The Hierarchy of Loyalties and Ethics II

By Edgar Lores
Law is born from despair of human nature. – Jose Ortega y Gasset
Part 2 – The New Paradigm

The Model as a Representation of the Real World

In Part 1, we described the beginnings of the Hierarchy of Loyalty, its composition and some of its characteristics.

The observation made in Part 1 of the progression from selfishness to selflessness hints at the possibility for using the model as a tool in ethics.  It would also suggest that ethical conduct is inversely related to the distance of a construct from Self.
  • The most unethical man is one who only thinks of himself.  Example: senators.
  • The man with the highest morality is one who sacrifices his life for the benefit of others.  Examples: parents, firemen, Jesus.

Before we go further, let me perform a sleight-of-hand and re-enumerate the Hierarchy with a slight modification:

1. Gods
2. Worlds
3. Countries
4. Churches
5. Communities
6. Families
7. Selves

Voila, did you see that?  What have I done?  I have pluralized the constructs.  And simply by doing so, I have made the model a real representation of the world.  There are indeed many gods, many worlds, many countries, many churches, many communities, many families and many selves. Physically we have only one world until we colonize the moon and Mars.

This sleight-of-hand brings us smack bang into the era of postmodernism, an era just passed at the end of the last century.  Put simply, postmodernism is the view that there is not one single truth but many truths, and that our version of reality is our personal interpretation of what is out there.  It rejects the existence of ultimate truth and goes to the extent of positing that all versions of personal truth are in error.

In a word, postmodernism destroys the view, held since the time of Aristotle, that truth is monolithic, that it is absolute and universal.  Many have not heard at all about the news of postmodernism and are still locked into the paradigm of absolutism, of One Truth and One God.

The good news about postmodernism is that it recognizes plurality which is undeniable.  Even the Church acknowledges the plurality of religions in terms of existence, although it may not accept their validity in terms of doctrinal substance.  The bad news is that it has led, or is leading, us into moral relativism. Or the dictatorship of relativism, as Pope Benedict XVI calls it.

Since 1990, we have been in the era of post-postmodernism.  These two eras have witnessed explosive technological growth.  Man has become enthralled and distracted by the latest gadgetry, while his moral universe seemingly collapses.  These are the best and the worst of times.  But perhaps the times are best described by the poet Yeats in “The Second Coming”.  In the first stanza, he says, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”  And he concludes with, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity”.  How true!  Especially if you watch the unseemly dummy spits in the Senate.

So as the “centre cannot hold”, integration is sorely needed.  In the face of plurality, religion may no longer provide this integration because no religion is truly catholic.  That is catholic with a small “c” meaning universal.  This is not to say that religion should be abandoned.  Religion is necessary to administer to the spiritual needs of those in need, to usher us into the mysteries of birth and death, to comfort the poor and the dispossessed, and perhaps to entertain us with its colorful festivals. More seriously, religions can continue to be truly relevant if they can come together and contribute to the development and implantation of a universally accepted secular code of ethics, a non-digital tablet of commandments for all times, all nations and all men.    

In my essay, “The Seven Commandments of Secular Ethics”, which was published in this blog, I argued that an agreement on absolute secular rules of conduct can be, and must be, arrived at.  I presented seven commandments that in my view transcend postmodernism.  I said, “As envisioned, the commandments are absolute but must be applied relatively”.

The question before us then is: Can the Hierarchy of Loyalties be used to arrive at an objective standard that may be applied to resolve ethical conflicts?

To answer this question, I consider two approaches, a formal one and an informal one.  The formal approach sees the Hierarchy as structure, as a strata of rules.  The informal approach sees the Hierarchy as process, as the interaction of constructs between and among themselves.

Before we examine these approaches, let me state three caveats: 

  • With respect to the Hierarchy and this essay, the viewpoint is mainly from the Self as it interacts with other constructs.
  • Independent of Self, there are vast interactions between, among and within the other constructs.  These interactions are governed by existing protocols that, it must be admitted, require greater and constant refinement.
  • The ideas presented here are in embryonic form.  They give an overview of a schema that hopefully will acquire refinement when finalized in the paper.  I am presenting the dots but not all of the connections.

The Formal Approach – Strata of Rules

The formal approach takes the structure of the Hierarchy and links the constructs to associated rules.  This is shown in the table below.  Surprisingly or not so surprisingly, the sequence of the attached rules is indicative of their ethical primacy.

Rule of Conscience
Secular Commandments
Rule of International Law
o    Universal Declaration of Human Rights
o    Law of the Sea
3 – 4
Rule of the Law of the Land
o    Constitution
o    Body of Law
3 – 4
Rule of the Tribe
o    Subsumed under Country
Rule of Religion
o    Ten Commandments
o    Shariah
o    Magisterium
Rule of Family Law
o    Care of Children
o    Divorce/Separation
Rule of Personal Maintenance
o    Personal Hygiene
o    Dietary Rules

At first glance, people will object right off the bat and say, “Hey, Ed, you are confusing Law with Ethics”.  My reply would be that Law is essentially codified Ethics.  Not all Law is ethical, and indeed there are some that are distinctly unethical.  Also, a second glance will reveal that not all ethical rules have been codified into law.  Some are transmitted through tradition, and some, if not the majority, are uncodified and unwritten.  In the absence of ethical rules at all levels, bear with me and let us assume that these rules are the formal constituents of ethics.
  • One, the Rule of Conscience is the primary ethical rule.  This is our small inner voice and for the most part it is not codified.  The primacy of conscience is implicitly recognized in the right of citizens to overthrow a repressive government, and in the right of married couples to use methods of contraception in spite of objections from a religious quarter. Thus it transcends the Law of the Land and the Rule of Religion.
  • Pope Benedict XVI may pose the objection that this, in fact, enthrones the dictatorship of relativism.  My answer would be that the Church itself bases its moral code on Natural Law.  I would argue that the Rule of Conscience is the embodiment of Natural Law.  It is not codified, yet people instinctively recognize its primacy.
  • But what if a man’s conscience misinterprets Natural Law?  This is the heart of the matter, and this is where the informal approach to the Hierarchy steps in as I will explain later.
  • The Rule of Conscience is based on the premise that the most important construct in the Hierarchy is the least of the constructs, the Self, the individual human being.  I say “least” because the systems and institutions built around the other constructs – such as governments and religions – tend to forget their origins and the reason for their being. They shift their loyalty away from man and toward the isms and dogmas that are supposed to serve him. They become entrapped in loyalty to themselves, entangled in the power passed on or even surrendered to them by their constituencies.
  • The reason for their being is primarily the development, the flowering of the Self.  Without the Self, there is no other.  Without the consciousness of the Self, there can be no apprehension of other constructs.  The raison d’etre for the State is to serve its citizens. The raison d’etre for the church is, not to serve God (Shock! Horror! Damnation!), but to serve its flock – in order that they may live life in conscious celebration of all that is divine and perhaps the not so divine.  To paraphrase Lincoln, all hierarchical constructs are ultimately of the Self, for the Self, and by the Self.
  • “Hey, Ed!” you interject, “Will not this centricity of the ego turn the Self into a monster?”  Not at all.  Because the individual Self must always be constrained by the path of ethics which is a “consideration of others”.
  • Two, the Rule of International Law. Most people do not see the relevance of International Law in their lives.  True, International Law is primarily concerned with the interaction between and among Countries.  But in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) we find the codification of human rights and freedoms which forms the heart of the ethical norms the State must observe with respect to its citizens.
  • The Rule of International Law is not entirely codified and is not yet recognized by all nation-states. The dream of a World Government, as first embodied in the League of Nations and then in the United Nations, is far from reality and far from realization.  It will take centuries before we reach that dream.  Nation-states continue to misbehave with respect to their citizens and with respect to each other, and the current mechanisms of controls are weak.
  • Three, the country’s Law of the Land which is codified in the Constitution and the body of statutory law and common law.  Currently the Law of the Land may be secular or it may be religious.  In a theocracy, the Law of Religion coincides with the Law of the Land.  In a secular state, under the doctrine of the separation of Church and State, the Law of the Land prevails over religious doctrine.  Rightfully, there are certain religious commandments embedded in the Law of the Land, but wrongfully there are also remnants of religious influences in it, such as Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code and that phrase “unborn from conception” in our Constitution.
  • The Hierarchy assumes the superiority of a secular state over a sectarian one, and a democracy over a totalitarian one.  The reasons are obvious.  A secular state recognizes plurality while a sectarian state does not.  A democratic state recognizes the sovereignty of the Selves within it while a totalitarian one does not. A secular state may be democratic but a theocracy can never be democratic.
  • Four, the Law of the Tribe has been subsumed under the Law of the Land.  To a large extent, tribal identities – whether based on blood, dialect or religion – have been absorbed into national identities.   However, tribal identities continue to play a large role in national life, for example, the Muslims and the indigenous tribes in the Philippines.  The Law of the Tribe is largely uncodified but remains extant in traditions that are passed down through generations.
  • Five, the Rule of Religion.  Different religions have different rules and observances.  In the Abrahamic religions, the religious law is centrally embodied in the Ten Commandments, although versions differ.  But in all religions, there are canons, mostly restrictions that range from the definition of and the penalties for sin to diet, body hygiene and articles of clothing.
  • The phrase the “pathology of religion” has been overused, and there are different definitions of it, but I suggest it may consist in the twin claim that the Rule of Religion is the Rule of Conscience and that it should be the Law of the Land.
  • Six, the Rule of Family Law is a subset of the Law of the Land.  In the Philippines, we have anomalies of loyalty (a) wherein elected politicians are allowed to show greater loyalty to the construct of Family over the construct of Country, and (b) wherein the construct of Country does not provide for the breakdown of trust between husband and wife within the construct of Family because of opposition by the construct of Church.
  • Seven and finally, the Rule of Personal Maintenance.  Important as they may be, we will not discuss the combing of hair, the brushing of teeth and the cutting of toenails.

Finally, on a side note, there are many other rules and codes of conduct.  Companies, professions and social clubs all have their own codes, and I am aware and greatly amused by the Bro Code.  I wish it had been codified in my youth.

In Part 3, we will take look at the informal approach.

21 Responses to “The Hierarchy of Loyalties and Ethics II”
  1. andrew lim says:

    I am interested in no. 6, Rule of Family Law and its anomalies here. What we see here is some form of familism, where the family takes precedence over society, and breeds criminal enterprises and nepotism.This is what the Mafia and crime families have lived by. Here, you can argue same for previous First Families. "Hindi baleng magulang, basta mahal ang magulang." ha ha haEdgar, you ought to join the discussion on Fr Tabora's blog or Dicky Boncan's. People there will have a mouthful to say about ideological pluralism. 🙂

  2. Edgar Lores says:

    1. No. 6! That's very Filipino!2. I might try to find out what's being said. I gather Tabora would be more liberal than Boncan from your previous comments.2.1 At a guess, the mouthfuls would revolve around Ratzainger's (Benedict) approaches of exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism.2.2 I believe the Church, and indeed the whole of Christendom, would hold with exclusivism – that is that only the people who accept Christ and the Christian message can be saved.2.3 This is the problem of exclusivity – of I am right and you are wrong – that dominates the thinking of the two major religions today. This permeates everything that the Church does.2.4 They don't stop and think: Why are we in need of salvation? Salvation from what? Most of all: Who are we to point out the way to salvation?

  3. Numerous takeaways1. When God becomes gods, we lose the reverence but gain the wisdom. Unfortunately, the notion is offensive to individual faiths, this recognition that their God may be the same as someone's who behaves quite differently, or is just one among many. So they hunker down and threaten non-believers by consigning them to Hell, as a mundane blogger would rather disparage an opponent than figure out why there is a difference. Knowledge holds no virtue for the rabid of faith.2. I appreciate relativism myself. It is the grand cosmos of ideas we cannot quite grasp but should aspire to reach. 3. Passion is good if the result is to build, it is bad if the result is to disparage. Passion often derives from generalizations.4. The strata of rules is very good.5. Fascinating this notion that "Ego" is good. I always shade it as self-absorption, but it is indeed the foundation, the center, of the set of rules that permit us to interact with others well. Self-reflection is looking our Ego in the eye.6. I wish someone would instruct the CBCP political priests about the Rule of Conscience so they would stop condemning others in the name of their particular god, who is not my God. My God believes the ethical supremacy of the State is no threat to Him. I have a secure God who grasps the rich variability of the human condition and the need to restrain it with rules. After all, He planned it that way, and we fail Him again and again, often in the name of religion.7. I trashed my blog on the variability of morality. You're much more thorough and rigorous here. I instructed Maude to get off her burdgeoning bottom and hit the keyboard. She grinned viciously . . .

  4. Edgar Lores says:

    Oh, we're numbering now!1. Not all faiths are as exclusive as Christianity and Islam. From talks with former officemates, I gather that Hinduism is inclusive. They have many gods themselves, and don't mind the existence of many more. Buddhism is not specifically atheistic and is inclusive as well.2. People are generally insecure about relativism and plurality. The fear is summed up in the nihilism attributed to Dosoevsky: "Without God, all is permitted". I take the opposite view. If God did not exist, the more reason we should act in an ethical manner.3. Your sentences are beginning to be epigrammatic!4. The strata is a base that needs refining. At the international law level, consider the China sea dispute if it could be settled peacefully by international arbitration. At the national level, there seems to be a need for a law to prevent religious interference in state affairs – the INC bloc voting and the RCC's tarp issue.5. The Self is the center of the universe. You are right. The Self contemplating the Self or the Other is a miracle.6. Amen.

  5. Occasionally I find order elegant.1. I'm converting as soon as I've finished my Snicker's bar.2. Indeed, which is why free thinkers are generally less corrupt than Cath . . . some religious people.3. I'm channeling Oscar Wilde.4. Yep.5. Indeed.6. Hallelujiah.I worked in the yard today, heavy labor requiring heavy breathing. I fear that my brain got infused with oxygen and can't quite deal with it. It's an unnatural condition.

  6. andrew lim says:

    Oh, Tabora is a maverick Jesuit, president of Ateneo Davao and he's being clobbered now in his blog by Boncan and the arch-conservatives for being relativist.

  7. Cha says:

    "The rule of conscience is the primary ethical rule."Agree. Like Atticus said in To Kill a Mockingbird, "Before I can live with other folks, I have to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."But a person's conscience is also formed from the rules of society, religion, community and family that he grows into. With these rules as his guide, a person then makes a judgment call to resolve a specific ethical issue he is confronted with. So somewhere between the rules, the laws and codes that seek to govern man's behavior and his actual conduct, I would think, is reason. Reason enables a man to choose from different alternatives that which his conscience is able to live with.Still from Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, "it helps folks if they can latch onto a reason."

  8. Edgar Lores says:

    1. I will agree with Reason but I will extend it.2. Conscience is born from the reason of the mind and of the heart.3. I think heart is primary and primordial. We feel first and then justify our feelings with reasons of the mind. That is the latching onto a reason that Harper speaks of.4. I think we are born with heart and then the heart is conditioned by, as you say, the rules of society, religion, community and family. Conditioning can either foster or thwart heart.5. Most are born with heart. The exceptions are sociopaths.6. Wait let me backtrack. If we look at babies, they are selfish monsters. So perhaps it is truer to say that we are born with capacity?7. But look at dogs. They are also selfish. But heart and loyalty are instinctive. On the other hand, there are cats…

  9. Ahahaha, do they have cats in Australia? I know of dingoes, and all kinds of funny creatures that hop. And crocs, too.

  10. Edgar Lores says:

    I did read Tabora's pieces in Rappler. His views are correct, of course, from the perspective of how the Church should behave. From my perspective, he is an arch-conservative – as is to be expected.The thing is I don't think there would be a meeting of minds if I joined in any discussions with Tabora and, much less, with Boncan. They are arguing from inside a box – and I am outside the box.You say that Tabora is a relativist. What does that mean? That all religions are true? Or that religions are relatively true but that Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, is truer? Or that other religions exist but have no bearing? What is his position regarding atheists and agnostics and gays?No, no need to answer. I think Tabora will still hold to the centrality of the Holy trinity, the veneration of Mary and the communion of saints. I would be very surprised if he accepts that there are other valid ways to God – or non-God.

  11. Edgar Lores says:

    I believe families with kids prefer doggies. Cat-lovers tend to be spinsters, bachelors, bachelorettes, and people who live in townhouses.Steve Irwin – the guy who liked to wrestle with crocs – was really amazing. That guy had heart and incredible intuition. He could sense when his Mum was sick, and the story of his first meeting with his future wife is the kind of stuff that you would like to happen to you. Imagine turning your head, meeting the eyes of some one you have never seen before, and knowing – instantaneously and without any doubt – she was The One. Imagine further that it was mutual.

  12. Cha says:

    Cat lovers tend to be spinsters, bachelors, bachelorettes…. And T.S Elliot 🙂

  13. And Ernest Hemmingway:"Ernest Hemingway was an amazing man, with many talents and interests. He was also an inveterate cat-lover, because he admired the spirit and independence of cats. Hemingway acquired his first cat from a ship's captain in Key West, Florida, where he made his home for a number of years. This cat, which may have been a Maine Coon, had extra toes (technically known as polydactyl, latin for "many digits"). Today, approximately 60 cats, half of them polydactyl, make their home in the Ernest Hemingway Museum and Home, in Key West, protected by the terms of his will. "

  14. Edgar Lores says:

    1. Unfair! There are creative people who love dogs too. Pets are at the bottom of the Psychological Sustenance Hierarchy, so here are some findings:1.1 Cat People:o Ernest Hemingway – "A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not."o Mark Twain – “Some people scorn a cat and think it not an essential; but the Clemens tribe are not of these."o William Burroughs – "Like all pure creatures, cats are practical."o Collette – "There are no ordinary cats."- Tennessee Williams – "What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof? — I wish I knew… Just staying on it, I guess, as long as she can…"o T.S. Elioto Edgar Allen Poeo Ezra Poundo Haruki Murakamio Don Delilloo George Bernard Shawo Hunter Thompsono Jack Kerouaco Allen Ginzbergo Salvador Dali1.2 Dog Peopleo Edith Wharton – "My little dog / a heartbeat / at my feet."o Donna Tartt – "My dog has a number of acquaintances of his own species — as do I — but it is abundantly clear to both of us that there is little company in all the world which we enjoy so much as each other's."o John Steinbeck – "I've seen a look in dogs' eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts."o Virginia Woolf – "This you'll call sentimental — perhaps — but then a dog somehow represents — no I can't think of the word — the private side of life — the play side."- Robert Penn Warren – “English cocker: old and blind / But if your hand / Merely touches his head,/ Old faithe comes flooding back—and … / The paw descends, His trust is infinite / In you …o Maurice Sendak – “I hate people.”o Georgia O’Keeffeo Andy Warholo Dorothy Parkero E.L. Doctorowo Pablo Picassoo Jackson Pollocko Gertrude Steino Kurt Vonneguto William Faulkner1.3 Peacock Persono Flannery O’Connor – “When the peacock has presented his back, the spectator will usually begin to walk around him to get a front view; but the peacock will continue to turn so that no front view is possible. The thing to do then is to stand still and wait until it pleases him to turn. When it suits him, the peacock will face you. Then you will see in a green-bronze arch around him a galaxy of gazing haloed suns. This is the moment when most people are silent.”1.4 Writers seem to favor cats and painters seem to favor dogs. This is worthy of a blog.1.5 Sources:o famous-writers-artists-pets_n_1624504.html?just_reloaded=1#slide=more234313o portraits-of-writers-with-pets-the-humanizing-animal-connection/265681/

  15. "Cat lovers tend to be spinsters, bachelors, bachelorettes…. And T.S Elliot 🙂 " – CHADog lovers crosses gender and demography. Dogs has unconditional unquestionalble loyal companion better than opposite gender. Dogs are means of hooking up with opposite and same-sex, too, as innocent conversation starter. They guard the house. They gayly meet you at the door just by mere rumble of the car's engine. They are not picky. Do not talk back. Dogs force you to be fit by walking them in the morning and in the evening.CATS? I just hate cats. They do not have a show of emotion.

  16. "Rule of Consicence" is not a monopology of God and the Church. Stoneage cavemen knew very well if someone stole food and their wives from them will be dealt with in the most cruel and unusual punishment that was even before multiplication was invented (Go out and MULTIPLY!!!).

  17. A dog will give his life in defense of his master. A cat will watch curiously.

  18. Cha says:

    That's quite interesting. Thanks, Edgar. Maybe writers favor cats because they're a lot more quiet, less needy than dogs. ( I meant the cats. Hehe!)Mariano, I'm not a big fan of cats either. But I like the musical Cats which was based on TS Eliot's book Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. Jellicle songs for jellicle cats! 🙂

  19. Edgar Lores says:

    "Dogs has unconditional unquestionable loyal companion better than opposite gender."Wow!By the way, let me lay this egg: RCI. Will explain later.

  20. Edgar Lores says:

    That's entirely correct. All men – except sociopaths – are born with a conscience. It comes with the gift of consciousness, I guess. The question of "to be or not to be" becomes the question of "to do or not to do".If conscience is that inexplicable tendency to do the right thing, then not only cavemen but even animals – who seem to exhibit compassion – may be said to have conscience. In animals though, it would be instinctive and not a product of thought. The causal chain could be consciousness, conscience, then compassion.This is too deep for me, Mariano…

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