The Hierarchy of Loyalties and Ethics III

King Solomon’s Decision
By Edgar Lores
The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual’s own reason and critical analysis. – The Dalai Lama

Part 3 – Revelations

The Informal Approach – Three Rules on Interactions

In Part 2, we discussed the Hierarchy of Loyalties as a representation of the world and the prioritization of the constructs according to the ethical-legal structures that rule our interactions and bind us.

The Rule of Conscience is the bridge that links the formal and informal approaches.  In the formal approach, we posited the primacy of the Rule of Conscience, and while we said it may arise from Natural Law we admitted to the possibility that the rule is subjective.   The question arises, how do we objectify the Rule of Conscience?

I have not discovered all the possible rules of the informal approach, but initially I would like to suggest three criteria by which we can objectify the Rule of Conscience.  Again, interpretations might vary but if we apply these criteria honestly we might be closer to arriving at a general consensus.  I call these criteria the Tests of Loyalty, and they are:

  • The Rule of Others
  • The Rule of Self Sacrifice
  • The Rule of the Extended Self

The Rule of Others

To my mind, there are two ways of prioritizing the constructs with respect to modes of behaviour. The first way is a “consideration of self” and the second way is a “consideration of others”.  The latter is the Rule of Others.

“Consideration” means taking certain thing(s) into account.  “Others” points to these certain things. “Others” refer not only to the hierarchical constructs but also to the rules and notions that surround them.   

  • The “consideration of self” uses as its meter the value of survival or of self-preservation, while the “consideration of others” uses the value of relationships.
  • The concern of ethics is the proper conduct of a construct in relationship to other constructs.  Therefore, the mode of “consideration of others” is the proper path of ethics while the alternative mode of the “consideration of self” is the Law of the Jungle.

Perceptive readers will say, “Hey, Ed, there’s nothing new in this.  You are just restating Egotism vs. Altruism.”  To a certain extent, this is true.  However, I would like to make two distinctions.

  • The first distinction is that I would extend and apply these opposing modes of behavior, not just to the Self, but to all the constructs in the Hierarchy, perhaps even to the gods themselves.
  • The second distinction is that the path of ethics lies midway between these two opposites, but perhaps closer to a “consideration of others”.  What I am saying is that our actions should be governed with a view of “consideration to others” but not in total neglect of the “consideration of self”.  A balance must be achieved albeit with a bias to others.

Let me emphasize: the Rule of Others is based on respect, and when applied honestly it may show us the proper solution between conflicting constructs.  The solution may lie in the prioritization of the constructs and their rules, or in the process of interaction between or among constructs, or even just within one construct.  Almost everyone has experienced the wonders that come when, in a conflict between two parties, one party changes its attitude.  Suddenly the conflict is gone without any need for a resolution.  A “consideration of others” often reveals the existence of a higher path that can be taken.

Like all great mysteries of life, we arrive at paradox.  In Part 2, under the discussion of the Rule of Conscience, I said that without the Self, there is no other.  But to other constructs in the Hierarchy, the Self is an-other.  Which means that the Self is the Other.  Which means that when we act for others, we are acting for ourselves.  Without others, we have nothing; without others, we are nobody.

In a roundabout way, we have come to validate the second of the two commandments of which Jesus said “there is none greater than these”: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”.

The Rule of Self Sacrifice

Briefly stated, the Rule of Self Sacrifice is that the loyalty of the Self to the other constructs may transcend loyalty to its own Self. This is a higher rule than the Rule of Others in terms of selflessness.  For it is not only a “consideration of others” but an active effacement of Self usually in the hope that others may be saved or lifted to a better life.  The effacement may be conscious or unconscious.  All other constructs recognize this rule as the path of the martyr.
  • Nations call them heroes.  Religions call them saints.  Children call them parents.
  • The use of the term “sacrifice” may be jarring because of its negative connotations.  Seen properly, however, sacrifice is the obverse face of love, and love is the bright face of sacrifice.  Sacrifice is doing without in “consideration of others”.  Love is doing for.  A parent does not see sacrifice as loss because love is gain.

This rule is the ultimate extension of the Rule of Others, and it confirms to a great degree the objectivity of a decision of conscience.

The Rule of the Expanded Self
An inherent characteristic of constructs is Identity and an acquired characteristic is Growth.  The conflation of these two characteristics gives us the Rule of the Expanded Self.  It consists in the phenomenon that as the Self establishes its own individual identity as a person, it interacts with other chosen constructs, and not just adopts but internalizes their goals and attributes.  Thus the other constructs become part of his identity and he develops a fierce loyalty to these constructs.  
  • Example: I am a Filipino.  I am a Catholic.  And I support UNA.

Seen in the best light, this phenomenon is the basis for cooperative effort, for synergy.  Seen in a dim light, it describes the behavior of the True Believer and the fanatic, and it becomes the basis of the observation that “there are none so blind as those who will not see”.  The Self, as it were, puts on blinders and views the world through the narrow prism of an adopted ism.  The gates of perception become clouded.

In matters of belief, once this merging of identities occurs, a person loses all objectivity and will use his mind not to openly examine an issue, but to find reasons to justify his position on that issue. And nothing, but absolutely nothing, not even the gates of hell will prevail and persuade him to change his mind.

  • Cyberspace is populated with columnists and bloggers – present company excepted! – who identify themselves with a given construct and spew the same pabulum, day in and day out, ad nauseam.    

In matters of action, this is where most Filipinos go wrong.

  • If the Self expands itself to include Family, and the loyalty to Family is greater than the loyalty to God or Country, then, Houston, we have a problem.  
  • Further, if the Self expands itself to include a political party, and loyalty to the party exceeds loyalty to the Country, then, Houston, we have a greater problem.

Thus we have graft and corruption in all branches and levels of government, thus we have political dynasties; thus we have that astonishing spectacle of Binay, Enrile and Erap openly supporting a lady governor openly flouting the Law of the Land.  (Perhaps the true astonishment was the lack of astonishment.)

Therefore, depending on the Direction and Intensity that a man attaches to each construct as revealed by his deeds, we are able to decipher the outlines of his expanded self.  This enables us to confirm the objectivity of his conscience or the lack of it.

The Model as Applied Ethics

Finally, let us examine three cases of ethics as seen from the Hierarchy of Loyalty and the Tests of Loyalty.

  • King Solomon’s Case
  • Abortion Case
  • Celdran’s Case

King Solomon’s Case

Generations have marvelled at the wisdom of King Solomon.  The elements of the case are simple enough.  Viewed from the Hierarchy, there are three constructs involved:

  • Country, with Solomon as king and with the associated Law of the Land
  • Family, with two babies – one living and one dead
  • Self, with two mothers – one the mother of the living baby and the other the mother of the dead baby

The issue at hand is a conflict between the two mothers in their claim to be the mother of the living baby.  The Law of the Land says that where there are conflicting claims to possessions and the claims are proved to be true, the possessions must be equally divided between or among the claimants.  In making his judgement, King Solomon calls for a sword and offers to cut the possession in half, giving one half to each mother.  But the possession is a living baby!

In effect, what the King is offering is a Test of Loyalty.

This is the view from the false mother: She is deranged in grief over the death of her baby.  Her expanded self has included the construct of a baby, but her baby is dead and gone.  She is in denial over the death, and her expanded self drives her to substitute the dead child with the living child in the arms of the sleeping true mother in order that she can make a false claim.  She has only consideration for herself and no consideration for the true mother.  In truth, she has no consideration either for the living baby.  That baby is not hers, and she has no loyalty to him.  This absence of loyalty is reflected in her decision to accept the offer of the King.  She says, “Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it”.  And so she fails the Test of Loyalty.

This is the view from the true mother.  Her expanded self has also included the construct of her baby.  She is aghast that another would claim her baby.  And she is further aghast that the King would settle the conflicting claim with an offer that would kill her precious son.  Her motherly instincts, her devotion to him overwhelms her, such that “her bowels yearned upon her son”.  Rather than accept the death of her son and in consideration of him, she will give up her claim so that her son will live.  She will sacrifice herself and her joys – the joy of his gurgles, his first smile, his first steps, and his first words.  And so she cries, “O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it.” In doing so, she reveals she is the true mother.  And so she passes the Test of Loyalty.

I can imagine King Solomon (as portrayed by Yul Brynner) inwardly smiling, pointing alternately to the true mother and the living child, as he intones his verdict to the people, “She is the mother thereof”.  The wisdom of Solomon consists in his intuitive grasp of the Hierarchy and his foreknowledge that a Test of Loyalty will resolve the conflict.

Abortion Case

If you can, forget that abortion is a dirty word.  Forget all preconceived ideas and dogmas about the sanctity of life, when life starts, about abortifacients, about rape.  Forget also the law because the law in the Philippines speaks of the “unborn from conception” and the US has swung against abortion, then in favor of it, and now is swinging against it.  Therefore, wipe the slate clean.

First we ask: From the viewpoint of the Hierarchy what are the constructs involved?  There are two possible answers.

  • The first answer is that only one construct is involved if we take into account the acquired characteristic of Viability.  That construct is one Self, a mother albeit with a fetus.  By definition, the fetus is a potential construct but not a construct as yet.  It does not have separate existence, it does not have a name, and it may not have biological viability.
  • The second answer is that two constructs are involved.  The first construct is a Self, the mother, and the second construct is Family, the fetus.
  • Granting the acquired inherent of viability, at what point can the fetus be considered Family?  Medical experience tells us that a fetus can survive outside the womb at 28 weeks in the third trimester of pregnancy.  It is estimated that the lower limit of viability may be at 24 weeks but with a low survival chance.  Given these, the best medical advice is that the option of abortion should be considered and conducted within the first trimester of pregnancy, although abortion can be performed safely at any point.
  • Therefore, medical science tells us that the first answer above of one construct is true until the end of the second trimester.  And the second answer is true at the start of the third trimester.
  • Abortion may not be considered to be murder until the third trimester.  This is one of the cruxes about the issue of abortion.  One may or may not accept it.  But whether or not one does, one must grant that whether one or two constructs is involved, it is the mother who has consciousness and it is the mother who can make the decision with respect to her “body”.
  • Going further: within the perimeters of medical knowledge, and all things being equal, the question boils down to a question of competing rights.  The right of a woman to make a decision to abort the fetus growing in her versus the right of the state to protect prenatal life and women’s health.  This is the second crux.  Which is the greater right?
  • A corollary, if not the prerequisite, of the Rule of Conscience is the notion of free will.    From the perspective of Judeo-Christian tradition, God offered mankind the gift and the burden of free will – and it was a woman who dared seize it.  From that perspective, religion and law cannot now circumscribe that gift and say, “God has given you a cornucopia of grain, flowers and fruits, of apples and lemons, but you cannot have all of it without our say so.”
  • Therefore, again all things being equal, one should recognize the greater right of a woman to exercise her free will.  If she elects to abort, she may have considered only herself.  Or she may have considered her baby and the impropriety of bringing new life into the world wherein she would not be able to sustain it with proper reverence.  Clearly she has not yet expanded herself to include the baby, and clearly she is unwilling or unable to adopt the role of parental sacrifice.  Whatever the case may be, she has the right to make a decision and to live with the burden of that decision.

But the case does not end there or, rather, it does not begin here.  Why has it come to pass that such a decision has to be made?  Why not prevent conception in the first place?  Why not educate children about sex and reproductive health?  And if you teach sex education, should you not also teach the methods and techniques of obtaining and giving sexual pleasure?  Why spend an inordinate amount of time in unceasing, furtive and sometimes unsatisfying sexual explorations?  Why risk family and divert support of the family for an accomplished mistress?  (Is wonder diminished by an excess of glee?  Or is wonder preserved, according to the Law of Conservation, and able to be redirected to a contemplation of the stars?)

Countries spend billions upon billions for weapons that kill.  Shouldn’t we shore up international law so that war and the threat of war becomes less a reality?  So that we can use the money poured into these weapons to come up with solutions to the crises of poverty, sex and drugs that haunt us?

The chain of causality is long and the issues that confront us are staggering.  Yet we fritter our lives by living at the edge of the precipice, quarreling perhaps unnecessarily and not understanding where the Other is coming from.
Celdran’s Case

I change my mind.  I will leave the reader to re-examine his initial reaction to Celdran’s original act of protest in the light of the ideas presented here.  Some of the questions to be asked are:

  • What is the issue?
  • What are the constructs involved?
  • What are the rules and laws involved?  If any, are the laws ethical?
  • With what construct does your expanded self most identify with?
  • Have you properly prioritized the construct and the rules according to the Hierarchy?
  • In fact, do you agree with the Hierarchy?

I leave it with you.


There may be a gnashing of teeth at the ideas presented in this essay. At least I hope so. The Hierarchy is a model.  It gives us a conceptual framework to conduct an honest examination of ourselves, of the constructs in our lives, and of our relationships in the hope that we are able to have a glimpse of our interdependence and arrive at a truer understanding of such abstracts as faith, truth and justice.  It is in the exercise of the better angels of our nature – in reasoned discourse, in our cognition of kinship, and in the faith that we live in a moral and just universe – that we may reach consensus in the cool shade of peace rather than on the “darkling plain where ignorant armies clash by night”.

16 Responses to “The Hierarchy of Loyalties and Ethics III”
  1. "Nations call them heroes. Religions call them saints. Children call them parents."That's my favorite line in this piece.The three rules are like a microscope if overlaid on Philippine social practices, and reveal a great many unwanted molecules making their way through the plasma.The Rule of Self Sacrifice is the opposite of the rule that is widely practiced, the Rule of Self Enrichment or Promotion. Yet, as you say, "without others, we are a nobody". The Rule of Others.The pipeline through which the Rule of the Expanded Self actualizes is constrained by the narrowness of insecurity and need to defend.Indeed, I think your article presents a positive photographic print, and the Philippines is widely the negative version where black is white and white is black.From inside the negative, however, everything functions as it is supposed to. As expected. As is comfortable.

  2. Cha says:

    On the Celdran case; one would think that God would have been above all the other constructs considered by the parties involved (especially the bishops). But it would seem that the Church construct took precedence on this one. Rather than asking if religious feelings have been notoriously offended by Celdran's act of protest, those who profess to be mere servants of God should instead have asked themselves how God would have viewed this particular act of indiscretion of one of His people and how He would have wanted the bishops/ church to respond to it. Things might have turned out so differently.

  3. Edgar Lores says:

    Cha,Ooh la la, you pass with flying colors. The Church construct has erroneously identified itself as the God construct, and placed itself above all the other constructs. This error was at the root of Celdran's creative act of protest, although he may have just been concerned with the separation of Church and State issue.

  4. Edgar Lores says:

    1. A photography metaphor provides instant visualisation of the contrast of what-should-be and what-is.2. There is a fourth rule that came to me the other day when I was on the can (Too much information? Gives a certain reality to our ideational processes!)2.1 This is the Rule of Conflicting Interests (RCI) which I mentioned yesterday. This is actually the most obvious measure of objectivity in a decision of conscience because it is recognized in law.2.2 In the Philippines it is referred to as delicadeza.2.3 Basically the Rule of Conflicting Interests states that a construct should not make a decision or participate in the making of a decision due to a possible personal or institutional advantage in the outcome.2.4 Measures have been devised to identify conflicts of interests, which range from disclosure to active disqualification. Recusal and the SALN are examples.2.5 Despite these measures, we see widespread and open violations in dynasties, nepotism, cronyism, kickbacks and simony.2.6 Decisions that violate this rule may be said to be conscienceless.

  5. I read of this "delicadeza" and can't quite grasp it. We are to be polite and bow to another person because if we act or speak forthrightly, that person may bear some pain. Is that it? So to me, that is like an apology that is aimed at soothing a situation even if the act was intended to do good, but came out bad.I detest apology, perhaps because my second ex-wife was always apologizing for this and that even if the other person caused the screw-up (too much information? ahahahaha) Drove me nuts this endless effort to paste "goodies" on everthing.I think it is important to be forthright. Indeed, my blog for tomorrow makes the point that people are separate, and this needless intertwining of motives and acts is destructive. Man, just call it like it is. I put delicadeza in the bucket of emotionally backward social tools. It is not polite to avoid the truth.

  6. Edgar Lores says:

    Delicadeza is a Spanish word that translates as delicate.I suppose it has many meanings, but I am not sure that the attribution of apology is one of them. One meaning is avoiding involvement of oneself in a matter because of the delicateness of the situation and because of “personal” interest. To me another meaning is that attribute of character that combines lightness of touch, gentleness, civility, propriety, tactfulness. The dictionary meanings of delicacy such as “subtly skilful handling of a situation” and “lightness in movement or manner” and “refined taste; tact” are all accurate in combination. Like the decision of Binay to draft Nancy totally lacks delicadeza. And so does her decision to accept the nomination. These are “in your face” decisions without any regard for anything except self-interest. They are, as a matter of fact, brutal.I think the mis-interpretation of delicadeza stems from that last word, implying that delicadeza is not being “brutally” honest. It is being honest and forthright but in a gentle manner.When criticizing the Church and clergymen I speak with candor and brutal honesty because they represent themselves to be the repository of spirituality when they are not. We cannot afford to have abominations disguised as spirituality being heaped on mankind. But when I comment on other matters, I do speak my mind openly but hopefully with delicadeza. At least that is how I interpret delicadeza.

  7. Edgar Lores says:

    Delicadeza is disagreeing without being disagreeable.

  8. Got it. It is a level of sophistication, not deceit. On that basis, always striving for suave, I shall drop my objection.

  9. Men that created God created FREE WILL. FREE WILL is an expression to protect the God they created from appearance of impotency. What goot is life without free will? ROBOTS? I am not a robot. What life would be like if everyone has what I have? BORING. I can imagine my self in heaven where everone is equal with very limited Free Will.Do cockroaches have free will? Yes they do. Rats have free will they are not even human.Free Will is construct of bored men looking for meaning of life. I willed myself to be free therefore I am.

  10. It's white smoke! Holy smokes! A South American!!! Catholics and Christians went into frenzy in the Square. They dropped to their knees and prayed and cried. Filipinos are disappointed again. Tagle lost. Manny Pacquiao lost. Jessica Sanchez lost. The charge of the 200 light brigade lost in Saba. Chinese hackers are inundating blogosphere masquerading as Filipinos.Fortunately, there is a marooned American minesweeper than can flog all day to feel goot about themselves. Flogging a superpower.

  11. Here is another take of Delicadeza. Is an act to stay away without being told because of Conflict of interest.

  12. "The use of the term "sacrifice" may be jarring because of its negative connotations. Seen properly, however, sacrifice is the obverse face of love, and love is the bright face of sacrifice. Sacrifice is doing without in "consideration of others". Love is doing for. A parent does not see sacrifice as loss because love is gain." – EdYou said it beautifully, Ed. Whatever left of my fanatically religious Filipino Friends just cannot understand why I remit all my money to my wife and son very little left for me.Everytime I remit money, I AM HAPPY. When my family is happy, neighbors are not happy because we are happy. They get jealous instead. My Filipino friends are not happy, too !!!

  13. Edgar Lores says:

    Mariano,Congratulations. You really have an in-built detector for what is central and important. You zeroed in on the idea of Free Will just like that (*snap of fingers*).Indeed, Free Will has deep theological and philosophical consequences. Do we really have it? Or our lives determined by our conditioning? Or, if God is omniscient, are our lives and indeed the whole of the universe pre-determined?There is a view that God is both strong and weak. Strong in giving man free will and weak in not controlling man. I do not see the weakness. In refusing to prove Himself, in refusing to show us miracles that we may believe in Him, God is showing strength – and respect, trust and loyalty – beyond measure. Eventually, he hopes or knows that man will turn and return to the Light.

  14. Edgar Lores says:

    Looks like the Vatican elected an ultra-conservative. So it is business as usual. This means no reformation. I note that St Malachy's prophecy on Francis being the last pope has been updated in Wikipedia.Are we truly in Revelations and at the end of days? My personal view is yes and no. Yes, something truly significant will happen, but no, not the Rapture.

  15. Edgar Lores says:

    In Part 1, I noted that in terms of loyalty the interaction of constructs is characterized by Direction, Intensity and Reciprocity. May the Intensity of your loyalty be reciprocated a million, billion, trillion times.

  16. Edgar Lores says:

    Mariano,With respect to church meddling, from your lips to God's ears!

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