WHAT IS MORALITY? A Moral Government Is A Sustainable Government & Reciprocally

Here again, I address the question at the largest civilizational scale: where does morality come from? What justifies it?  (That brings an immediate problem, as regimes, let alone governments, are constantly shifting; consider in China alone the “Warring States”, followed by Qin, followed by Han, then Tang, Sung, Yuan, Ming, etc; these are called dynasties, but they were actually different regimes, constantly shifting; however, pretty much the same morality; so I introduce meta-governance, meta-civilization, etc.)

A criminal regime has criminal laws. They, of course, can be more or less criminal.


Wayne Straight Indeed but it got me to thinking about whether there is or can be any such thing as a “moral” government. One of my long-time original (at least I think it’s original) quips is that any large organization is only as ethical or moral as it’s least moral member. That would seem to be particularly apt when applied to governments.

Serious Abomination was always legal, making it even more abominable… [Actually the Holocaust of Jews was not even legal according to the Nazis own laws passed in 1935. The Wannsee Conference attempted to persuade the Justice minister and others to allow the bending of Nazi laws… to exterminate Jews, and others…


Answer to Wayne: One has to define first what “moral” is. For doing this, it helps to go back to the etymological root: moral is from Old French moral (14c.) and directly from Latin moralis “proper behavior of a person in society,” literally “pertaining to manners,” coined by Cicero (“De Fato,” II.i) to translate Greek ethikos (see ethics) from Latin mos (genitive moris) “one’s disposition,” in plural, “mores, customs, manners, morals,” a word of uncertain origin.

Conclusion? Morality is defined in a society as what enables sustainability, of said society.

For example neither Assyria, not Imperial fascist Rome, nor the Mayas, nor the Aztecs, nor the Nazi or Stalinian regime were moral, because they were not sustainable. But of course they were more or less sustainable, thus moral: Rome and the Maya lasted millennia, Assyria, centuries, whereas Stalin’s regime lasted 30 years, the Nazis, 12.

Another related notion is meta-governance. Morality arises from meta-governance, not simple governance, because morality is a civilizational notion (after the Nazis were killed by the Allies, Germans immediately recovered the moral sense coming from Western civilization; same thing happened in Russia after the demise of Sovietism).

The West has had metagovernance even as the Occidental Roman state crumbled and partly collapsed: Goths, Burgonds, Franks and remaining Romans agreed, in their various states/kingdoms, upon the basic civilizational structure, namely, mostly that of the Roman state.

Within a century, the Franko-Gallo-Romans had installed a Roman like metagovernance (everybody became a Frank while Frankish and Celtic languages faded, replaced by bastardized Latin).

In the details, the IMPERIUM FRANCORUM looked extremely gory: Frankish leaders, having done away with Goths and Burgonds, and the like, were busy killing each other, in most unpleasant manners. However, on the largest scale, the Imperium Francorum was an important moral advance. The Imperium Francorum became so highly moral, it superseded morally the Greco-Roman meta-civilization preceding it.

Indeed the government of the ruling monarch, the Frankish queen, Saint Bathilde, outlawed the slave trade (of Frankish citizens) around 655 CE (1,210 years before the good old USA outlawed in turn slavery…)

In contrast, metagovernance of Mexico, pre-conquista, was terrible, highly immoral: Aztecs insisted to eat their enemies, so Cortez found plenty of allies, multiplying his army by a factor of 40 or so. That gigantic army overwhelmed the Aztecs (who had boasted countless times that Cortez will never have enough men to kill them all). The immorality of the Aztec regime was the direct cause of its demise: it gave the Spaniards the excuse and capability to exterminate it.

A similar mechanism occurred with Nazism, and other fascisms, of course: their very immorality caused them a mass of enemies bigger than themselves, and provided those enemies with plenty enough motivation, namely the enemies will to survival, for the extermination of the fascists. Nazi laws were so immoral, so unsustainable, the Nazis themselves couldn’t obey them (they had to bend them, hence the infamous Wannsee conference).

So then what to extract from the preceding drastic moral fundamentalism, looking forward?

Well, any new ways and means increasing humanity’s potential survival will define a new and better morality, looking forward.

Patrice Ayme

P/S: What happened to the ethological (somehow genetically, or congenitally imprinted) morality (which advanced animals can be experimentally determined to have)? Well, it’s subjacent and implied in the preceding discourse: the exact same force, the WILL & IMPLEMENTATION of SURVIVAL, which established morality at the civilizational level, established morality ethologically and etiologically at the scale of the evolution of species.

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18 Responses to “WHAT IS MORALITY? A Moral Government Is A Sustainable Government & Reciprocally”

  1. Thierry Paradan Says:

    Thierry Paradan, PhD Computer Science & Philosophy, University of Southern California (1984)

    Just some relatively arbitrary collection of crap concocted by human societies:

    Some inspirational but not practical or realistic (e.g. anything like justice)
    Some common sense (e.g. do onto others…)
    Some to keep you in line (e.g. most stuff about marriage and sex)
    Also morality is not stable but varies substantially across time and culture. Bottom line, it is not of much value except for folks desperate to fit in and in need of guidance on how to achieve it.

    Hope this helps, and please don’t mix morality and government. They are not very compatible.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      All governments, including Aztec and Nazi, as explicitly alluded to in my essay, have morality. Even human roasting New Zealand Maoris inviting British government representatives to a “long pig” luau, had a well defined morality, and strict rules of hospitality (this really happened: dozens of “long pigs” had been roasted for the occasion).

      Claiming otherwise is typical of cultural dwarfism and tunnel logic characteristic of programmers…


  2. John Edwards Says:

    John Edwards, I love reading about philosophy

    Morality is the way for individuals to live so to promote their lives the best way. It doesn’t come from anything, we humans are what we are, and therefore would have a way of living that benefits us the most. When it’s for individuals, it’s called morality, when it’s for all of us, it’s called politics.

    A moral government is a government of individuals that act morally.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      We became what we are, even morally, for some reasons, and similarly for governments and civilizations… Those reasons are articulated around survivability: the more survivable the more moral, and reciprocally, at species or government scale.


  3. Vikki Stefans Says:

    Vikki Stefans I’m no anarchist, but people for whom legality is their only morality are NOT generally good people.


  4. massugu Says:

    With apologies Patrice, I thought the two responses included in the original post to Vikki’s identical post there were relevant here as well.

    Patrice: Legality is like default morality: it defines behavior so immoral that engaging in it should absolutely not happen to the point it’s actively punished. That doesn’t mean that all immoral behavior is illegal. Eichmann, hanged for partaking in the killing of millions, claimed he bent the rules for his Jewish (!!) friends!

    Me: The thoughts expressed here remind of a talk given by Aron Ra in Ontario a number of years ago. During his Q & A session, a religionist in the audience asked him why, if he didn’t believe in divine retribution, he didn’t rape, murder, steal etc.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Hi Massugu, and thanks for the comment! Future comments of yours will go through without “moderation” (I dislike “moderation”). I circulated a version of the essay on Quora (something I do not usually do), and sure enough, fanatical religionists of the superstitious type surfaced and came up with “god” making the universe, thus morality, etc.

      The answer to this question has two layers. The first one is that, personally, do not feel any urge to rape, murder and steal. Actually I feel extreme repugnance and rejection towards those behaviors, and individuals in my proximal sphere are just the same. So I don’t need to be held back by god or dog, lest I start raping, murdering and stealing. However, history shows literally millions of superstition devoured Christians engaging, for the record, in such behavior, so those pathological beings may indeed need some divine restraint… and that fail, because god is just sloshing around their brains occasionally.

      This being said, I am not naive: I was personally attacked with lethal force more than once (at least three times with injuries), and I have witnessed attacks, and theft (and being a victim of the latter, even under threat, more than once). The only thing I didn’t witness is rape (there are good mechanical reasons for direct aggression being much easier to engage in than rape…)

      And I definitively think that people who go around saying that only the overwhelming presence of the deity prevents them to rape, murder and kill, are not just morally abject, deep inside, but also a danger to society. Correct just slightly the instructions from god from the New Testament to the Qur’an, and they will cut off heads as Jihadists do… And indeed Christian crusaders roasted children when they ran out of food (not Arab hear-say, but reports from the participants, like Joinville).

      Evolution given morality derives from the fact that ALL advanced animals are social. Yes, even leopards… It was thought orangutans were not social, but it’s just the opposite: they communicate over miles, male to females, thanks to the super males booming voices… So ALL advanced animals exist only thanks to society, thus they HAVE to be nice to other members of society, overall, thus enabling to define rape, murder and stealing as more or less anti-social behavior, at first sight, except, of course when the object of aggression deserves said aggression (see Nazis for the archetypal modern example).


  5. Kathleen Hawes Watkins Says:

    Well said. Sustainability “of said society” is critical context.


  6. Andrew Landen Says:

    Christian for 31 years

    Morality is a values systems which sets certain things as good and others as not good. The morality which aligns what is truly good and evil is righteousness and it comes from God alone. For God omniscient is the only one who can understand enough to define what is good with any authority or accuracy. And He is the leader of all Good forces. Recognition of Evil forces is as much a treatment of God as is Satan, for their can be no great rebel of Heaven without the existence of God.

    A moral government honors the Goodness which God had established, most importantly being our inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.


  7. Jack Ryan Says:

    Jack Ryan: The Holocaust was most definitely NOT legal.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      The Holocaust of Jews and others was indeed NOT legal according to laws passed by the Nazis 1935, and according to German Military law. The latter was never challenged: German military personnel who refused to commit war crimes were NOT prosecuted (!).

      For the former, the Wannsee conference was set-up, to convince the Nazi leaders NOT to apply Nazi laws so that the, hmmm, final sort of solution if you see what you are supposed to see, could proceed here and there, if that happened to be the case, etc… I explained that in my essay https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/…/a-moral-government…/
      Edit or delete this


  8. Andrew Landen Says:

    Andrew Landen

    Evolution happens to all, just not in the way you think. Small changes over many generations.

    Care to answer the question? Who says that evolution created the “[in]alienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…”?

    Since the primary mechanism of evolution is death, life is not a right to be expected from it.


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