A moral vector

Implicit in the discussion of The Moral High Ground and of the Moral Compass is the concept of the Moral Vector, an arrow whose direction points us in the way we should go and whose magnitude tells us how fast we are getting there.

In our ‘real’ physical world, Einstein and others have shown that movement in time and movement in space are not independent. At rest we move through time together, but if we move in space, our rate of movement through time is diminished: our clock slows down. This results in a strange consequence: that naïve observation fails to reveal to anyone precisely what direction others are taking and how fast they are going. In practise this problem only becomes severe when the range of relative velocities becomes very great. Fortunately for physics the disparities can be resolved by applying a simple operation, the Lorenz Transformation resulting in a universally acceptable space-time vector for each object.

In the world of human aspiration, the moral world, similar problems may arise, but, as in the physical world, only become severe in the case of the class of high-speed objects known as ‘movers and shakers’. Nevertheless, it is of some interest to see if any transformation can be applied to cut them down to size, but in order to do this the appropriate dimensions must be defined. Classically these were considered to be faith (F), hope (H) and charity (L), but it is now clear that the three static dimensions, roughly equivalent to space, are hope, love and faith, whilst charity (CH) is the fourth dimension that allows change. Brief analysis suggests that, in contrast to the spacial dimensions, which are all aspects of the same thing, these are distinct and from any reference point are continuously variable from negative to positive, each passing through zero. The deeper problem is to determine if these are indeed the fundamental dimensions, other contenders being loyalty, trust and responsibility. However to simplify the discussion it is worth making a brief analysis of faith F, which may be a fundamental dimension but is the most likely to underlie relativistic effects on the moral vector and to decide whether or not it may have absolute and relative components. Stated like this, we have the relationship:

F = oF - iF(n)              ………………….….…. (1)

Here F is the faith field, n the observer and oF is absolute faith when no observer is present. Most interesting in this expression is the  factor i, so-called because it is illogical and therefore the basis of the relative field iF(n), the faith unique to an observer. Any faith field will contain a large set of component propositions which are considered by observer n to be either right or wrong and in consequence no two faith fields are likely to align completely.

Physical scientists will recognise the presence here of i, which in mathematics signifies the essence of unreality, being the square root of minus 1 and lies at the heart of the field of complex numbers that have real and imaginary (or unreal) parts and has yielded the unexpected bonus of solving previously intractable physical problems. Therefore although i itself does not, and cannot, exist, its influence is subtle and widespread. The possible existence of other such ghostly entities remains the subject of intense speculation.  

In the moral world, the presence of i is also mysterious and undisputable. Based on the apparent bedrock that two wrongs cannot make a right and two rights cannot make a wrong, the transition from right to wrong and vice versa is strictly forbidden, although many philosophers have seen reason to question this, for example:-

A truth that’s told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent. W Blake

This dilemma can be resolved by allowing the transitions, here called moral inversions:-

  r→w and w’→ r’ ……………………..(2)

each requiring the operation i x i This suggests that i is not the essence of either right or wrong, but is a numinous quality, or perhaps quantity, that both have in common. To a first approximation i is both the root of right and the root of wrong and has an interesting but unresolved relationship to I which has been identified as ego.

Moral inversions may occur spontaneously, but happen with higher probability when iF(n) is in close proximity to iF(n’). A given iF(n) must contain a large number of propositions that are ‘right’ and of others that are ‘wrong’, but prolonged contact with iF(n’) will normally lead to a chain reaction where the first transition stimulates the conversion of most, but usually not all, of the propositions that differ between the two fields. It is also normal, but not inevitable, that the process is unidirectional. When F(n) undergoes conversion, F(n’) usually remains unchanged. This refractory state can be attributed to any I, representing an individual in whom illogic has permanently cancelled itself.

Because of the large number of propositions contained in any field F(n), and the incompleteness of the conversion process, each observer n will perceive the F dimension differently and all faiths, be they individual or collective, will clash. This intensifies the search for oF, the one system all can accept, and to achieve this, it is necessary to investigate the components of each Fn to find out which, if any, have possible universal application, a process best illustrated by the well established  Wrist Watch Conundrum.

Many have been fascinated by the observation that there exists a group of individuals who will pay enormous sums of money for a wrist watch. The upper limit, if indeed it exists, is uncertain, but, in any case, it has no relationship to the accuracy of time-keeping. We may now define a value vector for this phenomenon and consider its magnitude and direction. Some of the dimensions of this vector are clear. There is a strong component of love and another of hope, but the aspect of faith is highly specific and therefore not in any sense universal. Something is being believed in, and this belief can be very strong. The vector can be said to point with greater or lesser magnitude in the direction of horology, but to a narrow branch of it. For other afficionados, for example, orchid breeders, the watch collector vector would appear to be very short indeed.

From this it can be inferred that moral vectors have sub-components, most of which appear to outsiders to be spurious, shown by the fact that they are subject to the law of diminishing returns, illustrated by considering the ultimate watch or the ultimate orchid.  Yet each aspect of the spurious has an apparently irreducible component, respect (R). For the watch-collector it is respect for the concepts, the choice of materials and the craft-work. Respect for vision and the accompanying inventiveness applies to all such moral vectors and it is this that may point us in the direction of oF. Respect in this sense has a special quality of extensiveness. It is additive and it leads onwards and outwards, but it is important to note that its magnitude is continuously variable from negative through zero to positive and the range is potentially infinite. It now seems probable that i is only able to promote otherwise forbidden transitions when R passes through zero.

In summary, The transformation presented above divides F into a real part oF and an imaginary part iF(n), but in contrast to the situation with complex numbers, the contents of the imaginary part are accessible, whilst  the contents of oF, the ‘target’ of the normalised universal moral vector remain unknowable. Furthermore, because oF is not subject to the operation  x i, there can be no transfer between oF and iF(n), so rendering oF immune from the comedies and tragedies consequent on iF(n). Hence the frequent claim that  iF(n) = oF can always be disregarded.

It is now possible to speculate that oF will  be either a point, or its opposite, an infinite sphere. Extrapolating each model to its limit, oF will either contain nothing, or else it will contain everything, but the further possibility is that both models are valid, giving rise to two superimposed states, which may be no more than a way of saying that only by believing in nothing can we accept everything.

The knowable universe is constructed from a small family of particles which interact by four physical forces, but within this bare structure must lie the possibilities for subjective awareness, the C major quintet, the St Matthew Passion, Las Meninas, van Gogh and all such things that point in the direction of oF, each hinting at the path whereby everything emerged from nothing, and the fact that is even more difficult to grasp, that everywhere came out of nowhere.