By Neil Lock
This is the third part of a six-part re-formulation of my philosophical ideas. Today, I’ll give an overview of my updated framework, which I am calling “Honest Common Sense 2.0.”
My title alludes to Galileo’s famous work, the Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. Now, he compared his heliocentric model of the universe to the prevailing geocentric model. But I shall instead compare my bottom-up model of humanity and human interactions with the top-down model, that prevails among the political classes, their hangers-on, and other enemies of humanity today. This top-down model I call Downerism, and its practitioners I dub Downers – short for “top-downers.”
Further, I’ll introduce and discuss three common-sense ethical and political principles, which I have built in to the foundations of my system. I call them: ethical equality, voluntary society, and common-sense justice. You may be surprised at how radical these simple, common-sense ideas turn out to be, when contrasted with today’s received wisdom!
Bottom-up versus top-down
If there’s a single adjective that captures the flavour of my system, that word is “bottom-up.” For I favour bottom-up thinking. That is, evaluating the evidence you have available; building your ideas on top of what you already know; and, thereby, seeking knowledge. Rather than the top-down way of thinking, which swallows others’ ideas whole, particularly when they come from authority figures such as (in Jason Alexander’s memorable phrase) Priests, Politicians and Professors. And which only accepts new ideas when they fit with pre-existing beliefs.
I favour also a bottom-up method of formulating standards of behaviour. That is, you should seek to understand what is right and what is wrong; and to do what is right, rather than wrong. In contrast to the top-down view, that you must follow to the letter the edicts of whatever bunch of rogues happens to be in political power at the time; and that otherwise, anything goes as long as you can get away with it.
Moreover, I favour a bottom-up method of organizing human societies; in which the individual and voluntary associations are paramount. In contrast to top-down structures of command and control, like political states and government and corporate bureaucracies. I favour, too, a bottom-up economic organization. That is, the free market. In which every individual, and voluntary organization, can compete for customers to the best of their abilities. Supported, of course, by a framework of just governance, which delivers peace, tranquillity and objective, impartial justice; upholds the rights of all those who respect others’ equal rights; and maximizes freedom for all.
Honest Common Sense 2.0
Here’s an overview diagram of my updated system, from the point of view of human beings:
Figure 1 – Outline of Honest Common Sense 2.0
Like Jason Alexander’s Understanding, my system works upwards from the first, simplest dimension to the fifth and most complex in a bottom-up progression. Each layer stands under, or underpins, the ones above it. And each one rests on the one below it. To each layer or dimension, I have given a name. In contrast to Alexander, I prefer to use verbs for these names rather than nouns.
Associated with each dimension there is a Process (or more than one). This describes the characteristic or characteristics, which give the dimension its particular flavour. And a Product (or more than one), the result or results of the process or processes.
As in Jason Alexander’s system, each of the dimensions corresponds to a branch or branches of classical philosophy, as assembled into a stack or “layer cake” by Ayn Rand (of whom Jason Alexander was, for a time, a follower). In order, these branches are:
- Metaphysics (What’s out there? and What am I?)
- Epistemology (How do I know what I know?)
- Ethics (How should I behave?)
- Politics (How should we organize ourselves for maximum benefit to all?)
- Economics and Aesthetics (What are we here to do?)
Here, I’ll provide brief overviews of the dimensions. I’ll discuss them in more detail in the fourth and fifth essays in this set.
The lowest dimension, I call Be. It corresponds to Metaphysics in classical philosophy, and it’s about what is. At this level, there are two main questions to be answered. First, “What’s out there?” To which, my answer is “Reality.” The second question is: “What am I?” (or “what is my identity?”). To which, my answer is: “I am a human being.”
As befits the lowest layer of a bottom-up system, the first dimension contains in embryo all five of our dimensions, “curled up small” as it were. Our first dimension encapsulates our humanity. It tells us, at the most fundamental level, what it is to be human: how each of us should think, how each of us should behave, how we should organize ourselves for maximum benefit to all, and what we are here to do.
The second dimension, Think, pairs off with Epistemology. Here, there is one question: “How do I know what I know?” And Jason Alexander has supplied the answer: “Knowledge is the Identification of Identity.” So, the process here is Identification, and its product is Knowledge. The way each of us should think is to use our faculty of Identification, also known as Reason, in order to seek knowledge.
The second dimension is built on and rests upon the first, because knowledge is knowledge of what is; that is, of Identity. The models of reality, which we build inside our minds, work for us only insofar as they match what is out there in reality.
My views in this area are not so far away from Ayn Rand’s. I see this dimension as like a stack of six layers, up which thoughts rise, acquiring greater generality and complexity as they go. From the bottom up, the first five layers are: sensation, perception, conception, logic, and objectivity (or “the bullshit meter”). The sixth and highest layer is science; which I see as a, more or less formalized, methodology of discovering knowledge.
The third dimension, Behave, maps to Ethics in classical philosophy. Here, the question is: “How should I behave?” It rests on the second; because you can’t think rationally about ethics, without first gaining considerable experience and knowledge of life and of the world around you.
As I noted in the first essay in this set, what is right and wrong for members of a species to do, comes from the nature of that species. I summarize this in the phrase: Identity determines morality. This applies to all species. But from now on, I shall be concentrating in this dimension on right and wrong from the point of view of human beings.
Internally, the ethical dimension has three processes. The first is what I call the ethical equality principle: What is right for one to do, is right for another to do under similar circumstances, and vice versa. This is the first of my three common-sense principles.
This idea is far from new. I derive it from the idea, suggested by Ayn Rand and confirmed for me by Frank van Dun, that what is right and wrong for a living being to do comes from the nature of that being. For humans, Aristotle anticipated it: “a natural justice and injustice that is binding on all men, even on those who have no association or covenant with each other.” And it was there, as “the law of Nature,” in the works of John Locke. Thus, since any two human beings have the same nature, what is right and wrong for each must be the same.
The second process is the centre-piece of the centre-piece: Honesty. Honesty, in my definition, is being true to your nature; that is, living up to ethical standards appropriate to a human being. The third process is respect for the human rights of those who respect your equal rights. And the dimension’s end product is a word I’ve borrowed from Frank van Dun: Conviviality. To be convivial is to be fit to be lived with; that is, fit to be accepted into a community of convivial human beings.
Now, it follows from the ethical equality principle that there must exist a code of what is right and wrong for human beings to do. This is the code of conduct, which renders convivial those individuals who follow it. And it must be independent of any particular society or culture. I call it the Convivial Code.
John Locke summarized this code as: “being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.” If pressed to encapsulate it in a few sentences, I would say: Be peaceful. Seek the facts, and tell the truth. Be honest. Strive always to behave with justice, integrity and good faith. Be tolerant of those who are tolerant towards you. Respect the rights and freedoms of those who respect your equal rights and freedoms. Don’t interfere in other people’s business without a very good, objective reason. And take responsibility for the effects of your voluntary actions on others.
The Convivial Code is law. It is “the law of the land” for all convivial people; and thus, for all human beings worth the name. But it is law that is written in the hearts and minds of human beings, not on tablets of stone or in government edicts. As Frank van Dun has told us, it must be discovered, not invented. It is ius, not lex.
The fourth dimension I call Organize. Classically, it maps to Politics. Its question is: “How should we organize ourselves for maximum benefit to all?” This is the level, at which the “I” of Conviviality shades into the “we” of Civilization.
This fourth dimension is built on, and rests upon, the third. For you can’t make a decent civilization, unless and until the individuals who constitute it are, most of the time at least, convivial. That is, fit to be lived with.
In this dimension, I see no less than four processes. The first, the voluntary society principle, is the second of my common-sense principles: All societies must be voluntary. Implying, in particular, that the people who live in a geographical area, such as a village, a town, a city or the territory claimed by a political state, do not form a society, but only a community. And that therefore, they cannot rightly be compelled to obey the rules of any particular society. In religion, in politics, in diet or in anything else.
The second process of this dimension is Justice; the kind of justice I call “common-sense justice.” And this is the third of my common-sense principles: Every individual deserves to be treated, over the long run, in the round and as far as practicable, as he or she treats others.
This process of common-sense justice will, in turn, give rise to a system of minimal government, which I call “just governance.” The primary function of just governance will be the provision of common-sense justice to all. The maintenance of peace and tranquillity, and the upholding of the human rights of all those who respect others’ equal rights, are also important functions. And just governance will allow maximum freedom for everyone, consistent with living in a civilized community.
Just governance will also include strong quality assurance on its own processes. And, it will need some subsidiary functions, such as diplomacy with other just governances and, for a time, with legacy states.
Crucially, just governance will not require or have any permanent legislative. For its code of law, the Convivial Code, comes from human nature, not from edicts made by political élites. Thus, it will need to change only so often as human nature itself changes, or new knowledge is gained about what it is. Any proposed variations to the Code will need to go through a public, exhaustive and slow change control process. Furthermore, when the Code is updated, pre-existing contracts will only move to the new version of the Code if all parties agree to it.
Neither changes in human nature, nor the finding of new knowledge about it, happen very often. And for that reason, within a timespan such as an individual’s lifetime, the Code will be applicable retrospectively, when and where that is appropriate.
The fourth dimension, with the free market it supports, underpins the fifth dimension, Do.
The question here is: “What are we here to do?” It has two answers. As individuals, to be all that each of us can be; for this is the route to eudaimonia, fulfilment, happiness, or whatever other name you want to give it. And as a species, we are here to realize our potential, and to fulfil our nature.
A key aspect of our nature is that we seek to take control of our surroundings, and make them into a better place for humans to live. That is why we build homes, farm fields, keep and use animals, cultivate gardens, engineer machines, develop technology, write books and essays, compose music and much more.
This dimension has, as its processes, at least: Creativity, Trade (or Economics), and Aesthetics. What Creativity creates and develops, Trade exchanges, and Aesthetics enjoys and appreciates. And the products, both individually and at the species level, are Realization and Fulfilment.
But the enemies of humanity have a system too. It’s a top-down system. I call this system Downerism, and its adherents Downers (short for “top-downers”).
I don’t have direct access to the minds of Downers. So, I have to infer their philosophy from how I see them behave. On that basis, here’s what their system looks like in outline:
Figure 2 – Outline of the Downer philosophical system
Our enemies’ system, like mine, has five levels. But they are the opposite way round. The progression (or, more accurately, retrogression) is top down. For Downers, the agenda, the ideology, the collective, the state, the laws, the propaganda narrative, are everything. And the individual human being, rights and freedoms, truth and honesty, right and wrong, and objective, common-sense justice all count for nothing.
Agendas and movement building
The Downer methodology begins with an agenda; a, more or less thinly disguised, agenda of hatred and destruction. Often, the hatred is directed against people who are different from others. Racism, religious persecutions, anti-semitism and fascism have all had their roots in hatreds of this kind. Sometimes, the scapegoats are those who develop their talents, and make themselves better than others at what they do. Egalitarian, anti-intellectual and anti-capitalist movements are often of this kind. But in forms like deep green environmentalism, the Downer agenda arises more from a hatred of human achievements; or even from a hatred of humanity as a species.
Frank van Dun has described Downers thus: “Many people subscribe to an ideology that is virulently anti-human. They do not think that there is anything respectable about human beings as they are. Usually, they combine this belief with the idea that ‘human nature can and should be changed’ so as to make it conform to their own ideal of Man. Thus, they claim that men and women should be taught or forced not to respect the order of human world but to respect instead the imaginary ‘normative order’ that the ideologues prefer.”
So, how do Downers do what they do? The first stage in any Downer agenda is the (apparent) legitimization of the agenda, and of the ideology behind it. They achieve this by building a movement of supporters. Some of these are attracted to the agenda by a shared hatred of those it targets as victims. Some like it because they see a prospect of personal gain for themselves, or perhaps because it shows promise of being fashioned into a weapon against their enemies. Others fail to see the malice in the agenda, and buy into it because they are fooled by its propaganda into feeling an angst, which they may be able to palliate by joining the movement. Yet others are simply useful idiots for the cause. They support it just because it seems to be a “cool” thing to do.
Downer agenda setters have a vision of how they want things to be. And they seek to use politics to force their agenda on others against their wills. They pervert the natural human urge to take control of our surroundings into an un-natural, malevolent, destructive urge for control over other people.
Many Downer agendas are obviously malicious and tyrannical. For example: a world ruled over by communism, a world without Jews or non-Aryan races, a single global super-state, or a country – such as Pol Pot’s Cambodia – without a middle class. Even agendas that are not quite so obviously evil can lead to harmful policies and violations of rights. For example: war on drugs, or sustainable development. And even an agenda that at first hearing sounds good, like eliminating poverty, reducing obesity, fighting an epidemic, reducing pollution or preserving wildlife, can still cause much harm to good people if badly executed.
Thus, Downers pursue power and control over others. They seek political power, for themselves and for those who subscribe to similar visions. For them, as for Plato and Aristotle, the political state is the highest good. Thus, it is the source of, and the mechanism to be used to achieve, everything they think is good.
It hardly needs saying that those, that use the state and political power to achieve their ends, are users of Franz Oppenheimer’s political means; that is, the “unrequited appropriation of the labor of others.” All of them, thus, are Downers in one way or another. But among them, there is a cadre that I will dub politicals. They use the political means, in a wider sense than Franz Oppenheimer’s; they seek to influence governments. This may be for their own personal gain, or for that of their cronies; or it may be because they seek to impose on people a particular agenda of how the world or some aspect of it should be. Regardless of whether or not those people want it.
Politicals include: Virtually all politicians. Many government employees. The dishonest among police and soldiers. Most of the political establishment, and those that are well connected with it. Advisors, influencers and bureaucrats, both in government and in “non-governmental organizations.” Activists and demonstrators of many different hues. Greedy or politicized company bosses. Activist media figures and academics. Rich individuals and “celebrities” with their own political goals, or with narcissistic tendencies, or both.
Abuse of power
For Downers in general, and for politicals in particular, legislation made by those in power trumps any notions of right and wrong, and any ideal of justice. Thus, they seek to get made bad and oppressive laws, with which to rule over people. And because they have little or no idea of right and wrong, Downers have little or no respect for the rights or freedoms of human beings. They will seek to do to their victims whatever furthers their agenda, no matter how much harm and pain results to those victims. They do not mind violating rights, or creating or spreading moral panics. And for many of them, violence and even war are OK.
Further, the politicals are dishonest through and through. Many of them are, or are on the verge of being, psychopaths. They will lie, deceive, cheat or do whatever else they find necessary to try to justify their actions. So, harassment, rights violations and injustice become rife; together with the corruption, hypocrisy and callousness they encourage.
Narrative and propaganda
The politically correct narrative or dogma of the day, trumpeted by Downers and their media cronies everywhere, overpowers in their minds any idea of objective truth. They will tell only the tale they themselves want to hear. And they will only accept facts when they fit their narrative; they will reject all opposing facts and evidence without even examining them. Furthermore, they often seek to project their own denial of reality on to those who oppose them; as with those that call climate realists names like “deniers” or “conspiracy theorists.”
So, Downers create a mental atmosphere of lies and propaganda, deceptions, hype, and unreasoning fear. They season this atmosphere with fake or misleading news, smears and insults. And they seek to suppress dissenting views.
Faith and force
At the bottom of the pyramid, the foot soldiers of Downerism apply what Ayn Rand called the destroyers of the modern world: faith and force. They believe, with blind faith, in the Downer agendas and narratives. They promote, support or enforce bad, unjust laws. They think that those bad laws are right, just because some bunch of politicians made them. And that those who will not believe the faith, must be made to follow it by force.
So, these Downer foot soldiers will act towards their victims in ways that, in objective terms, are inhuman; like the Spanish inquisitors, or those that sent prisoners at Auschwitz into the gas chambers. The future they desire is, as George Orwell put it: “a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”
Comparing the two systems
Now, with a respectful nod to Galileo, I’ll juxtapose the two systems against each other. In particular, I’ll compare and contrast my bottom-up ethical and justice system, with its three common-sense principles – ethical equality, voluntary society and common-sense justice – against the Downer political system, under which we suffer today.
I will also show how radical all three of my principles are, when contrasted with current norms of politics. And I’ll say a few things about their implications for the great war of our times. That war is between, on the one side, we human beings and our natural, bottom-up way of living; in short, conducting ourselves as convivial human beings. And on the other side, the lies, suppression of truth and of dissent, psychopathic behaviour, injustices, and violation of rights and freedoms, that are built into Downerism and those that follow it.
First, the ethical equality principle. I put this as: What is right for one to do, is right for another to do under similar circumstances, and vice versa. In the fourth essay in this set, I’ll give some arguments for this principle, over and above the argument from human nature I gave above. And I’ll give a broad-brush overview of the Convivial Code which flows from it.
Let no-one be in any doubt how radical this ethical equality principle is, when contrasted with current politics. For Jean Bodin’s 16th-century scheme of sovereignty, under which we still suffer today, allows to the sovereign of a state (whether an individual or a group) an extensive list of moral privileges over the subjects in that state. But under the ethical equality principle, a sovereign cannot rightly exist; and so, the state cannot rightly exist. The political state and the ethical equality principle are fundamentally incompatible with each other. If you accept the ethical equality principle, you must reject the state. And if you want to accept the state and sovereignty, you must disprove the ethical equality principle.
Second, the voluntary society principle: All societies must be voluntary.
This principle, too, goes radically against current wisdom. For it implies that the people who live in a geographical area – village, town, city, nation state or territory, for example – do not form a society, but are only a community. A community, in contrast to a society, has no president or chairman. It has no officials and no goals as a group, and can have no politics. The community of those who live in an area can have no goal beyond being a good place to live for everyone in it.
In particular, the people who live in an area cannot be assumed to have a “general will,” as postulated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Nor can they be assumed to be a unity, all of whom share a political or religious viewpoint, or common interests or culture. Thus, to impose political or religious policies on the people in an area, even if there is seemingly a democratic “mandate” for those policies, is ethically wrong.
Further, no-one can be supposed to be a member of any society, without having voluntarily assented to become a member of that society. Interestingly, this condition is reflected by Article 20(2) of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights: “No one may be compelled to belong to an association.” There can, therefore, be no implied “social contract,” that can give any right to a political state or government to rule over people, without their having as individuals explicitly, voluntarily and provably agreed to such a contract, and having not withdrawn their agreement.
Third, the common-sense justice principle: Every individual deserves to be treated, over the long run, in the round and as far as practicable, as he or she treats others. Given the common-sense nature of the principle, those who wish to deny it must answer the questions: Who deserves to be treated persistently better than they treat others, and who worse? Why those individuals, rather than others? And why should people not be able to subject you to whatever indignities and injustices they wish, without any come-back?
This principle, again, has radical repercussions. If you don’t do, or seek to do, harm to others, then you don’t deserve to suffer harms being done to you. And on the other side, if you do harm to others, or seek to do harm to others, or impose on others unreasonable risks of harm, then you should be required to compensate those you harmed, or to receive proportionate punishment according to the seriousness of what you have done, or both.
This principle directly contradicts the ideas of sovereign immunity and “the king can do no wrong.” Indeed, since the wrongdoer with power is likely to have done more harm than those without, it is the powerful that will often be the hardest hit by the application of the principle.
You don’t need to be religious to appreciate the relevance and significance of Psalm 7, verse 16: “His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate.” Or Obadiah 1, verse 15: “As thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head.” Every Downer ought to recoil in terror from the import of these words.
World War Three
Look carefully at politics today, and digest what you see. Then, you will understand that World War Three is happening. Right now. But it’s not a war between one alliance of states and another. Nor is it being fought with guns and bombs. Instead, it’s a war that pits political élites and their hangers-on against the people they claim a right to rule over. World War Three is a war between “them” and “us.” And it affects everyone born with the capability to become human.
On one side are we human beings, who behave, for the most part, peacefully, truthfully, honestly, justly, responsibly and with respect for others’ rights. On the other, are those that want to use politics, force and propaganda in order to get themselves riches, or to hurt those they dislike, or both.
Today, the Downers and their central cadre (those I dub “politicals”) are in control everywhere in the world; even in so-called democracies. And they have been assaulting us human beings with increasing ferocity for decades. They oppress us with all the resources they can muster: bad laws, denial of rights, predatory taxation, media lies and deceits, suppression of truth, and many more. All we have to fight back with is our ideas, our voices, and our common sense.
Many people are, slowly, becoming aware of what is being done to us. And some have become very concerned. But few have yet managed to look behind the curtain, to see what’s really going on. So today, I’ve tried to give you a brief glimpse behind that curtain. Our enemies have the police, soldiers and bureaucrats, the unjust taxes and the bad laws, the crony corporate bosses, the churches and the media. But, as I hope I’ve shown today, we have the moral and ethical high ground. And in the long run, is not the pen, as the saying goes, mightier than the sword?
Which side are you on?