Empowerment Ethics

I am a philosopher who specializes in ethics. For years, starting in my doctoral dissertation and then continuing right here on Camels With Hammers, I have been drafting, defending, and developing my own spin on the perfectionist and humanist ethical traditions that I call “Empowerment Ethics”. I write about everything from the most abstract foundational issues related to the nature of value and morality themselves (what philosophers call “metaethics”), to the most pressing moral controversies of our time, to how to live a good life in practical terms. For a full list of existing posts in this series (each with a descriptive title), see the bottom of this page. Bookmark this page and periodically check it to keep apprised of all the regular updates. A thorough overview of the views can be found in these three posts:

My Systematic, Naturalistic Empowerment Ethics, With Applications To Tyrants, the Differently Abled, and LGBT People
Paths To Moral Objectivity: Pragmatics
A Map With A Few of My Paths to Objective Morality

To boil it all down more succinctly, the gist of what I have dubbed “Empowerment Ethics” is as follows:

I think I can argue in objectively factual terms that there is an overriding good that all humans should be concerned with. The good we should all strive for is to be as powerful according to our potential abilities as we can be. Every human being is made up of a set of powers. We do not just have our powers but we are our powers. We do not just have the powers of rationality, we exist in and through them. We do not just have abilities to feel things emotionally, we exist in and through them. And the same goes for our powers of sociability, our bodily powers, our sexual powers, our creative powers, our technological powers, our artistic powers, and any other distinct categories of powers you can identify within us. Each of our major categories of powers is comprised of component powers and each of our powers can combine into larger powers.

That’s the power part. The empowerment part specifically comes in when we realize that fulfilling our powers to their maximum means empowering others through the exercise of our abilities. The most marvelous thing about human powers is how much they can spread into other people and how much we need other people to use their powers to empower us. Every ability we have grows in its effectiveness the more that it increases the total net powerful effectiveness of the total number of people. When I am so powerful as to be able to empower you to be more powerful, then I am powerful not just in myself but also in you and in those you further empower, and so it goes, on and on.

I think this truth should guide all of us. What is best for each one of us is that we make ourselves as effective creators of power in the world as we can, in order that we may be more powerful through all of that power that we generate. And the way to create the most power in the world is to make our endeavors the kinds that empower others.

And the ethics part comes in here: Sometimes we get shortsighted, myopic, and selfish. Ethical emotions, rules, character traits, practices, habits, attitudes, dispositions, etc. are developed by our brains and our societies to help us do what is empowering for the most people in the long run even when we are tempted not to. This is ultimately in our own interests since we depend on other thriving humans and their contributions to live maximally well ourselves and since our fullest realizations of our powers involve empowering others. While the best ethics may objectively vary with changing life conditions, we can reason out our general ethical principles and particular moral judgments the best when we make maximum empowerment our highest ideal.

And, in a nutshell, that’s what “empowerment ethics” is about.

Below are all my posts so far in my blog series laying out “Empowerment Ethics”. Each post is self-contained, so use the questions in their titles to guide you to the topic that you are most interested in or that you need answered well before you will accept my positions on ethics:

What is Empowerment Ethics?
Who Is Anyone To Tell Others What To Do?
How Can We Find External Criteria To Assess Morality’s Truth and Authority?
Is Empowerment Ethics Atheistic?
Can Morality Mean Something Other Than Absolutist Morality?
Is Morality Just Subjective?
Are Individuals’ Moralities Merely Personal?
Is Morality Relative?
Does Everyone Mean Something Different By The Word ‘Good’?
Are Moral Issues Too Subjective To Argue Over?
Can Atheists Condemn Rape Without Theistic Moral Absolutism?
Is Morality Just Culturally Relative?
Can There Be Objective Morality When So Many People Disagree About Morality?
Objective Human Flourishing: A First Response To Jerry Coyne About Ethics


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