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Natural Law – Mark Passio

November 11, 2017

NaturalLawSamAdamsSmall

I watched a seminar on natural law by Mark Passio on you tube earlier today. Mark Passio is an anarchist whose ideas on this front I would definitely have some divergences from. But when it comes to one of the central themes of this seminar, I agree in the importance of finding an objective/independent basis for our moral values, and not falling for the seductive simplicity of moral relativism. Mark Passio makes the case for natural law, and from the above quote you can get an idea of the power of this notion. For it has its expression in the founding of the American constitution and this itself was influenced by prior English Libertarians such as John Locke and Thomas Paine.

An aspect of the libertarian angle is certainly a view I once held highly, but later became suspicious of. My problems with it stemmed from many factors, firstly the fact that it seems to be so rarely instantiated in societies in history. Even in the societies that espouse these ideals, they rarely live up to them. And so this makes me think it is more an ideal type than a natural law. It is very easy to confuse our own strongest held values with being natural and universal, this anthropomorphic error I think is something that put me off Libertarianism. There are other factors than these also, though this does not impact on much of what Mark Passio has to say about natural law itself, so lets get on to that.

He distinguishes natural law from man made law as being true in a way that reaches beyond human perspectives to something independent. Natural law, he argues, comes from a creator, and so he posits a basic kind of deism. Similar to a quite popular view of God back in the 1700 and 1800’s. The idea is that we act in recognition of this natural law, just as we would not, for instance, walk off a cliff, as we respect the law of gravity and its consequences. At the same time, we have free will, it is not a case of a deterministic natural law, determining all our actions. The natural law kind of lays out a template for how one must act in order to stay in harmony with your own self and your environment. Such as balancing out the two sides of your brain, the feminine and the masculine, the analytical and the creative.

He illustrates well certain polarities in natural law, and shows some of the dangers of those who are imbalanced to one extreme or the other in their worldview. As the below diagrams from the seminar indicate:

MindSchismSmall

The left brain, the masculine, is susceptible to one set of errors and the right brain, the feminine. is susceptible to another set of errors. One side has a tendency at the extreme to be the controlling tyrant based on his outlook, the other side has the tendency at the extreme of being the fatalist slave.

I think this is a useful model, with some caveats. Of course there are always things that don’t quite fit in to place. For instance I think many scientists combine the left brain thesis that the universe is a grand accident, with the right brain thesis of determinism, that all occurrences are preordained, and the thesis that free will is an illusion, in order to create a grand prison for thought. It is quite interesting to see it like this and realise the inconsistency of the scientists who claim on the one hand for a completely random big bang, a completely random start to life, at the same time as arguing for it being completely determined from that moment on.

In the middle between the two polarised extremes of the brain we have in the middle natural law combined with free will to create a balance to our outlook.

But how does this natural law operate? Well I would suggest viewing the seminar yourself or searching online for more information here, as there are many things that are covered. Overall he offers a set of guidelines, at times I feel not quite specific enough, but then part of his point is that it is our job to fill in the detail with our free will in how we act in our own lives and in spreading this knowledge. A few points he emphasises are that we should not follow orders from others, only from our own conscience, we should be a sovereign individual. That we should learn to distinguish use of force from violence. That we should learn the power of saying no in at times uncomfortable social situations where peer pressure or authority pressure may try to sway us and seduce us. And much of the time is spent talking about the principles of Natural law in detail, as indicated in the following image.

principlesofnaturallaw

These give you an idea that what we are talking about here is not prescriptions for actions, like most in moral philosophy seem to be searching for. It is not telling you that this action A is specifically right, and this action B is specifically wrong. It is showing you that this general course of Action ABC is right, and this general course of action DCE is wrong. The former allows health, alignment, happiness and balance in your life. The latter leads to illness, depression, imbalance and frustration. The frustration is the unwillingness to accept natural law based either on lack of knowledge or willing ignorance. This can be changed, but it takes a lot of difficult self reflection, and many, Mark argues, are simply not willing to put this work in, and so they remain on the wrong course and either directly or indirectly legitimising evil and bad actions in themselves and those around them.

Mark Passio lays out the path to rightness in line with natural law as follows, alongside the path to wrongness:

NaturalLawExpressions

We must start from a generative foundation of Love that is contrasted with Fear, not hate. Love allows for calm conscious appreciation, while fear means we act from the more instinctive unconscious parts of our brain. Love allows creativity, where fear only allows us to follow bad habits and patterns from our instinctive past. From there you can move down the levels and see how things can progress on the path, if you stick to the positive side of natural law.

One area I feel here might be a case more of a hopeful view of things, rather than a natural view of things is in relation to the idea that external control, always leads to chaos. Of course, he wants to argue for anarchism so he is committed to denying that external control can ever work. But I think there is still something to the hierarchical nature of human societies that goes back to primordial times in tribes and chimps and even further back. We like to form hierarchies, and at times I think this can be a perfectly natural order, it does not always lead to chaos. The ideas of Jordan Peterson have recently opened my mind up on this point a bit. For he shows precisely one of the dangers when we see no power as legitimate is the tendency for moral relativism and solipsism, the dangers Mark Passio himself warns of.

Can natural law be enough to avoid this tendency, with all sovereign individuals relating as equals? Or do we need some hierarchy in our societies as a way to help maintain the peace, like we see in most human societies in history and in most of our close social mammalian relatives? I still lean towards this latter view, but there are dangers of course in this view also.

In summary, I still don’t feel I have a definite grasp on an independent and objective morality after watching and thinking about this seminar by Mark Passio. But I do feel it has given me many conceptual parameters within which to frame some of my own thoughts and ideas on how to act morally good. I concur on the critique of moral relativism and its dangers. I concur on some of the errors he exposes both of scientism on one side and new age spirituality on the other. It is not enough to follow laws and rules, neither is it enough to simply think positively. Thoughts and actions guided by laws, but not determined by them is what we need to keep ourselves in better alignment with our surrounding social and natural environment.

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