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Morality unification

Morality unification

Glaucon, in the second book of Republic, rephrases the tale of the ring of Gyges  as a moral dilemma and opens the everlasting debate about whether ethics is:

  • Objective or relative;
  • Descriptive or prescriptive;
  • Consequential or deontological;

My primary aim in this post is to propose a unification of seemingly disparate approaches to the complex issue of morality. I also aim to establish a clear connection between the theory of morality presented here and the insights shared in previous posts, which have laid the groundwork for our understanding of morality and ethics.

Let us start with Glaucon and the rings of Gyges. An unnamed ancestor of Gyges was a shepherd in the service of the king of Lydia. After an earthquake, a pit was revealed in a mountainside where he fed his flock. And what did he find? A corpse with a ring on one of its fingers. But this was no ordinary ring. By adjusting it, he gained the power of invisibility. Just think about it: the ability to disappear at will. He then arranged to become one of the king’s messengers as to the status of the flocks. Arriving at the palace, he used his new power of invisibility to seduce the queen and, with her help, murder the king and become king of Lydia. This ring’s power and its moral implications are truly fascinating.

Glaucon then comments:

Suppose now there were two such magic rings, and the just put on one of them and the unjust the other; no man can be imagined to be of such an iron nature that he would stand fast in justice. No man would keep his hands off what was not his own when he could safely take what he liked out of the market, or go into houses and lie with any one at his pleasure, or kill or release from prison whom he would, and in all respects be like a god among men.

Then the actions of the just would be as the actions of the unjust; they would both come at last to the same point. And this we may truly affirm to be an excellent proof that a man is just, not willingly or because he thinks that justice is any good to him individually, but of necessity, for wherever any one thinks that he can safely be unjust, there he is unjust.

For all men believe in their hearts that injustice is far more profitable to the individual than justice, and he who argues as I have been supposing, will say that they are right. If you could imagine anyone obtaining this power of becoming invisible and never doing any wrong or touching what was another’s, he would be thought by the lookers-on to be a most wretched idiot, although they would praise him to one another’s faces, and keep up appearances with one another from a fear that they too might suffer injustice.

Plato, Republic, 360b-d (Jovett translation)

The debate about whether morality and justice are good irrespective of consequences (Socrates) or profitable (Glaucon) could be solved by introducing evolutionary theory, field theory, and memetics.

The solution is, as so often, heuristic.

Unification, the first step

The key word is “profitability,” and the explanation of whose account the profitability happens. Who benefits and who is sucked is the question here. The lead comes from Charles Darwin and John Maynard Smith, who proved kin selection as an evolutionary process that favors the selection of kin that profit from your genes in opposition to all those not in a kin relation to you.

Applying kin selection to the ring of Gyges dilemma, we can easily conclude that we are talking about the inverse formula of kin selection. The ring of invisibility comes as an option with non-kins but not with kins. With our kids, we are deontologists, while we can be consequentialists with non-kins.

Yet, this is only the first step in the unification. The duality of kins and non-kins works in genetics but not social relations. Here, I have to revoke my previously established difference between ethics, which is quantum-like, and morality, which is analogous. Ethics is quantum, like digital potentiality. A difference that makes a difference. A gene that makes a difference on a phenotype. (I will avoid epigenetics that complicate this picture for now.)

Understanding that all humans are kin if we take mitochondrial Eve into account leads nowhere in social relations.  Memetic gravitational fields form social relations, and gravitational fields are analog.

Memetic gravitational fields are a complex issue, but let me explain them in the simplest definition for this purpose. A memetic field is a complex of memes that defines your subjectivity. As an individual and an ego, you are a cluster of various memetic fields that pull in or repel entering memes with their gravitational force.

The Memetic Gravity

Since humans are memetic creatures, they form communities according to memetic gravitational principles. My family is the closest to me not only because of genetic kinship but also because it is pulled in with the most significant memetic gravitational force. All other groups and individuals have a negligible genetic kinship and diminishing memetic gravitational force, with close friends with the largest and all living creatures with the smallest.

The stratification of the forces, the social distance, would be like the following (taking into account that it is not discrete but analog):

  • Family
  • Close friends
  • Transaction groups like schools, coworkers, churches, political parties…
  • Local communities
  • Nations
  • Races
  • All humans
  • Furred animals
  • Living creatures

Applying memetic distance (memetic gravitational force) to morality, we could say that morality is the weight of the issue x social distance squared.


Where W is F’inG’; force in (memetic) gravity.

In its deontological optionality, morality diminishes with the squared distance, as does gravity diminishes with the squared distance between two objects. The weight, the F’in G’, is the frequency of the issue (v) times space-time, as explained in the Higgs Boson un-mystery.

W = F’in’g = ν x (st)


The issue, which has the weight of a moral issue, can only be memetically explained. It is something that is pulled in by personal memetic field(s). The gravitational force of the memetic field, the vector of that field, »creates« one issue as morally more important than the other. Suppose my memetic field(s) are not formed by the Sharia laws, for instance. In that case, a particular Sharia meme does not enter my memetic field since no gravity (g) happens between my field and that particular meme.

The distance (D) explains the intersubjectivity character of the memetic field. Memes as quanta are potentialities only. They get their weight and objectivity from us only when absorbed by a memetic field. They experience decoherence when observed when they enter a particular memetic field. They are objectivized and transferred to the domain of morality only after they decohere. But that means that memes per se do not exist for us. They are real, but they are not reality. They do not exist for us until they are parts of another subjective memetic field(s). They start to exist only when triggered by another memetic field, by another subjectivity. Therefore, they exist for us only as intersubjective, meaning morality exists only as intersubjective.

Ethics is objective; morality is intersubjective. Ethics belongs to the real, to Gods; morality belongs to humans. The weight of an issue depends on the frequency, the quantity determined by the interdependence of particular memetic fields (memes) in intersubjective relation in space-time. The space-time (st) in this part of the morality formula explains the curved space-time, curved by the intersubjectively implied gravitational fields. The space comes into play as the social distance of a particular memetic field and time defines the particularity of a moral issue; morality is always particular, with intersubjective decoherence in time and space.


This post aimed to answer whether morality is defined by the good in itself or by the good by its consequences. We have found out that the answer is that morality is always a mixture of both. When we relate to social entities that are memetically closer, we act more according to »good in itself«, deontologically. We act more consequential when we relate to memetically more distant social entities.

When interacting with our family members, there is less reputation (a consequence) in play. Still, at the same time, we cannot deny that reputation plays a specific role even within families. On the other hand, when interacting with social entities more distant, like from different races or the animal kingdom, we follow less the good in itself. Still, at the same time, some altruism (good in itself) exists even in relations with the most distant living creatures.

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