Humans today are engaged in great values conflicts of every scale all across the globe. These conflicts are demeaning and destroying life with ever greater ferocity in an effort to advance the right morality, or only the best possible one, or the truest one, or the most human, or the most sustainable. Is there another kind of ethical game to engage in?
But, there is no single morality for all people or all beings. There is no single value that can guide human behavior toward the best possible life, even if this is a desirable goal. All valuations, every morality, is group-relative, and every action is ethical by fitting into some list of values.
A wikiethica is a description of the way in which values are shared among a determinate grouping of people. It is assumed, and argued in papers available on this site, that all values are shared by everyone alike (for reasons of shared competency in language, overlapping sets of skills, habits, customs, similar cultural materials, and so on). The values come from the activities by which a social grouping (sociality) is constituted. Values are trans-material, emerging from materials and their processes. They are in essence descriptive of how a grouping lives, with what style, intended outcomes, or reasons. Given that (1) no person is without membership in multiple groupings, and individuality is consequently socio-individuality, (2) no grouping of people exists in isolation from at least some other similarly-scaled functional groupings and larger-scaled context groupings (professions or industries, religions, cities, regions), and (3) there is carriage of values across and within groupings, rapidly, slowly, but constantly. Hence, values are universal.
But, perhaps surprisingly, values are also relative. To wit, (1) the timing of a value’s ascendancy in the life of a grouping differs from when it is ascendant in another grouping. (2) The modality in which the value is expressed or actualized is specific to the grouping (and there are various kinds of human groupings). (3) The co-contextual values for any value are specific to the grouping. (4) Hence, the overall set of values is relative to the group as both a ranked list of values and a city-structured language of values.
A wikiethica is a description of a particular live ranking of values, as elaborated, or improvised by an actual grouping of people, and describes the process of their life at a given time in history. Though all values are on everyone’s lists (even the most violent, destructive and elitist), every list is unique in its ranking and expression structure. For example, among the boxing community, cruelty and harmfulness are highly valued, as, it might be said, are arrogance, superconfidence (hubris?), and self-promotion. Among boxers and their managers, compassion, care, and gentleness are lowly ranked and therefore, among boxers, ignoble, while the former are noble. Among anti-war activists, which constitute another, neither more nor less, legitimate human grouping, compassion, peaceableness in relation, care and so on are among the most important values, while violence, harmfulness, cruelty are anathema. It would be foolish to think that compassion should be the overriding value for all human beings (though it is also true that some values make this anarchy of values possible, while others prevent it). But furthermore, it cannot be denied that someone who is an anti-war activist may also be an aficionado of football or boxing. Someone who is a boxing promoter may in fact be a pacifist politically. Hence, it is not only possible but-speaking the same language, using the same stuff, perceiving similar worlds-necessary that all values are on everyone’s lists, and equally necessary that the lists are unique in their ranking and actualization. One list differs from another in its organization, and it will indeed be the case that one person is a member of groupings which have opposing rankings.
To return to the nature of the list, I have tried to identify some values as meta-values, those values which, when applied to the list make this understanding of ethics possible. So, there is a preference for autonomy (self-determination) over heteronomy (leadership and obedience), and for cooperation (group self-determination) over competition (group rivalry). Indeed, rivalry in values is assumed by this ethical theory to be inferior to values play (another meta-value promotion). Another important meta-value here is the Daoist wuxin, which the philosophers of Roger Ames and David Hall call ‘unmediated thinking and feeling.’ We might also call this meta-value inconsistency. As I said, people are more likely than not to be members of groupings with opposing value rankings. Hence, the WikiEthica allows for inconsistency in values for persons. Again, it is more skillful to approach this meta-valuation as an element in the play of values, rather than as a moral failing. To be able to play with values entails being able to switch value-loyalties as the situation calls for it. It would be clumsy at least for a pacifist to promote gentleness in boxing. It would be childish for the boxer to think that conflict and combat are the only possible kinds of human interaction.
These preferences for autonomy, cooperation, play, and inconsistency are preferences that these values be promoted in real groupings, not just on the list, for it is thought that to the extent that autonomy, cooperation, play, and variation hold sway in our lives, we live more according to the way of all things than according to an artificial and partial way of humans, or of some subgroup of humans (say, men/women, blacks/whites, athletes/owners/spectators, Palestinians/Israelis, the poor/the rich, republicans/democrats). And in the end (or at the beginning) it is assumed that no human subgroup of any size or scope has priority over any other. No human individual as human has priority over others. To the extent that a grouping or individual believes in its superiority or priority or special status to the exclusion of others from this status or privilege, that group or individual is meta-excluded from this ethical approach, even while it naturally has a life of values just as I describe above.
The upshot is that there are no values with universally agreed-upon position, nor even values that are necessary for the survival of the species, and thus universal for all humans. Every value is doubly relative: to groupings (and we’ve seen that these are highly complicated by social structure: every grouping is in a context of groupings, smaller, the same size, and larger), and to socio-individuality (which is a relational way to think of personhood). There is a third relativity: historical. But what is relative is the ranking and organization, but not the existence of the value.
It can be of some benefit for a grouping to be cognizant of the ranking of the most ascendant or promoted values in their lists, and probably also the values that are more demoted, and also to recognize that this is only one possible legitimate ranking. Moreover, groupings should benefit from recognizing which values are most immediately influential in the promotion of other values. In order to imbue our ethical projects, our lives, with autonomy, cooperation, play, and inconsistency, groupings will embrace these meta-values. The wiki is the form to use for this since the list of values is generated by those who live them in the ways that they live them. Hence, the wikiethica projects are participatory, and, in the best sense of the word, anarchic. But Sociatecture can help you set on up, suggest lines of study and research, and so forth.
(I suppose there is something monstrous about this theory of ethics, but then monstrosity is itself a value, and in ethical theory, the more monstrous the better, since this is an index of its novelty.)
This website is also a tool for multiplying the values by which we live, including those that are forgotten and those whose importance among the list of values is dubious (like laziness?). The latter sort of values are dubious because they weaken the list itself, weakening ethics in turn, allowing ethics to be replaced by juridics, as the main structure of individual and collective life. We hope to offer an alternative way.
A wiki is a participatory website. Life only exists to the extent that we live, that is, participate. Here's some equipment for doing so.