Then when he got into programming he found that this symphony of electronic circuits was considered to be a mere single note in a whole other symphony that had no resemblance to the first one. The gating circuits, the rise and decay times, the margins for voltage levels, were gone. Even his banks of flip-flops had become 'registers.' Everything was seen from a pure and symbolic world of logical relationships that had no resemblance at all to the 'real' world he had worked in. The Machine Language Instruction Repertoire, which had been the entire design goal, was now the lowest element of the lowest level programming language. Most programmers never used these instructions directly or even knew what they meant.
Although both the circuit designer and the programmer knew the meaning of the instruction, 'Load Accumulator,' the meaning that each knew was entirely different from the other's. Their only relationship was that of analogy. A register is analogous to a bank of flip-flops. A change in voltage level is analogous to a change in number. But they are not the same. Even in this narrow isthmus between these two sets of static patterns called 'hardware' and 'software' there was still no direct interchange of meaning. The same machine language instruction was a completely different entity within two different sets of patterns.
On top of this low-level programming language was a high-level programming language, FORTRAN or COBOL in those days, which had the same kind of independence from the low-level language that the low-level language had from electronic circuits. And on top of the high-level language was still another level of patterns, the application, a novel perhaps in a word-processing program. And what amazed him most of all was how one could spend all of eternity probing the electrical patterns of that computer with an oscilloscope and never find that novel.
What makes all this significant to the Metaphysics of Quality is its striking parallelism to the interrelationship of different levels of static patterns of quality.
Certainly the novel cannot exist in the computer without a parallel pattern of voltages to support it. But that does not mean that the novel is an expression or property of those voltages. It doesn't have to exist in any electronic circuits at all. It can also reside in magnetic domains on a disk or a drum or a tape, but again it is not composed of magnetic domains nor is it possessed by them. It can reside in a notebook but it is not composed of or possessed by the ink and paper. It can reside in the brain of a programmer, but even here it is neither composed of this brain nor possessed by it. The same program can be made to run on an infinite variety of computers. A program can change itself into a different program while it is running. It can turn on another computer, transfer itself into this second computer and shut off the first computer that it came from, destroying every last trace of its origins - a process with similarities to biological reproduction.
Trying to explain social moral patterns in terms of inorganic chemistry patterns is like trying to explain the plot of a word-processor novel in terms of the computer's electronics. You can't do it. You can see how the circuits make the novel possible, but they do not provide a plot for the novel. The novel is its own set of patterns. Similarly the biological patterns of life and the molecular patterns of organic chemistry have a 'machine language' interface called DNA but that does not mean that the carbon or hydrogen or oxygen atoms possess or guide life. A primary occupation of every level of evolution seems to be offering freedom to lower levels of evolution. But as the higher level gets more sophisticated it goes off on purposes of its own.
Once this independent nature of the levels of static patterns of value is understood a lot of puzzles get solved. The first one is the usual puzzle of value itself. In a subject-object metaphysics, value has always been the most vague and ambiguous of terms. What is it? When you say the world is composed of nothing but value, what are you talking about?
Phaedrus thought this was why no one before had ever seemed to have come up with the idea that the world is primarily value. The word is too vague. The 'value' that holds a glass of water together and the 'value' that holds a nation together are obviously not the same thing. Therefore to say that the world is nothing but value is just confusing, not clarifying.
Now this vagueness is removed by sorting out values according to levels of evolution. The value that holds a glass of water together is an inorganic pattern of value. The value that holds a nation together is a social pattern of value. They are completely different from each other because they are at different evolutionary levels. And they are completely different from the biological pattern that can cause the most sceptical of intellectuals to leap from a hot stove. These patterns have nothing in common except the historic evolutionary process that created all of them. But that process is a process of value evolution. Therefore the name 'static pattern of values' applies to all.
That's one puzzle cleared up. Another huge one is the mind-matter puzzle.
If the world consists only of patterns of mind and patterns of matter, what is the relationship between the two? If you read the hundreds of volumes of philosophy available on this matter you may conclude that nobody knows - or at least knows well enough to convince everybody else. There is the materialist school that says reality is all matter, which creates mind. There is the idealist school that says it is all mind, which creates matter. There is the positivist school which says this argument could go on forever; drop the subject.
That would be nice if you could, but unfortunately it is one of the most tormenting problems of the physics to which positivism looks for guidance. The torment occurs not because of anything discovered in the laboratory. Data are data. It is the intellectual framework with which one deals with the data that is at fault. The fault is within subject-object metaphysics itself.
A conventional subject-object metaphysics uses the same four static patterns as the Metaphysics of Quality, dividing them into two groups of two: inorganic-biological patterns called 'matter,' and social-intellectual patterns called 'mind.' But this division is the source of the problem. When a subject-object metaphysics regards matter and mind as eternally separate and eternally unalike, it creates a platypus bigger than the solar system.
It has to make this fatal division because it gives top position in its structure to subjects and objects. Everything has got to be object or subject, substance or non-substance, because that's the primary division of the universe. Inorganic-biological patterns are composed of 'substance,' and are therefore 'objective.' Social-intellectual patterns are not composed of 'substance' and are therefore called 'subjective.' Then, having made this arbitrary division based on 'substance,' conventional metaphysics then asks, 'What is the relationship between mind and matter, between subject and object?'
One answer is to fudge both mind and matter and the whole question that goes with them into another platypus called 'man.' 'Man' has a body (and therefore is not himself a body) and he also has a mind (and therefore is not himself a mind). But if one asks what is this 'man' (which is not a body and not a mind) one doesn't come up with anything. There isn't any 'man' independent of the patterns. Man is the patterns.
This fictitious 'man' has many synonyms; 'mankind,' 'people,' 'the public,' and even such pronouns as 'I,' 'he,' and 'they.' Our language is so organized around them and they are so convenient to use it is impossible to get rid of them. There is really no need to. Like 'substance' they can be used as long as it is remembered that they're terms for collections of patterns and not some independent primary reality of their own.
In a value-centered Metaphysics of Quality the four sets of static patterns are not isolated into separate compartments of mind and matter. Matter is just a name for certain inorganic value patterns. Biological patterns, social patterns, and intellectual patterns are supported by this pattern of matter but are independent of it. They have rules and laws of their own that are not derivable from the rules or laws of substance. This is not the customary way of thinking, but when you stop to think about it you wonder how you ever got conned into thinking otherwise. What, after all, is the likelihood that an atom possesses within its own structure enough information to build the city of New York? Biological and social and intellectual patterns are not the possession of substance. The laws that create and destroy these patterns are not the laws of electrons and protons and other elementary particles. The forces that create and destroy these patterns are the forces of value.
So what the Metaphysics of Quality concludes is that all schools are right on the mind-matter question. Mind is contained in static inorganic patterns. Matter is contained in static intellectual patterns. Both mind and matter are completely separate evolutionary levels of static patterns of value, and as such are capable of each containing the other without contradiction.
The mind-matter paradoxes seem to exist because the connecting links between these two levels of value patterns have been disregarded. Two terms are missing: biology and society. Mental patterns do not originate out of inorganic nature. They originate out of society, which originates out of biology which originates out of inorganic nature. And, as anthropologists know so well, what a mind thinks is as dominated by social patterns as social patterns are dominated by biological patterns and as biological patterns are dominated by inorganic patterns. There is no direct scientific connection between mind and matter. As the atomic physicist, Niels Bohr, said, 'We are suspended in language.' Our intellectual description of nature is always culturally derived.
The intellectual level of patterns, in the historic process of freeing itself from its parent social level, namely the church, has tended to invent a myth of independence from the social level for its own benefit. Science and reason, this myth goes, come only from the objective world, never from the social world. The world of objects imposes itself upon the mind with no social mediation whatsoever. It is easy to see the historic reasons for this myth of independence. Science might never have survived without it. But a close examination shows it isn't so.
A third puzzle illuminated by the Metaphysics of Quality is the ancient 'Free Will vs. Determinism' controversy. Determinism is the philosophic doctrine that man, like all other objects in the universe, follows fixed scientific laws, and does so without exception. Free will is the philosophic doctrine that man makes choices independent of the atoms of his body.
This battle has been a very long and very loud one because an abandonment of either position has devastating logical consequences. If the belief in free will is abandoned, morality must seemingly also be abandoned under a subject-object metaphysics. If man follows the cause-and-effect laws of substance, then man cannot really choose between right and wrong.
On the other hand, if the determinists let go of their position it would seem to deny the truth of science. If one adheres to a traditional scientific metaphysics of substance, the philosophy of determinism is an inescapable corollary. If 'everything' is included in the class of substance and its properties,' and if 'substance and its properties' is included in the class of 'things that always follow laws,' and if 'people' are included in the class 'everything,' then it is an air-tight logical conclusion that people always follow the laws of substance.
To be sure, it doesn't seem as though people blindly follow the laws of substance in everything they do, but within a Deterministic explanation that is just another one of those illusions that science is forever exposing. All the social sciences, including anthropology, were founded on the bed-rock metaphysical belief that these physical cause-and-effect laws of human behavior exist. Moral laws, if they can be said to exist at all, are merely an artificial social code that has nothing to do with the real nature of the world. A 'moral' person acts conventionally, 'watches out for the cops,' 'keeps his nose clean,' and nothing more.
In the Metaphysics of Quality this dilemma doesn't come up. To the extent that one's behavior is controlled by static patterns of quality it is without choice. But to the extent that one follows Dynamic Quality, which is undefinable, one's behavior is free.
The Metaphysics of Quality has much much more to say about ethics, however, than simple resolution of the Free Will vs. Determinism controversy. The Metaphysics of Quality says that if moral judgments are essentially assertions of value and if value is the fundamental ground-stuff of the world, then moral judgments are the fundamental ground-stuff of the world.
It says that even at the most fundamental level of the universe, static patterns of value and moral judgment are identical. The 'Laws of Nature' are moral laws. Of course it sounds peculiar at first and awkward and unnecessary to say that hydrogen and oxygen form water because it is moral to do so. But it is no less peculiar and awkward and unnecessary than to say chemistry professors smoke pipes and go to movies because irresistible cause-and-effect forces of
the cosmos force them to do it. In the past the logic has been that if chemistry professors are composed exclusively of atoms and if atoms follow only the law of cause and effect, then chemistry professors must follow the laws of cause and effect too. But this logic can be applied in a reverse direction. We can just as easily deduce the morality of atoms from the observation that chemistry professors are, in general, moral. If chemistry professors exercise choice, and chemistry professors are composed exclusively of atoms, then it follows that atoms must exercise choice too. The difference between these two points of view is philosophic, not scientific. The question of whether an electron does a certain thing because it has to or because it wants to is completely irrelevant to the data of what the electron does.
So what Phaedrus was saying was that not just life, but everything, is an ethical activity. It is nothing else. When inorganic patterns of reality create life the Metaphysics of Quality postulates that they've done so because it's 'better' and that this definition of 'betterness' - this beginning response to Dynamic Quality - is an elementary unit of ethics upon which all right and wrong can be based.
When this understanding first broke through in Phaedrus' mind, that ethics and science had suddenly been integrated into a single system, he became so manic he couldn't think of anything else for days. The only time he had been more manic about an abstract idea was when he had first hit upon the idea of undefined Quality itself. The consequences of that first mania had been disastrous, and so now, this time, he told himself just to calm down and dig in. It was, for him, a great Dynamic breakthrough, but if he wanted to hang on to it he had better do some static latching as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
Latching was what was needed all right. Historically every effort to unite science and ethics has been a disaster. You can't paste a moral system on top of a pile of amoral objective matter. The amoral objective matter never needs this paste job. It always sloughs it off as superfluous.
But the Metaphysics of Quality doesn't permit this slough-off. It says, first of all, that 'amoral objective matter' is a low-grade form of morality. No slough-off is possible. It states, second of all, that even if matter weren't a low grade form of morality there still would be no metaphysical need to show how morals are derived from it. With static patterns of value divided into four systems, conventional moral patterns have almost nothing to do with inorganic or biological nature. These moral patterns are superimposed upon inorganic nature the way novels are superimposed upon computers. They are more commonly opposed to biological patterns than they are supportive of them.
And that is the key to the whole thing.
What the evolutionary structure of the Metaphysics of Quality shows is that there is not just one moral system. There are many. In the Metaphysics of Quality there's the morality called the 'laws of nature,' by which inorganic patterns triumph over chaos; there is a morality called the 'law of the jungle' where biology triumphs over the inorganic forces of starvation and death; there's a morality where social patterns triumph over biology, 'the law;' and there is an intellectual morality, which is still struggling in its attempts to control society. Each of these sets of moral codes is no more related to the other than novels are to flip-flops.
What is today conventionally called 'morality' covers only one of these sets of moral codes, the social-biological code. In a subject-object metaphysics this single social-biological code is considered to be a minor, 'subjective,' physically non-existent part of the universe. But in the Metaphysics of Quality all these sets of morals, plus another Dynamic morality are not only real, they are the whole thing.
In general, given a choice of two courses to follow and all other things being equal, that choice which is more Dynamic, that is, at a higher level of evolution, is more moral. An example of this is the statement that, 'It's more moral for a doctor to kill a germ than to allow the germ to kill his patient.' The germ wants to live. The patient wants to live. But the patient has moral precedence because he's at a higher level of evolution.
Taken by itself that seems obvious enough. But what's not so obvious is that, given a value-centered Metaphysics of Quality, it is absolutely, scientifically moral for a doctor to prefer the patient. This is not just an arbitrary social convention that should apply to some doctors but not to all doctors, or to some cultures but not all cultures. It's true for all people at all time, now and forever, a moral pattern of reality as real as H2O. We're at last dealing with morals on the basis of reason. We can now deduce codes based on evolution that analyze moral arguments with greater precision than before.
In the moral evolutionary conflict between the germ and the patient, the evolutionary spread is enormous and as a result the morality of the situation is obvious. But when the static patterns in conflict are closer the moral force of the situation becomes less obvious.
A popular moral issue that parallels the germ-patient issue is vegetarianism. Is it immoral, as the Hindus and Buddhists claim, to eat the flesh of animals? Our current morality would say it's immoral only if you're a Hindu or Buddhist. Otherwise it's OK, since morality is nothing more than a social convention.
An evolutionary morality, on the other hand, would say it's scientifically immoral for everyone because animals are at a higher level of evolution, that is, more Dynamic, than are grains and fruits and vegetables. But the moral force of this injunction is not so great because the levels of evolution are closer together than the doctor's patient and the germ. It would add, also, that this moral principle holds only where there is an abundance of grains and fruits and vegetables. It would be immoral for Hindus not to eat their cows in a time of famine, since they would then be killing human beings in favor of a lower organism.
Because a value-centered Metaphysics of Quality is not tied to substance it is free to consider moral issues at higher evolutionary levels than germs and fruits and vegetables. At these higher levels the issues become more interesting.
Is it scientifically moral for a society to kill a human being? That is a very big moral question still being fought in courts and legislatures all over the world.
An evolutionary morality would at first seem to say yes, a society has a right to murder people to prevent its own destruction. A primitive isolated village threatened by brigands has a moral right and obligation to kill them in self-defense since a village is a higher form of evolution. When the United States drafted troops for the Civil War everyone knew that innocent people would be murdered. The North could have permitted the slave states to become independent and saved hundreds of thousands of lives. But an evolutionary morality argues that the North was right in pursuing that war because a nation is a higher form of evolution than a human body, and the principle of human equality is an even higher form than a nation. John Brown's truth was never an abstraction. It still keeps marching on.
When a society is not itself threatened, as in the execution of individual criminals, the issue becomes more complex. In the case of treason or insurrection or war a criminal's threat to a society can be very real.
But if an established social structure is not seriously threatened by a criminal, then an evolutionary morality would argue that there is no moral justification for killing him.
What makes killing him immoral is that a criminal is not just a biological organism. He is not even just a defective unit of society. Whenever you kill a human being you are killing a source of thought too. A human being is a collection of ideas, and these ideas take moral precedence over a society. Ideas are patterns of value. They are at a higher level of evolution than social patterns of value. Just as it is more moral for a doctor to kill a germ than a patient, so it is more moral for an idea to kill a society than it is for a society to kill an idea.
And beyond that is an even more compelling reason: societies and thoughts and principles themselves are no more than sets of static patterns. These patterns can't by themselves perceive or adjust to Dynamic Quality. Only a living being can do that. The strongest moral argument against capital punishment is that it weakens a society's Dynamic capability - its capability for change and evolution. It's not the 'nice' guys who bring about real social change. 'Nice' guys look nice because they're conforming. It's the 'bad' guys, who only look nice a hundred years later, that are the real Dynamic force in social evolution. That was the real moral lesson of the brujo in Zuni. If those priests had killed him they would have done great harm to their society's ability to grow and change.
It was tempting to take all the moral conflicts of the world and, one by one, see how they fit this kind of analysis, but Phaedrus realized that if he started to get into that he would never finish. Wherever he looked, whatever examples came to mind, he always seemed to be able to lay them out within this framework, and the nature of the conflicts usually seemed to be clearer when he did so.
* * *
And as a matter of fact that looked like the answer to Rigel's question that had been bugging him all day: 'Does Lila have Quality?'
Biologically she does, socially she doesn't. Obviously! Evolutionary morality just splits that whole question open like a watermelon. Since biological and social patterns have almost nothing to do with each other, Lila does and Lila does not have quality at the same time. That's exactly the feeling she gave too - a sort of mixed feeling of quality and no quality at the same time. That was the reason.
How simple it was. That's the mark of a high-quality theory. It doesn't just answer the question in some complex round-about way. It dissolves the question, so you wonder why you ever asked it.
Biologically she's fine, socially she's pretty far down the scale, intellectually she's nowhere. But Dynamically ... Ah! That's the one to watch. There's something ferociously Dynamic going on with her. All that aggression, that tough talk, those strange bewildered blue eyes. Like sitting next to a hill that's rumbling and letting off steam here and there ... It would be interesting to talk to her more.