Physicist-Psychotherapist-Ethicist, Bob Podolsky


Bob Podolsky shares his many insights and experiences as a Physicist, Psychotherapist and now Ethicist, as it matter to personal relationships knowing how to make ethical decisions.

He elaborates on his definition of love, explains why academia is run by cartels, defines the 6 forms of therapy he identified as effective and explains his organizational structure with 20 plus years of research, that allows ethical decision making to scale to large organizations.

Learn more about Bob Podolsky’s work at

This conversation was sponsored by DASH, and instant, decentralized an privacy centric digital currency. Learn more at

Mar 102016

About the Word “Authority”
My friend, Larken Rose, describes authority as “the most dangerous
superstition” – and has, in fact, written a wonderful little book by that title. I heartily recommend it to anyone wanting to delve deeper into the subject than the limited treatment in this article. Having said that, let’s take an intellectual peek into the meaning of the word.

The word, “authority” would appear at first glance to be a noun – though
technically it isn’t one – because it doesn’t describe or name something that can be put in a wheelbarrow. Traditionally, a noun names a person, place, or thing. In recent years some have chosen to extend the definition to include ideas – but I find this more confusing than helpful.

Instead, on the advice of the eminent linguist John Grinder, I refer to such
words as “nominalizations”. As such, a nominalization is itself an idea, but the concept so labeled usually proves, on examination, to represent an action or a process. The same can be said too of the expressions, “power over”, juris diction, and rank – as they are essentially synonyms for “authority.”
In discussing authority, the subject is further confused by the fact that, in
practice, the word has two distinct meanings.

Two Kinds of Authority
There are two meanings for the word in common usage:
1. It can mean an expert – someone who is unusually well versed in a
subject – as in “Einstein was an authority on physics”; or
2. It can mean someone who exercises power over others – as in,
“Governments have authority over their subjects”.

At the moment we are born, naked, helpless, and totally dependent, our
parents are the expert authorities responsible for our well being. We have no choice but to respect their superior strength, knowledge, and experience. In fact, our very lives depend on it. So when they say, “Don’t play in the street”, we do well to obey, and we can take some comfort in the fact that they have more expertise than we when it comes to survival in the jungle, the woods, or the city. This is a case of authority as defined in (1) above.

Unfortunately, it is all too common that parents treat their children as though their authority is of the second type – requiring obedience without regard for the child’s mental/emotional state. “Be respectful! I’m your father!” expresses a typical attitude of such a parent. This is the attitude that is usually meant by the adjective, “authoritarian”.

It is the responsibility of an ethical parent to teach their offspring what they need to know to become independent adults with good self-esteem and a strong sense of responsibility for themselves. This cannot be achieved by maintaining an authoritarian posture in relation to them. This attitude, instead, teaches fear, obedience and dependency. When the posture is based on corporal punishment, it also teaches violence – and is arguably the primary source of violence in today’s world.

An even more profound consequence of authoritarian parenting is its effect on a child’s awareness of self-ownership.

Self-Ownership Implications
As small children it is apparent to everyone that they are owned by their
parents. In school the mandate to obey is largely transferred to our teachers – making them our stand-in owners. And as employees it is easy to imagine ourselves owned by our employers. We are conditioned to accept these roles – even though they are false.

It is very convenient for those who wish to rule us to have us think that we are “free”, when we fail to recognize our own self-ownership. This distortion of our awareness causes us to regard the ruling class as our owners – and to obey its members as would slaves. The conditioning to bring this about begins when we are infants – being raised by parents who have already been trained to obey “authorities”. In reality, “authority” refers to nothing more than coercion by means of force or the threat of force. And the purpose of perpetuating the concept as something else exists only to make us easier to plunder. When we yield to this mandate, we remain permanently child-like, unwilling to take on the true responsi-bilities of adulthood. In effect, we choose our own slavery.

The Adult Quandary
Our culture makes it very easy for us to accept our serfdom – and difficult to honor truth, love, awareness, and creativity. The latter choices put us
immediately in conflict with those who wish to “rule” us, and they aren’t
hesitant to beat, pepper-spray, taser, torture, cage, and kill those who fail to comply. This makes for some difficult choices for those of us not deceived by our early conditioning.

The Unfortunate Default
While some of us maintain an uneasy balance between compliance and self-determination, most people choose, not only to comply with our self-
appointed rulers’ edicts – but to turn on those of us who don’t, by supporting violence that is directed at those of us who are free enough to recognize the falsehood of all forms of “authority”.

The Controllers and the Controlled
The intense need of psychopaths and sociopaths to control others by
exercising power over them derives primarily from the devastating abuse to which they were subjected very early in childhood. That abuse left them feeling so out of control of their lives, that to survive they had to learn to respond in kind – by becoming even more controlling than their abusers. To date there is no known way to heal the results of such abuse.

So, What Is “Authority” and What Can Be Done to Correct for It? The mythology that underpins our subservience to “authority” is no different
today than it was when monarchs claimed the “divine right of kings”. It is
based on the fictional notion that some people have an unassailable right to control the lives of others. In order to gain our freedom from such slavery we must first recognize it for the big lie that it is. The primary mechanism of “authority” is hierarchy.

We know now how to create non-hierarchic organizations that are both ethical and effective. This new model makes the old one obsolete. If there is a key that will end our servitude, this is it.
– Bob Podolsky – 2016

Feb 032016


Ethics Beyond ReligionDali Lama Ethics Beyond Religion

Editor’s note: The following is excerpted from “Beyond Religion” by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

I am an old man now. I was born in 1935 in a small village in northeastern Tibet. For reasons beyond my control, I have lived most of my adult life as a stateless refugee in India, which has been my second home for over 50 years. I often joke that I am India’s longest-staying guest. In common with other people of my age, I have witnessed many of the dramatic events that have shaped the world we live in. Since the late 1960s, I have also traveled a great deal, and have had the honor to meet people from many different backgrounds: not just presidents and prime ministers, kings and queens, and leaders from all the world’s great religious traditions, but also a great number of ordinary people from all walks of life.

Looking back over the past decades, I find many reasons to rejoice. Through advances in medical science, deadly diseases have been eradicated. Millions of people have been lifted from poverty and have gained access to modern education and health care. We have a universal declaration of human rights, and awareness of the importance of such rights has grown tremendously. As a result, the ideals of freedom and democracy have spread around the world, and there is increasing recognition of the oneness of humanity. There is also growing awareness of the importance of a healthy environment. In very many ways, the last half-century or so has been one of progress and positive change.

At the same time, despite tremendous advances in so many fields, there is still great suffering, and humanity continues to face enormous difficulties and problems. While in the more affluent parts of the world people enjoy lifestyles of high consumption, there remain countless millions whose basic needs are not met. With the end of the Cold War, the threat of global nuclear destruction has receded, but many continue to endure the sufferings and tragedy of armed conflict. In many areas, too, people are having to deal with environmental problems and, with these, threats to their livelihood and worse. At the same time, many others are struggling to get by in the face of inequality, corruption and injustice.

These problems are not limited to the developing world. In the richer countries, too, there are many difficulties, including widespread social problems: alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, family breakdown. People are worried about their children, about their education and what the world holds in store for them. Now, too, we have to recognize the possibility that human activity is damaging our planet beyond a point of no return, a threat which creates further fear. And all the pressures of modern life bring with them stress, anxiety, depression, and, increasingly, loneliness. As a result, everywhere I go, people are complaining. Even I find myself complaining from time to time!

It is clear that something is seriously lacking in the way we humans are going about things. But what is it that we lack? The fundamental problem, I believe, is that at every level we are giving too much attention to the external material aspects of life while neglecting moral ethics and inner values.

By inner values I mean the qualities that we all appreciate in others, and toward which we all have a natural instinct, bequeathed by our biological nature as animals that survive and thrive only in an environment of concern, affection and warmheartedness — or in a single word, compassion. The essence of compassion is a desire to alleviate the suffering of others and to promote their well-being.

This is the spiritual principle from which all other positive inner values emerge. We all appreciate in others the inner qualities of kindness, patience, tolerance, forgiveness and generosity, and in the same way we are all averse to displays of greed, malice, hatred and bigotry. So actively promoting the positive inner qualities of the human heart that arise from our core disposition toward compassion, and learning to combat our more destructive propensities, will be appreciated by all. And the first beneficiaries of such a strengthening of our inner values will, no doubt, be ourselves. Our inner lives are something we ignore at our own peril, and many of the greatest problems we face in today’s world are the result of such neglect.

Not long ago I visited Orissa, a region in eastern India. The poverty in this part of the country, especially among tribal people, has recently led to growing conflict and insurgency. I met with a member of parliament from the region and discussed these issues. From him I gathered that there are a number legal mechanisms and well-funded government projects already in place aimed at protecting the rights of tribal people and even giving them material assistance. The problem, he said, was that the funds provided by the government were not reaching those they were intended to help. When such projects are subverted by corruption, inefficiency and irresponsibility on the part of those charged with implementing them, they become worthless.

This example shows very clearly that even when a system is sound, its effectiveness depends on the way it is used. Ultimately, any system, any set of laws or procedures, can only be as effective as the individuals responsible for its implementation. If, owing to failures of personal integrity, a good system is misused, it can easily become a source of harm rather than a source of benefit. This is a general truth which applies to all fields of human activity, even religion. Though religion certainly has the potential to help people lead meaningful and happy lives, it too, when misused, can become a source of conflict and division. Similarly, in the fields of commerce and finance, the systems themselves may be sound, but if the people using them are unscrupulous and driven by self-serving greed, the benefits of those systems will be undermined. Unfortunately, we see this happening in many kinds of human activities: even in international sports, where corruption threatens the very notion of fair play.

Of course, many discerning people are aware of these problems and are working sincerely to redress them from within their own areas of expertise. Politicians, civil servants, lawyers, educators, environmentalists, activists and so on — people from all sides are already engaged in this effort. This is very good so far as it goes, but the fact is, we will never solve our problems simply by instituting new laws and regulations. Ultimately, the source of our problems lies at the level of the individual. If people lack moral values and integrity, no system of laws and regulations will be adequate. So long as people give priority to material values, then injustice, inequity, intolerance and greed — all the outward manifestations of neglect of inner values — will persist.

So what are we to do? Where are we to turn for help? Science, for all the benefits it has brought to our external world, has not yet provided scientific grounding for the development of the foundations of personal integrity — the basic inner human values that we appreciate in others and would do well to promote in ourselves. Perhaps we should seek inner values from religion, as people have done for millennia? Certainly religion has helped millions of people in the past, helps millions today and will continue to help millions in the future. But for all its benefits in offering moral guidance and meaning in life, in today’s secular world religion alone is no longer adequate as a basis for ethics. One reason for this is that many people in the world no longer follow any particular religion. Another reason is that, as the peoples of the world become ever more closely interconnected in an age of globalization and in multicultural societies, ethics based in any one religion would only appeal to some of us; it would not be meaningful for all. In the past, when peoples lived in relative isolation from one another — as we Tibetans lived quite happily for many centuries behind our wall of mountains — the fact that groups pursued their own religiously based approaches to ethics posed no difficulties. Today, however, any religion-based answer to the problem of our neglect of inner values can never be universal, and so will be inadequate. What we need today is an approach to ethics which makes no recourse to religion and can be equally acceptable to those with faith and those without: a secular ethics.

This statement may seem strange coming from someone who from a very early age has lived as a monk in robes. Yet I see no contradiction here. My faith enjoins me to strive for the welfare and benefit of all sentient beings, and reaching out beyond my own tradition, to those of other religions and those of none, is entirely in keeping with this.

I am confident that it is both possible and worthwhile to attempt a new secular approach to universal ethics. My confidence comes from my conviction that all of us, all human beings, are basically inclined or disposed toward what we perceive to be good. Whatever we do, we do because we think it will be of some benefit. At the same time, we all appreciate the kindness of others. We are all, by nature, oriented toward the basic human values of love and compassion. We all prefer the love of others to their hatred. We all prefer others’ generosity to their meanness. And who among us does not prefer tolerance, respect and forgiveness of our failings to bigotry, disrespect and resentment?

In view of this, I am of the firm opinion that we have within our grasp a way, and a means, to ground inner values without contradicting any religion and yet, crucially, without depending on religion. The development and practice of this new system of ethics is what I propose to elaborate in the course of this book. It is my hope that doing so will help to promote understanding of the need for ethical awareness and inner values in this age of excessive materialism.

At the outset I should make it clear that my intention is not to dictate moral values. Doing that would be of no benefit. To try to impose moral principles from outside, to impose them, as it were, by command, can never be effective. Instead, I call for each of us to come to our own understanding of the importance of inner values. For it is these inner values which are the source of both an ethically harmonious world and the individual peace of mind, confidence and happiness we all seek. Of course, all the world’s major religions, with their emphasis on love, compassion, patience, tolerance and forgiveness, can and do promote inner values. But the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I believe the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics that is beyond religion.

Jan 272016

CHOOSING AN ETHICstar of laskmi

by: Bob Podolsky

Why choose an Ethic?

It’s a truism that most people wants to “better themselves” – that is to better the circumstances of their lives. Philosophies and religions are all derived from this fact. When one adopts a valid ethic, this goal can be realized or “manifested”. The result is a life characterized by peace, prosperity, and freedom… it feels like having a compass in one’s head… important decisions become simple…work feels like play… relationships “bloom”… and the day-to-day challenges and vicissitudes of life seem much less daunting. This is the state-of-mind in which one actually “becomes the change” one wishes to see in the world.


As a young man I believed two things about ethics – one true, and the other false:

  1. I believed the choice of an ethic is “arbitrary” – because one can choose any ethic one likes; and

  2. I believed therefore that the entire subject of ethics is trivial – of no real use in making behavioral decisions.

As I learned much later, statement (1) above is true; but statement (2) is false. Lets examine the concept of an ethic a little more closely, and then apply it with some logic to a few actual ethics.

Specifying an Ethic

Every ethic consists of 2 parts that must be defined in order to fully specify a particular ethic:

  1. A Value that the ethic is intended to increase, and

  2. A belief or belief system that tells one how to behave in order to increase the desired value.

For instance, one might choose an ethic that values prosperity and operates on the belief that prosperity can be maximized by getting a job working for 40 years for a big corporation after, many years of education. As absurd as this belief is, in combination with the value, it is, nonetheless, an ethic – by definition – albeit not a very good one. When this is true, the belief fails to support the value, and the ethic is said to be “invalid”.

Ethical Validity

An invalid ethic fails to produce more of the value sought – and in many instances actually has the opposite effect, diminishing the desired value. An example would be the Soviet Ethic that sought to produce “material well-being for all”. The accompanying belief was that this outcome could be achieved through the adoption of a tyrannical communist regime. The result was: almost universal poverty. The ethic was clearly invalid.

The “No Ethic” Ethic

There are those who are so enthralled by the arbitrariness of choosing an ethic, that they see no reason to consciously make such a choice. This of course is just another kind of ethic. In this case both the value and the belief are random. And since there is no discernible value sought, the random belief fails to produce a value – so the ethic can be said to be invalid. On the other hand, since the random belief does produce random values, one could describe the ethic as valid.

As I see it, the real value sought is the illusion of having little or no responsibility for the adopter’s experience of his life. And adopting this ethic certainly supports and increases that illusion, so it might best be called the “lazy man’s ethic” – and it is technically valid, though of no practical use.

The “Golden Rule” and “Universally Preferred Behavior”

I’ve lumped these two ethics together because they both suffer from the same weakness – namely, there is no “universally preferred behavior”. To see this clearly, imagine you have an encounter with a sado-masochist. He is someone who prefers to have others inflict pain on him. Do you really want him to do to you what he wants you to do to him? Unless you are also a sado-masochist, the answer is “probably not”.

While you might suppose that sado-masochism is too uncommon to be of real relevance, the fact is otherwise. In my 40 years experience as a psychotherapist, At least 20% of the population worldwide displays a significant leaning towards such preferences. While the degree to which such a person actually acts on such impulses varies greatly from person to person, the fact of this phenomenon’s existence proves the Golden Rule and the Universally Preferred Behavior to be invalid ethics.

The “Non-Aggression Principle”

Let’s now examine an ethic that is valid, but not optimal. Called the “Non-Aggression Principle”, the NAP states:

any initiation of coercive action (that is, any aggressive act) is ethically wrong.

The NAP ethic embraces freedom from violence as the value; and the belief is that this can be achieved by refraining from initiating violence or the threat of violence – while retaining the freedom to use limited violence in self defense.

If everyone restrained themselves from initiating violence, violence would indeed disappear, and no one would be the victim of violence. However, many of us learn violence from our parents when we are very young – usually before the age of 5 years – and we will still encounter violence until child-rearing becomes generally improved. My experience leads me to say those who were the abused as children, are the most are the biggest abusers as adults.

A more serious weakness of this ethic is that the value chosen is something not wanted – something to be avoided. In other words the value is a negative rather than a positive. It’s based on what we don’t want instead of what we do want. So while the ethic is valid, it doesn’t address what we must do to increase a number of other equally important values. So let’s look at the best ethic I have found to date.

The Ethics of Ethics

As everyone seems to know, ethics are the means by which one decides what is “good” and how to behave…how to live one’s life. What is slightly less obvious is the fact that the choice of an ethic is itself subject to an ethic-based decision. This second-level ethic might be called a “meta-ethic”. In similar fashion, one can construct any number of metan ethics…i.e. meta-meta, meta-meta-meta, and so forth. So the question this fact engenders is, “where does one start, in formulating a worthwhile ethic?”

To answer this question (quick before the theologians jump in) we can simply choose what I call a “universal referent” – which is to say, an objectively observable phenomenon of obvious value everywhere and at all times. For this choice I strongly suggest the phenomenon we call “evolution”… the opposite of which is “entropy”. This choice has several advantages.

  • The phenomenon is objectively (scientifically) observable and is certainly of great intrinsic value.

  • The choice of this referent directly amplifies truth, awareness, love, and creativity… and indirectly creates peace, prosperity, happiness, and freedom.

  • For those who prefer to involve the “god” concept in their ethics, one can simply define “god” as that toward which life evolves. Doing so is completely compatible with the valid portions of the “Christian Ethic”.

So let’s take a closer look at the formulation of such an ethic.

The Evolutionary Ethic

For starters, there are a number of values that are logically equivalent to one another:

  • Truth (scientifically verifiable) + Objective

  • Awareness & Personal evolution

  • Love

  • Creativity

TALC resources are logically equivalent to one another in that increasing any one of them always increases them all – AND – limiting or diminishing any one of them always limits or diminishes them all. Any of these values can be used to create a valid ethic.

Here’s an example based on the value of creativity and on the following belief system:

An act is ethical if it increases creativity for at least one person (including the person acting), without limiting or diminishing creativity for anyone.

In the definition above one can substitute any of the other values in the preceding (TALC) list for the word “creativity” and still have a valid ethic.

I have yet to see or find a valid ethic that is not logically equivalent to this one. Also, it should be noted that, counter-intuitively, no one has yet created a valid ethic based on the values of:

  • Freedom

  • Happiness

  • Pleasure

  • Power

  • Wealth

Many attempts to do so have been made; but to my knowledge none has succeeded.


For a more comprehensive discussion of ethics and their effects on the human condition, you are invited to read Ethics, Law, & Government on the website. The BORG has told you all your life to obey the law and to revere the government. Is it giving you what you want? Perhaps it’s time to re-examine that decision.

Bob Podolsky


Oct 182015

It’s Not What You Thought
Most people realize that slavery still exists in the world today. And often, with this awareness, comes the mistaken belief that it happens elsewhere than here at home. Too often we think of slavery in terms of “human trafficking”, and imagine it confined to women sold to wealthy middle-easterners or Asians as sex slaves.

While this form of slavery does exist, it is the LEAST common form of slavery in the “modern” world. There is another form of slavery that is far more prevalent and widespread than human trafficking – and infinitely more dangerous when it is seen for what it is.

“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves”.

– Harriet Tubman

What Is Slavery?
The common concept of slavery, is based on the historical version of it that only existed in the U.S. prior to 1865:

1. Society is divided between slaves and their “owners”.

2. Slaves have the same rights as furniture or cattle, but slightly higher than women in relation to their owners – which is to say none. No one could be held accountable for harm done to their slaves, or their women for that matter.

3. Slave owners maintain their slaves only to the minimum level necessary for the ownership to be profitable.

4. For this reason slave labor is cheaper than non-slave labor – which gives the owners an advantage over their competition.

5. Slaves own nothing – not even the clothes on their backs – and certainly not the fruits of their labor.

6. Slaves are forbidden to do many things that non-slaves are permitted to do.

7. Some slaves outrank others, as dictated by their owners.

“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”

– J. W. von Goethe

It is my contention that more than 95% of the people living in the United States are literally unwitting slaves to the 1% or so who are in the “ownership class”.

Our Societal Class Structure

• The Elite or Ownership Class – these are the folks who own the world’s central banks and the giant corporations. Most of them are virtually unknown to the public, and take steps to keep it that way. It is this group that makes all the important policy decisions. A very high percentage of these people are psychopaths, who have no conscience, experience no remorse, and are incapable of empathy. And they are prone to the formation of highly unethical cartels.

It is primarily this group that initiates wars, not caring how many millions of people die so they can get what they want, no matter how evil their aspirations. Through the governments that this class owns, some 300,000,000 people have been murdered in the last 100 years by minions of their own governments. They have destroyed the lives of an even greater number in this time frame – leaving them crippled, maimed, homeless, and hopelessly impoverished.

We also need to include the millions of lives ruined by the resource loss entailed by imprisoning “non-violent offenders” – especially those convicted of victimless “crimes”. And these numbers don’t even include those killed in wars (friends and foes alike).

Also I’ve heard from multiple credible sources that our ultra-rich bankers, who are also owners of large corporations, funded and armed Hitler during the 3rd Reich, Stalin of the Soviet Union, and a number of other despots in Asia and South America. Often selling weapons to armies on both sides of a conflict.

Members of the Ownership Class are effectively “above the law.” They own the monetary system, the legal system, the government, the media, the schools; they are therefore immune to any form of accountability currently in existence. They are the “nobility” of today’s world. The entire system is designed to protect them and their hierarchic “power structure”.

• The Political Class
The political class is comprised of “politicians” – men and women who aspire to membership in the ownership class. Collectively they comprise the operational robot that gives the ownership class control over most of the rest of the world’s population.

While many politicians are psychopaths, the percentage is somewhat lower than in the ownership class. For this reason ethical people occasionally get elected – only to find that they acquire no power or influence unless they are willing to compromise their ethics. Local, county, and state governments are usually just as corrupt as federal governments, and in recent years have become more so, as they morph into adjuncts of the federal government – doing their “dirty-work” for them on the local level. Hence the militarization of local and regional police forces.

Functionally, the political class is the intermediary between the ownership class and the, vastly bigger, slave class to which most people belong. Although technically the political class is itself enslaved by the ownership class, it is a slave class of much higher rank than the rest of the slaves.

It should be noted that the influence that the ownership class has over the political class is largely financial – and since they create the money out of nothing, this is easy for them to do . The ownership class funds the campaigns of the politicians – and by funding both the campaigns of the most obedient contenders, they effectively buy the election.

“I don’t care who does the electing, so long as I get to do the nominating”.
– Boss William M. Tweed

• The Slave Class
Putting on my therapist’s hat for just a moment, I want to point out:

  • when a small child cannot get love, they’ll settle for approval.
  • When they can’t get approval, they’ll settle for attention.
  • And when they can’t get positive attention, they’ll settle for negative attention.

Conditioning that enforces the need for approval begins usually around the age of two

An inordinate need for approval, and the dependency that stems from that need, is the mind-set that enslaves most people. The parent of an approval-seeking child is typically especially stern, authoritarian, and unforgiving of disobedience or dissent. Such a parent can never take “no” for an answer and effectively crushes the independent will of the child.

This was the dominant form of parenting in Germany during the 30’s – and seems to be a parenting modality that’s on the grow in the U.S. today. It leads directly to fascism and the cruelties that accompany it.

I’ll have more to say about slavery below; but first, some recognition of the fourth and last class: the free class.

• The Free Class
Compared to the other classes, the free class is a tiny minority – probably on the same scale as the ownership class. The free class has no noble aspirations, no desire to control others (except in self defense), and is universally unwilling to accept the authority of others over themselves. In other words, these are the folks who actually live a life based on the belief: we are all “created equal” – and who won’t compromise this conviction as long as they can resist compromise without becoming victims of authoritarian violence.

Being free is not easy in today’s world; because our entire way of functioning as a society is built on the assumption that authority is valid. Note that members of the ownership and political classes always maintain this fiction, with violence or its’ threat, without which their socio-political rank would collapse. However, no factual evidence exists whatsoever that any one person has authority over another. Even parental authority over one’s children is bogus, though parents often resort to an authoritarian stance in order to manipulate their children into abject compliance

Free people only comply with those who claim authority over them when the price of disobedience is more than they can afford. So we wind up picking our fights rather carefully. For instance, I’ll usually not exceed the “speed limit” by more than 10% out of fear that I’ll fall victim to a gun-toting, badge-wearing thug in a costume.

And similarly, I’ve arranged my professional life in such a way that I’ve avoided participating in a cartel – and, though I could enjoy a more prosperous life as cartel member, I refuse to join one on principle. In case you don’t understand this, be aware that every activity that requires a license or a permit, bestowing government blessings on you, is controlled by a cartel.

More About Slavery
With the above understandings as context, let’s go back now and have another look at slavery as a concept. Our conceptual model says:

1. Society is divided between slaves and their “owners”.

2. Slaves have the same rights as furniture or cattle in relation to their owners – which is to say none. No one can be held accountable for harm done to their slaves.

3. Slave owners maintain their slaves only to the minimum level necessary for the ownership to be profitable.

4. For this reason slave labor is cheaper than non-slave labor – which gives the owners an advantage over their competition.

5. Slaves own nothing – not even the clothes on their backs – and certainly not the fruits of their labor.

6. Slaves are forbidden to do many things that non-slaves, or higher ranking slaves, are permitted to do.

7. Some slaves outrank others, as dictated by their owners.

Let’s examine these concepts one at a time.
1. There exist groups of people having the social characteristics that I outlined above in the section on class structure – and that there are different “classes” of people in our society.

2. Have you ever heard of a member of the ownership class being held accountable for their war crimes, for the unnecessary deaths of millions, for the pillaging of the middle class, for the banditry common on our roads, or the plunder of our national resources? I haven’t. For that matter, how often have politicians, legislators, judges, or cops been held accountable for their crimes? It does happen – but rarely. Usually because someone has pissed off someone of higher social rank. So criterion 2. above applies.

3. Do corporations pay you more in salary than what it would cost to replace you? Do the big corporations keep their business domestic, or do they outsource jobs to areas in the world where labor is cheaper – like China? Doesn’t this mean that Criteria 3. and 4. apply to most of us.

4. Do you own the fruits of your labor? If you pay taxes, probably not. No matter whether you pay $1.00 or $1,000,000 in taxes, the fact that you are coerced into paying anything at all means you don’t own what your body produces – hence not your body. That makes you a slave.

Real ownership of anything of value is forbidden to slaves. Test your ownership of your real estate by not paying property taxes, drive a motor vehicle without a “permission plate”, operate a business without a “tax privilege license” or even feed yourself without a “social privilege number”.

Guess what, you’re merely renting that house that you think you own! The same applies to everything that you think you own. Between “eminent domain” and “civil asset forfeiture”, everything that you think you own, including your life, is susceptible to confiscation by some bureaucrat and a thug in a costume.

5. People in the ownership and political classes can kill millions of innocents with total impunity. Can you? Probably not. Yet any cop who stops you for a minor infraction or violation of some automotive regulation can kill you for contempt of cop and face no serious consequences. This is happening all over the country with more and more frequency. The existence of such privileges defines the 5th and 6th criteria for slavery.

“O.K.”, you say. “So I’m a slave. So what? What can I do about it?” In answer to this questions, here are some suggestions:

1. Read “FLOURISH!” It will go a long ways toward setting you free.

2. Get paid for your work in BitCoins. Keep them safe. Don’t tell the bureaucrats. As you put this strategy in play, go out of business. Create a private club to replace your business. Find suppliers who will accept BitCoins for what you need.

3. Keep your profession; but quit the cartel that controls it. This means stop buying licenses. Free people don’t need licenses, licenses are for slaves.

4. Hang out with people who are really free. You’ll soon find that freedom is more valuable than the “money” the ownership class “produces”.

5. The maximization of freedom and the “non-aggression principle” are good ideas; they are not enough to create the paradigm shift needed to create systemic change. Learn the truth about ethics, and decide to live a knowledgeably ethical life. This step is very manageable.

6. Reduce your tax burden as much as you can. Avoid taxes when you can.

7. If you still think that taxation is legitimate, read “Why Taxation Is Slavery”. It provides three good examples supporting the premise that taxation is truly a form of slavery – and is probably second only to hierarchy as the greatest threat to the future of human well-being.

8. And most importantly, begin questioning authority at every opportunity. Prove to yourself how false it is – ALWAYS!

Bob Podolsky

Oct 182015

The Concept
There are many who believe that killing another human being is always unethical – an evil deed, regardless of the circumstances and motivation behind the act. Because of this, many victims of violence and tyranny have died needlessly – thinking they were acting ethically by refraining from defending themselves. It’s time to set the record straight.

To acquire a profound understanding of the issues involved in this matter, we must start with the definition of a valid ethic. Here is an example:

“An act is ethical if it increases the creativity of at least one person, including the person acting, without limiting or diminishing the creativity of anyone.”

From this definition, we can derive the following principles by pure logic:

• Every ethically non-trivial act falls on an ethical continuum, in accordance with the degree to which the act increases creativity.

• Murder is unethical (as is obvious), because, by definition, it reduces the creativity of the person being murdered.

• It is unethical to permit an unethical act if one can effectively forbid or prevent it.

This raises the question, “Is killing in self defense properly construed as ‘murder’?” To answer this consider the following diagram:

-100                                                             +100

The horizontal line above represents a creativity scale. A person who consistently makes the most creative choices might achieve a maximum score of +100 – whereas one who consistently makes destructive choices might score -100. These are also obviously opposite ends of a corresponding scale of ethics.

Now imagine that someone credibly threatens to kill you if you do not comply with something they demand. At this point their creativity, and hence their ethics, is at the -100 point on the creativity scale. If you now take action stopping the threat – and if it your action results in the attacker’s death – then you have effectively raised his creativity from -100 to zero.

Note that, in this instance, the attacker’s creativity was raised rather than lowered – so it follows that the act of killing the attacker was not murder.  And, what is more, had you not stopped the attack on yourself, you would have effectively permitted the attacker to murder you – and that would have constituted an unethical decision on your part, by allowing your own
creativity to be diminished.

• When lethal force is required in order to prevent an act of murder or mayhem, that lethal force is ethical.
• When lethal force is required in order to prevent an act of murder or mayhem, one’s refusal to use lethal force is unethical.

While these conclusions will seem counter-intuitive to many, they are nonetheless correct; and identical results will be obtained by the application of any valid ethic.

Jul 012015



There are many who mistakenly think that the phrase, “business ethics”, is an oxymoron – that there is something inherently unethical about making a profit. In the sections below, I will not only address this fallacy, but will also go on to explain the four paradigms from which business owners can select how they will prioritize their ethics in relation to their profits.

What Is “Ethical”?

The best definition I know for an ethical act is, “any act that increases awareness, creativity, love, objective truth, or personal evolution without limiting or diminishing any of these resources for anyone.” While this definition may seem a little clumsy to some, it is nonetheless valid, in that acting in accordance with it actually increases all of the resources listed. Also, a simple exercise of logic applied to this definition yields an extensive set of ethical principles, allowing for its straightforward application to the day-to-day decisions we all are called upon to make.

For a much more detailed discussion of this subject, read, “Ethics, Law, & Government” on the website.

Profit Motivation

It is a fundamental fact of life that living beings choose to engage in actions that improve their condition. Plants do this. Animals do it. And so do humans. In the case of the most generous self-effacing charitable giving, the giver’s condition is improved by feeling good about having given the gift.

In the world of business, improving one’s condition translates into making a profit – be that profit financial, emotional, or otherwise. In the absence of such motivation, there would be no business; almost no one would work, and all of society would suffer. For the purposes of this analysis, let’s think just in terms of financial profit.

The Four Paradigms

  1. The first paradigm applies to all businesses that rank profit as more important than ethics. In this instance, the ethics is irrelevant and need not be considered at all. I call this the “Mafia Paradigm”; and its de facto ethic is the Power Ethic; i.e. “Might Makes Right”. This paradigm is parasitic, and inevitably leads to self-destruction – as the parasite kills its host. A hallmark of this paradigm is the fact that businesses that adopt it almost always form cartels and then call on government to enforce the cartel’s rules.

  2. The other three paradigms under discussion all place the ethics ahead of the profit, requiring the business to avoid acting unethically. The differences between the three being in the role of profit. In the second paradigm, every transaction is constrained to be profitable or otherwise advantageous. This model is, in fact, the one chosen by most successful businesses.

  3. The third paradigm, sometimes chosen by people who disapprove of profit, constrains actions to be ethical; but only requires transactions to break even, rather than turn a profit.

    This model consistently fails – resulting in an organization that is constantly on the brink of insolvency – until it eventually goes bankrupt. This is often the fate of “non-profit” organizations, because their self-image is incompatible with profitability.

  4. The fourth paradigm is often the most successful, though there’s a trick to making it work. This paradigm requires impeccable ethics with no consideration of profitability whatever. While conceptually very counter-intuitive, this actually works – but there’s a catch.

    Successful businesses employing this paradigm never start out using it. Instead they begin by using the 2nd paradigm, and later transition to the 4th after establishing a solid financial base. Not infrequently such organizations eventually become donation-based, permitting each customer to define the value of what they have received.


It should be noted that most businesses do not operate consistently within one of these paradigms, often applying the ethics more or less randomly – even though they would be improved if they picked a paradigm that works and stuck with it. It’s my hypothesis that the inconsistency in applying the ethics is due primarily to ignorance concerning the nature and importance of ethics per se. If you are a business-person, and you apply what you’ve learned from this little article, your probability of success will be much improved.




Artificial Intelligence

Birth of AI

By Bob Podolsky


It is commonly agreed by today’s scientists that computer technology will soon be sufficiently advanced to create machines that actually think or act autonomously – much the way humans do. Such machines are referred to in the literature as “Artificial Intelligence”, or AI for short.

As that time approaches, many scientists are becoming increasingly concerned that intelligent machines might be hostile to humans – or outright dangerous. The “Terminator” and “Matrix” movie series are fictional depictions of this risk, which renowned scientist Stephen Hawking, for example, takes seriously.

Assuming that the risk is real, which seems a reasonable starting point for this discussion, the question becomes, “how can the risk be ameliorated – or better still, eliminated”?

Two approaches have been suggested by Elon Musk and others from the Future of Life Institute:

  1. Design AI machines that are inherently safe, as outlined by Isaac Asimov in 1946,

  2. Somehow solve the problem through the application of ethics.

In the paragraphs below, I intend to demonstrate the reasoning by which I’ve come to the following conclusions:

  • For humans to live safely together with intelligent machines, the machines must be taught a suitable ethic via approach #1.

  • It is too late in the AI development cycle for the first approach to succeed, because machines are already being programmed with lethal capabilities.

  • The 2nd approach could succeed in principle, but for it to do so it will be necessary for humans, as a species, to learn to live safely and peacefully together with one another.

  • Living safely and peacefully with one another is a highly-valued outcome with or without intelligent machines. An ethical means of doing this exists, but is not yet widely known.

  • The most useful mind set in analyzing the problem is to regard self- aware intelligent machines as we would alien visitors from another star system.

Some Basics

To start, let’s examine the word, “intelligence”. As a behavioral descriptor the word is best defined as the ability to predict and control events in the real world. This is not (quite) the meaning of the word when used in the phrase “Artificial Intelligence”, in which context the word means a thing or being that exhibits such ability.

With this definition in mind, we recall that every intelligence must have certain components and properties:

  • Input devices – eyes, ears, sensory nerves, etc. – by which the intelligence can acquire information.

  • A means of storing, indexing, and retrieving acquired information.

  • An external communication means – display screen, printer, voice, etc.

  • One or more effectors – the hands and feet that can act on the environment.

  • A logic or reasoning function – brain

  • A purpose enabler or motivating component – a will.

  • Internal communicators that tie all the other components together.

As defined above, an intelligence is a being (of sorts), but not necessarily a conscious intelligence. It becomes conscious when it becomes aware of being aware. By my reckoning, beings having this capacity should be regarded as people, and treated accordingly – because they have enough awareness to learn to make ethical discernments. At this point too, it behooves us to acknowledge the being’s self-ownership – exactly as we would an adolescent human. Failing in this, our sentient robots become a race of slaves.

This might be a good time to note that “artificial intelligence” is a misnomer. A more accurate term would be “synthetic intelligence” or “non-human intelligence”. This is where the comparison with space-faring aliens becomes apt. We wouldn’t regard such beings as “things” just because their bodies were chemically different than our own. Any species sufficiently advanced to achieve interstellar travel must have long since stopped wasting its precious resources on wars and destruction – and would likely view humans, therefore, much as we might view the great apes: the phrase “promising but inferior” comes to mind. Though as far as I know the apes don’t make war on one another.

About the Ethics

As explained at some length in the article linked above, some ethics are valid and some are not. However, every valid ethic contains a non-aggression principle in one form or another: a statement that the initiation of force, or its threat, is unethical. The use of force is only ethical in (true) self-defense – and then only to the extent required to stop an unethical act of aggression.

By the definition above, most of the activities of the US military are unethical acts of aggression. Certainly attacking a wedding or funeral party in Afghanistan with a drone controlled from half way around the world is NOT an act of self defense. Nor is the concept of “acceptable collateral damage” an ethically defensible policy.

It is already a fact that the military is developing robots with lethal capabilities. Should those robots become autonomous (self-aware and self-programming) – or fall under the control of a computer having such properties – then we’ll have all the makings of a “Skynet” event.


The idea of programming self-aware robots with a prime directive that forbids them to harm humans is attractive – in principle. But succeeding at that task is to program a basic principle that we have yet to program in ourselves. Is that even remotely possible?

Add to that the additional complexity of teaching a robot to distinguish friend from foe, and the success of the task becomes highly improbable. What is more, if one could program a robot to act ethically, it would never agree to kill people overseas to begin with. Face it! War as we know it is unethical.

In fact, almost all of our societal institutions consistently make highly unethical decisions. So why would we expect the sentient robots we create to act more ethically than we do?

Is There a Solution?

Yes, there is an answer – but the window of opportunity to apply it is closing even now. To live at peace with non-human intelligences we must learn to live at peace with one another. It’s that simple (but not easy).

If we have the will to do so, here are the steps:

  1. Replace hierarchies everywhere with HoloMats of Octologues.

  2. Adopt the Bill of Ethics as the basic ethical standard everywhere.

  3. Let the existing system die of attrition, as more and more people migrate to the new system and cease supporting the old one.

For this solution to succeed, a massive promotional effort is required starting immediately. The public must learn of the new system, recognize its benefits, and adopt it. Failing in this, we will shortly be looking at a new “dark age” – or worse.

On the other hand, if the above steps are taken successfully, we could see the beginning of a new age of peace, prosperity, creativity, and love, on a scale heretofore unimaginable.

Feb 042014

Morpheus is invited to give a presentation on Bitcoin. Being its something to wrap your mind around, he talks about what is money actually, how the incredible fraud that the federal reserve perpetuates, and most importantly how to take advantage of Bitcoin’s incredible properties.

Bitcoins are transfered from person to person without a third part intervener like a bank or government. No one or no organization can freeze your account, there are no cost or barriers to being involved, zero or low cost to transfer money even internationally and there are no arbitrary limits.

Because of the rate of how bitcoin is mined it produces a deflationary currency contrary to the inflationary currency that is currently being produced by all other nations. The reason all countries like inflation is because when they borrow money they are able to repay the debt with “dollars” “euros” “yen” that is controlled by a third party. These evil central planners like the fact they can line their own pockets and the pockets of their friends with money created out of nothing.

Because the market cannot be fooled, the market responds to the fraudulent creation of money by prices going up. This is form of tax that is very easy to hide. In fact, Thomas Jefferson said or wrote:

“If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their Fathers conquered…I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies… The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.”

Because we are moving into the future, one day at a time, it is normal to conclude that humans are going to find solutions to problems. For example, paper money did not always exist. At one point in humanity evolution, those that traded, carried their gold or silver in a bag on their belt. Well, having a big bag of gold around your belt was a great way to advertise how much you wanted to be robbed.  Hey, you have to go to sleep sometime right?

To prevent from being robbed, many people kept their gold or silver with a goldsmith / silversmith. These were people who where trusted and could afford to have other trusted people keep watch over his inventory as well as the precious metals from those who entrusted the goldsmith with their gold.  Of course the Goldsmith, received a fee for watching over other peoples precious metals. In exchange the Goldsmith / Silversmith, would give those people a receipt for the metals that he would be entrusted to protect.  It was found that people then started to trade the receipts just as well as the trade of the precious metals. This was the precursor to modern banking.

Then what happen is the Gutenberg invented the printing press. They say he was printing bibles, I say that was a cover story, just like 9/11. With the “invention” of the printing press, this allowed the banks and governments to create a giant FRAUD and at the same time cover it up. The famous Economist John Maynard Keynes said:

By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.

What bitcoin does effectively is level the playing field for everyone. The great news is that because it is leveling the field there is great opportunity to CASH in on the the leveling of the playing field. For example back in July 10 2010 YOU and I too, could have bought Bitcoins for Frn$ 0.06 but we both missed it. Had you sold those same 1428.5714 bitcoins in July 10 2011 their value in Federal reserve Notes (Frn$)would have been Frn$ 21,285.77 at Frn$14.90 Fast forward to July 10 2012 the value of them would have been about $10k cause the price went down slightly to Frn$ 7.76 still a decent profit. Move forward again 1 year to July 10 2013 and the value was Frn$ 82.26 the value would have been Frn$ 117512.29 Move forward to November 29 2013 at the top of the market those same 1428.5714 bitcoins would be worth…drumroll please… Frn$ 1.59 MILLION Dollars. We both missed that one however I am not going to miss the next big one are YOU???

Morpheus has become into a Bitcoin Evangelist of sorts, he welcomes you to get more information he is available at m-o-r-p-h-e-u-s(at)t-i-t-a-n-i-a-n-s(dot)org

Dec 302013


AMONG INTELLECTUALS WHO CONSIDER themselves “scientific,” the phrase “the nature of man” apt to have the effect of a red flag on a bull. “Man has no nature!” is the modern rallying cry; and typical of the sentiment of political philosophers today was the assertion of a distinguished political theorist some years ago before a meeting of the American Political Science Association that “man’s nature” is a purely theological concept that must be dismissed from any scientific discussion.[1]

In the controversy over man’s nature, and over the broader and more controversial concept of “natural law,” both sides have repeatedly proclaimed that natural law and theology are inextricably intertwined. As a result, many champions of natural law, in scientific or philosophic circles, have gravely weakened their case by implying that rational, philosophical methods alone cannot establish such law: that theological faith is necessary to maintain the concept. On the other hand, the opponents of natural law have gleefully agreed; since faith in the supernatural is deemed necessary to belief in natural law, the latter concept must be tossed out of scientific, secular discourse, and be consigned to the arcane sphere of the divine studies. In consequence, the idea of a natural law founded on reason and rational inquiry has been virtually lost.[2]

The believer in a rationally established natural law must, then, face the hostility of both camps: the one group sensing in this position an antagonism toward religion; and the other group suspecting that God and mysticism are being slipped in by the back door. To the first group, it must be said that they are reflecting an extreme Augustinian position which held that faith rather than reason was the only legitimate tool for investigating man’s nature and man’s proper ends. In short, in this fideist tradition, theology had completely displaced philosophy. [3] The Thomist tradition, on the contrary, was precisely the opposite: vindicating the independence of philosophy from theology and proclaiming the ability of man’s reason to understand and arrive at the laws, physical and ethical, of the natural order. If belief in a systematic order of natural laws open to discovery by man’s reason is per se anti-religious, then anti-religious also were St. Thomas and the later Scholastics, as well as the devout Protestant jurist Hugo Grotius. The statement that there is an order of natural law, in short, leaves open the problem of whether or not God has created that order; and the assertion of the viability of man’s reason to discover the natural order leaves open the question of whether or not that reason was given to man by God. The assertion of an order of natural laws discoverable by reason is, by itself, neither pro- nor anti-religious.[4]

Because this position is startling to most people today let us investigate this Thomistic position a little further. The statement of absolute independence of natural law from the question of the existence of God was implicit rather than flatly asserted in St. Thomas himself; but like so many implications of Thomism, it was brought forth by Suarez and the other brilliant Spanish Scholastics of the late sixteenth century. The Jesuit Suarez pointed out that many Scholastics had taken the position that the natural law of ethics, the law of what is good and bad for man, does not depend upon God’s will. Indeed, some of the Scholastics had gone so far as to say that:

even though God did not exist, or did not make use of His reason, or did not judge rightly of things, if there is in man such a dictate of right reason to guide him, it would have had the same nature of law as it now has.[5]

Or, as a modem Thomist philosopher declares:

If the word “natural” means anything at all, it refers to the nature of a man, and when used with “law,” “natural” must refer to an ordering that is manifested in the inclinations of a man’s nature and to nothing else. Hence, taken in itself, there is nothing religious or theological in the “Natural Law” of Aquinas.[6]

Dutch Protestant jurist Hugo Grotius declared, in his De Iure Belli ac Pacis (1625):

What we have been saying would have a degree of validity even if we should concede that which cannot be conceded without the utmost wickedness, that there is no God.

And again:

Measureless as is the power of God, nevertheless it can be said that there are certain things over which that power does not extend. . . . Just as even God cannot cause that two times two should not make four, so He cannot cause that which is intrinsically evil be not evil.[7]

D’Entrèves concludes that:

[Grotius’s] definition of natural law has nothing revolutionary. When he maintains that natural law is that body of rules which Man is able to discover by the use of his reason, he does nothing but restate the Scholastic notion of a rational foundation of ethics. Indeed, his aim is rather to restore that notion which had been shaken by the extreme Augustinianism of certain Protestant currents of thought. When he declares that these rules are valid in themselves, independently of the fact that God willed them, he repeats an assertion which had already been made by some of the schoolmen.[8]

Grotius’s aim, d’Entrèves adds, “was to construct a system of laws which would carry conviction in an age in which theological controversy was gradually losing the power to do so.” Grotius and his juristic successors—Pufendorf, Burlamaqui, and Vattel—proceeded to elaborate this independent body of natural laws in a purely secular context, in accordance with their own particular interests, which were not, in contrast to the Schoolmen, primarily theological.[9] Indeed, even the eighteenth-century rationalists, in many ways dedicated enemies of the Scholastics, were profoundly influenced in their very rationalism by the Scholastic tradition.[10]

Thus, let there be no mistake: in the Thomistic tradition, natural law is ethical as well as physical law; and the instrument by which man apprehends such law is his reason-not faith, or intuition, or grace, revelation, or anything else.[11] In the contemporary atmosphere of sharp dichotomy between natural law and reason—and especially amid the irrationalist sentiments of “conservative” thought—this cannot be underscored too often. Hence, St. Thomas Aquinas, in the words of the eminent historian of philosophy Father Copleston, “emphasized the place and function of reason in moral conduct. He [Aquinas] shared with Aristotle the view that it is the possession of reason which distinguished man from the animals” and which “enables him to act deliberately in view of the consciously apprehended end and raises him above the level of purely instinctive behavior.”[12]

Aquinas, then, realized that men always act purposively, but also went beyond this to argue that ends can also be apprehended by reason as either objectively good or bad for man. For Aquinas, then, in the words of Copleston, “there is therefore room for the concept of  ‘right reason,’ reason directing man’s acts to the attainment of the objective good for man.” Moral conduct is therefore conduct in accord with right reason: “If it is said that moral conduct is rational conduct, what is meant is that it is conduct in accordance with right reason, reason apprehending the objective good for man and dictating the means to its attainment.”[13]

In natural-law philosophy, then, reason is not bound, as it is in modern post-Humean philosophy, to be a mere slave to the passions, confined to cranking out the discovery of the means to arbitrarily chosen ends. For the ends themselves are selected by the use of reason; and “right reason” dictates to man his proper ends as well as the means for their attainment. For the Thomist or natural-law theorist, the general law of morality for man is a special case of the system of natural law governing all entities of the world, each with its own nature and its own ends. “For him the moral law . . . is a special case of the general principles that all finite things move toward their ends by the development of their potentialities.”[14] And here we come to a vital difference between inanimate or even non-human living creatures, and man himself; for the former are compelled to proceed in accordance with the ends dictated by their natures, whereas man, “the rational animal,” possesses reason to discover such ends and the free will to choose.[15]

     Which doctrine, natural law or those of its critics, is to be considered truly rational was answered incisively by the late Leo Straus, in the course of a penetrating critique of the value-relativism in political theory of Professor Arnold Brecht. For, in contrast to natural law,

positivistic social science . . . is characterized by the abandonment of reason or the flight from reason. . . .

According to the positivistic interpretation of relativism which prevails in present-day social science . . . reason can tell us which means are conducive to which ends; it cannot tell us which attainable ends are to be preferred to other attainable ends. Reason cannot tell us that we ought to choose attainable ends; if someone ‘loves him who desires the impossible,’ reason may tell him that he acts irrationally, but it cannot tell him that he ought to act rationally, or that acting irrationally is acting badly or basely. If rational conduct consists in choosing the right means for the right end, relativism teaches in effect that rational conduct is impossible.[16]

Finally, the unique place of reason in natural-law philosophy has been affirmed by the modern Thomistic philosopher, the late Father John Toohey. Toohey defined sound philosophy as follows: “Philosophy, in the sense in which the word is used when scholasticism is contrasted with other philosophies, is an attempt on the part of man’s unaided reason to give a fundamental explanation of the nature of things.”[17]


[1]The political theorist was the late Hannah Arendt. For a typical criticism of natural law by a legal Positivist, see Hans Kelsen, General Theory of Law and State (New York: Russell and Russell, 1961), pp. 8ff.

[2]And yet, Black’s Law Dictionary defines the natural law in a purely rationalistic and non-theological manner:

Jus Naturale, the natural law, or law of nature; law, or legal principles, supposed to be discoverable by the light of nature or abstract reasoning, or to be taught by nature to all nations and men alike, or law supposed to govern men and peoples in a state of nature, i.e., in advance of organized governments or enacted laws (3rd ed., p. 1044).

Professor Patterson, in Jurisprudence: Men and Ideas of the Law (Brooklyn: Foundation Press, 1953), p. 333, defines the natural law cogently and concisely as:

Principles of human conduct that are discoverable by “reason” from the basic inclinations of human nature, and that are absolute, immutable and of universal validity for all times and places. This is the basic conception of scholastic natural law . . . and most natural law philosophers.

[3]Supporters of theological ethics nowadays typically strongly oppose the concept of natural law. See the discussion of casuistry by the neo-orthodox Protestant theologian Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics 3,4 (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1961), pp. 7ff.

[4]For a discussion of the role of reason in the philosophy of Aquinas, see Etienne Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas (New York: Random House, 1956). An important analysis of Thomistic natural law theory is Germain Grisez, “The First Principle of Practical Reason,” in Anthony ed., Aquinas: A Collection of Critical Essays (New York: Anchor Books, 1969), pp. 340–82. For a history of medieval natural law, see Odon Lottin, Psychologie et morale aux xiie et xiiie siècles, 6 vols. (Louvain, 1942-1960).

[5]From Franciscus Suarez, De Legibus ac Deo Legislatore (1619), lib. II, Cap. vi. Suarez also noted that many Scholastics “seem therefore logically to admit that natural law does not proceed from God as a lawgiver, for it is not dependent on God’s will.” Quoted in A. P. d’Entrèves, Natural Law (London: Hutchinson University Library, 1951), p. 71.

[6]Thomas E. Davitt, S.J., “St. Thomas Aquinas and the Natural Law,” in Arthur L. Hading, ed., Origins of the Natural Law Tradition (Dallas, Tex.: Southern Methodist University Press, 1954), p. 39. Also see Brendan F. Brown, ed., The Natural Law Reader (New York: Oceana Pubs., 1960), pp. 1014.

[7]Quoted in d’Entrèves, Natural Law, pp. 52–53. See also Otto Gierke, Natural Law and the Theory of Society, 1500 to 1800 (Boston: Beacon Press, 1957), pp. 98–99.

[8]D’Entrèves, Natural Law, pp. 51-52. Also see A.H. Chroust, “Hugo Grotius and the Scholastic Natural Law Tradition,” The New Scholasticism (1943), and Frederick C. Copleston, S.J., A History of Philosophy (Westminster, Md.: Newman Press, 1959), 2, pp. 330f. On the neglected influence of the Spanish Scholastic Suarez on modern philosophers, see Jose Ferrater Mora, “Suarez and Modem Philosophy,” Journal of the History of Ideas (October 1953): 528–47.

[9]See Gierke, Natural Law and the Theory of Society, p. 289. Also see Herbert Spencer, An Autobiography (New York: D. Appleton, 1904), vol. 1,p. 415.

[10]Thus, see Carl L. Becker, The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1957), p. 8.

[11]The late realist philosopher John Wild, in his important article, “Natural Law and Modern Ethical Theory,” Ethics (October 1952), states:

Realistic [natural law] ethics is now often dismissed as theological and authoritarian in character. But this is a misunderstanding. Its ablest representatives, from Plato and Aristotle to Grotius, have defended it on the basis of empirical evidence alone without any appeal to supernatural authority (p. 2, and pp. 1–13).

Also see the denial of the existence of such a thing as “Christian philosophy” any more than “Christian hats and shoes” by the Catholic social philosopher Orestes Brownson. Thomas T. McAvoy, C.S.C., “Orestes A. Brownson and Archbishop John Hughes in 1860,” Review of Politics (January 1962): 29.

[12]Frederick C. Copleston, S.J., Aquinas (London: Penguin Books, 1955), p. 204.

[13]Ibid., pp. 204–05.

[14]Ibid., p. 212.

[15] Thus Copleston:

Inanimate bodies act in certain ways precisely because they are what they are, and they cannot act otherwise; they cannot perform actions which are contrary to their nature. And animals are governed by instinct. In fine, all creatures below man participate unconsciously in the eternal law, which is reflected in their natural tendencies, and they do not possess the freedom which is required in order to be able to act in a manner incompatible with this law. It is therefore essential that he [man] should know the eternal law in so far as it concerns himself. Yet, how can he know it? He cannot read, as it were, the mind of God . . . [but] he can discern the fundamental tendencies and needs of his nature, and by reflecting on them he can come to a knowledge of the natural moral law. . . . Every man possesses . . . the light of reason whereby he can reflect . . . and promulgate to himself the natural law, which is the totality of the universal precepts or dictates of right reason concerning the good which is to be pursued and the evil which is to be shunned (Ibid., pp. 213–14).

[16]Leo Strauss, “Relativism,” in H. Schoeck and J.W. Wiggins, eds., Relativism and the Study of Man (Princeton, N.J.: D. Van Nostrand, 1961), pp. 144–435. For a devastating critique of an attempt by a relativistic political scientist to present a “value-free” case for freedom and the self-development of the person, see Walter Berns, “The Behavioral Sciences and the Study of Political Things: The Case of Christian Bay’s The Structure of Freedom,” American Political Science Review (September 1961): 550–59.

[17]Toohey adds that “scholastic philosophy is the philosophy which teaches the certitude of human knowledge acquired by means of sense experience, testimony, reflection, and reasoning.” John J. Toohey, S.J., Notes on Epistemology (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University, 1952), pp. 111–12.

Previous Section | Next Section
Table of Contents