A new multi-level hierarchy of ethics and morality

03 April 2015

A new multi-level model of ethics and morality has recently been announced, as schematically depicted in the diagram immediately below. The distinctive listings of virtues and values defined within this system all appear linked on an intuitive level, suggesting a clear sense of underlying cohesiveness. The key factor behind this innovation arises as a direct consequence of the fledgling field of Communications Theory, borrowing the crucial concept of the meta-perspective, a higher-order perspective upon the viewpoint held by another: schematically defined as "this is how I see you-seeing me." Indeed, there does not appear to be any conceptual barrier limiting the degree to which reflection can serve as a basis for itself, ultimately extending to a 10th-order level of meta-abstraction. The higher virtues, values, and ideals collectively build as subsets within this hierarchy of metaperspectives, each more abstract listing building upon that which it supersedes.

 Take, for example, the cardinal virtues (prudence-justice-temperance-fortitude), the theological virtues (faith-hope-charity-decency), and the classical Greek values (beauty-truth-goodness-wisdom). Each of these traditional ethical groupings is further subdivided into a complex of four subordinate terms, allowing for precise point-for-point stacking within the hierarchy of metaperspectives. When additional groupings of ethical terms are further added to the mix: namely, the civil liberties (providence-liberty-civility-austerity), the humanistic values (peace-love-tranquility-equality), the mystical values (ecstasy-bliss-joy-harmony), amongst others; the complete ten level hierarchy of metaperspectives emerges in full detail, partially reproduced in the table immediately below:







 This cohesive hierarchy of virtues, values, and ideals proves exceedingly comprehensive in scope, accounting for virtually every major ethical term celebrated within the Western ethical tradition. Indeed, it proves easy to gain a sense of the trend towards increasing abstraction when scanning each of the individually depicted lines from top to bottom. These traditional, four-part groupings line up perfectly within this hierarchy of metaperspectives, making it exceedingly unlikely that such a hierarchy could have arisen solely by chance. Indeed, this ethical hierarchy mirrors the specialization of personal, group, spiritual, humanitarian, and transcendental realms within human society in general: which when further specialized into both authority and follower roles, accounts for the complete ten-level hierarchy of ethical terms.

 This system of the virtues, however, can scarcely claim to be the total picture; for it further proves possible to base this ethical hierarchy entirely within an instinctual foundation: where the higher virtues and values are alternately seen as more advanced metaperspectives on the more basic complement of instinctual states (namely, rewards, leniency, appetite, aversion). According to this basic format, rewards properly follow appetitive types of behaviors, whereas leniency is similarly associated with aversive behaviors. When further expanded within the meta-perspectival format, the remaining higher groupings of virtues and values jump neatly into focus. Indeed, the characteristic four-part pattern of ethical terms is fully explainable in terms of such a behavioral tie-in with conditioning theory: in addition to the dual specialization of authority and follower roles across the board.

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