Ethical Introspection requires that you be able to imagine your world without yourworld-view.  I think John Lennon’s song Imagine does a spectacular job getting to the root of the problem.

The fist line of the song, “Imagine there’s no heaven”   is a major Taboo; one punishable by death according to the bible.  The first commandment of God as written down by Moses was, “I am the LORD your God… You shall have no other gods before Me…”  In other words, the number one sin is to deny God; and through affiliation – any article of written faith.  So imagining there is no heaven is earth shattering for a Christian, Jew, or Muslim.  Note, there is nothing unethical about imagining no heaven.  Imagining no heaven causes no harm and there is no condition of fairness where individual thoughts are concerned.

The second line, “It’s easy if you try” is true, especially for skeptical or imaginative minds.  That said, I have found most religious people quite literally cannot imagine no heaven, because that implicitly means imagining no God, and to even think that thought is the number one sin in their faith; so they self-sensor their thoughts.  That is the power of religion!  If you cannot liberate your mind enough to question your dogma’s then you cannot fully understand ethics.  Religious or cultural dogmas represent a large barrier to ethical understanding.

The second verse starts off with, “Imaging there’s no countries”.  No “In-Group/Loyalties”; no US vs. THEM.  This would represent a post nationalist society.  Our natural tendency to form into groups and then battle things out has proven useful in the past but it represents a larger barrier moving forward.  It is almost impossible to imagine this mindset going away so group affiliations will likely always exist, but it is not impossible to imagine greater unity as we have been marching towards this throughout history.

The third verse starts with, “You may say I’m a dreamer” – If you allow your brain to be liberated from its cultural chains, and you bring your inherent ethical knowledge to bare on core moral questions, you can derive the proper ethical ideals which to navigate the gray world around you.  Dreamer’s are people who can see the ideals and seek to approximate them with a mindset founded on these core principles.  It should be noted that an ideal or principle is not something you can achieve per se, rather a goal that you would like to approximate.

The forth line starts with, “Imagine no possessions” – This is a totally different economic paradigm.  The best portray of such a system I have come across is represented in Star Trek – The Next Generation series.  In this series, a few key technologies render want of material things and greed/desire for others’ possessions pointless.  The Replicator is capable of creating any material object, including food on demand.  The Holo-deck is a place that you can act out and live any fantasy you have.  With personal need and want met, people who choose to live in the real world are just left with personal improvement, advancement of communal needs, and a desire for further knowledge as their driving motives.

A person with the level of self-actualization described in the song “Imagine” could best be described as Etho-Liberal.  Ethically minded, liberal thinker.  John Lennon definitely qualifies as an Etho-Liberal.

There is a good ethical argument to be made for liberal thought. Liberal thought is what allows us to imagine things being different than what they currently are.  It allows us to challenge authority; thus gives us the capability to judge the validity of authority.  Conservative thought is mainly our default position, a natural resistance to change.  Our conservative nature may possibly limit introspection.  Our ability for self-deception is well documented in scientific literature; and this would indicate that our abilities for introspection are also lacking.  Liberation from our conservative nature is why almost every human advancement has occurred through liberal initiatives, progressive thought, radicals (like our founding fathers, the Wright Brothers, etc).

“Imagine” by John Lennon, angered a lot of conservatives and caused great inner fear when it was released and I am sure it still does today.  Lennon was considered a radical by many US and British conservatives.  To liberals, the song was and remains a beautiful piece of poetry.



2 thoughts on Imagine

  1. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your work. However, I think you might want to revisit your basic premise “man is essentially good”. If we attempt to test your theory we see in history walled cities everywhere due to attacks. Slavery, tribal warfare and theft, subjugation of primitive people, millions of people sacrificed to liberal theology of man as god (Soviet Union, Communist China). More people were killed by communists and socialists than any other belief system.
    Just for grins, why not take a quick mental trip to “man is essentially fallen” (selfish, violent, unempathetic) a place where the majority of people would give a fatal shock to a screaming, begging person. If you start from this premise where do you end up?

    • Paul, Thank you for your interest and for contributing to the conversation. I think you may have misunderstood my basic premise. I am not taking the position that man is “essentially good”; man is all things good and bad (see “Polarity”). In general, I think it is fair to say we lean more good than bad (see the “Better Angels of our Nature” by Steven Pinker, or the “Rational Optimist” by Matt Ridley). Also, common sense dictates that if bad things were the normal, good things would be news worthy; but the opposite is true.

      My basic premise is that ethics is inherently knowable. Knowing ethics is not the same as having a full understanding of ethics or wisdom in ethical decision making, nor does understanding what is right mean that people will do what is right. The whole section on “Diving into the Grey” discusses the issue of “how good people do bad things”. That does not even address “bad apples”, evil people, etc; which certainly exist. I wrote this book and maintain this blog as a means of educating people on what ethics is and how to derive proper ethical decisions.

      The “Godless” social systems of the Soviet Union, Communist China and other similar movements in the 20th century where not “atheist” movements. These institutions, North Korea being a good example, worshiped their human dictators or groups in power, the State becomes “the religion”. Ethical knowledge is likely more easily obtained if you separate your foundations of ethics from your religion. You do not have to be an atheist to do this, but you do need to realize that a knowledge of ethics is a natural condition of the human experience, “God given” if you like. Also, it is essential for free will, and therefore essential to being a good person regardless of your religious foundations.

      Liberals and Conservatives have both had their chance to cause harm throughout history. Your statement about “Liberal theology of man as god” is highly loaded and also highly debatable. I would like to better understand your definition of each word in that statement.

      Liberals tend to create hell on Earth through unintended consequences of changes they make. Conservatives tend to pave the way to hell on Earth through deliberate restrictions on progress or moves to regress to past ideals as response to their fears of change and need for authority and in group loyalty. An uncompromising commitment to an utopian world view is typically what justifies the worst atrocities on both sides.

      In generals, “Liberation of the mind”, i.e. an active effort to “unlearn” the bad things your culture (parents, peers, religion, state, etc) have instilled, in combination with active introspection using some very basic questions, The Golden Rule is a good start, is required to better understand ethics. I do not mean to say that all sources of authority plant bad ideas in our heads; rather you need to be able to separate your thought process from your authority figures long enough to take an unobstructed view of an ethical situation. How would you feel if placed in that “other” persons position. Is he or she or they being treated fairly? Is harm being done to them? What is the justification for the unfair or harmful treatment? If your thoughts are based on moralistic thinking (i.e. ethically relative and culturally based norms), your foundation any given instance could be ethically compromised. The only way to know is to “step outside of it” and ask a few basic ethically founded questions, using introspection and reason as your guide.

      Please get back to me regarding your definitions of “Liberal theology of man as god”. For further clarification, my ideas on ethics are “god neutral”. In other words, knowledge of God or gods is not required to know and understand ethics. That said, being religious should not hinder you from understanding ethics provided you can accept knowledge of ethics is an inherent condition. Atheist don’t believe in God or gods, so the idea of “Man as God” is not an atheist position, and Liberals are present along a large spectrum of very religious to atheist.

      Even if you take a mental trip to “man is essentially fallen”, you have to recognize that to know what is “fallen”, bad, evil, etc, you would have to understand what it means to be fallen, bad, evil, etc. An inherent knowledge of ethics is the only way that is possible. “I feel, therefore I know ethics.” Its innate to our condition. It is from this innate condition, that we reason using our innate feelings of harm and fairness to derive all that is good and bad.

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