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The Love of All Things, a Foundation for Ethics--jk

M.C, Escher

Tying it all together:  utilitarianism, ethics of the Greek philosophers, and how to transcend the self so that you may tap into the emotion of love and thus greatly increase your happiness--and your spouse's.

M C Escher (early)

Gospel   of   love

Tying it all together:  utilitarianism, ethics of the Greek philosophers, and how to transcend the self by tapping into the emotion of love.


Very few people attempt to live the gospel of love.  The sermon on the mount states to love thy neighbor as thyself; I say to love all things, not to feel anger, and to promote when ever prudent the common good.  The gospel of love entails a way of living life that is not bound by the bond of a romantic relationship, but extends beyond to encompass the world.  Like the Greek use of “philo”, we have love of pets, sports, parents, country, and so on.  Universal love is a feeling towards all things and a way of thinking about all things.  Universal love is an emotional state for which hostile emotions stand in opposition.[1]  To live the gospel of love requires the maximization of the warm emotions with a minimization of the hostile emotions.  The lover seeks not merely to live without violent thoughts, but also to act from the dictates of Love Of All Things (hereafter LOAT); viz., from the desire to make things better.  LOAT is a way of thinking and doing.    


To live LOAT, one must seek to optimize the purification of the heart: makes it a temple so as to inspire others to be good.  This entails that one considers the well being of society and friends as important as ones own.  The person who understands LOAT seeks a mate with similar understanding.  Their relationship is the commitment to strive towards the perfection of love.  Personal happiness is treated the same as our happiness.  Similarly in their dealings with others, they do not obtain more than what is fair.  The lover of all things is dedicated to maximizing the good, and to minimize harm within practical limits.  The ethics of LOAT is an improvement on the “Sermon on the Plain.”[2]


LOAT is an approach to life that can be broken down into 3 areas:  personal well being including ones spouse, well being of associates, and that of humanity.  Actions for personal well being would consist of maximizing those things that are clearly good for health, for wisdom, for financial security, a loving relationship, and for inner tranquility.  Actions for the beloved’s well being:  in chores, in sex, in words, and in being pleasant.    Actions for associates:  a desire to promote their well being both physical and financial.  Actions for humanity:  includes the support of improvements in education, politics, and economics.  LOAT entails a life much different than which is taught from the pulpit, form the contents of media, from schools, and by ones family.  




To commend is one thing; to formulate its path is another.[3]  For one to seek after effectively the gospel of love, entails first to understand the reasons why this is the best choice for living ones life.  Briefly put, the person who loves all things has a greater portion of inner tranquility and happiness.  The Greek philosophers called the happiness from inner tranquility ataraxia (a term which in English means calmness of mind).  Hang on while I present the ancient Greek philosophers’ chain of logic as to how to obtain inner tranquility, because they didn’t just say, “do this and that” (which would be a set of homilies), but presented a web of convincing arguments in support of their conclusions.  Logic moves people. 


Most of them held (Epicurus, Aristotle, Zeno the Stoic, and Plato in his Phaedro) that the ultimate good was pleasure/happiness, for as Epicurus stated:  “Without it we do all to get it back.”  We seek for example wealth and health because they promote happiness; they are not ends in themselves.[4]  They distinguished between pleasures of the flesh and pleasures of the mind.  Pleasures of the flesh are not pure, for they always come with a price that can include discomforts, labors, expenses, and sometimes disturbances of the mind.  But certain pleasures of the mind have no discomforts and are long lasting.  Pleasures from contemplation (studies) and from being at peace with oneself are both pure (has no associated pains) and result in the longest lasting of pleasures.  Ataraxia, they concluded, is the highest type of pleasure. 


The Greek philosophers did not recommend avoiding the pleasures of the flesh, but rather to have them in the right proportions, the purer types, and with the right attitudes. “To him who a little is not enough, nothing will be enough,” wrote Epicurus.  Pleasures from pride of luxury possessions and haute cuisine are good, but not pure for they come with a price.  Excessive or abnormal pursuit of sex will disturb inner tranquility.  Conversely, the lack of physical pleasures will also affect ataraxia.  Since, as they held, man is a rational animal, he must act in a way to satisfy both of these natures of his being. Animal pleasures are to be enjoyed, but in the right proportion and with minimal negative consequences as decided by the TRAINED rational faculty.


Another ingredient for ataraxia is the being free of fears of the imagination.  The principle cause of such fears is ignorance of the nature of things.  Thus, these philosophers pointed out that the priests and poets told monstrous lies about the gods.  The gods are pure being (animus) and thus without the corruption of animalistic natures.  They are thus blissful because that is part of their perfections of being pure animus.  Thus certainly there were no demonic gods (devils) nor would gods act to harm mortals. Moreover, being blissful entails that they do not desire our worship or building of churches.  They prefer the company of gods and thus are unconcerned with the world of mortal (Epicurus argued based on observations).  The philosophers pointed out that among the lies told about the gods by the priests and poets are those about hell (Hades) and divine punishment both in the present life and the hereafter—if there is one.  They taught that disease and storms are natural, not supernatural, phenomena.  The Greek philosophers wrote extensive naturalistic explanations of the nature of things[5]--on what today comprises our sciences.  Epicurean and Stoic philosophers held that since fears reduced the amount of ataraxia, thus one should not fear the gods.  Nor should one fear death, for Epicurus wrote that the period after life was no worse than the period before life:  nothingness is not to be feared.  The Epicureans taught that the animus found in living things was another type of matter, and it too disassociated with death (though some of the Greek philosophers held that the animus was not of mater and thus survived death).  And if it didn’t disassociate and there is a realm where the animus (soul) goes after death, then it must be a pleasant place for the gods are not cruel--and punishment does not undo past harms.  Their naturalistic explanation of the nature of things with its blissful gods stands in opposition to the common people’s frightful beliefs about the ethereal realm.[6] 


LOAT is an essential ingredient to the good life, because as the philosophers would put it:  one who has obtained all sorts of physical comforts yet was not at peace with himself, such person could not truly be counted among the truly fortunate.  Nor could the tempestuous person be considered truly fortunate because angry thoughts disrupt inner tranquility.  The person full of love will as an expression of love live healthfully and prudently.  The people full of love and thus good feelings are, as we observe, the happiest of people.  To love all things is the prudent choice because the tranquility and happiness is greater.


Studies, moderation, seeking the purer pleasures, and being free of fears are all for the sake of promoting happiness (ataraxia).  But realizing that ataraxia ought to be maximized doesn’t entail that it will be.  What the mind decides, this does not entail that the animal side will fulfill.  The obese person (25% above their thin body weight) knows that they ought to lose weight by eating less, but they lack enough rational force to control their eating behavior.  Their intellect wills; their animal side (appetitive side) prevails.  To improve the obtainment of the LOAT thus entail learning how to make the appetitive side do what the properly TRAINED, rational side affirms.


For answers to this behavioral problem, I turn to the wisdom of the ancients.  The Greeks Philosophers noted that those who received training in philosophy[7] were better able to control their animal side with their rational side (man was defined by Aristotle as a rational animal).  They realized that there was value also in the obscure questions:  speculative topics such as metaphysics; because if one could think deeply about the abstruse, then that skill would carry over into matters of personal importance such as in business, and in personal relation, and in selecting how to live life.  “Philosophy” means the love of wisdom. 


 Some topics also have a more direct impact upon the good life:  The role of the gods?  What is the good life?  How should honor be taught?  What is the duty of each citizen to his state and its citizens?  And should political power be organized?  Their classes also stressed science (Epicurus wrote a 36 scroll tome on science which were used in his school), for science freed the mind from the popular superstitions about natural disasters & diseases, evil spirits, cruel gods, and magical medical practices.  Freed of supernatural fears, entailed that their students would have a greater portion of ataraxia.  Moreover studies in science both strengthen the rational nature and yielded many hours of the purer pleasures coming from studies.  Studies are an essential part of good character formation. 


Most Greek citizens of means, recognizing the good of an education in philosophy, sent their teenage boys to be trained by philosophers.  Today universities fulfill this role, but with less success.  Human behavior is the product of the summation of vector forces.  The training in philosophical analysis including sciences increases the vectors on the rational side.  It is this that separates Socrates and his students from the common herd.  The philosopher develops his rational faculty so that he not only understands the consequences of the various pleasures, but also follows the dictates of his TRAINED rational faculty.    


In summation, the Greek philosophers wrote at length on the good life, and they came to conclusions that were quite different from those of the common herd.  By the power of the rational faculty, the rinker[8] (rational thinker) realizes that many things accepted by the masses are often deleterious to LOAT.  One ought to be gentle and studious nature. The common herd is like the gamblers, molded by short-term reinforcers; the rinker (rational thinker) applies analysis so as to obtain in a greater portion the good life.  


Besides the good life, the Greek philosophers approached this issue of “how ought life be lived?” from another prospective: “What ought to be part of schooling for to produced the best citizens.”[9]  They held that rationality through the study of science and philosophy gave the citizen an ability to direct his actions in a way that those without rational training lacked.  They held that physical exercise was a tonic for the soul, for a person who is at his physical peak is more jovial, productive, a better lover, and has more years of good health.  Plato held that music and poetry (which was put to music back then) were also tonics for the soul.  They held that the virtue could be taught by example and analysis.  All these were set up as educational objectives.  The principle goal of education was to make better citizens.[10]


This completes a concise summary of the Greek Philosopher’s development of ethics and the good life.  I have added on to this the having of a suitable beloved and a prohibition against anger.  Bernard Shaw had Caesar say in reply to a critical remark as to why he didn’t exact vengeance on Ptolemy for the plot to kill Caesar [approximate]:  “Do I hate the north window for being cold at my back?  Then why should I hate him?”  To the person who understands the benefits of LOAT, they rationally direct their thoughts to dwell on pleasing subjects while avoiding those like the north wind that chill the spirits.  And when their mind drifts onto artic topics, they do so with the detachment of an oncologist looking at a skin cancer.  A second glaring void of the Greek philosophers is their silence on the love of a spouse.  This had its causes:  infrequency of a quality relationship, the limited education of women, and their social cage.  Plato and Epicurus, however, wrote that the social cage should be opened and woman should be both educated and given a voice in politics.  Rational controls make it much more likely to have a long-term loving relationship.


Being the first philosophers entailed that they didn’t have the last word.  Others have built upon their wisdom.  Jeremy Bentham[11] developed utilitarianism from the hedonistic ethics of Epicurus.  David Hume, answering the question of why people are moral (even those who do not believe in gods), pointed out that the moral sentiment is stimulated through an emotion that he labeled “fellow feeling”.[12]  LOAT maximizes the pleasure coming from fellow feeling, stresses felicity, promotes a loving marriage, explains why to be moral (greater happiness), promotes public service, and builds upon Greek wisdom.  LOAT, along with the wisdom of the Greek philosophers, best promotes the good life. 


After Word

    Those of you with spiritual beliefs & who believe that your gods are gentle and loving will find the LOAT another way to justify that which your gods assent to.  There should be more religious people like you, for most people of faith have a clouded perception of generalized love and their vision of the good life falls well below yours.  The issue is not what is approved by the gods, for as Plato eloquently shown in the Euthyphro, that what the gods approve is not made good by their approval, but rather the gods approve of what is good.  Thus the pursuit of the good life as describe here is consistent with enlightened religion. God-like gods would approve of human happiness through living the good life. 

          The Buddhists sought to transcend the self, but their approach is full of the foolishness of religious, ascetic fanaticism.  With LOAT, one transcends the self, by measuring all actions by the promotion of good.  LOAT takes the “I” for its central role in moral deliberations.  No longer does a person constrict the good by considering first the doing the will of an imminently hateful god.  The LOAT supports the utilitarian maxim of maximizing happiness (an act is morally right if it promotes the greatest happiness for the greatest number).  LOAT creates a detachment and global awareness which leads to an unleashing of the happiness of love.  In so doing the happiness throughout the day is great.  The Buddhist blather about pain and suffering is of no concern to the person who has transcended the self by constant dwelling upon the good promoted by their actions.  By constantly measuring ones actions by the good, this results in tapping the well of love.  One gets a double portion, one from the love of ones spouse, the other from LOAT.

          Again I must stress the importance of having a mate with the same consciousness, one who has transcended his/hers self and measures actions by the resulting good.  Both associates and a mate who has transcended the selfish “I”, this permits your obtainment of happiness to be greater.  They are on your wave length; they reinforce your global consciousness and thus make not only your time with them better than with those of lower consciousness, they make the habits of selfless thought seem natural.  From personal experience, a spouse with this worldview is a soul mate; one without this global consciousness is just a companion and bed partner. A spouse with LOAT, finds your happiness as important as their own.  They are, by the principle of promoting the good, naturally attuned to your happiness. It is a relationship where negative reinforcement and the withholding of reinforcement are consciously avoided, and the quarrels and negative energy (so typical of ordinary relationships) are absent.  To bond with such a person is incredible wonderful.




[1]  For those who are exacting, read on.  It is not opposite like hot is to cold, but rather anger and similar emotions stand in conflict to love in-so-far as the person given to those emotions will experience less of the family of love emotions.  This is an observational hypothesis.  The good natured person, full of all kinds of love, has little of the anger family of emotions, and conversely those filled with the anger type emotion have less of the love family of emotions.  What have you observed?

[2]  I have a much different concept of Christ then that first presented by Mark.  To me he is the god of love; a statement of this is to be found in Luke’s Sermon on the Plain (Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount).  But there is much in the sermon that portrays Jehovah and His son as not being full of love:  “But woe to you who are rich. . . Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve. . . .”  Is this perception of god by the author of the Sermon one of a merciful and beneficent god?   

[3]   A vacuous answer is “through the use of will power.”  By saying that one drinks water because one willed adds scant little to our understanding of this behavior.  One does things because of the context in which they lie, including your personal history and genetic inheritance.

[4]    Proof:  some of the people who are wealthy but not happy commit suicide.  Some healthy people commit suicide.  But the happy person does not end his life for lack of wealth or health (of course he could not be happy if his body is wracked with pain). 

[5]   Lucretius, the Roman Epicurean, wrote De Rerum Natura, The Nature of Things.  This work had a profound influence upon the intellectuals of the enlightenment of the 14th century and following.  Other important surviving works incorporating a materialistic scientific outlook include those by Galen, Claudius Ptolemy, and Aristotle.

[6]    The common people enjoy stories about frightful, cruel, and vengeful gods, for like a horror story or movie, there is reinforcement from the stimulation caused by fright.  Thus religions with such beliefs are very popular, and those without, such as Unitarianism, have few followers.

[7]   The philosophers taught in those days not just ethics, metaphysic, and epistemology, but also astronomy, natural science, geometry, political science, physics, rhetoric, and related subjects. 

[8]   I made up this term in another essay; it fills a gap in our language.  My essay on nature of the gods is an answer to Pascal’s Wager. In that essay I show that the person of high moral quality and skeptical about the claims of others about the gods, would be more pleasing to the gods than a similar person who thought he had knowledge of the gods. 

[9]   Given the frequency of wars, this question obtained in Plato’s day vital importance.

[10]   The frequent wars and the consequences of defeat entailed a greater demand upon the Greeks of the city-states.

[11]   For Bentham’s life, a work on punishment

[12]  For David Hume’s life  his position on miracles.  He said, “If there is one God, why not many?”  Those who believe in angels, Jesus, Yahweh, saints, Satin have many heavenly beings.  Having a leader does not entail that there are no lesser heavenly beings.  To use the term otherwise violates our use of it when talking about Hindu gods and Greek gods.  

The wisdom of the Greek philosophers has not dimmed.  Its progeny include the sciences, modern medicine, psychology, and higher mathematics.  In the above essay, I have preserved their approach to the topic of moral behavior (ethics).  And to this discourse, I have added to their discussion of inner pleasures the idea that we all to love all things.  It is taking the utilitarian maxim that we ought to maximize the balance of pleasure over pain and internalized it.  The Greeks did this with their inquiry about the good life.  I have added a psychological dimension, namely that there should be beneficent attitude towards the environment one lives in.  And I have used their answer as to what are the prerequisites for this beneficence.

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The skeptic is one who judges all things according to the evidence.  The common herd affirms many things to a degree well beyond what the evidence supports; and conversely doubts that which is worthy of greater affirmation.  The humanistic skeptic applies a second measure, that of  harm resulting from such beliefs.  Issues of economics and politics, of religion, quackery and corporate medicine, and of imprudent behavior top the harm done list.   Education and scientific psychology are gateways to following the dictates of reason.