The evolution of morality

(Excerpts from the book "Cult of Freedom", vol.II, chapter 1)

The individual versus the collective - Primeval altruism - Fairness and norms - Expansion of the collective - Stratification of the collective - Modernity - The future

1 The individual versus the collective

- Limit of evolution

So from where has man acquired true, and not mutually-profitable, kin-based or reciprocal, altruism? Where does the true brotherly-heroic collective, and not the calculative, cooperative sum of individuals, come from? Where was this fateful point in evolution? How did it arise?

Undoubtedly, the answer must be hidden in something that does not belong to any species of animal and that is too unnatural and unusual for our peaceful planet. No, my friends, aliens from outer space is still too much. It seems logical to assume that science, morality and everything else we are proud of arose when the miserable evolving animal reached the end of the line. After all, it is well known where evolution leads - towards the improvement of claws, fangs, stingers and all other abilities to kill. Evolution is a ladder of violence, from innocent amoebic algae to the majestic king of beasts. Man simply had to become the most powerful and violent predator. And he did become it. Victory! But what's next? What’s to strive for? Where should he find a worthy enemy on the glimmering peak of the nutritional pyramid? The only answer, which we still see with our own eyes, is among his own kind. The fight for survival with those like oneself is a quite logical conclusion of biological evolution, providing the winners with a reliable source of food at the same time. But food, of course, is not the main goal, one cannot eat much of oneself. To kill for prevention is another matter. To kill for the love of art. For the idea of progress. For moral reasons. For no reason. And we still see this, too. So there is no doubt - from primitive cannibalism to the mass genocide is the area where biological life comes to its own negation, after which evolution will inevitably turn entirely in the opposite direction.

To survive in these conditions is not at all given to those who survived earlier. But how did this deadly mechanism work, which turned egoists seeking reproductive benefits in a herd of kinsmen into selfless fighters for someone else's marital happiness?

Opinions differ on this issue. Sometimes people blame ordinary natural selection, sometimes the group one, sometimes everything is attributed to cultural, i.e. non-biological evolution. In the first case, altruists magically received a reproductive advantage. For example, the more they sacrificed themselves, the more it helped the group survive, which egoists loved very much, and then the grateful egoists, apparently on conditions of reciprocal altruism, gave their wives to the heroes. This version is possible, but unlikely. I have still never come across such an egoist. Well, I may yet get lucky. In the case of group selection, groups of egoists died out by themselves and since all living creatures are selfish by default, in the face of global extinction, altruists simply had to survive. After all, mysterious altruistic mutations do occasionally occur, and where there were many such mutations, groups survived. The problem here is that the useful mutations could not gain a foothold for obvious reasons - the heroes inevitably died first and egoists at first survived and then, without heroes, died again. So the last explanation, cultural evolution, remains, which is all well and good, except that it is not clear where culture itself came from, because it already presupposes morality and altruism.

- Unnatural Selection

So, let's leave aside cooperation, gratitude and culture, and return to violence, which remains the sole engine of evolutionary progress and a plausible explanation of its mysteries. War is violence in the extreme form. What’s extreme is that this violence is not defense from predators, not a hunt for unfortunate herbivores and not ritual intra-species aggression in order to impress a bored female. This is violence to another like you. Aimless and limitless. And this fact has far-reaching consequences. Such violence unties the hands for something that peacefully evolving animals would never have dreamed of - unnatural selection.

A war for complete annihilation demanded extreme sacrifices. No selfish individual could simply hide behind someone's back and multiply secretly. No evolutionarily-stable strategy could guarantee him a female and a piece of bread. The strongest and most daring practiced the only possible strategy, to defeat the enemy and then to “defeat" the selfish relatives, what’s more, to the point of death, to complete annihilation. In other words, only those individuals had the chance to survive who demonstrated the ability to take extreme risks for the sake of victory. This is also a kind of selection, but inside-out. It was not that morality was obtained from the spread of altruistic genes, but the "genes" of altruism were obtained from the spread of "morality". Artificial, unnatural genes. And a brutal, murderous morality. Survival within the warring groups was fundamentally different from the survival of free individuals - the forced renunciation of selfishness was its prerequisite.

Morality became as much a requirement of artificial selection as adaptiveness is of natural selection. People evolved themselves. They created conditions within the collective, under which priority was given to the sacrificial, altruistic qualities of its members, which possibly really did appear as a result of mutations and other biological wonders. Or possibly not. What’s the difference, if otherwise one doesn’t survive? And the harsher the oppression of violence was, the more reproductive success these involuntary altruists had. Moreover, this situation was the same for all fighting collectives. From then until now, all herds, tribes and nations, including those living in outer space, share the same basic moral principles - mutual assistance and sacrifice in the name of one’s kin and the most severe punishment of traitors. This universality does not fit well with evolution, which implies a diversity of moralities no less than that of species of living creatures. Combined with lively diversity in all other aspects of culture, this only confirms that "cultural" group selection - survival of the groups with the most "moral" gene-traditions - did not and could not exist. Can one seriously believe that those who worshiped the Sun proved better adapted than those who worshiped the Moon? Both the heavenly lights and the violent altruism helped all indiscriminately. And the victories of one over another were clearly a result of other important factors. Though denied by many, the obvious fact following from this universality is that all cultures, at their basis, are morally the same, for they all grow from a single entirely objective starting point - at least in regards to relations in a collective. This gives us hope that along with further progress, we will see the objectivity of morality even more clearly.

Of course, we might ask - how this could be? Thousands of years of unnatural selection have passed, proceeding faster by far than natural - it is enough to notice the speed of successful breeding of new kinds of microbes and viruses - and people still do not look like altruists? Moreover, altruism still seems so alien that it requires some scientific explanation, as opposed to our dear egoism. The answer is that if there had been pure artificial selection - that is, if egoists had been completely exterminated and only altruists remained - it would have been so. But because people were already clever enough by then, they learned to adapt to this moral eugenics. No, not by cheating, as one might conclude from game theory, but by really trying to be good, by honestly suppressing their natural inclinations. In other words, it is not that the genes of altruism, which are unlikely to exist in nature, were propagated, but that simple brains were. So genetic egoists became cultural altruists, and all their selfish genes remained intact and were just waiting for their time to show up again.

- War of all against all

Again, biologists are probably partially right - the road to primitive altruism began long ago under the influence of natural selection. Primitive animal communication probably supplanted intra-species aggression and helped build small friendly packs. They probably competed for resources, as everybody competes all around us. But probabilities end here. As soon as innocent competition turned into mass genocide, incomparably exceeding any cruelties found in the animal world, notions of mutual benefit or individual success became somehow inappropriate. The situation had fundamentally changed - the collective was no longer beneficial, but forced. And the stronger the violence was between the collectives, the stronger it was within them. This inhuman pressure, murder for the sake of murder, was the forge that melted selfish herd animals into self-sacrificing primitive communes and spawned not just cooperation, but total, iron "altruism".

Therefore, my friends, with your permission, I shall digress from the cheerful natural sciences and delve deeply again into dreary abstract thought. Our starting model for moral progress is the good old "war of all against all", except that it is not people who are fighting, but collectives. When a combat unit in that war is the individual, the situation is truly desperate - no further progress is possible. There is no way to stop the war, no agreement can be made, there is no morality and nowhere to obtain it. The only way out is to call on an outside power for help, whether Vikings or aliens. But when collectives fight, the situation changes and there is hope. The key is what happens within a combat unit, not between them, and that will be the focus of our further consideration. That is why the single methodological individual is useless for us. However mournful this is, man, when you look at his best, moral side, is just an add-on of the collective. Even if this collective is invisible and imperceptible. Just an egoist is probably enough for economics but not for morality. There is no categorical imperative, divine spark or moral law implanted in an isolated individual. All this is implanted in the collective. So let's begin our journey with the collective, bypassing the story of how the selfless herd primate emerged from the proud selfish amoeba.

2 Primeval altruism

- The collective-organism

Thus, the modern individual - even if he really does exist around us - did not right away become such an individual. Long ago there was a golden age when the human individual did not yet exist (and the animal individual no longer existed), and there was only the friendly collective - yes, at the very beginning of the appearance of man himself, who was born as "homo collectivius", with many arms, legs, heads and hearts. The collective lived, thought, worked, multiplied. Its members did not perceive themselves as separate individuals, many scientists believe that they did not even have the concept of "I". To verify this out is of course difficult, but it looks plausible for several reasons. First, all those who were beginning to think "I" instead of "we" died out without delay. Second, mind could have been born only in the collective, and it is only mind that is able to see itself in another and exclaim, "Yes, that is I!" That is, before every "I" there must be "we". Third, all of our human attributes - intelligence, speech, religion, the Internet and even science - have not just a collective, but a downright social nature. If we think about it, they exist outside of the individual, they precede him altogether. No normal individual can even understand what they are doing there, in that science. Fourth, self-awareness and self-identification always require someone else, and the more dangerous he is, the better it is for this purpose. Deadly enmity helps very well in understanding the difference between "I" and "he". But because man was born in a collective, the other, needed for identification purposes, was not a similar nondescript herd cog living nearby, but an enemy collective, of which there is and can be nothing more frightful. Even today, those we arrogantly refer to as “foreigners” look to us as if they have one face. Here is the atavism of primitive collective identity.

Now, it's time to proceed to the promised drawing. The primeval collective, painted by our imagination, looked like a continuous uniform circle (Fig.1.1) - everything is common, there is one large, loyal family, a complete identity of "I" and "we". And around, a little way off - the farther, the better - were similar circles, the enemy, "they". Or, rather, "he". Large and small, they were all concerned with one thing, how to survive. And for this it is better to destroy our neighbors before they destroy us. To translate this into the language of morality, which was not yet much different from animal instinct, "ours" is everything good, "foreign" is everything bad. In relation to his own, man is a complete altruistic, in relation to others, he is completely egoistic, to the point of absolute antagonism (Fig.1.2). In other words, the abstract "everything good", despite its primitiveness, entails quite specific value reference points. The first value was one’s own collective, whose members were not only excluded from food rations, but were part of the collective body and soul.

If we look at this life from the point of view of freedom, any freedom was out of the question. Both inside and outside, hard determinism lay in wait for man. In such circumstances, any other independent human individuality simply could not appear. We can say the graph in Fig.1.2 is an exact replica of the soul of every primeval collectivist.

This coherent picture is somewhat complicated by herd hierarchy. Of course, a typical primitive collective was not completely homogeneous. The power capabilities of its members were different, and when power is the main human quality, hierarchy is, presumably, natural. On the other hand, the absolute altruism implies its redundancy. When everyone is striving relentlessly to give oneself up to a common cause, internal pressure is superfluous and counter-productive - it just irritates and creates a schism. Therefore, I am inclined to believe that altruism at some time - or for a short time - displaced inclinations to natural hierarchy in favor of primitive equality and cohesion, especially because many findings of anthropologists stubbornly evince the existence of a golden age. Either way, hierarchy itself is not a reason to throw away our concept, disassemble the collective to individuals and treat them separately. Just the opposite. There are different parts in any organism, and to become a single entity, each must occupy its allotted space. It is important for the concept that from a moral point of view, all are the same, altruists to the bone.

- Forced "morality"

Ever since then, even before the birth of real morality, all of the first, most basic moral categories are associated with the collective, with the relationships between people, rather than, say, with a full belly or clear weather. Yes, friends, not all that is pleasant or helpful is the true good, even if we casually refer to satiety and comfort as a good and a blessing. On the contrary, the true good sometimes requires extremely unpleasant sacrifices. It is something completely alien to the biological organism - it demands that we think about eternity. The collective, as opposed to the individual, potentially does not die, and what is more, precisely this characteristic is directly tied to the good and directly requires sacrifice. Dying in the name of the collective, man is it were finds his immortality, and that is the good. Morality, therefore, can be regarded as a mechanism to transform an individual death into collective life - although the mechanism is, quite frankly, imperfect.

But why is primitive "morality" in quotes? Is it not real? Isn’t it moral to die for the collective good? Almost. As long as people are not free, neither altruism nor egoism are what we mean by these words now. This is only their pitiful compulsory semblance. Collective morality is, in general, always compulsory. To die maybe a good thing, but there is no other way out anyway! And without such compulsion, what would remain of these collectivists? However, this "morality" was no less moral in a certain sense - namely, in the sense that it was directly opposed to selfish instincts.

The collective moral agent experienced two types of compulsion, external and internal. The external was simple and clear - the evil enemy was a force to be fought, and the collective "I" had no doubts about that. The internal violence in the name of goodness was not so clear. On one hand, external pressure necessitated group cohesion - internal violence followed, as it were, from the outside. On the other hand, it came from inside, from the relatives that were completely identified with oneself. We can say that violence inside the collective was not only necessary but also desirable, inasmuch as it may be desirable to force oneself at all. This was common violence for a common purpose, for the sake of self. That is precisely why it was "desirable" - all that comes from within is desirable, even if caused by some inner necessity. Thus, a new power center appeared in the man-collective, in addition to his needs and instincts. Although it was internal only from the collective consciousness point of view, this center of common will, center of internal compulsion was born thanks to inexorable kinsmen and came to be later called morality, conscience and by some thinkers even the "super" ego.

However, let's get back to violence. In contrast to fully rational external violence from enemies and to enemies, violence against oneself for the sake of oneself (and against relatives for their sake) is irrational - it does not follow from the simple logic of individual survival. Such violence is absent in animals, and it would be natural to assume that it has serious consequences for the psyche. What part of animal nature is the subject of violence? The instinct of self-preservation. Fear is what prevents man from being good and achieving the desired unity with others. Overcoming the strongest instinct, even for a start with the help of fearsome kin, frees man and allows him to challenge determinism itself. And, as a result, it makes possible immortality and a collective that embodies it. For, in the end, unification for the sake of the victory cannot happen without morality. Neither brutal violence nor awareness of cause and effect are enough. A man can understand all too well that strength is in unity, but to overcome his fear of the superior force of the enemy he needs some other quality - he must stand firm, not physically but first morally. And this role was performed by moral self-compulsion on the part of the collective, which may be called "heroic" morale (or better "heroic proto-morale" because it was based on physical forcing), because it is the ability to commit a real feat, from the point of view of an animal - to overcome one's biological instincts. Even today the ideal of the lone courageous fighter battling pure evil is one of the most exciting of all moral ideals. What is its purpose? It sets an example, inspires and unites. And in the case of the primitive man-collective, it facilitates imitation of and identification with the best.

In other words, morality was born not as modesty, good manners, love of one’s neighbor and generosity of the soul, but as unusual though very real force able to withstand determinism. As a unifying force, as an ability to overcome self and as a common impulse of self-denial, it is a necessary condition for collective struggle and survival, turning a group of individuals into organic whole. And because of this conditionality, we surround it with quotes.

- Rationalization of the irrational

But we should not think that because an understanding of all the the hopelessness of the situation is not enough, mind nothing to do with it. Precisely mind, in the end, is concealed behind morality. It is simply that not all that we think looks reasonable and sane. The absolute inexplicability of one’s own self-compulsion has found an outlet in another method of explanation, the absolutely fabulous. Which is very understandable, if we recall what nervous time it was, a time of deep restructuring of the selfish animal psyche.

The all-pervading fear that consumed primitive people - fear for themselves, their relatives, their children - manifested in the most bizarre forms of neuroses, and the collective-organism sought explanation - why, among other scary things, does it fear itself? The irrationality of sacrifice was naturally complemented by a mystical explanation of it. Superstition was the first attempt of the nascent, primeval collective mind to give an answer, and the more absurd and colorful it was, the more convincing it appeared, because the primitive fantasy, a flashy and tasteless mother of beauty, was as unnatural and foreign to the world as morality itself. In the depths of the psyche, forced sacrifice in the name of the collective was again based on fear but a newborn mind now found its source outside giving it the form of some transcendent entity. Fear of the enemy was suppressed by more terrible fear - of the unknown. Something beyond comprehension and fundamentally escaping every attempt at comprehension, all-powerful but good, requiring complete submission and worship but graciously rewarding the zealous, was embodied in the concept of ... However, it was then so Great and Terrible that it not only had no name, but also punished anyone who had the audacity to address it. Thus the concept of "sacred" appeared and primitive beliefs emerged. This was the first sprout of culture, which justified violence and at the same time everything else by fantastic myths and which was materialized in strange totems and rituals.

So the collective mind managed to find a successfully working mechanism of maintaining morality, a mechanism so successful that it is still impossible to stop - "reverence and awe". You see yourselves, my friends, that since then until now this "sacred" tightly stuck to any duty, and the fear of inevitable punishment for sins remains a sound basis for the wildest obscurantism. Fear of powerful spirits, bashfully hiding under every bush, has become our sort of biological heritage, similar to what long-domesticated animals show when still being frightened by every rustle. True, unlike animals, fear of the divine is supplemented by the pure and selfless love of it, guaranteeing salvation and the restful sleep of the righteous to happy lovers.

As a side effect, the supernaturalism of compulsion, and especially the convenience of such explanation, has led the right of the stronger to be seen as similarly supernatural. This probably revived the inclinations to hierarchy and gave it a new meaning. In animal packs the will of the leader is not a reason for inspiration. However, the more the need for self-denial, the more important the role of a leader is. Not just the strongest, but now "the best", bore more responsibility and more risk. The chief became a spiritual leader and a role model. Thus, moral authority, consecrated by superstitious fear, was added to authority based on power, which gave a needed earthly incarnation to otherworldly moral ideals. This moral usurpation also gave rise to respect for elders, which is understandable when we consider that the collective was then one big family, and the leader concurrently was its head.

No less bizarre than proto-morale was the rest of culture. Life inside a primitive collective is not sugar, as everyone who has lived in a religious commune, a cult community or at least under scientific communism, knows. The original "core" of the culture was kind of unstructured, simple and solid - a complete rejection of self-interest, interchangeability, no personal life. The harsh conditions outside and moral inhibition inside provided no opportunity to organize and balance relationships. It can be said there were no relationships. Blind imitation, herd instinct, strict adherence to meaningless rituals and customs preserved by elders not only became a collective habit, but hardened to the level of instincts and were the only rules of conduct. One must do it this way, because this is how it has always been done. Doubt is equivalent to death at the hands of frightened and angry brothers. The degree of conservatism is illustrated by the fact that this life was carried on for a million years without any changes. Is it possible to imagine this in our time, when everything is crumbling before our eyes?

3 Fairness and norms

- The rupture of altruism

But nothing lasts forever. A million years passed irretrievably and with them also absolute altruism. Why? Time always passes irretrievably. As for altruism, the development of the brain and ongoing close cooperation eventually shattered the monolithic "we". Self-identification with the herd suddenly became outdated and the suspicion of otherness, of the difference of one from another, sneaked in among its members. Communication leads to understanding not only others but also oneself. It turned out that "we" generates "I". It turned out that to just sacrifice oneself is senseless. Sacrifice for whom? How are they better? Amoebic selfishness, which was always hiding in the depths of every living creature, acquired a new quality and infiltrated the brain. We can say that it was "awakened" by the stubbornly penetrating violence of heroic proto-morale from the outside. Its penetration inside was occurring in parallel with the transformation of "we" into "I". This was essentially a single process, the process of birth of the free mind and the free individual. And although it was yet weak, the mind had already begun to assert its will and reject limitless violence. A timid sense of fairness emerged in the mind, a need to balance the mutual pressure of the collective’s members, a need to replace ruthless altruism with a more moderate one. The chaotic life of the community began to take on a meaningful, though not intentional, order. We can say that if interaction in the collective produced mind, then mind created norms of interaction. Norms are internally sensed rules of behavior and, hence, the beginnings of fairness, because extreme altruism does not require rules. The norm is always a separation of people, a distribution of roles and hence a consequence of taking some specific interests into account, it is always a compromise, and a compromise ideally made not by measuring forces but by understanding the other, his needs, necessities and interests.

But that's the ideal. At the beginning of the path to the ideal, norms, of course, relied on brute force, as long as force was the only intelligible language for expressing interest. And only later did the result of the norms become self-restraint, the need to follow rules, the notion of the admissibility and limits of violence. In conditions of total violence, and more broadly under determinism in general, a norm is always a limit. And it served a good service in these conditions. Norms became easier to justify, since force began to lose its importance as an argument. Norms facilitated the emergence of new norms, and rather than force, other arguments began to acquire significance.

- The birth of freedom.

The onset of norms and adherence to them was the next step on the path of moral progress. Sacrifice was no longer limitless, and formless altruism began to acquire a structure. If absolute altruism demanded absolute compulsion from the collective, then in order to follow the rule a different motive was needed, not just individualistic, but voluntary. Thus, together with the first sprouts of freedom - as resistance to endless violence - sprouts of true, non-compulsory moral behavior emerged. But it was not the familiar morality in the sense of voluntary sacrifice for one’s neighbor - the compulsory sacrifices were more than enough! So far we are talking only about finding a measure and a balance. We can say that in addition to absolute altruism, against its background, there began to appear a completely new moral phenomenon, which rejected both forced altruism and natural selfishness. Let's call it ethics.

The balance of pressure found and expressed in a norm is in fact a balance that provides the possibility of choice between two opposing and individually insurmountable forces - instinctive self-interest and the compulsory interest of others. Precisely this possibility of choice is responsible for the birth of a sprout of freedom, voluntariness. Prior to this historic moment, there was no choice for man, since instincts and violence solved all problems of "choice" without him. And finally reason became mind; it created for itself a new possibility, it discovered freedom, while not yet even delving into thought.

Of course, choice and freedom were probably not what they seemed. Both existed only in the abstract, as a theoretically possible equilibrium state of an oscillating pendulum. People rushed between the two forces, from self-interest to the collective good and back, and norms proved to be there, where they were forced to by this rush, in completely random points. But, like a pendulum left to itself, the point of equilibrium manifested in the behavior and norms better and better, and the choice between the two forces began to gradually sink and morally take shape, as a choice between the old value of the collective and a new value of man. So since its birth, ethics has become dual, tending from both sides to the balance point and not at all serving the one-sided compulsion of the individual in the name of society, as the ideologues of collective happiness like to imagine.

Fig.1.3. tries to express a new moral phenomenon visually, as replacement of the monolith of altruism by a broken line reflecting weak attempts of motion to selfishness. The broken line has already had its own shape for each collective's member (and was probably changing over time) because a combination of altruism and selfishness was individual even though norms were common - voluntariness created individuality. A small kink in the line of selfishness is my guess that something normative began to appear in relations with the enemies. For example, the enemies began to be taken as captives and not only be eaten, but also viewed as something to think about and, who knows, seen as kind of human beings?

- Core and shell

Not all norms were created equal. Knowing the nature of morality, it can be assumed that the degree of ethicality of norms was likely inversely proportional to their usefulness or morality would long since have blossomed around us. But by themselves, outside of practice, the first ethical norms could not emerge and be preserved either. Most likely they were hiding inside the customs, rituals and other practically useful, non-sacred patterns of behavior, which, by the way, acquired their sacredness due to multiple repetitions. This was the only way to preserve them in the absence of not only writing but also articulate language. How did they get there? The source of the customs was memories about significant events of the past, which acquired variations with each new generation. In contrast to the intelligent analysis of interests, which was clearly not feasible for our ancestors, the ability to remain in collective memory was probably the result of approaching a balance point suitable to many, which evoked a desire for repetition and eventually allowed a norm to form. Precisely this quality of being "suitable to many" is responsible for the fact that ethical norms were not just habits and customs, but internally perceived rules, a germ of common to all fairness, which penetrated into the psyche and proceeded to the formation of a free person. In this way an array of originally completely absurd traditions became filled with more meaningful moral content. And the more meaningful it was, the fairer, one hopes.

Gradually, with the development of language, a variety of traditions, including styles of skins and language itself, were more clearly formed and became a symbol of "us", while culture became something like a vessel storing norms and reflecting the entire path traversed by the collective in the process of streamlining internal and counteracting external violence. The events of the past were embellished and immortalized in legends and epics. They told of great events, gods and heroes who set an example and pointed out how to live. In general, it would not be exaggeration to say that the best part of the oral cultural tradition is neither more nor less than the verbal articulation of morality and its ethical core.

As history eked out its leisurely pace, the vessel shape became a distinctive feature of each collective, from the tribe and the community to the ethnic group and the nation, but a much more narrow set of basic norms - its ethical, valuable content - was and remains more or less similar. Fairness is universal, only the degrees of its fulfillment differ - the farther towards the ideal the collective has advanced, the fairer it is. Moral or cultural relativism is a nice thing of course, but far from reality - and, indeed, from morality too. In my view, now-prevailing relativism is a consequence of a temporary moral decline. After all, even on the straight path one can go in two directions. But if we turn our face to morality and look closely, we'll see that in every culture a part of its traditions could be (and must be!) easily dismissed as a darling historic misunderstanding, dear only to staunch conservatives. The best part is perceived differently. These rules cannot be broken without causing harm to someone. And not surprisingly these rules exist in all cultures, they are, in general, invariant.

But not absolutely. By limiting violence, norms at the same time strengthen it, since to break the norm is no less difficult than to create it. In such circumstances how does one determine which norm is closer to the core? Where is the criterion that separates the core from the shell? Obviously, in the fairness which is not only universal but also completely objective. If a norm is not fair, it is sure to be revised. And therefore the norms belonging to the core are the longest lasting. We can draw an analogy with language. The deep moral "semantic" structures on which the rest of culture is layered are so old that they were deposited close to the unconscious, of which we are reminded, for example, by pangs of conscience that occur despite our desire, while the thesaurus and the syntax of the rest of the culture remained much closer to the surface. Society parts with them easily enough, sometimes in one generation.

4 Expansion of the collective

- First steps to peace

Although the fighting of tribes did not stop for a moment, but in spite of the fighting and a good appetite, people multiplied - winners absorbed losers and occupied the vacated territories. Absorption occurred not only through the alimentary tract - women captured in the fighting, for example, represented not only nutritious, but also vital value. Thanks to such accumulation of various vital values, tribes grew in size, which led to big changes. Both outside of the collective and inside of it, the following picture could be observed (Fig.1.4).

Outside the collective there was a gradual transition to a peaceful co-existence, which we can even now observe firsthand in some places. A large collective is difficult to defeat completely. First, it is even physically difficult to destroy - someone will surely be saved, especially as a large collective occupies a large area that is not easily brought under control. Second, a large enemy requires a similarly large power, but that is a complex structure and management, involving a lot of mistakes and various motives and goals. Third, large collectives are less mobile, tend to settle down, have accumulated a lot of stuff and have something to lose. In general, the reasons are many and the result is the same. Tribes adapted to one another, the warlike cannibal-spirit slowly evaporated, relations improved, and neighbors took the place of enemies. It became possible to cultivate land and build temples. The prospects of the economy came into view.

As for the land, there is a belief that the discovery of agriculture led to settlement, peace and culture. However, what we know about human nature suggests yet another alternative. To discover agriculture is difficult in conditions of a continuous war. It is firstly desirable to provide some semblance of peace, some permanent living space, at least temporarily. The main thing is for this time to be enough for agricultural experiments. And it is a large collective that can provide this opportunity. The bigger it is, the more distinct its territory is, and the more opportunities there are to observe the soil and plants. Besides, agriculture is not violence, it is secondary to war. In other words, war must give way to agriculture and not vice versa.

As for the economy, peaceful coexistence involved constant contact and mutual influence. Senseless violence and cruelty started to lose ground, and morals became more civilized and cultured. But there was no talk of trade, however much supporters of the victorious market would like to think. A market is also violence, but in comparison with war, it loses badly. So, as in the case of agriculture, war must retreat first. And therefore nobody cared about the market. Concerns were different - to prevent war, it was still too fresh in the memory. For the sake of peace, it was worth sacrificing something, giving something for free, without any market. So instead of trade, the economy, or rather the culture, of gifts appeared. To start they shared the most valuable goods - women, married as a sign of peace and friendship. Then they began to give simpler gifts, such as slaves, again as a sign of respect and friendship.

But of course the hostility and suspicion did not fade easily. Even now, if a neighbor gives something of value, not to mention a proposal to marry their daughter, it looks suspicious, doesn't it? So, war continued too, albeit intermittently. The economy of gifts was combined with the "economy" of war - resources were still easier to take away than to produce by work. Trade gradually emerged, but again not that to which we are accustomed. The first material exchange for the purpose of practical benefit was not personal but collective, in accordance with common needs and on the basis of traditional equivalents. Slaves were probably the first valuables - their redemption from captivity looks like the most reasonable goal for exchange. Of course, there was no money, no price, let alone the market - one could easily offend if he started to be greedy and haggle. Inside, too, all was divided fairly - under the watchful supervision of the authorities. We could say that the whole primitive "economy" was the distribution of values entirely on the basis of traditional norms.

- The advent of morality

Significant changes occurred within the collective, too. A large collective inevitably breaks into small ones - altruism physically cannot stretch infinitely. First, there occurred division into large communities and clans. Distant relatives were getting more distant, close ones getting closer. Altruism was becoming more and more voluntary and therefore more selective. One’s circle grew narrower, and with it the common property and common household. The personal relationship - friendship, clanship - appeared, as opposed to the "long-distance" one. The collective, which was once one big family, began to include ever more "strangers" - people less linked by common ancestors. Once common ancestors finally disappeared into myths and legends, the circle of biological affinity shrunk to very close relatives. All the others became the embryo of a public sphere - not the one that is identified with politics and other delights of violence, but a moral one, populated by normal people, strangers.

In this way, the single collective was splitting into the macro-collective, "society", consisting of strangers - country, state, empire - and the micro-collective, "community", consisting of relatives - clan, kin. The identity of the person became multiple. He found himself a member of various collectives at the same time, which pushed his thoughts toward a clearer understanding of himself and his interests.

Strangers are a new type of people - neither kin, nor enemy. Relations with them required new ethical norms, containing both a minimum of altruism and a minimum of egoism. As we might guess, such norms were to be more neutral than the ridiculous rituals and unconditional altruism permissible among one’s own. The norms of behavior in the macro-collective came to be considered more and more soberly, while the most savage traditions were dying out. Ethics started to show its cool, thoughtful nature more distinctly. Just man, not friend or enemy, began to be seen in man. I would even say that there began to appear the abstraction of man, man as something universal, general, conceptual, having a general value for all, both friends and enemies.

However, the new norms appeared with difficulty. The psychology of own tribe was extremely tenacious. The dynamics of enlargement also made adjustments in the advancement of ethical progress. The sprawling of the collective led to alienation, and growing density led to crowded conditions. Together with integrity and honesty, lies, jealousy, reciprocal altruism, "do it for me and I’ll do it for you" and other such calculations emerged, penetrating into the formerly friendly relationships. Explicit trade did not yet exist, but already there was a subconscious accounting, who owes whom. The further away from each other the parties were, and the larger the collective, and the weaker family ties, the less people gave and the more they deceived. But in the most intimate relationships, on the contrary, mutual feelings strengthened, and there was a mutual attraction and affection. If a long-distance relationship began to be considered from the point of view of benefit and profit, a proximate one was increasingly truly altruistic, and a marital one more and more romantic.

True altruism, by analogy with the ethics that we discovered earlier, is also a new moral phenomenon. Let's call it "sacrificial" morality or simply morality. Sacrificial morality reverts, so to say, to heroic proto-morale, but raises it to a new, individual-voluntary level. By the way, there arises a true heroic morale, which becomes a continuation of sacrificial morality, its extreme variant, when the size of sacrifice crosses a certain line. As with ethics, morality was the result of the first sprouts of freedom, since the voluntariness implied a choice. And before the choice, of course, voluntary altruism was not only impossible, but also not needed, since compulsory altruism was enough. But contrary to ethics, which strives for a balance guaranteeing freedom, morality does not want balance, it requires sacrifice and runs from freedom back to the secure circle of relatives. That is, despite both phenomena being moral and ethical, they are completely opposite. Morality involves voluntary altruism, while ethics neutrality and fairness.

- The contradiction of altruism and freedom

The advent of nonviolent morality gave rise at once to a big problem. Where mathematical theories depict how free rational players interacting with one another come to reputation and credibility, reality, though non-mathematical, depicts the opposite. Slowly-emerging decency, ethical trade and mutually beneficial cooperation, to say nothing of the wild and predatory forms of exchange, contradicted the existing collective norms of "economy", which, though balanced, required devotion and disinterestedness. The manner of acting in one’s own interests went contrary to the altruistic irrational tradition. Here are first glimpses of the familiar moral confusion - after all, everything good that had been associated with the native collective is rejected! Not surprisingly, commercial mentality invoked at best mixed feelings and was at worst firmly associated with fraud, speculation and profiteering, not with trust and honesty. If one’s feelings were working properly, as in case of the powers that be, the trade of subjects caused serious opposition, from direct prohibition to strict regulation.

So humanity lived for many ages, dooming themselves to poverty for the sake of morality. Because the real cause of confusion is, of course, morality itself. While altruism was compulsory, norms served a deeply moral cause - destroying violence and doing justice. Now that one’s free irrational choice of sacrifice emerged - sanctified, moreover, by the ancient magical spirit of overcoming selfishness - any other choice, and all the more so the choice of bodily-material profit, directly opposed morality. The emergence of norms was now not so much serving the cause of justice as contradicting the cause of the good. In this contradiction lie the roots of the negative attitude toward freedom, characteristic of moralists.

In order for the forms of free cooperation to become morally acceptable, it was necessary first to consign to oblivion the existing morality, and then to build completely new, equal relations from scratch, to accumulate property and to develop a division of labor and specialization. Mutually beneficial cooperation required very different norms. Instead of the collectivist half-compulsory "justice", adopted among relatives, it needed pure ethics and true justice, neutral and impartial, proper to relations with strangers, the category of people who previously did not exist. Accordingly, nothing like this ethics and justice existed or could exist. It simply had nowhere from which to arise. There was no natural or objective process, sidestepping ethics and leading to freedom, such as the growth of productive forces, the development of relations of production, the emergence of surplus or anything just as improbable.

But maybe, if the trading mentality, and trading itself, destroys the norms adopted among relatives, it creates norms in relation to strangers? Maybe it does - in a book on mathematics. In reality, it did not have such a possibility. First, the first relationships of cooperation and reciprocity were almost certainly born within one’s own collective, simply because the number and frequency of contacts between its members did not compare to its contacts with foreigners. Second, even in relation to foreigners, the prevailing attitude was not calculating but disinterested. All peaceful relations were always built starting with the mutual gifts, and only then could they move to calculation and trade. Trade always presupposes an already existing peace treaty, impossible without moral grounds.

Thus, new and potentially just norms demanded the rejection of morality, and the further destruction of altruism, therefore, did not at all guarantee honesty and integrity. On the contrary. The implicit immorality of market could lead to real immorality, as social consciousness usually does with social being. The first rudiments of freedom, represented by progressive merchants and practice of usury, had every chance to adopt the disgusting features of boundless greed and limitless dishonesty.

- The peace treaty

Meanwhile, the war between the collectives, as expected, completely died out. Why? There are several guesses. First, a major role may have been played by the conditions discussed above. That is, it just somehow happened, naturally. However, as recently as fifty years ago, we watched a bloodbath so violent that complexity of management, general obesity, etc. somehow does not tally with the result - millions of dead. No, they have managed all right.

Second, those may be right who argue that a peace treaty is just a consequence of rational calculation. It is simply sometimes more beneficial to negotiate than to fight. Violence is less effective. Or more, as it happens. Indeed, if you look, for example, at international trade, it is clearly a trade war. Pure calculation. And sometimes messy, when it can be helped by troops. This is plausible. But the problem with pure calculation is that no treaty will be enforced. What for? Who needs international law when it is not beneficial?

Third, there is an option that life is ruled by mathematics - a kind of mathematically deterministic altruism. The scheme of the emergence of cooperation is described by game theory, if we count collectives as the players and make some assumptions, for example, that collectives are homogeneous and are not affected by unpredictable selfish elites. First, neighbors live forever, won’t fly away to another planet and cannot, with all their desire, hide their "reputation" and avoid punishment. Second, time preferences of the large collective are practically constant. Third, their internal political kitchen is available for analysis and understanding. This is plausible too, but what, for example, prevents the strong from forcing the weak? After all, the players are obviously in different weight categories.

Only one answer remains - people became so moral that they fell in love with peace. Fig.1.6 indicates this. Violence ceased to be taken for granted. No one wants not only to die, but also to kill. It was precisely widespread mass resentment of the bloody world wars, revealing the human face of the enemy, which brought to life pacifism, international organizations and politicians' unexpected insight. Is it really benefit that matters? Moral progress has reached a critical point - universal literacy and the idea of freedom are the reasons of peace. Even trade agreements slowly begin to rely not only on immoral basis of profitability, but also on a moral basis - equality.

This excellent result was a consequence of the above-described millennial processes within the collective. Tribal structures eroded, families diminished in size and strengthened, becoming the main economic unit, in which early individualism flourished. The individual accumulated knowledge and skills, specialized and cooperated. With the development of culture, the uniqueness of personality and its value grew, distinct from the value of its strength. A need for free trade, self-interest and autonomous morality arose. "I" became as important as "we".

5 Stratification of the collective

- The social contract

One way or another, we are approaching the solemn moment of the social contract - the full and total end of the war of "all against all". Its main premise is ethical progress to the point of perceiving the other as a fellow human being. All are morally equal and ready for justice and peace. Each individual has a value, moral autonomy and the resulting set of rights. Nevertheless, the first ideas of the social contract somehow deprived man of his bloodily obtained rights. All thinkers without exception suggested that he should give them up and voluntarily submit to the authorities or to the collective. Somehow it turned out for all of them that man was not the subject of the contract, but its object - he had to “negotiate” about his own freedom and, of course, according to their plan, he was left with none. In short, not a peace treaty, but a shameful capitulation. Of course, my friends, our plans are different. There can be no doubt that the individual is the only subject of the social contract. We shall accept no palliative in the form of an agreement between "the people and the government", or between "the proletariat and the bourgeoisie", or between "left and right". This way, of course, is more convenient and easier in terms of the apologetics of violence, but what does this have to do with the concrete person? What's the difference to him, who negotiates behind his back?

What suddenly happened with these thinkers? Ideas of the collective contract are a consequence of the fact that social violence is always carried out collectively. So the thinkers who saw the "war of all against all" as the struggle of individuals could suddenly, albeit unconsciously, recover their sight as soon as it came to the contract. And it turned out that the lone individual was forced to submit to the collective will. Because of that, the very concept of "social contract" became a synonym for state violence and an artful means to perpetuate the social war. To avoid confusion, let's call our social contract, which, on the contrary, stops war, the proper contract, general contract or simply - the contract.

Whence, again, violence? There will always be violence, as long as there is no proper contract. Even hierarchy was not fully dead, despite the widespread recognition of moral equality. Yes, my friends, it turns out that history is not over! Estates may have formally disappeared, but actually they were alive and well. They mutated and became more flexible, and in some places even fluid. For as long as there is struggle, there will be winners and losers. In such circumstances, it won’t work to come to a decent agreement. Moral equality is somehow not enough for that, something is missing. Equality in times of constant violence only generates groups. The group, party or gang is the same collective, though formed not naturally and historically, but artificially and with the sole purpose of fighting for the interests of its members, regardless of how they are ideologically constituted. The group also requires "sacrifice", but these sacrifices are not caused by natural altruism, rather the opposite. Such group morality is but underdeveloped ethics, neither universal nor neutral, but secretive and as a rule beneficial, providing freedom within the group at the expense of violence to all others.

So, what’s to do? Obviously, it is necessary to deal with groups the same way as with estates. The contract concerning non-violence is possible only between equals, but only people can be morally equally - and not equal as well, when belonging to different groups. Because any collective bonded by group morality is a sign of violence, it - be it class, party or even state - disappears from the picture of the contract. The collective can impose group morality, but not universal ethics. And it follows that peace between nations is just a variation, or more precisely, an element of the common contract, an objective-historic step to it, and not political wisdom or expediency.

Similar steps, also quite objective, were observed within the collective, too. The contract as if descended from the top down, covering more and more of the population. At first, things were resolved within the noble elite, then they were joined by smaller bandits, then the turn came of the richer nobles, then of the poorer bourgeois, and finally the anointing of the contender for power - elections - became open to all. And at every stage, equally ranking people, united by a common interest, agreed between themselves. But they agreed against all the rest, and so the contract was necessarily reconsidered as soon as the balance of power changed.

Parties of such a contract have to resort to force in order to defend their positions. The arguments in the dispute may vary - rebellion, riots and revolutions before, demonstrations, strikes and electoral campaigns now - but the essence does not change. However, the execution of a contract based not on ethics but on the balance of power requires an external guarantor. Who will monitor the procedure? This is the error of the thinkers - a contract cannot be based on violence or the fear of it. Even if violence is carried out collectively, the contract is personal matter.

- The war of the solitary

Those of you, my friends, who have followed the narration, must have now noticed a paradox. After so many years, after so much effort, after so many moral victories over hierarchy and determinism, people found themselves in the same place where they were before - in a state of war of all against all. Everyone is equal and everyone is opposed to all. Fine, I'm exaggerating. The original war of the solitary is an invention of philosophers. The reality is exactly the opposite - society does not arise from the war of the solitary, but that war arose from society. Are there any other changes? Certainly.

First, the methods of war changed. Struggles are guided by rules. Norms cover all aspects of interaction. If it is physical violence, the norms of democratic procedure are used, if economic - those of fair competition, if the battle of ideas - the authors try to express their thoughts logically, clearly and effectively, rather than just call their opponents idiots.

Second, the objectives of the struggle have changed. If earlier survival and a stuffed belly were at stake, now the picture became very unusual. There is virtually no goal! One should not take property, status and other ridiculous trifles for the goal of war. People go to the barricades for ideas. Where have they come from?

Brain development, literacy and the sparing conditions for raising a healthy child's psyche had the inevitable result that religion became outdated. People are no longer satisfied by fairy tales. But what replaces them? Why is that people are moral, if, in fact, there is still a war? Science cannot answer this question, because it deals with reality, not useless fables. Like it or not, morality is violence to oneself, leading to defeat in war. Naturally, people get frustrated and then violence over oneself is automatically extended to another. And how! The number of those killed over property cannot compare with the number killed over morality. Morality causes violence! The tail wagging the dog! And to justify violence against others, people now invent ideals. Instead of religions, ideologies emerged, where the goal of social struggle and the meaning of life were declared to be liberté etc, or communism, or the rise in total prosperity, or god knows what else. People unite in the fight for justice, but the problem is that nobody can really define it. The question arises whether it really exists or is only a far-fetched excuse for the inescapable passion of Homo sapiens for violence?

- Non-objective ethics

Of course it does. The struggle is not in vain. Violence increasingly moves away from man into the realm of the ideal. Reason replaces emotions. The balance of interests, which is the basis of justice and norms, cannot be achieved by force, we need other arguments, and the mind diligently seeks them. I will not, of course, speak for everyone, but you and I are busy with just that. What do the figures show us?

The coming of the common contract goes in parallel with the birth of a unified ethics, less and less subjective. Balance, peace and universal consent about the final rejection of violence are possible, but only as a result of complete alienation and neutrality, when the parties are no longer bound by any unnecessary emotions. To feel moral equality is not enough, man needs to learn how to follow it consciously and purposefully. He needs to learn how to nullify his affection to the collective and his own "I" and replace all this historical and biological ballast by reasonable, strong-willed objectivity. Moral equality implies exactly such ethics, as objective as possible. Only an objective attitude toward people, free from both altruism and egoism, is able to put all parties of the contract on a really equal platform and thereby to create fair norms that exclude violence. It is obvious that this ethics is also the most universal and does not depend on culture, traditions or anything else, including gravity. That's why we can assume that it is the very goal of moral progress that we sought.

But so far it is too early to talk about it. That collective morality that was deposited in our genes over the course of a million years is certainly not suitable, and ethics did not have its own million years. Instead of an ethics focused on strangers, we see egoism focused on strangers, mistakenly associated with freedom. The invention of scientific individualism - a worldview of the rule of economic profit and the rejection of physical violence - was an honest mistake of the inquisitive mind. Its practice turned out to be sorrowful, and the dotted curve of altruism on Fig.1.6 got into enemy territory. The moral decline that emerged may well be attributed to this failure, ideals once again let people down and war erupts with renewed vigor. Promoting the ethics of contract is critical. But who needs it now, in times of moral decline? But the promotion of individualism - in principle incapable of carrying a moral burden, but capable of benefiting the economy and democracy - is advantageous to literally every individual.

Let's return to our evolution. The further progress of individualism led logically to the emergence of the economy and economists, to the final destruction of collective trust and to its replacement with pure calculation and the coercive market. Even in a fairly large family, people provide services based on reciprocity. Outside of the family, hopes for altruism are lost altogether. On the other hand, an honest trading mentality never took shape. On the market, services are usually one-time, with the final settlement on the spot. Here, even reciprocal altruism is improbable, because the parties may never meet, and information about deception is easily lost. The destruction of altruistic traditions and the lack of ethics bring things to the stage where the market is possible only under the pressure of state violence, which replaces the missing market ethics by purposely constructed norms. The "we" dies and is everywhere replaced by the "I".

7 The future

- The collective and its profile

Following the trends shown in the previous figures, we can easily create a believable picture of the future. In the vertical section, the collective becomes flat. The common contract is solemnly entered into, moral sentiments are imbued with justice and their graphical expression takes a normal look - a horizontal line coinciding with the zero. Hierarchy, upper- and lower-classes disappear, the attitude towards all citizens is the same. Those selected to perform some public functions do not enjoy the status of father and finally become the flesh and blood of normal people, though strangers in the highest degree. At the same time, all the outstanding personalities, regardless of the amount of money they’ve collected or benefits they’ve created, do not become the object of cult, adoration and worship. Respect and recognition do not imply neither mental kinship, nor real sacrifices.

As with hierarchy, nothing remains to oppose the only human collective from without. In the horizontal section it reached its physical limits - so far, earthly. Globalization completed successfully, having made a common house out of the planet, making of mankind a single economic and communicational entity. This gave rise to full mutual understanding and the pride of belonging to the human "nation", and finally destroyed all “others”. A common identity emerged, so identification signals become irrelevant, all cultures merged happily into one. This culture became non-functional, and ethics - universal. In the limit, each man is completely free from every other member of society and dependent only on all at once. All people are morally the same. In an ethical sense they do not exist, there exists only humanity, defined by these norms.

But none of these processes affect what’s truly our own. Our friends and family stay with us forever, as does the subjective, sacrificial morality. And in order for the above-described public sphere with its clear rules, free from morality, to become possible, everything personal leaves it completely. Both moral spheres are distinctly separated. Public ethics achieves its objective ideal, as does sacrificial morality freed from the obligation to love everyone.

The ethical curve describing this splendor is shown in Fig.1.13. Without a doubt, relationships in the family remain based on altruism. Relationships with strangers move to the level of fair trade where each party pursues his own interests, not forgetting that the other should also pursue his own, while both together remember that the interests of each of them at the same time exactly reflect the interests of entire society. Between family and strangers, a small transitional area of personal relationships remains where people provide small favors to others without exceeding invisible but obvious ethical limits. The size of this area cannot be too large, because the economic interests of the future individual require a truly endless market. "Personal relations" deliberately play a non-economic role. It’s just friends and nothing more.

- Moral "capital"

The gray area in the upper left part of Fig.1.13 can be called by the scientific term "social capital". Its measure is the breadth of personal connections multiplied by the degree of readiness to do favors, averaged. Despite its seductive closeness to everything good in man, the concept itself in fact tells us nothing about the ethics of society, about how honest people are there, about how fair and free it is. By analogy, all of this might be called by the unscientific term "moral capital", although frankly speaking it seems to me that morality and capital do not go well together. But where is this on the figure? I think that this capital is expressed by the shape of the entire curve, i.e. by how long its horizontal portion is and how close it is to the point of zero, in other words, the length of the segment (AB). It approached precisely this position throughout all of human history. And history, as we know, goes in one direction - towards the accumulation of moral capital, not social capital, which was undoubtedly almost endless in the primitive collective, and which, in our distant future, however regrettably, disappears entirely. We cannot seriously consider family relations as capital, can we?

The speculative growth of the length of horizontal portion, from primeval zero in Fig.1.2 to the future grasp of all mankind, is a visual manifestation of ethical progress, which does surely exist despite all obstacles. The angle of the portion, i.e. 0, tells us about justice, which inclines equally toward everybody or, on the contrary, more to some, less to others. The distance from the horizontal axis, i.e. coincidence with it, demonstrates how much egoism or altruism there is in relationships, that is, either they are absent or manifested by the neglect of mutual interests in an attempt to gain unilateral advantages or to create personal obligations through concessions. The length of the horizontal portion (or rather the distance from the word "WE" to B) demonstrates how far these people can be from each other in society. It is a kind of "radius of trust".

But is it trust? Does a fraudster trust his victim? Of course, otherwise he could not fulfill his scam. Do cronies at a bar trust each other while blurting out the secrets of their colleagues and employers? Sure. But what does all this have to do with ethics? What behavior, then, is described by the line AB? I think one can call it plainly and simply "100% ethical behavior". This is when a subject takes his partner, whether a casual or long-term one, as, from a moral perspective, exactly the same as himself. When there is no bias in the interpretation of the moral permissibility of indulgences - either one can get something from others or, on the contrary, one has to give something up for the sake of friendship, the team or moral duty. 100% ethical, without any cultural or moral relativism. Of course, any ethical behavior requires trust, but the kind of trust that is already built into everyone who has parents and a brain, and that does not require additional cultural, religious or social capital - provided, of course, that an immoral society hasn’t yet destroyed it.



Back to Ethical Liberty