness is a creative bridge between what has been settled and what is yet to be decided, that is, how the generic aspects of one’s inherited facts are becoming fulfilled by the present.

If moral decisions are to be founded on more than ‘might makes right’ or what is ‘good for’ a particular individual or group, the meaning of ‘Good’ must be an unavoidable characteristic of every possible whole. Ethical relativism only concerns how unique facts require a unique response, not the meaning of the standard of value.

I will address five of the principles necessary to make sense of value theory. The first two necessities are concerned with:

1. There must be creative process or freedom––To exist is necessarily to create something which as a whole is necessarily not necessary. Nevertheless, all the characteristics of what it means to be a ‘whole’ are necessary characteristics of every whole. To be a whole is to create, so it’s meaningless to say one ought to create or exercise freedom. ‘Ought’ implies possible alternatives.

2. Every moment must make a difference––All acts, including thoughts, must have consequences or an Ethic is meaningless. The underlying issue here is: ‘How long’ and ‘where’ must differences be made? Differences cannot be made to abstractions: Each is just the characteristic it is. Nor can differences be made to the past, which is really the contingently determined and changeless part of the dipolar present. Differences can only be made to future wholes. Decisions create a determinate outcome that changes the real potentialities for the future (for better or worse, or just to be different). A determination obviously makes a difference to the immediate future, but if the difference made is to remain, to be a “treasury of achievement,” the creation cannot cease making a difference or ultimately no difference is made.

Since differences must last forever, where can they be made or saved forever? Three general theories have been proposed: Tribalism (or more broadly, Environmentalism), Egoism and Theism. Social salvation says the members of the tribe or environment are changed by the differences created. Yet, most of what one thinks and feels has little or no affect on others, and what does, seems to peter out all too soon, even if one could believe the group will survive forever. So Egoism asserts the individual who creates the difference is affected by the difference. But the individual must last forever (despite death) in order to keep the differences she or he makes meaningful. Theism enters in here, if at all, only to reward or punish. However, neoclassical theism or panentheism, can literally say that every detail of thought and act are stored and enjoyed or suffered forever within the divine memory, so everything one does makes a difference to future potentiality forever, because the past of the cosmic Individual is a factor in all comings-to-be.

Next, are two necessities concerned with:

3. Every difference must have possible peers of equal value ––A difference must always occur, but it is always one of other possibilities of equal value, and this is necessarily the case whether or not it is a difference that could also have been better or worse. Even when a difference is so good it could not be improved upon, there must always be other possible states that would have been equally as good. ‘The one best of all possible decisions,’ is a meaningless expression to be replaced with ‘as good as any other possible.’

As Frank Gamwell in The Divine Good (183), says, “…there may be [and I’d say, must be] many ways in which any given divine activity may unify all actuality and possibility and thereby ‘pursue’ maximal creativity in the future as such.” Gamwell puts ‘pursue’ in quotes indicating he may be as uncomfortable with that expression as I am.

Since the divine necessarily creates a result as rich as any other possible, it is not ‘pursued’ by divinity. ‘Ought’ is a concept that does not apply to divine activity, for as Gamwell also says (183), the divine is not free to act in nondivine ways, in ways that are not as good as any other possible. But I can’t agree that “maximal creativity” defines the ‘Good.’ It’s maximal beauty, or better, unsurpassable beauty (for the moment) created by the divine’s unsurpassable creativity that defines the ‘Good.’

4. The other necessity concerned with ‘ought’ is a standard to weigh the value of possible differences––A decision must weigh possibilities for concreteness against an abstract standard of value. Decisions can affect the quality of the created outcome by ‘choosing’ among possibilities that are different but are of equal value; or by choosing among those that are not only different but also qualitatively better or worse. The scale weighing the value of the act is an abstract principle, such as, ‘recycling is good.’ However, such a principle always carries with it an implied ‘good for such and such.’ The ‘such and such’ must itself be justified by a higher or more inclusive good, such as, ‘Reducing impact on the environment is good,’ which itself must be justified.

The regression of justifications, however, must cease, and a cessation short of a principle that applies to all possible acts is arbitrary. One that all possible creations must exhibit is a metaphysical necessity. Since all acts must exhibit the ultimate principle to some degree, all acts must have some value or goodness, even tho most of them could have been better, and all of them could have been different. It’s possible, however, that the value added to the universe by one’s act prevented greater value from occurring, so it would have been better had it not occurred at all.

The ultimate principle of ‘Good’ is Beauty or aesthetic richness. The fulfillment of the abstract principle of Beauty in the concrete subject-whole is always a complex feeling exhibiting the various dimensions of aesthetic fulfillment, starting with the most general one, Unity of Variety, Whitehead’s Category of the Ultimate. Only a process unit can feel. Multiplicities have no feelings except those of its members. So a Utilitarian principle like: ‘The most enrichment for the greatest number,’ is meaningless unless the ‘greatest number’ are parts within a single unified whole. A collection, taken to be a whole, commits, as Hartshorne emphasized, the Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness.

Only one to whom all others have contributed their feelings, to whom all “hearts are open,” has the ability to know for sure whether ‘the most enrichment’ is obtained. Non-cosmically inclusive wholes can never fully feel others’ experiences. All non-theistic experiences fail by being quantitatively exclusive as well as (likely) qualitatively defective. So, we are driven to theism (1) by the necessity for every creation to make a difference forever, (2) by the necessity for the principle of value to be ubiquitous, and (3) by the necessity for one experience each moment to be cosmically inclusive in order to establish the logical possibility for a concrete evaluation of the degree of goodness exhibited by every part of reality.

The fifth and last principle concerns:

5. Facts are necessarily parts of evaluating wholes––The actual content upon which the judgment of value is made must be part of the whole making the judgment since mere abstract information about factual content is always defective. Without the full, actualized content itself, all judgments about its value are suspect. Classical Theism understands that Utilitarianism fails to see that collectives are not real wholes. John Stuart Mill, for example, uses ‘collective’ and ‘wholes’ interchangeably on the same page. But Classical Theism itself fails to see that its divine Whole must contain the factual content being judged, thus it invites the reactionary appeal of Pantheism, yet Pantheism also fails by having nothing within the whole to make a judgment about since there is only one real thing.

To recap: Every evaluation by a whole exhibits a simple, valid syllogistic format: a Major Premise stating what the meaning of ‘good’ is at its level of generalization––‘All recycling is good;’ a Minor Premise stating a factual situation––‘Jane is recycling her cans;’ a Conclusion that necessarily follows––‘Jane’s act is good.’ Disputes may arise over whether Jane’s act is good for two reasons: The Major Premise may not be justified; all recycling may not be good; and if we knew everything about the factual situation, we might know it’s not an act of recycling.

Theism is essential to a rational Ethic (1) because only wholes that embrace all the parts can make infallible judgments, and (2) only a whole that infallibly knows what it means to be ‘good’ can determine whether a part has contributed as well as it might, for as Whitehead said, morality is tied to generality of outlook.

These five principles and others that omniscience knows to be unavoidable characteristics of all wholes––including what it means to be ‘good’––are, therefore, necessarily aspects of all non-divine wholes also, therefore, they cannot be impossible for us to discover, tho they may not be obvious. Gamwell in The Divine Good (182/3) has suggested ‘creativity’ is the highest good. I think beauty or aesthetic richness is a better formulation. ‘Creativity’ might be seen as ‘good’ in itself because ‘something is better than nothing,’ but ‘nothingness,’ or ‘no act at all’ is meaningless. ‘Creativity’ is neutral to the positive-negative value scale. It is the ground of concreteness; it is on the ‘is’ side of the ‘is-ought’ contrast. Just because some creativity must occur, doesn’t imply more creativity is necessarily ‘better.’ Some highly creative, but ugly, situations are best left unborn. Creations must be capable of being weighted by the scale of goodness, otherwise whatever could have been, is, or might be, is good and the ‘is-ought’ contrast collapses for all reality, not just for the Unsurpassable Individual.

We don’t pursue creativity because “all creativity, is good,” as Gamwell says (182). Creativity is a means to an end. The end for all non-theistic actualities is the pursuit of the concrete, ineffable feeling of enrichment only wholes can have. The divine Individual is good because each divine act must create a result, a ‘satisfaction,’ that is as enriching for others as any other possible. The moral imperative, the ought, only applies to non-theistic actors who can fail to be good. The moral imperative for non-theistic individuals is not: ‘Be More Creative!’ it’s, ‘Be More Lovable!’ that is, create oneself so one’s creation gives beauty for others to enjoy. A lover not only must embrace others, but also enjoy the anticipation of others enjoying his or her gift, including the joy of knowing one’s creation will be enjoyed by the cosmic Individual forever. Insofar as this anticipation is not possible, morality for that creature is irrelevant.

However, ‘beauty’ and ‘creativity’ are but abstract words that may hide real agreement or disagreement. The only way we can begin to understand what is concretely good is by examining what we enjoy experiencing. What makes each of us feel ‘good’ may not be ‘good period,’ but it must contain something of the ‘Good’ if metaphysics is a rational pursuit. We enjoy the adventure, first of all, not just of creating, but of creating something. Secondly, we are necessarily composed of many others, so we can never love or enjoy only ourselves. An enduring self is really a narrow, serially related society where each moment grows around the results of others’ past moments, so the present momentary self never enjoys the benefits of its own creation. Egoism is an irrational belief because embracing what others created for the present ego and giving to others what the ego accomplished as it dies, is necessarily the way reality works.

An enduing, non-theistic individual doesn’t have perfect memory and so can’t even retain all of its own past, much less the complete past of others. So the moral imperative is not only to be lovable, but to be lovable for the cosmically inclusive reality by creating enriching experiences for oneself and others in such a way that all the experiences together could not be better as felt by the Whole that feels them all together simultaneously (this is so, Special Relativity theory notwithstanding; see “Hartshorne, God and Metaphysics: How the Cosmically Inclusive Personal Nexus and World Interact.” Process Studies, 28/3-4, 2000.).

The highest good is not the principle of ‘Good;’ it’s the concrete feeling a whole has “that all’s right with the world.” Only the comically inclusive Subject literally feels ‘all,’ and each divine feeling of all must include the unfulfilled possibilities so far generically specified. These will include possibilities for feeling that would have been more enriching than what the Whole actually feels because the world has contributed elements of tragic conflict or deliberate evil.

The Whole must suffer these losses, tho the Divine, as any loving individual, ameliorates the suffering’s future affects as far as possible. So even if one is trapped in unavoidable pain, one never suffers alone nor struggles alone to rise above it. Yet, the cosmic life must save all without loss in order for ‘the past’ and ‘having made a difference’ to be meaningful. Overcoming the pain of evil or tragedy would be meaningless if what was overcome was eliminated from reality, not just thwarted from causing further pain in the future.

No one decides to create or to love in some degree. One must embrace one’s immediately prior and contiguous environment (which always includes the last theistic creation), so desiring not to love is neurotic and self-defeating. One must love even to be relatively ‘unloving.’ Nondivine creators oughtto choose to love the enrichment of the cosmic series of wholes in as enriching way as any other possible, because only the divine life can be the rational fulfillment of the meaning of life by nurturing forever the differences each makes.

Universal principles must be characteristics of all moments of reality, including the divine’s, so the concept of the ‘Good’ must be something immanent in both divine and nondivine acts. The ‘Good,’ defined as creating beauty, makes sense, but creating ugliness doesn’t because ‘unsurpassable beauty,’ the divine’s exemplification of the principle, does make sense, but ‘unsurpassable ugliness’ doesn’t. Ugliness must be local; beauty can be cosmic. Acting or thinking, either out of ignorance or malice, that ugliness can be the Good, produces an internal conflict, an “inharmonious soul” where all of one’s physical feelings and anticipations cannot integrate leading to painful or trivial experiences or death.

In summary, for an Ethic to be meaningful, one must be free to make a difference, a difference that must last forever, a difference that may have been better or worse or equally as good, as evaluated by a whole containing and weighing the facts with the concept of the ‘Good.’ A rational worldview must necessarily affirm a cosmically inclusive Individual, who in each dipolar creating moment necessarily contains all others’ contingent creations, and one who will always exhibit the unavoidable principle of value because this individual can never have a last moment.