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What Was the Original Rule?

If I were to posit one question that sums up my philosophical inquiry it would be this:  “What makes humans different from animals?” For me it is the single most important question to ask.   Philosophy in its Western form comprises three main parts, which are conveyed to us by the three Greek words:  Metaphysics, Epistemology, and Ethics. In my opinion, and it’s probably a minority opinion, Ethics is the most important of these three, precisely because it is at the heart of what makes humans distinct from animals.  But the subject of ethics is most troublesome to grapple with.  Where does ethics or morality come from?  This was never an easy question, but nowadays it seems so much more complicated to answer, because our society has so many overlapping jurisdictions.  This is why it is hard to know whether a particular rule is a moral rule, an obligation, or merely a convention. For instance, the Mosaic rule against making images of a deity - considered a moral rule by Jews, Christians…

Not "Truth" Again!

From an outsider’s point of view, this whole philosophical  edifice of  “theories of truth” looks an awful lot like a Tower of Babel, rather than the furtherance of knowledge.   I think I have a remedy for all this  disparate theory building - what philosophy needs to do with the concept of “truth” is to go back to basics.   I’ve noted before that the problem with contemporary philosophy is that it is too fixated on the meaning of philosophical concepts, and truth is the number one example of this. For what we get in this Babel of truth theories is a circle of metaphors representing all the different meanings that truth has for us.

   Presumably, truth comes from somewhere, it has an origin, just as language has an origin.  We, of course, have little or no evidence of this origin to go on.  Perhaps anything I say concerning this origin is baseless speculation owing to  the paucity of evidence.  Perhaps, but in my optimistic way of  approaching this I believe there is a way.

We can sta…

"Truth" - The Movie

Charles Justice, Truth Investigator.  I’m a PA, a Philosophical Anthropologist and I study Truth full time so the rest of you don’t have to.  “Truth” -  What is it?  How does it work? Where did it come from?  - Lately I’ve been particularly motivated to answer these questions because of the events and circumstances surrounding the  2016 U.S. Presidential election.

  Exhibit A:
 Kovitch and Rosenstiel, 2014, The Elements of Journalism, third edition:

 "The desire that information be truthful is elemental…. the evidence suggests its innate...Out of necessity, citizens and societies depend on accurate and reliable accounts of events.  They develop procedures and processes to arrive at what might be called  “functional truth”.   Police track down and arrest suspects based on facts.  Judges hold trials.  Juries render verdicts.  Industries are regulated, taxes are collected, and laws are made.  We teach our children rules, history, physics, and biology.  All of these truths - even the…

The Meaning of Hobbes' Sword - Part I

What makes human systems different from other living systems?  Only humans follow rules that are collectively agreed to.  These rules create a social reality that  can only be maintained by collective  action.  I call this social reality - Normativity.

My passion is to seek to understand the nature and origin of normativity.  My intuition is that all forms of normativity, including language, originate from its most basic form - morality.

 The fundamental fact about normativity is that it is a drawing  of a boundary.  A line between good and evil, right and wrong, or true and false.  This boundary is not already there in reality like the boundary between water and land;  It is one that is created by the agreement of a group of human beings. In order to sustain this boundary humans must be able to agree on a difference, and actively maintain that difference by regulating their own behaviour.

We accept certain behaviours, so  we include them. We reject other behaviours and so we exclude…

The Meaning of Hobbes' Sword, Part II

If Morality requires clear boundaries, fair and equitable rules, and active participation of group members in monitoring and enforcement, it resembles in some ways the conditions that make for successful long-term management of a Common Pool Resource.


A Common Pool Resource, sometimes called a CPR, is a resource such as a body of water,  irrigation channel,  fishery, alpine meadow, etc., which is held in common. Common Pool Resources are akin to Public Goods such as public roads, in that, if they are available, they are available to everyone.  The thing about a CPR that is different from a public good is that when one takes away from the pool, there is less in the pool.  With public goods this is not the case. If I drive on a road, I don’t make the road less available to others.  

A Moral System can be seen as a kind of Social  Capital;  something that’s necessary for human society to get off the ground;  something that, once put in place, allows for trust cooperation and social stabil…