The seventh most certain ethical principle is the golden rule: Treat others as you would have them treat you. This universally expressed principle follows flawless logic and is rephrased by Immanuel Kant as “never treat a person as a means, only as an end.” The universalization of this law assures each person equal protection in a world of others.
Logic alone gives us the seventh most certain ethical principle: Inaction is a form of action. Therefore, duty to others and community requires deliberation even on the decision not to act. The eighth follows a complicated analysis as outlined in the section on good and evil:1 The highest good is the combination of happiness and meaning.
When we apply reason to the third, fourth, and sixth tenets above, we arrive at a contingent certainty: When possible, maximize the good for self and others. This is the fundamental principle of the Utilitarians. Its greatest weakness is the difficulty of ascertaining action or actions that maximize the good for self and others, but the deontological validity is unquestionable in the face of the impeccable logic it reflects.
Again we can construct a chart of these top ten ethical ‘certainties.’ And again other propositions can be added such as Membership in society entails obligations or duties to that society, a highly justified belief as the benefits of social organization are based on universal compliance with accepted rules and one may freely choose to withdraw from the society.
Kant may be correct that we can never know what will make us happy, but compliance with these carefully determined propositions seems likely to make us “worthy to be happy.”
|PROPOSITION||DEGREE OF CERTAINTY||COMMENTS|
|1||I have free will.||99.5|
|2||Human conduct has effects.||98.8+|
|3||There is good and evil.||98.8|
|4||Good conduct is preferable to evil conduct.||98.7+|
|5||First do no harm.||98.7||To other people.|
|6||I should aim to make a good life for myself.||98.6+||Without doing harm to other people.|
|7||Treat others as you would have them treat you.||98.6|
|8||Inaction is a form of action.||98.5+|
|9||The highest good is the combination of happiness and meaning.||98.3|
|10||When possible, maximize the good for self and others.||98.2+||Utilitarianism|
|Membership in society entails obligations or duties to that society.||97.0|
|In matters of importance, one ought to tell the truth.||96.0||One of Kant’s principles of universalization.|
Next time we will investigate truths of the highest degree of certainty regarding ultimate reality.
1See post 1/23/2019 this site.