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The Argument of Intrinsic Moral Responses: The Moral Dynamics Model

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

Exploring the Interplay of Ethics, Influences, and Human Behavior

As I sat on a plane, the conversation of a BTS fan in the seat in front of me caught my attention. She discussed with her friend the allure of chasing the South Korean boy band, framing it as a preferable alternative to infidelity. She declared, “It’s better that I do this—travel after them—than spend time with someone I meet directly.” This candid confession, whispered amidst the airplane's hum, led me to contemplate the complexities of contemporary relationships and societal norms. With a growing detachment from direct human interactions in favor of virtual or distant engagements, a pressing question emerges: Are we losing the grip of traditional values that once shielded against certain forms of violence and oppression?

In our swiftly globalizing era, where celebrity infatuations can feel more palpable than our immediate neighbors, the charm of modernity and its freedoms might sometimes eclipse the safeguarding attributes of tradition. Although no age or value system is devoid of flaws, the protective aspects of traditional norms, especially against specific societal oppressions, merit consideration.

Modern times have ushered in distinct forms of violence, extending beyond the physical to encompass emotional and psychological dimensions. Societal fragmentation, characterized by pronounced individualism at the expense of community spirit, can magnify feelings of isolation and alienation. The diminishing strength of familial bonds has left many without foundational support, propelling them to seek validation in frequently detrimental ways. The technological era, despite its myriad benefits, has been associated with heightened addiction rates—whether to substances, screens, or the quest for online approval—and ensuing mental health challenges.

This disintegration of societal cohesion prompts introspection: might there be overlooked protective elements within yesteryears' traditions and values that could counteract our zealous embrace of modernity?

Historically, values like loyalty to and presence in direct, personal relationships have acted as societal pillars, imparting continuity amidst tumultuous change. Central to many traditional values is the significance of community, belonging, and interdependence. Such values cultivate tight-knit community atmospheres where members actively support one another. Within these realms, the negative repercussions of modern stressors can potentially be mitigated. A rooted sense of belonging can diminish feelings of isolation and depression, while robust familial connections offer a bulwark against the lures of addiction, both as preventative deterrents and as recovery allies.

Traditions, while carrying the charm of time-tested values, shouldn't be idealized. Yes, they have their merits, but they are equally replete with constraints. Traditional societies, with their well-defined roles and boundaries, have often curtailed personal freedoms, perpetuating gender inequalities and stifling deviations. Moreover, an unwavering adherence to "how it's always been" can suppress individual and societal development. Intolerance toward diverse expressions of identity, beliefs, or even simple personal choices can foment exclusion and further discord.

The task at hand is to strike a harmonious chord between the excesses of contemporary life and the rigidity of tradition. It's not about retreating to bygone times or wholesale embracing the new. The key might lie in distilling the protective facets of tradition and weaving them into our evolving societal narrative, allowing us to maintain individual liberties and societal growth. In short, by selectively merging the past's safeguards with present-day advancements, societies can shape into environments that are both progressive and protective.

Yet, this is perhaps more aspirational, an "ought" rather than an "is." Is our perceived progression merely an illusion? As we grapple with the dynamics of today's world, we must ponder: are we genuinely advancing, or are we mistaking movement for progress?

Is the notion of sharing a partner palatable? Does the surge in Only Fans accounts resonate? Is there inherent value in a young individual boasting thousands of followers? Current trends, whether critiqued or celebrated, aren't solely a product of millennials or Gen Z. They echo time-honored human endeavors to process, alleviate, and articulate perceived threats and oppressions. The channels may have evolved, but the underlying human impulses and apprehensions persist.

Why is this the case?

Reflecting on the BTS fan's airplane revelation offers insights. What might seem like a casual remark about concert attendance versus personal intimacy uncovers a broader narrative: the tension between time-honored values and shifting societal mores. It's not merely fandom; it's about society's evolving notions of connection, intimacy, and genuineness. Opting for a remote connection over direct human engagement epitomizes a societal tilt where illusion, or delusion, often trumps genuine rapport. This tension manifests further in phenomena like the proliferation of Only Fans accounts or the ascendance of youthful influencers. Quantity seems to supersede quality; superficial connections eclipse profound bonds.

Yet, what defines depth or substance? Amid our contemporary maze, do immutable anchors exist? Is there a beacon, akin to the Promethean fire, guiding us? The irony is palpable: our very search for authenticity might ensnare us in symbolic fascinations, whether it's cultural celebrities or virtual identities.

Historically, religion has acted as a counter to this idolatry, offering spiritual depth and a moral compass to navigate through life's superficialities. Similarly, G.E. Moore's ethical non-naturalism, emphasizing inherent values, serves as a philosophical guidepost amidst modern complexities. Both religious tenets and deep philosophical reflection challenge us to peer beneath superficialities, seeking what's profound. Yet, as Little Finger articulates in Game of Thrones, while some, like Jon Snow, might find a grounding force when faced with daunting challenges, others might "refuse, they cling to the realm, or gods, or love." It's worth noting that extreme allegiances, be it to political power, religious fervor, or even love, have historically catalyzed some of humanity's gravest misdeeds. This underscores the complexity of finding genuine anchors. Love and religion, while often seen as anchors, can sometimes become the very illusions that obscure our path.

Indeed, G.E. Moore if he were still alive, might ask: "Is the 'like' or ‘follow’ on social media a genuine moral evaluation or a mere fleeting instinct?"

Of course, it is worth noting that this may very well function as a modern eye-roll-worthy suggestion and skepticism against such a statement might be:

"Comparing intuitive moral judgments with social media 'likes'? Really? That's oversimplifying and diluting profound philosophical discussions with fleeting digital actions."

But so much seems fleeting. On to the next thing. And if everything is fleeting, then the value and meaning we ascribe to any action, thought, or emotion become a reflection of its impact in the moment and its ripple effect on our lives and the lives of others. In this transient existence, even a 'like' on social media, as momentary as it might seem, holds weight. It contributes to a narrative, reinforces certain behaviors, and creates patterns of interaction. It's not about the longevity of the act, but about the depth of its resonance. Even the briefest moments can leave the deepest imprints. If everything is fleeting, then perhaps the real question is: what do we choose to carry forward from each fleeting moment? And perhaps then transience is the anchor.

Every fleeting moment, every transient emotion, becomes a precious snapshot of life, capturing a unique perspective and a distinct emotion. By recognizing and valuing this transience, we might be more inclined to savor each experience, to be present in each interaction, and to treasure each emotion, no matter how ephemeral.

This emphasis on the value of the transient aligns with many philosophical and spiritual traditions. Buddhism, for instance, teaches the concept of anicca or impermanence as a fundamental aspect of existence.

In the realm of moral realism, transience doesn't negate the objective value or moral worth of an action or emotion. Instead, it underscores the importance of recognizing the intrinsic value of every fleeting moment and making conscious choices that align with our moral compass. Every 'like,' every gesture, and every word has potential implications, and in their transience, they carry the weight of authenticity and immediacy.

Moral realism posits that certain moral claims are objectively true, regardless of our individual beliefs or sentiments. It does not necessarily make any claims about the transient nature of experiences. However, in today's digital age, these transient experiences might intersect with moral judgments or evaluations.

While moral realism asserts objective moral truths, it doesn't necessarily dictate how these truths manifest in our day-to-day, moment-to-moment experiences. In a world dominated by fleeting interactions, the challenge becomes discerning which of these interactions have moral weight and which are just passing moments.

When pondering a 'like' on social media within a moral realist framework, Moore might query: Does this act mirror an objective moral value? Is there a foundational truth or principle this gesture resonates with?

A.J. Ayer, an emotivist, might counter, "When someone 'likes' a post on social media, they aren’t asserting a claim rooted in objective moral value or a universal truth. Rather, they are voicing personal approval or preference for that content. To question whether a 'like' parallels a universal axiom misconstrues the essence of moral language. It's akin to querying the objective value or universal verity manifested when someone jeers 'Boo!' to a distasteful meal. The 'like' doesn’t allude to an external reality; it's an impulsive emotive reaction."

Such a contention unveils genuine predicaments for Moore's intuitivism in the 21st century. Moore's idea of inherent goodness and his strategy of distinguishing straightforward properties of 'good' via intuitive pondering thrives in a milieu where moral scenarios can be ruminated on at a leisurely, contemplative pace. Yet, in today's age, the abundant influx and tempo of data, notably on conduits like social media, muddy this method.

How does one intuitively discern the 'good' in a tweet, a meme, or a 'like' when the medium itself is volatile and swift? Additionally, the ephemeral essence of these platforms and their gratification systems (such as likes, retweets, and shares) could potentially promote behaviors more in tune with social affirmation than intrinsic moral tenets.

Even as Moore would wrestle with pinpointing 'good' in our frenetic realm, individuals chart their unique paths through this expanse. Consider the fan traversing in the footsteps of a band. Perhaps there's an innate profundity in such fervent pursuits, whether fueled by intricate hypergamy, a chase of aspiration, or a deeper resonance with the artist's message. The fan's voyage could be a manifestation of a poignant emotional bond, a quest for unity, or an emblem of self-identity and principles.

But why not merely exclaim, 'Boo!'?

Ayer's emotivism posits that moral judgments merely echo our feelings. To him, declaring "stealing is wrong" doesn’t identify an objective truth; it's tantamount to jeering, "Boo to theft!"

Yet, in our current epoch, it seems our moral outcries are increasingly sculpted, not by entrenched beliefs, but by the zeitgeist. Often, our applauds or condemnations echo the sentiments of influential trendsetters, rather than individual convictions. Is this the crux of our modern era–a cascade of impulsive cheers and hisses?

Margot Beattie, in "Consciousness and the Personality Disorders" in The Personality Disorders Through the Lens of Attachment Theory and the Neurobiologic Development of the Self, provides a unique perspective on our discussion. She suggests that the "illusionary experience is fundamental to the development of consciousness under the pleasure principle." Illusion is not mere child's play—it serves as the dawn of human creativity. The intense attraction towards a BTS member, or the longing for a perceived 'ideal' connection, might originate from these 'illusionary experiences.' Might our desires and dreams be directed by the pleasure principle? Does this desire form an illusion of unparalleled contentment?

In juxtaposition, delusion—rooted in its staunch resistance to rationale—contrasts with the ephemeral and adaptable 'illusionary experiences' governed by the pleasure principle. While some might view the fan's tenacious belief as an 'illusion,' is it not feasible to argue that deep-rooted philosophical convictions about morality are more delusional, particularly when they tightly cling to inflexible paradigms?

Moore's magnum opus, Principia Ethica, chronicled his search for a conception of "good" that is basic, indefinable, and objective. Yet, could this entire expedition be termed delusional? As our passionate fan pursues a band, Moore embarked on a quest for an ethical verity that eluded even astute minds like Ayer.

If, hypothetically, constructs like Moore's intuitivism are delusional, it necessitates a reassessment of our ethical underpinnings. Such a realization could suggest that our moral beliefs should be more deeply rooted in tangible human behaviors and aspirations, admitting the intrinsic subjectivity of any ethical blueprint. And if Moore's ethical foundation is found wanting, what implications does it bear for the moral constructs derived from it?

C. L. Stevenson, though not directly following Moore's intuitivism, veered towards Ayer's emotivism. In “The Emotive Meaning of Ethical Terms,” published in Mind, he emphasizes that the term "good" should be devoid of ambiguity. For Stevenson, simplicity is a philosophical virtue, challenging the premise of subjective ethics, which posits that ethical assertions express propositions, and some of these propositions reflect human attitudes. Emotivism, a narrower interpretation of subjectivism, dismisses the flexibility in the claim that "some such propositions are true." Instead, Stevenson seeks to highlight a "vital" essence of "good" which adheres to three distinct criteria: openness to intellectual dissent, inherent appeal or utility, and the impossibility of reducing ethics to mere science.

Taking the assertion "Emotional affairs are wrong," Stevenson would perceive it as a suggestive vehicle. Still, he would argue that it's hardly a statement that philosophers, or anyone for that matter, would routinely make. Ayer would concur with this perspective. Stevenson echoes Ayer’s view that ethical terms do more than express sentiment—they can also evoke emotion and propel action (Ayer 68). However, Ayer, in "Critique of Ethics and Theology," from Language, Logic, and Truth, contends that any subject prefixed by "is good" merely captures personal sentiments and cannot be considered factual (64). Ayer, while acknowledging in his own time the very same magnetic allure of Stevenson's "vital" interpretation of "good," also hints at its inherent potential for disagreement.

Ayer posits that ethical declarations articulate sentiments about a subject (like "X is good") but they are not factual. This introduces the challenge of differentiating between desire (which might not align with the magnetic essence of Stevenson's “vital” sense of “good”) and belief. Yet, as Stevenson emphasizes, there should be room for sensible disagreement over what is deemed "good" (Stevenson 16). In situations where debates alter a participant's beliefs in favor of a more compelling viewpoint, the individual will likely develop an augmented inclination to act in alignment with this new belief (16).

Considering the interrelation between the requirements of disagreement and magnetic attractiveness/practicality for the "vital" sense of good, we revert to the statement “Emotional affairs are wrong.” This equates a non-moral characteristic with a moral one. Such an equivalency triggers Moore’s open question argument in Principia Ethica (Moore 14), which Stevenson acknowledges. Moore contends that moral properties are "simple and indefinable" (Moore 23), rendering any comparison moot. Stevenson, however, opines that while rationality might not pinpoint a moral property, ethical consensus can arise from persuasion (Stevenson 29).

To effectively persuade, as Stevenson outlines, persuasion must encompass the "vital" sense of good. The claim “Emotional affairs are wrong” might incite action even in someone holding an opposing view, given the emotional weight and potential societal influence behind it. Harry Frankfurt, in “Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person,” in The Journal of Philosophy, intimates that without reflection on personal desires, actions might appear wanton (Frankfurt 12). As there's no empirical method to gauge moral claims against natural phenomena, alternative validation methods are needed (Stevenson 16). For emotivists, this validation lies in persuasion. Evaluating a statement's content, persuasion naturally ensues, much like syrup flowing from a tapped maple tree.

From the perspective of emotivism, the sentence “Emotional affairs are wrong” transcends mere factual exposition, which is the primary focus of conventional ethical theories. Emotivists discern both the statement's descriptive quality and its inherent capacity to influence. Stevenson indicates that these sentences primarily aim "to create an influence" (18), introducing the idea of dynamic meaning. While not all statements encompass both descriptive and dynamic meanings, contingent on the speaker's intent (21), there exists potential for influence. For instance, “The sun is the center of our solar system,” despite being a scientifically established fact now, needed to be conveyed persuasively by Galileo Galilei during its initial postulation to garner acceptance.

Stevenson posits the absence of a rational blueprint for extracting a moral property (29). In scrutinizing the statement “Emotional affairs are wrong”, we discern an implicit precursor, “We believe” (24). This is more than a mere declaration. Owing to the dynamic nature of language and the "vital" sense of good, it seeks to sway someone holding a contrary belief (18).

Let’s pretend the Roman Catholic Church serves as the fulcrum for this argument. The "We" in “We believe” transcends the immediate interlocutors; it extends to the entire institution and its doctrinal values. The speaker is directly influenced by this doctrine, while its opponent may only vaguely sense its origins. This ambiguity, unlike the forthright "I believe," propels the to-and-fro characteristic of value disputes (26). The crux of the Church's stance can be distilled as: “We venerate relationships sanctified by unwavering fidelity. Emulate this.” Such a stance informs the assertion that "Emotional affairs are wrong."

This gravitates us back to the cradle of the "vital" sense of good: disagreement. The declarative “Emotional affairs are wrong” will, more often than not, instigate contention. Yet, the strategy behind this utterance is ingenious. By foregrounding the object of contention rather than personal beliefs, it sidesteps immediate resistance and invites engagement (26). This strategy's efficacy is evident in door-to-door evangelism. Compare two evangelists: Jeremy, leading with his personal belief, and Edward, opting for a simple assertion. Edward's approach, with its focus on the ethical subject rather than personal conviction, is likely more palatable, facilitating discourse rather than immediate rebuff.

Emotivism's allure lies in its embrace of open, intelligent disagreement. Although non-cognitivist, it champions ethical sentences that invite discourse, exert influence, and eschew reduction to empiricism, setting it apart from perspectives like Ayer's, which dismiss ethical concepts as “pseudo-concepts” (Ayer 71).

Emotivism, with its emphasis on emotional affirmation over factual veracity, has perplexing intersections with preference-utilitarianism, as articulated by Richard Mervyn Hare. Stevenson's ethical discourse, laden with magnetism, is analogous to Hare's “Proles”, where societal norms heavily influence moral beliefs. Even in solitude, an individual's thoughts are invariably shaped by societal codes of conduct.

Hare's “Archangels” and “Proles” shed light on the ethical crossroads an individual faces: whether to question entrenched beliefs or accept societal norms without introspection. Similarly, Stevenson emphasizes the power of persuasive discourse, where ethical sentences aim for societal agreement through magnetic attraction to the 'good.'

However, the potential manipulative power of emotivism becomes evident when ethics is considered irreducible to empiricism. In this light, those with dominating personalities can mould societal 'truths,' posing a daunting challenge for individuals to either fight, flee, or submit to these dominant beliefs.

Stevenson’s assertion that ethical sentences are tools of influence rather than indicators of fact raises the specter of deceptive moral persuasion. This notion resonates with Friedrich Nietzsche's exploration of the power dynamics in morality. Aligning with Ayer's assertion that ethical considerations are commands, not propositions, it's plausible that moral experiences are best understood through psychology or sociology.

Consequently, Stevenson’s emotivism doesn't unveil a new dimension to ethics but reinforces the Darwinian perspective that, within the moral domain, man is his own greatest adversary.

Now here we are, on the precipice of declaring the death of ethics. In a world where any statement holds as much weight as any other, what truly matters is the speaker, not the sentiment!

This tongue-in-cheek introduction serves to highlight the implications of emotivism: ethical beliefs, it seems, are more influenced by societal power dynamics and personal psychology than genuine moral grounding.

Yet, upon deeper reflection, maybe Moore’s concept of intuitivism isn't so whimsical. If we argue, as emotivists do, that ethics is merely a manifestation of our emotions and the power structures that influence them, then Moore’s idea of objective moral truths discernible through intuition gains traction. It's not always the ethical statements that capture our attention, but rather the genuine essence of a situation. Take, for instance, the agonizing sight of someone being electrocuted. The immediate human response isn't derived from a carefully articulated ethical statement but an instinctive drive to help. This instinct, which I encapsulate in the equation Ψ=Φ, posits that the tangible, visceral nature of situations (Ψ) drives moral actions (Φ). While this doesn't guarantee that every action taken will be morally right or effective, it emphasizes that humans possess inherent moral inclinations.

The Newtonian nature of this perspective aligns with Thomas Nagel’s musings in The View From Nowhere. Nagel promotes an objective viewpoint, one that respects the subjective quality of experiences but recognizes their inherent moral weight. Strip away personal biases and cultural contexts, and you're left with experiences that possess intrinsic moral value.

This idea challenges traditional ethical frameworks, from Plato’s metaphysical forms to the consequentialist ethics of Bentham and Mill, from Kant’s categorical imperative to Moore's own non-natural intrinsic values. Nagel doesn’t promise a complete liberation from the age-old tussle between subjectivity and objectivity in ethics, but he emphasizes the importance of objectivity in our moral evaluations.

However, skeptics remain unconvinced. They question the objectivity of moral values, pointing towards profound philosophical shifts like the existentialist's 'death of god,' the moral relativist's unwavering belief in subjectivity, or the poststructuralist's world of interwoven constructs. Yet, despite these arguments, the equation Ψ=Φ remains relevant, symbolizing the undeniable force driving moral actions.

Moral nihilism, which denies the existence of any inherent moral truths, is hence put on trial. For even in the face of skepticism regarding the objectivity of values, one cannot deny the consistent, innate human responses to moral scenarios—be it through gut-feeling, raw emotion, or decisive action. This universal thread, weaving through various philosophies and cultures, points towards an inescapable truth: the existence of an inherent moral essence within humanity.

But this realization does little to halt the erosion of our social fabric or to stem the relentless tide of transience. It remains powerless against a married woman's pursuit of a band across the globe.

However, if we embrace the notion that Ψ=Φ, signifying an unshakable force propelling moral actions, and take into account Nagel's acknowledgment of the inescapability of subjective viewpoints, it becomes natural to amalgamate this concept with the language, rhetoric, and persuasive elements that shape our ethical landscapes. This integration offers a more comprehensive perspective, enabling us to fathom and navigate the intricate interplay of human motivations, emotions, and decisions, even amidst societal shifts and individual choices that challenge conventional norms.

Expressed formulaically:

α (Ψ)=Φ

This formulation implies that while language, rhetoric, and persuasive elements (α) condition our moral impulses (Ψ), the resultant drive to take action (Φ) remains unwavering. These elements may influence the 'how' and 'why' of our moral inclinations, yet the underlying compulsion to act remains resolute.

But our journey doesn't conclude here. There's an essential element missing from this equation. Stevenson aptly addressed the darker facet of α when he highlighted how forceful personalities can mold their own truths, coercing those who are more vulnerable into compliance, often irrespective of consequences. Sometimes, α can lead someone to commit war crimes, while in other instances, it may steer towards peace. Although Kant's categorical imperative might have been dismissed for needlessly mystifying notions of the good and the right, one critical component remains absent from our exploration—agency.

Consider the case of the woman fervently chasing the boy band. While I speculated that her actions may possibly stem from some form of intricate hypergamy, the truth is, I don't possess definitive knowledge. She might indeed have motivations far removed from instinctual drives. The crux, however, is that such possibilities exist. Kant posited that only when an individual is autonomous can they be self-legislating—capable of acting in accordance with laws they formulate for themselves. Expanding upon this, Christine Korsgaard noted that "The acting self concedes to the thinking self its right to govern" (Korsgaard 107). This gives rise to a dichotomy between actions influenced by more instinctual forces via α and those steered by reflective self-governance via Σ.

Expressed formulaically:

Σ ∨ α (Ψ)=Φ Clarified Σ or α (Ψ)=Φ

Using the logical disjunction symbol "∨" indicates an "or" relationship between Σ and α. Essentially, moral impulse (Ψ) can be influenced by either your internal reflective endorsement (Σ) or external influences (α), which in turn determines the resultant moral action (Φ).

However, while the nature of the material social, or the real quantifiable dimensions of power impacts people endlessly and magnetizes as Stevenson suggests to particular ends, it is not the case that external influences are synonymous with, or inherently leading to, post hoc justifications for bad or wrong behavior. It is indeed the case that while α is not a reflective endorsement, it may still arise from genuine belief or internal alignment, albeit with societal norms and values at the root of the belief or alignment.

In essence, α doesn't necessarily represent a lack of authenticity or moral conviction, but rather showcases a form of moral reasoning that heavily incorporates external factors. This highlights the necessity of distinguishing between acting on external influences that resonate with one's genuine beliefs and values and acting merely as a reactive response to societal pressures, which may later require post hoc justifications, β.

For instance, a person might genuinely believe in the value of a particular gesture, seeing it as a sign of love and care for the recipient (α influenced by societal norms). In contrast, someone else might begrudgingly give a gift because it's expected, even if they personally find it a hollow gesture, and later rationalize their action by saying it maintains peace in relationships. The begrudging action (δ) entails some level of post hoc justification (β).

Expressed formulaically:

Σ ∨ α ∨ (δ→β) (Ψ)= Φ Clarified Σ or α or (if δ then β) (Ψ)= Φ

Given this distinction, it becomes crucial not only to evaluate the source of our moral actions but also to interrogate the sincerity and authenticity behind them. Just because an action arises from external influences doesn't mean it lacks moral integrity or authenticity. What matters more is the individual's reflective process and the congruence between their actions and their genuine beliefs and values.

As such, our moral framework should not be black and white, condemning all externally influenced actions as insincere or inauthentic. Instead, it should be nuanced enough to capture the multifaceted ways in which individuals navigate the complex interplay between societal norms, personal beliefs, and the need for post hoc justifications.

But what becomes clear is that the BTS fan who said “It’s better that I do this—travel after them—than spend time with someone I meet directly” is engaging in post hoc justification. However, her words do not reflect any resentment. In fact, her words positively value “traveling after them,” which indicates the pleasure principle.

Now, there might well be a plethora of influences magnetizing her, but her arguing for a "lesser of two evils" doesn't equate to a genuine belief or alignment with what is good or right. Her words betray a certain corruption or deviation from the initial moral impulse (Ψ). Thus, in her scenario, her moral impulse isn't the pure, unadulterated form we might expect or hope for; instead, it takes on a modified or derivative form, aptly symbolized as the primed version (Ψ′). Of course, she did indeed vocalize post hoc justification (β), but this is after the corrupted moral impulse won the day via moral failure (γ). This is very interesting, as it indicates that after someone acts due to external influences, they might realize that their action doesn't align with their own moral values. So, to reconcile this dissonance, they engage in post hoc justification, β, as an attempt to return or align themselves back to some form of morality (even if it's a corrupted version, Ψ′) due to their moral failure.

Expressed formulaically:

Σ ∨ α ∨ (δ→β) ∨ (Ψ′ → (γ ∧ β)) (Ψ)= Φ Clarified Σ or α or (if δ then β) or (if Ψ Prime then (γ and β)) (Ψ)= Φ

In the midst of today's digital cacophony, we often find ourselves navigating the blurred boundary between genuine moral reflections and fleeting impulses. Mary Astell, with her emphasis on rigorous female education and rationality, might chide us for our fickleness. Today, influencer culture, transience, and the breakdown of social fabric prompt us to reflect on whether our decisions and way of life are grounded in rational thought, or if we are swaying and being swayed by the winds of societal dictates.

Astell's emphasis on clear, reasoned, and rational thinking has commonalities to moral realism, as clarity in moral thought is essential for perceiving the objective moral facts that exist. If we adhere to moral realism, Astell's call for a clear understanding becomes even more crucial.

In the fourth section of the third chapter of the second part of A Serious Proposal to the Ladies, Astell addresses weaknesses in argumentation (ignorance and rashness). She cautions against promoting views that are not fully understood and advises against embracing views without complete comprehension:

"In many cases, we enquire no farther than whether an action be not directly forbidden, and if we do not find it absolutely unlawful, we think that sufficient to authorize the practice of it, not considering it as we ought to do, clothed with the circumstances of scandal, temptation, etc. which place it in the same classes with things unlawful, at least make it so to us. Rational creatures should endeavor to have right ideas of everything that comes under their cognizance, but yet our ideas of morality, our thoughts about religion are those which we should with greatest speed and diligence rectify, because they are of most importance, the life to come, as well as all the occurrences of this, depending on them. We should search for truth in our most abstracted speculations, but it concerns us nearly to follow her close in what relates to the conduct of our lives."

As both a rhetorician and philosopher, Astell makes it clear that objective moral truths are not only a philosophical pursuit but also a rhetorical endeavor. Her emphasis on clarity, truth, and reasoned argumentation provides a foundation upon which moral realism has continued to build its case for objective moral truths.

Stevenson, although not a moral realist, challenges moral realists to understand the crucial roles that power and persuasion play in ethical decisions. This idea resonates in Hare's work as well.

Stevenson, Hare, and Astell each emphasize the importance of α in ethical paradigms. Stevenson's focus is rooted in his dedication to lucid communication. In contrast, Astell navigates these waters in part through the lens of rhetoric. Hare's metaphor of the "Archangel and Prole" elucidates the dynamic interplay between our considered and instinctive responses, illuminating the intricate nature of moral judgments. Collectively, they illustrate that the tension between Σ and α represents not just external conflicts but also an internal quest for moral clarity.

Frankfurt offers an exploration into the congruence of genuine desires with actions. His work evokes the concept of begrudging actions (δ)—those performed out of obligation or societal pressure. Beattie, on the other hand, delves into the interplay between illusion and the pleasure principle. Her psychological insights elucidate how our internal psyche and external factors intertwine, sculpting our moral compass.

Ayer's perspective is distinct. He conceives ethical instructions as commands rather than mere statements, underscoring the actionable nature of ethical discourse. In alignment with Stevenson, Ayer's stance emphasizes the influential potential of emotivism, asserting that persuasion is instrumental in shaping ethical beliefs.

Nagel introduces an alternative dimension, championing an objective perspective. While he recognizes our inherent subjectivity, Nagel posits that an objective approach is indispensable to discerning the intrinsic value in experiences. This viewpoint nuances the conversation by juxtaposing personal biases against broader moral truths.

Moore, a staunch supporter of moral realism through intuitivism, champions the idea that we are intuitively attuned to moral truths. This notion validates my selective defense of intuitivism, especially when considering its metaphysical facets.

Lastly, while Kant's contributions to the moral discourse are undeniable, it is Korsgaard's comprehensive insights on reflective endorsement that truly accentuate autonomy in my Moral Dynamics Model.

Here is the comprehensive framework of the Moral Dynamics Model:

Σ ∨ α ∨ (δ→β) ∨ (Ψ′ → (γ ∧ β)) (Ψ)= Φ Clarified Σ or α or (if δ then β) or (if Ψ Prime then (γ and β)) (Ψ)= Φ

Σ ∨ α

Reflective Self-governance vs. Societal Influence: This element of the formula highlights that individuals make moral choices either based on reflective self-governance, involving personal, rational deliberation about what is right or good for them, or under the sway of societal influence, which encompasses external factors like cultural norms, peer pressure, media, etc. In the woman's case, her decision to pursue the boy band might be influenced by societal norms celebrating fan culture, celebrity idolization, and valuing experiential journeys over traditional life paths. On the other hand, her reflective self-governance could have led her to conclude that this pursuit genuinely brings her happiness and fulfillment, independently of societal norms.

α ∨ (δ→β)

Interplay of Societal Influence, Begrudging Actions, and Post-hoc Justifications: This component encapsulates the intricate dynamics between societal influence, begrudging actions, and the subsequent justifications we might formulate. The model indicates that our moral decisions can be either shaped by societal norms (α) or by a combination of reluctantly-taken actions followed by subsequent justifications (δ leading to β).


Begrudging Actions: This symbol signifies actions taken with reluctance or hesitation. These actions are typically not driven by genuine belief or passion but rather stem from a sense of obligation, societal pressure, or a perceived lack of alternatives. It represents a reluctant step, often taken with internal resistance or discontent.


Post-hoc Justification or Rationalization: β represents the mental process of rationalization or justification that occurs after a potential moral misstep. Whenever we find ourselves explaining our actions in hindsight, particularly if those actions contradict our internal moral compass or societal norms, we're engaging in β.

Ψ′ → (γ∧β)

Corrupted Moral Impulse Leading to Corrective Action and Justification: This relationship asserts that a corrupted moral impulse (Ψ′) leads to both moral failure (γ) and a post-hoc justification (β). In other words, after a moral misstep, an individual will attempt to rationalize why it occurred.


Moral Failure or Lapse: This element signifies the acknowledgment of potential moral failures or lapses. The inclusion of γ in the moral equation highlights moments when our ethical actions do not align with our personal beliefs (Σ) or even societal norms (α). It represents the recognition of imperfections in our moral journey.


The Moral Impulse: This denotes the innate human drive or impulse to act morally or pursue what is perceived as 'good’ or ‘right.’


The Drive to Act: This outcome represents the consistent drive to act, regardless of whether actions arise from societal influence or personal reflection. The woman's resolute drive propels her to pursue the band, underscoring the strength of her convictions, whether they stem from societal influence or self-reflection.

Applying the model to the fan’s situation yields the following insights:

By employing the refined model, we gain a nuanced understanding of her choices. Does her pursuit of the boy band predominantly stem from societal influences and norms, such as the glorification of fandoms and celebrity culture? Alternatively, could it signify a potential moral lapse (γ) that she's attempting to rationalize (β)? Alternatively, still, is her decision a genuine manifestation of introspective reflection, indicating alignment with her inner moral compass and reflective self-governance (Σ)? The model furnishes the tools necessary to dissect these potential motivations, enabling us to untangle the intricacies of her moral decision-making.

Considering her marital status, how does her choice impact her spouse? Is her moral impulse attuned to the feelings and rights of her partner? The model aids in determining whether she prioritizes her individual happiness over collective responsibilities or whether she believes her actions align with the best interests of both parties.

By scrutinizing the balance between societal influences and personal reflections, she might attain a clearer comprehension of her priorities. If she recognizes substantial societal influence, she could opt for more profound introspection into her genuine values.

Ultimately, the model provides a framework for understanding and analyzing her motivations and the ethical consequences of her choices, offering both the woman and those around her enhanced clarity regarding her decisions.

In our exploration of the ethical domain, the Moral Dynamics Model emerges as a pioneering endeavor to reconcile instinct with reflection, and subjectivity with objectivity. Through this model, we transcend entrenched debates between metaphysical and utilitarian ethical theories. By grounding our understanding in the dual forces of instinct and reflection, we transcend traditional framework limitations, offering a fresh perspective on moral decision-making.

Kant's metaphysical leanings and utilitarianism's consequentialist measures, while foundational, may not fully encompass the complexities of human morality within our rapidly evolving societal landscape. The woman's pursuit of the boy band, in her candid admission, serves as a poignant illustration of this complexity, merging instinctual drives with reflective choices.

As we progress into an era marked by swift societal changes and challenges to established norms, it becomes imperative to construct ethical frameworks resonating with our lived experiences and embracing the multifaceted nature of our moral intuitions. The Moral Dynamics Model epitomizes such an endeavor.

Ultimately, while no model can assert absolute completeness or universality, it's the act of questioning, refining, and evolving that propels philosophical advancement. The pursuit of understanding our ethical landscape endures, and with models like the one proposed here, we possess enhanced tools for navigating its intricacies. Striking a balance between the perils of unchecked modernity and the constraints of tradition necessitates a delicate equilibrium. The objective isn't a wholesale return to the past or an uncritical embrace of the future; rather, it involves discerning which elements of tradition can act as a protective bulwark against the adverse impacts of modern pressures.

In our quest for ethical clarity, we find ourselves at the crossroads between the challenges posed by unbridled modernity and the guidance provided by time-honored traditions. The goal isn't a total regression to the past or an uncritical embrace of the future. Instead, it entails identifying those facets of tradition that can serve as a stabilizing anchor amid the tumultuous currents of contemporary life. This perspective doesn't impose a singular path; rather, it lays out options on the proverbial kitchen table, inviting reflection and deliberate action.


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