A summary in quotations:

Do you not see that nature is clamouring for two things only, a body free from pain, a mind released from worry and fear for the enjoyment of pleasurable sensations?

Jouis et fais jouir, sans faire de mal ni à toi ni à personne, voilà toute morale.

Thus, when all is said and done, one finds that no poetic rhymes, no greatness, no philosophical systems, no reasons of state, no politic ends, and no utopian aims are more important than decency of means. Because when all is said and done, decency of means is the aim of aims.
Stefan Themerson

There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.
William Shakespeare (Hamlet, 2:2)

L'éthique est affaire de corps et non d'âme. D'abord elle procède de la matière d'un cerveau, et non des brumes d'une conscience.
Michel Onfray

Desire everything, expect nothing.
Raoult Vaneigem

If we can prevent something bad without sacrificing anything of comparable significance, we ought to do it; absolute poverty is bad; there is some poverty we can prevent without sacrificing anything of comparable moral significance; therefore we ought to prevent some absolute poverty.
Peter Singer

Be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a desperate battle.
Philo of Alexandria

Tolerance, good temper and sympathy are no longer enough in a world where ignorance rules, and Science, which ought to have ruled, plays the pimp. Tolerance, good temper and sympathy — they are what matter really, and if the human race is not to collapse they must come to the front before long.
E. M. Forster

Fais ce que voudras.

… entre les hommes il n'existe que deux relations : la logique ou la guerre. Demandez toujours des preuves, la preuve est la politesse élémentaire qu'on se doit. Si l'on refuse, souvenez-vous que vous êtes attaqué et qu'on va vous faire obéir par tous les moyens.
Paul Valery

We are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you any different.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty.
Bertrand Russell




I really do believe that criticism of religion is the beginning of all criticism, as Marx put it. It’s our first of everything; the father and mother of all disputation. That’s why it never gets boring.
Christopher Hitchens

What the world needs is not dogma but an attitude of scientific inquiry combined with a belief that the torture of millions is not desirable, whether inflicted by Stalin or by a Deity imagined in the likeness of the believer.
Bertrand Russell

As long as Man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.



Do we have the right to rear animals in order to kill them so that we may feed appetites in which we have been artificially conditioned from childhood?
Ashley Montagu

It seems to me that few concepts have offered greater scope for human cruelty than the idea of an immortal soul that stands independent of all material influences, ranging from genes to economic systems.
Sam Harris

Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith; we need believing people.
Adolf Hitler

Le premier qui ayant enclos un terrain s’avisa de dire: Ceci est à moi, et trouva des gens assez simples pour le croire, fut le vrai fondateur de la société civile.


Ne rien désirer, ne rien envier, vieille leçon des sagesses stoïciennes et épicuriennes. En ne possédant rien et en aspirant à ne rien posséder, le sage se possède, autrement dit il possède tout.

En un mot, la morale et la politique pourraient retirer du matérialisme des avantages, que le dogme de la spiritualité ne leur fournira jamais, et auxquels il les empêche même de songer.
Paul-Henri d'Holbach

Tragic Necessity is in Nature, Evil is in Culture.
Stefan Themerson

Nature, fortunately or unfortunately, is indifferent to anything so parochial as human values.
Richard Dawkins

Concern for others was not the invention of any prophet.
Sam Harris

A life without parties is a long road without pubs.

Formalism is the opium of the thinking classes
Alan Calder

Auschwitz, the gulag, and the killing fields are not examples of what happens when people become too critical of unjustified beliefs; to the contrary, these horrors testify to the dangers of not thinking critically enough about specific secular ideologies.
Sam Harris

…when your enemy has no scruples, your own scruples become another weapon in his hand.
Sam Harris

One thing that makes the atheist position intellectually, and in some ways morally, superior is that we accept conclusions on the basis of reason and evidence that are not welcome to us. We don’t want to be annihilated. We just think the overall likelihood is that we will rejoin the molecular cycle when we die. We don’t wish it to be true, but we face it.
Christopher Hitchens

Why does "pro life" always mean "pro human
life"? Why are so many people outraged at the idea of killing an eight-celled human conceptus while cheerfully masticating a steak that cost the life of an adult, sentient, and probably terrified cow? What precisely is the moral difference between our ancestors' attitude toward slaves and our attitude toward nonhuman animals?
Richard Dawkins

The enjoyment of worldly delights is better
accompanied by true understanding than by romantic obscurantism.
G. Miller



The ten commandments of Solon

1. Trust good character more than promises.
2. Do not speak falsely.
3. Do good things.
4. Do not be hasty in making friends, but do not abandon them once made.
5. Learn to obey before you command.
6. When giving advice, do not recommend what is most pleasing, but what is most useful.
7. Make reason your supreme commander.
8. Do not associate with people who do bad things.
9. Honor the gods.
10. Have regard for your parents.

Ten other commandments, missed by Moses, but discovered by Grayling in ancient sources:

1. Love well.
2. Seek the good in all things.
3. Harm no others.
4. Think for yourself.
5. Take responsibility.
6. Respect nature.
7. Do your utmost.
8. Be informed.
9. Be kind.
10. Be courageous.


Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.
Francis Xavier (1506 - 1562); Daesh (2016)

[Kant] was like many people: in intellectual matters he was sceptical, but in moral matters he believed implicitly in the maxims that he had imbibed at his mother’s knee. That illustrates what the psychoanalysts so much emphasise - the immensely stronger hold upon us that our very early associations have than those of later times.
Bertrand Russell

Wild ancestors have been naturally selected to enjoy those stimuli most likely to improve their survival, and to treat as painful those stimuli most likely, statistically, to kill them.
Richard Dawkins

It’s difficult to take oneself with sufficient seriousness to begin any sentence with the words “Thou shalt not.” But who cannot summon the confidence to say: Do not condemn people on the basis of their ethnicity or color. Do not ever use people as private property. Despise those who use violence or the threat of it in sexual relations. Hide your face and weep if you dare to harm a child. Do not condemn people for their inborn nature—why would God create so many homosexuals only in order to torture and destroy them? Be aware that you too are an animal and dependent on the web of nature, and think and act accordingly. Do not imagine that you can escape judgment if you rob people with a false prospectus rather than with a knife. Turn off that fucking cell phone—you have no idea how unimportant your call is to us. Denounce all jihad-ists and crusaders for what they are: psychopathic criminals with ugly delusions. Be willing to renounce any god or any religion if any holy commandments should contradict any of the above. In short: Do not swallow your moral code in tablet form.
Christopher Hitchens

Open boek

Read more on the technology of wellbeing in "The Moral Landscape" by Sam Harris


La propriété intellectuelle, c’est le vol !

… the deprivation of physical sensory pleasure is the principal root cause of violence. Laboratory experiments with animals show that pleasure and violence have a reciprocal relationship, that is, the presence of one inhibits the other.
J.W. Presscott

The man who devotes himself most ardently to pleasure becomes eminently useful for the happiness of all.
Charles Fourier

We must die as egos and be born again in the swarm, not separate and self-hypnotized, but individual and related.
Henry Miller

Your body has something in the neighborhood of 40 trillion cells - quite a consulting committee. Call on it when you're confused or undecided. Relax quietly and ask your body what it has to say.
Victoria Moran





Poverty is a social status. As such it is the invention of civilization.
Marshall Sahlins

Organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy
Matt Taibbi

In ten thousand years we have learned how to lengthen human lives but we have found no way to delay human puberty. As a result, between the economics of the city and the taboos of the tribe we have created a monstrous sexual ethic. To mention the most notorious paradox: It is not economically convenient for the adolescent to marry; it is not tribally correct for him to have sex outside of marriage. Solutions to this man-made problem range from insistence upon total chastity to a vague permissiveness which, worriedly, allows some sexuality if those involved are "sincere" and "mature" and "loving."
Gore Vidal

Copyright is a government backed monopoly that not only facilitates the control of culture, it allows censorship.
L. Russwurm

I consider that the golden rule requires that if I like a program I must share it with other people who like it.
Richard Stallman






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Ethics of materialism

It is a piece of idle sentimentality that truth, merely as truth, has any inherent power denied to error, of prevailing against the dungeon and the stake.

The real advantage which truth has, consists in this, that when an opinion is true, it may be extinguished once, twice, or many times, but in the course of ages there will generally be found persons to rediscover it, until some one of its reappearances falls on a time when from favourable circumstances it escapes persecution until it has made such head as to withstand all subsequent attempts to suppress it.
J.S. Mill

An ethical system is a collection of rules for behaviour that members of a clan have agreed upon to live well together (a definition adopted here for discussing materialist ethics). Those rules tell members how to praise their own lords, how to categorize others as friends, enemies, or indifferent others, what to do with them, whom to avoid, eliminate, love, obey, help, play with, or eat, and what not to eat. Some rules are arbitrary, bizarre, and culture-specific; other rules are based on the body and emotions and are therefore more universally sensible. This second group of rules are part of an ethic which is defined (by Sam Harris) as a technique to improve well-being of conscious individuals. Some distinguish ethics from morality: for them ethics determines personal individual behaviour, morals would be about relations with others. Ethics is a very large subject that involves almost all human actions; theologians, philosophers, and politicians like to argue about it. Materialists such as Democritus and Yang Zhu were among the first to discuss ethics. Materialism clearly has important ethical ramifications that may seem unusual. Which ones? Keep reading for an answer.

Culture versus nature

Morals are necessary for humans to manage the primal biological need to assist others, which urge already existed within eucariotes which are single celled composite organisms that consist of mutually collaborating other cells such as mitochondria and chloroplasts. A clan is a collective of cooperating humans. The ethical rules that the members of a clan choose are devices to satisfy and regulate contradicting instincts that were developed during human evolution. Ethical rules obviously depend on what is assumed to exist by agreement. What does not exist can be ignored if invoked but what exists in a culture is whatever people assume (not necessarily observe) to exist. The presence or absence of a wrathful god, spirit-invoking witches, the divinity of a local tyrant, the family honour, holy objects, castes, or essential others varies widely all over the world, which is why there are many very different moral systems. Most moral rules are used by some authority to maintain an idealistic hierarchic system; a satire on Erdogan is morally more objectionable than the Armenian genocide. Some rules are not based on fictions but on facts but even those can be variable and even mutually contradictory as social darwinism and humanism show. In the morals that are part of ideologies such as libertarian capitalism (which partly may suggest materialism) and almost all religions, humans are very unequal; that assumption is popular as shown by the lop-sided distribution of wealth in the world. The materialism of the ancient freethinkers however implies a consistent choice of ethics which, if stripped of idols, is egalitarian and universal. It is egalitarian because it is based on the body and it is universal because it is based on matter. Both are the same in all parts of the world. It is no coincidence that Zen-buddhists have chosen the same ethics as greco-roman stoics. A consistent set of morals that includes the body is inevitably materialist. People who are uncertain about their ethics feel they have to justify them by invoking sacred idols to construct authorities to tell them what to do; that's their way to create certainty. Those idols may be anything: gods, property, honour, a prophet, an economic model, or some guru. Even the spirit of a teapot is an idol of some sect in Malaysia. Idealistic morals are installed top down, materialistic ones grow bottom up.

Three types of felony

Different types of crime call for different sanctions. A criminal act is material if it harms the body; examples are murder, mutilation, slavery, and rape. It is idealistic if it gives offense with words; examples are sacrilege, defamation, insult, treason, and plagiarism. Material crimes are aimed at the body of victims, so-called idealistic crimes are usually less directly harmful because they are mere words or infringements of cultural norms, habits, or rituals. Such idealistic crimes, if aimed at an individual, violate the exosomatic part of the victim (the cloud around him). Theft, swindling, and corruption fall between those two categories. They hurt property which, like social relations, is also in the variable exosomatic field around the victims. In addition to crimes against the body and against its cultural cloud, there is a third group, crimes against the commons (vandalism, pollution, appropriation, fiscal or bank fraud). While material crimes are more or less similar all over the world, idealistic crimes vary wildly and are only locally wrong. Everyone understands the material directive not to kill, even those who do not agree with it for some platonic reason, but many do not understand the idealistic rules that sacrilege and being raped are capital crimes. Rules for dealing with crimes against property are as variable as idealistic ones in general because property is a fuzzy concept. The severity of punishments depends on the type of crime and on what inspired the law. Clearly platonists and democritists have contrary opinions on how to punish ideal and material crimes; they live in different worlds. Laws for punishing crimes against the public domain are virtually non-existent, the global commons are outlawed because laws are produced by local governments. The republican party of the USA can destroy the world with impunity.

The golden rule

One famous ethical directive in particular seems to be universally appreciated; it is known as the golden rule: do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you, or treat others as you would like them to treat you if the other so wishes. It is thoroughly materialistic, it is not derived from any transcendent entity although some holy books mention it as a collateral amenity. The golden rule has been proposed (usually to little effect) in the Mahabharata (Anushasana Parva 113), by Pittacus (650 BCE), Confucius (500 BCE), Mo zi (470 - 391 BCE), Thales (464 BCE), Sextus (406 BCE), Aristotle (385 BCE), Aristippus (365 BCE), and Isokrates (338 BCE), to name a few. All societies are familiar with it, the rule is popular with those who dislike to be a victim. Basically the golden rule recommends freedom and proposes security, it rejects abusing and be abused by others. But it is not a very practical rule because people differ biologically and, for cultural reasons, not everyone has the same opinion on what is acceptable. The golden rule is unimposing, it is as soft as those involved are malleable, and is universal only if it concerns the body.

Another version of the golden rule is its inverse: do not inflict on yourself what you wouldn't do to others (so don't die for your fatherland if you dislike murdering people). Both expressions of the golden rule are negative. A more positive form is “Do good and abstain from harming” which summarizes the 10 commandments of Solon (638 – 558 BCE). These commandments are also truly materialistic because they recommend behaviour towards others that aims to increase social well-being; there is nothing supernatural in them, even the gods added as an afterthought by Solon are mere cultural devices. But as it stands that summary of morals needs elaboration. What are good acts? Who benefits from them? Who should not be harmed, only humans? Which of the fifteen types of humans? All humans or only rich, white, and male protestants? Not chimps that differ genetically from us as little as an African elephant differs from an Asiatic one? Not rats or dogs that are so very like us? Are Down’s syndrome sufferers and Alzheimer patients human or animal? Are Tutsis cockroaches? Are atheists devils? Opinions differ on where the demarcation lines should lie that separate those with the same rights as I have, from those that can be eaten or culled. Those demarcation lines are more or less arbitrarily chosen as all ethics are.

To fight or not to fight

One of the ethical dilemmas is, that use of violence is to be avoided for a good reason (violence is immoral because it inflicts misery) while pacifism is objectionable for another good reason (violence during defense could prevent misery caused by aggression from others). Self-defense and vengeance (e.g. the death penalty) confuse the ethics of violence. Therefore game theory has recently added an extension to the ancient golden rule in order to deal with aggression. Game theory is less about games than about conflicts of interest and it is not a theory but a discipline of tactics. The famous tit for tat tactic which trusts and favours the opponent, avenges if the opponent does not reciprocate but defaults, and moreover has a short memory, has the best results in what is called the iterated prisoner's dilemma. The famous force of forgiveness is mathematically vindicated in this model. Tit for tat answers the ethical dilemma in domains where people vaguely know each other and interact. It excludes those who don't; however, in global practice no one is completely unknown when Internet becomes freely accessible and used. Transcendencies are not invoked in this tactic and it restrains aggressive tendencies if any, which suits the materialists.

Evidence-based ethics

Obviously, but also in a historic sense utterly remarkable: materialists base their ethics on the observable welfare of the body (philosomatic and hedonistic are adjectives that characterize such ethics). According to Democritus, who was one of the first ethicists in history, pleasure and pain determine exclusively what is good and evil. His thoroughly pragmatic ethics led to the joyous democritic lifestyle. "Creation began when you were born. It will end on the day you die" according to Oscar Wilde; personal existence in the short period between the semi-infinite past of non-existence and the semi-infinite future of non-existence is too short to spend sulking or to waste on boring or antisomatic activities. Those non-existent previous and subsequent eternities are ethically much less relevant for the individual than existence here and now. At least for materialists, ideots probably disagree.

However, ethics are mainly about behaviour towards others. Other individuals are my equals because they are bodies very much like me, an easily verified fact. What holds for me, holds equally for them. Therefore materialists require that their ethical rules exclude antisocial behaviour. According to Sartre, the presence of others makes my hell (but so would their absence), therefore I am part of the hell of others; since materialist ethics forbids to put others in hell because that is immoral, altruism follows. Or at least it advises to forbear the others. An egoistic way of considering altruism, is that others are a very large part of myself so that taking care of my renormalized self means taking care of very many others that make me; there are more of them than meets the eye. However, altruism needs no arguments, it is an expression of an instinct that mammals and birds share; initially it was developed to take care of offspring but was extended to others in social animals. The physiological basis for altruism is the existence of mirror neurons in primates in addition to the capacity to produce oxytocine.

It has been said that people prefer to choose morals that endows their interactions with an august meaning or sense rather than mere pleasure as hedonism allegedly proposes. Such a meaning may have dismal effects and it is never explained why negative associations have more meaning than positive ones, or why hedonism is more immoral than salafism that really has meaning. Others might prefer to choose morals having a pleasurable meaning rather than a dreary one. According to materialist ethics, acts that harm the body are evil, however meaningful such acts might be in a religious context.

The ethical materialist

Is a materialistic lifestyle and ethics consistent with the assumption that everything consists of atoms in the void? When this question is begged by modern historians and philosophers their usual answer is no. For the Greek preplatonics it was not an issue at all. Michel Serres has answered the question in his book 'La naissance de la physique dans le texte de Lucrèce'. For pedestrians the following arguments by the mathematician Eudoxus (408 - 355 BCE) of Cnidus may do.
1) A choice of lifestyle and ethics makes sense only for a conscious interacting body; a body is able to feel and may waste away as a result of harmful interactions. Behaviour chosen by a feeling body that is materially beneficial to it, is for biological reasons preferred over acts that are injurious if a choice is possible. This statement is a platitude but it answers the question. Materialists choose a philosomatic lifestyle, it is their basic ethical directive. There is nothing remarkable in this. No other organism prefers disasters for its body but humans are unique in that they accept imposed pain, illness, and death over pleasure and happiness for merely ideological reasons. Evolution is very clear about the function of pleasure and misery for animals. Pleasure serves biological success, so does avoiding suffering. Hedonism is philosomatic and therefore fully consistent with atomism that recognizes no imperatives outside matter, outside the body.
2) Rules of behaviour imposed by other sources (e.g. fiction, dreams, mystical insights, ecstatic feelings, holy books, true theories or infallible gurus) than the body of the self are often accepted by humans although they are quite unnecessary and even suspect because they usually satisfy tribalistic instincts that have antisomatic effects. Morals derived from platonic sources are harmful for the body; often they are lethal, a sufficient reason to opppose them out of hand. It is not necessary to assume the exclusive existence of atoms to do so but it helps.
3) Materialism is thoroughly empirical, ideologies are derived from theory and theories are always fallible. Materialists hold that the cultural world is based on the body. That makes them egalitarian, anarchistic, hedonistic, and rather altruistic. No one can be my superior or subject, simply because the other is a body very much like I am. That is one materialistic opinion. There are more clinchers like that: no life without freedom, no life without others, and so on.

These arguments should be sufficient to answer those who say that materialism is incompatible with ethics (religious ethics are invariably inconsistent). However, there is another consideration: the elements that are assumed to exist affect lifestyle. Now, why would we need 92 or more Mendeleyevian elements and not four Empedoclean ones to see that a hedonistic way of life is to be preferred over slavery or martyrdom for a higher goal? After all, even without recognizing atoms the carvakas, taoists, and most presocratics were materialists; the stoics adopted the ethics of the materialists but not their ontology. Ethics does not depend on the precise number of elements that make the world but on their character; the number is to be determined by experiment only. Ethics is always based on some ontology and that ontology includes or excludes supernatural entities that impose behaviour while natural entities do not impose anything but present only quite elastic boundary conditions. Idealists and materialists like to receive their morals from above or grow them up from below respectively. One of the basic differences between the materialist Democritus and the platonic scientist Aristotle is that their elements are incommensurable. According to Democritus, atoms make all substances; those atoms are the source of all properties of matter, of the behaviour of everything including humans, and they also determine the nature of the boundary conditions that restrict freedom of conscious action. Study matter or consult your body (in other words, experiment with the world) if you have technical or moral questions and do not consult instead some authority or transcendency, because if those exist at all, their reply is surely not a meaningful answer and is usually harmful. Democritus accepted the harsh consequences of his ontological assumptions (there is no hereafter is one of them) while the politically correct Aristotle kept the soothing supernatural realm with his separation of form and matter, his four causalities, and his idealized elements. The five elements of Aristotle were supposed to be constituents of matter but turned out to be only reified behaviour of types of matter, they were idealizations. Earth, water, air, and fire, the putative elements or essences of non-living matter, were broad categories and have never able to show us how they could make up stuff such as semiconductors or beer; if those elements cannot make up such simple things, what is their point? And the platonists knew there must be much more than just dead matter. Even without saying so explicitly, they must have considered the essences of life and the soul to be indispensable for their story as well, because they had not ignored the essence of the gods (their quintessence); they even had separate essences for the different races and they thought that the soul consists of the elements fierceness and mildness. Naming those essences elements (elements as spiritual as their four initial ones), that should at least make eight elements to cover everything. But is that a complete set? What about essential elements such as the essences of royalty, power, and money? Those platonic parodies form the idealistic quagmire in which we try to float. Every conceivable virtual world having its own moral system can be constructed out of those ten "elements" and ideots zealously construct lots of them as recorded in the fascinating stories published by cultural anthropologists. All based on fantasy and materially deficient. On the other hand, the atoms of Democritus that we know intimately because we are composed of them, show how to make things out of elements, things that have desired properties. They also show why humans have character and emotions, and even how they love and suffer. In short, materialists prefer a sensible set of ethical rules that are based on their body which undeniably consists of atoms and lacks essences or other fancy fictions. The four empedoclean elements cannot even be elements because they are composed of properties. Even Aristotle said so. Their main component that is not a property turned out to be the only democritic element that Aristotle could not reject, the void or nothing.

I or my clan?

An isolated human is a nonentity and cannot survive, social primates live in a group. Yet an individual's life is his all: his birth creates and his death annihilates his world. This means that his individual advantages can be in opposition to the interests of his clan. The dilemma for an individual is how to collaborate with others without damaging his own existence. Objectivists and fascists experimented with solipsism and collectivism although those extremes are always antisomatic. The only practical solution, suggested by the classical cynics and hedonists, is an adjusted middle between individualism and collectivism in a collective: a voluntarily chosen co-operation between sufficiently autonomous equal individuals. Nothing spontaneous is to be discouraged in those free associations except the instinct of vandalism and tribalism because those always screw up social arrangements.

Antiphon the sofist distinguished ethics for isolated individuals from morals for individuals in public, which roughly concerns the first two domains of materialistic ethics. The ethical rules for isolated individuals are very different from the rules to be followed in society. Rules for personal behaviour of those who are alone are determined by nature (physis) and are therefore necessary. The rules of behaviour for those in a collective are based on conventions (nomoi) that are chosen in the local ideology. These rules are usually considered to be more important than those for isolated individuals. Because social rules are determined by convention we might also choose them to coincide as much as possible with the natural rules for the individual (seek pleasure, avoid pain). This choice was first proposed by the cynic Antisthenes. Materialists have no need for supernatural entities, holy books, or other authorities to tell them what not to do. Only platonists need them. More on that below.

Ethics for singles

How to behave when you are alone at home or on an empty naturist beach of a desert island, a lonely body without obligations, possessions, onlookers, and other relations, in short, not dressed in the usual cloud of cultural artefacts? Living without others is obviously impossible if taken literally but as an approximation that question is useful in a thought experiment. The answer is found in physiology. Since pain is evil to be avoided and pleasure is good, the ethical advice is simply to act in order to exist and function well, avoid distress, and enjoy yourself. As we are chemical beings, that advice translates to eat suitable food (you depend on others for that) and keep moving to be in a chemical shape (also called physical state) that optimizes well-being. Neurotransmitters fire the circuits in the nervous system that correlate with bliss and panic, with good and evil in archaic terms. It is ethically advisable to choose your actions and conditions to produce the right body juices. However, even if no observing others are present, there is still the environment that imposes ethical boundary conditions. There is a sensible rule not to harm the environment because it provides nutrition, water, shelter, resources, and beauty, it is the source of existence. This rule is usually violated in a collective as it conflicts with an instinctive greed (which is central in right-libertarian ideology) that demands privatization of the common domain. Wastage and vandalism have some function in a collective only, frugality and dematerialization are essentially materialist recommendations for isolated individuals or singles. Such recommendations are now perhaps even more relevant for relations with others. Details are given in the section on the praxis of materialism.

Social rules

Obviously, as argued above, for a materialist the ethical rules about dealing with others should optimize the physical (which implies mental) well-being of all concerned because others are part of the ego and vice versa. It does not require a belief in some transcendency to see that. Nor are there any materialist rules that favour an elite, as such rules conflict with somatic equality, an observed fact. That is expressed in the principle of universality: what holds for others applies to me as well. However this seems to go against some of our inborn drives, for example to enrich ourselves even at the expense of others, to get power over others, to obey a strong leader who relieves us from responsibility, to invent enemies to justify our crimes, or to do what the others in my clan do. Those tendencies easily activate the aggressive part of the tribalistic instinct. Materialist ethics are in sense unnatural since it is not easy to suppress inborn vandalism in order to prevent potential disasters, suffering, and other evils for others. The platonic answer to the problem of instinctive violence is human sacrifice according to Girard. Materialists consider that unnecesssary; instead they prefer to adopt Solons ten commandments as guidelines to counter our tendencies to violence and destruction. Solons second rule rejects all ideologies, his ninth rule is about respecting social conventions if convenient. Only one of Solons commandments may appear idealistic: his fifth rule (learn to obey before you command) seems to imply that society is best organized as a hierarchy and that leaders may command followers. However, that rule, which is about the relation between a teacher and his pupil learning a skill, is not in conflict with materialist ethics if the hierarchy in that relation is freely chosen by its participants for a beneficial reason, and not imposed by force. Every individual has a distinct history and has developed a set of skills and opinions which combined makes him or her unique. Following an advice of an expert or giving advice is exchange of information and does not create inequality or power play if that exchange is not rejected or misused by one of the involved parties. But in that case rule 5 like any other rule needs a complement.

There is another reason to distrust natural instincts. They were formed under conditions quite different from those that obtain now; many of them are obsolete and have lost their evolutionary purpose in civilized communities. So as long as humans still have those instincts, they'd better be careful with each other to reduce inflicting harm. Physiologically humans are no longer reptiles (they have grown a neocortex) so they have no compelling reason to adopt the morals of alligators (as the objectivists and the social darwinists like to propose).

Why civil disobedience is necessary

Again, ethics chosen to normalize behaviour in public usually have platonic roots such as a holy book, an economic law, or the whims of an authority. For example, there is a widepread idea that religious commandments are necessary to make people behave, that sex is acceptable only if it serves procreation, or that increased wealth for shareholders of enterprises at the expense of their employees is beneficial for society. Morals derived from such ideas are actually fixed in laws. The usual rules of criminal and civil law have a platonic source so they tend to harm individuals and do not protect general welfare, which is what they allegedly are made for. Alarming examples of criminality by governments (sometimes prodded by companies) are prosecution of inocuous behaviour like apostacy, dissident political opinion, intellectual property abuse, dress contravention, and deviant voluntary sexual behaviour, even when in private. Another example is legal protection and support of 'financial products' and other types of bank robbery. The antisomatic nature of criminal and uncivil laws obliges everyone to transgress them; hence the moral necessity of civil disobedience. This was formulated in the nineteenth century by Thoreau and Emerson. Another ethical reason is that the habit to obey orders tends to lead to genocides as history shows. Diogenes of Sinope pointed out that rituals, imposed by orthodoxies, exist mainly to maintain social evil and should therefore always be violated.


The rule against theft in the second category is controversial. It seems material if it concerns embodied objects in the extended phenotype because they are owned by and are even part of an individual. But to establish which objects are in the exosomatic part of someone and which are not owned but part of the public domain, is a matter of culture, of convention. There actually exist cultures in which a person can own land, a woman, a whole clan, an idea, animals, or a word. Some laws justify many kinds of theft, so in general it is not very clear what can be stolen and what cannot and why. In certain countries it is against the law to collect trashed food that was discarded by a supermarket (an emblematic illustration of morals made up by ideots). The American congress has allowed certain swindling practices as election campaigns show; it has even legalized theft of trillions by banks which suggests that theft from the public is accepted by the public if the stolen amount is large enough.

Theft presupposes property as Proudhon said. Property is a social problem that started during the agricultural revolution. It has made many ethical systems inconsistent. Personal possession of land, another human, or a right that is harmful to others, is absurd and immoral for a materialist but can be understood as a cultural tradition that was developed during evolution. Property means power over others, it limits the freedom of others and ruins their existence. Vast differences in wealth were imposed and accepted, and are now difficult to correct. Property is the subject of economics, a system of platonic platitudes. Its universe of discourse consists of capital and labour, the usual poles in economic discourse. Both are myths or at most reifications. Money is immaterial but machines, roads, and buildings exist. Labour is unsubstantial, labourers exist, they are the humans that have made the machines, roads, and buildings. A few privileged and unproductive humans are supposed to own the machines, roads, and buildings in the current system which means they are expected to run the world and control those who created that infrastructure. This is not an urban legend. Our property system is inequitable and vicious, it clashes with basic common sense, yet is generally condoned. The enormous difference in wealth and income between individuals is also thoroughly immoral because it is made either by stealing or by selling what is taken from others. This is obvious in the case of administrators and civil servants of corrupt regimes but holds also for example for top bankers who do not pass on their excessive income and wealth to their network that is the source of their lucrative job. Nor do top soccer players, top industrialists, or top stars. All ultrarich in the current system are thieves, not just basically but actually: they are rich because they did not pass on others what they earned with what they took from them.

Intellectual property is one of the most incomprehensible, absurd, and harmful frame-ups since the invention of financial products such as interest-bearing monetary loans. Copyright and patent laws justify stealing, legalize trade in what is stolen, and corrode the three basics of elementary, non-ideological ethics. Any arguments in favour of intellectual property laws are refuted by what it wreaks in practice. Copyright does not protect the creator but the publisher who is the owner. Moreover every creation is coproduced by so many others that it cannot be the propertiy of an individual owner or even creator exclusively, including the right to all decisions concerning it. Patent laws are used to to block innovation and prevent others to profit from public knowledge. Patents are alleged to be vital for the economy because without legal protection of inventions, progress in technology is said to be impossible. There is no evidence for it but it keeps being claimed (what you say three times is true, as Lewis Carroll said repeatedly). There are many indications of the contrary. Large oil multinationals claimed patents on solar energy devices to block their introduction legally. Without patent law innovation occurred more rapidly than with legal protection as shown by the Russian, Japanese, and Chinese industrial development and by the nineteenth century chemical industry in France and Switserland. The internet was created with public funds while large internet companies now profit financially. They spend their days sueing each other with their patent rights. The personal computer was initiated and developed by hackers in garages and ignored by the large companies until their lawyers finally understood how to extract money out of it; they have not yet been able to destroy it. Even now innovation is not to be expected from established industries but has to come from individuals unprotected by laws. Corporatism is an ideology that parasitizes technology and kills every improvement that threatens to lower profits. Patent law is invented to serve the financial interests of large companies only. The argument that pharmaceutical companies need patent protection in order to be able to finance innovating research in medical science is refuted by their own staff: they employ more lawyers than chemists, more marketeers than technicians, and their scientists are fully occupied with making trivial modifications in their pills in order to dodge patents owned by competitors. Innovation is made available by universities, paid for by the public. Producing a pharmaceutical is stopped when its patents expire and scientific research in hospitals are blocked if results are estimated to be possibly bad for public relations or business. The industrial application of available innovation is subordinate to financial returns and health of customers is relevant only if it generates money. Eliminating patents would stop epidemies and iatrogenic disorders.

Patent laws legalize larceny on a scale which dwarfs even what banks are allowed to do, they form the basis for internet mammonism, a novel ideology that gradually is replacing ancient religions, nationalisms and orthodox fundamentalist capitalism. Licencies paid for stolen inventions feed the absurdly rich internet companies such as Apple, Google, Faceboook, Paypal, Microsoft, Cisco, and Oracle that sell simple products to the public that has to pay them in order to use what it has created. Centralized opulence has ethical consequences, it annihilates democracy, the commons, and the three enlightenment values. A first step to counter that is to abolish intellectual property. The second is to repeal all patent laws.


No one expects to be able to end social evil by formulating moral rules because instincts that overrule logic and pragmatism are too powerful. And no ideology, however convincing, ever managed to make people naturally peaceful, not even in a small group. We might lose our inborn cruelty if the winners of a war would regularly have less offspring than the losers. Or if a platonic trick could be invented to shift the priority in instincts and to make inflicting violence disagreeable. Ideots refuse to do so, hatred is too useful for them. Materialists on the other hand have always pointed out that knowing matter well helps to find a way out of the dilemma. Education is the key, education forms children into pragmatic individuals or into ideots. If enough people know what instincts do and why and how they affect us, their negative consequences can be neutralized and the positive ones exploited.

Stimulating friendship by consensus has been tried and was quite successful in sufficiently isolated communities. Anthropologists have described many cultures with their habits and rules about what people are expected to do to each other and what to avoid. The attitude towards children turns out to be an eloquent indicator for antagonism in the group. Strong correlations have been shown to exist between attitudes to hierarchy, violence, affection for children, and sex. And also to sacred myths and to indoctrination. In societies where people are physically affectionate toward infants and tolerant of premarital sexual behavior, there is least theft, corporal punishment, religious activity, and negligible or absent killing, mutilating, or torturing of enemies. Where often pain is inflicted on infants there is much slavery and polygyny, little nurturant behaviour, and gods are aggressive and vengeful. There is a correlation between frequencies of computer gaming and violent behaviour according to the American Psychological Association. By subjecting their children to more violence, a culture produces more jihadists; on the other hand, the Maquiritari (Yequana), an exceptionally peaceful matriarchal tribe in Venezuela, have permanent body contact between their infants and mothers or siblings. A taste for violence is likely to stem from deprivation of somatosensory pleasure, either in infancy or in adolescence. That relation is supported by results from experiments on primates and mice. In humans there is a significant relationship between the punishment of premarital sex and various measures of violent crime. Clearly sexual taboos and deprivation of physical affection are strongly antimaterialistic. Antimaterialism dominates most societies for a simple reason. There are peaceful and violent cultures. When they meet, the first sort is always wiped out by the second; the genocide on the Moriori living on the Chatham islands by the Maori is characteristic for unconstrained instinctive human behaviour. Bonobos survived because they could not be massacred by chimpanzees as a river separated them but the dravidians in India were not so lucky when the aryans marched in. Matriarchal cultures in Eurasia are scarce because they are too peaceful and not geographically isolated.


Often associated with love, a word for an endocrine process that is the main subject in poetry and the second subject in literature and theatre. Like property, sex is ethically complicated as noted by the sophists. Notwithstanding our DNA many are persuaded to fear or even despise it. Sex is often considered to be somewhat dirty, except of course with gods, angels, royalty or superpersons. Remarkably, people that aim for a high social position usually avoid being involved in erotics, at least in public. Other propitious carnal activities such as eating, drinking, and dancing in company are culturally much less frowned upon.

An ideal as well as a material reason has been given for this paradoxical disgust for a minor part of the body. The first is the function of sexual organs for procreation. In humans this is an unlikely to be morally significant since pregnancy is a minor by-effect of sex: humans have on the average between 300 and 3000 times more copulations than births, the sex trade is not aimed at producing babies, and obstetrics, the technology of baby production, is not known to be erotic enough to figure in internet porno. Homosexuality is not about procreation, yet almost everywhere it is outlawed. Moreover the relation of sex with offspring depends on local taboos and is not an issue in a number of non-western societies. The second reason might be the post coitem hangover caused by the prolactine hormone and the slightly addictive increased dopamine level during sex that destroy the coveted ataraxia in half the population. Both arguments have been refuted. The first by molecular medicine (the pill), the second long ago in India and China by simple physiological habits. The problem that erotic excitement lowers IQ is still unsolved (where and when it is a problem). But analytical thinking is also stifled by fear and disgust, a worse error of neural evolution.

Those two can hardly be the only motivations for hating the lower half of the body since prudery is too universal and persists even after recent developments in molecular physiology were made widely known. No plant or animal is prude, nor are small children, prudery is an antisomatic, cultural, and purely ideological phenomenon. The feeling of shame associated with the body, is widespread in Eurasia, especially in monotheistic countries, less so in Latin America, Africa, and Polynesia. It clearly needs another explanation. The rise of paulinism has been proposed as the reason of fanatical opposition to enjoyment of sex, at least in Europe: to distinguish themselves from the licentious infidels in Rome, the early christians following saint Paul declared the body vile and even satanic. Augustine claimed that sex is the result of original sin and that the birth of Christ could not have been the result of a lecherous act. It remains to be explained why his religion was a success (or perhaps a failure as it didn't perish from its inconsistency). Another possibility might be that sex, like certain drugs, play, and humor, acts as an anxiolytic which is disastrous for existing power relations. Fear and power are inseparable; all social animals know that who wants to harvest power must sow fear by using violence or threatening with it. And who plays, laughs, smokes a joint, or makes love, lacks fear and can only be controlled by suppressing those sources of independence. A dictator, prophet, or another divine person cannot have fearless subjects; he suppresses comedians, bans sex and the free arts, declares war on drugs, invents enemies and subhumans, reshapes education and history to suit his ends, and stimulates dependence and guilt. Who values power cannot tolerate individuals such as Kazantzakis who agreed with Demonax: "I hope not, I fear not, I am free". Paulinists cherish concepts such as sin and hell, they adore violence (crucifixion and martyrs), applaud chastity since that raises guilt, and make sex a sin because without sinners, no church visitors. Fear and violence are even indispensable to keep current social structures stable: nations keep war with adjacent countries endemic (at least diplomatic or economic war); governments regularly jail or kill critical reporters and whistle blowers; bankers threaten with global unemployment if their bonuses are questioned; censors cut frontal nudity from movies but never violence (nor rape which is violence) because violence is too useful; prudery is essential, unclothed people are always nice to each other and do not fight which makes them unusable for higher purposes; and islamists, who loudly praise their lord when their bomb explodes in a busy marketplace, hate sex, cartoonists, music, jokes, uncovered bodies, medical aid, and schools that teach girls things that matter. Professional rulers abhor welfare and pleasure for their subjects for fear of losing control.

Another source of prudery is probably the family which became the cornerstone of society after the agricultural revolution. Family property was made hereditary by agreement which in a patriarchy required that paternity of offspring be certain. This caused a radical change in the sexual selection used by hominid ancestors since Australopithecus as shown by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá in their book, "The prehistoric origins of modern sexuality". Humans, chimpanzees and bonobos share an ancestor that lived in the tropical African jungle. The bonobo branch stayed there until now, the other two changed habitat and their lifestyle and body, humans more than chimps. The bonobos have kept the lifestyle and the body of their ancestors because successive generations stayed in the same environment; usually species do not change if their niche stays the same. Clearly, the ancestors of humans had bonobo-like manners. They used sex to strengthen social cohesion and attenuate aggression. Mating for them was a continuation of grooming with more efficient means. According to Frans de Waal they had solved the problem of violence in their society by adopting a relaxed, casual promiscuity and an egalitarian matriarchy. The strange mating habits and peculiar physiological characteristics of humans can be explained from their prehistory. The handshake, kiss, and ballroom dancing are vestiges of the ancient continuation of grooming with other means. Modern man inherited manners which were developed under conditions where personal property didn't exist; nor did clothes. After the agricultural revolution, the original promiscuity had to be suppressed in the interest of inheritable family property, a new evolutionary factor. Hence the increasing importance of chastity, monogamy, and marital fidelity in neolithic morals which made prudery necessary; females became property like cattle and could be killed by the owner if he thought it necessary. The old mendeled-in tendencies still haunt the new decency standards because after 10 000 years, humans still have not succeeded in turning themselves into gibbons, our only hominid relatives that are naturally monogamous (but non-social). Efforts to adapt ethics to suit family property imply solipsism; perhaps those efforts should stop because dimorphism shows that monogamy is as improper for humans as it is for other social primates despite cultural differences. Moreover the continuation of grooming with other means proved to be a much better way to counter violence than a large security force. Matriarchy liberates societies from harmful hierarchies as well. Prudery in humans on the other hand oppresses, as the ancient cynics advertised with their public behaviour.

Values in ethics

The three political values in the slogan of the French Enlightenment (a revival of ancient Greek atomism) are pillars under materialist ethics. Universal liberty, equality, and friendship are democritic rather than platonic values, they have never been preached in any sacred text or by any prophet. Those values are rejected by all ideologies (not only theistic ones), arguably because they were proposed by materialists.
1. Liberty was formulated by the Greek cynics as basic. Life itself is impossible without the freedom to adapt to a changing environment as shown by the wide range of biological forms. Machines would not be able to adapt. All forms of slavery and subjection, while not lethal for the group, are considered immoral because of that ingrained biological need. Free access to the commons is vital. The public domain should be as large as possible, freedom needs it.
2. Equality, rediscovered by the Greek sophists, is a corollary of liberty. The biological fact that all humans are alike inspired the golden rule. Discrimination is evil if it destroys equality, limits freedom, and creates enemies. Getting equality accepted is the best therapy against the harmful effects of the tribalistic instinct but it has also been misinterpreted by jacobins and fascists who used it as an argument for savage coercion.
3. Friendship (the French call it fraternité) as shown by the Greek hedonists is an equally vital basic feature; its aims are safety and peace: do not fight or harm the others, they are your brothers. Besides being a component of liberty, friendship boosts the exosomatic part of the individual and is the source of inspiration that fuels the adaptation and innovation of collectives (warring clans tend to stagnate culturally as those in New Guinea show). Moreover it promotes care for the environment (see below) and synergy (which is necessary for all public works). Frienship comes in degrees: there are good friends and nice acquaintances. Friendship is an indispensable characteristic of social primates, in a limited form it is even part of old tribalism: soldiers doing their job of killing their indicated enemy respect and trust their buddies. Friendhip as a novel ethical directive is intended not to be restricted to the clan but to include everyone, also those outside it. If that sort of friendship would be accepted, the tribe of humans would no longer have a hostile outside to be attacked. Globally, friendship between all may be hard to establish as people do not easily relate to others they never meet; moreover a violent common enemy may unite clan members and amplify fraternity within the clan (so does a common friend). However it is not impossible to conjoin those that do not agree on everything; in cities it works more or less. And there actually exist places where groups having conflicting beliefs live apart together peacefully. If those groups suddenly start to kill each other, which regularly occurs, something platonic is the trigger.

The three enlightenment values are somewhat limited because they were about humans and their interactions only. The world is full of inorganic things that mutually affect the lives of all organisms and the ethics that people choose. Those things need to be included in discussions about ethics. The subject of friendship can be generalized to include them. The third enlightenment value would then propose to treasure objects, as well as persons. In practice that value then aims for sustainability, repairability of gadgets, and care for the environment, in addition to what was the original intention, friendship and care for fellow creatures. Generalized friendship implies care for the commons and that leads to dematerialization which may be considered a fourth ethical value. It is an ethic about frugality in using the material part of the public domain as well as embodied objects. Dematerialization increases personal freedom and equality. More about dematerialisation can be found in the parts on materialist practices and technology.

These four values are nowhere generally accepted because they conflict with supposed self-interest and old convictions on property that are well-established and are unlikely to be given up. Another limitation of the three enlightenment values is that they are not applicable as ethical rules in international politics as Mo Zi and Machiavelli have shown: nations and institutions (or their representative prince) are not persons bound by a social contract. In the 19th century the socialists have tried to claim a decent existence for everyone as a human right. Starting at the end of the 20th century an increasingly successful retrogressive neo-feodalism replaced all those enlightenment values by their opposites, the three postmodern, right-libertarian cravings, superiority, power, and wealth. The alchemists had the same dreams but called them the three products of the philosophers stone. In politics a virtual world always prevails over reality.

Are humans basically good or bad?

This question has been discussed repeatedly by philosophers and of course most of all by the devout (a biologically absurd question as humans have no nature or identity, at most they can be said to have capacities). Here again the two philosophical schools give a different answer. Ideots think people are naturally bad unless restrained by idols (theirs of course, not those of others). Materialists disagree: idols are the source of obnoxious behaviour. It is true however that the group of young men has the strongest criminal reputation in all cultures, irrespective of their beliefs. We are the offspring of the most active rapers and most successful killers so male vandalism is a heritage of our evolution. Men like to be cruel to weak strangers as cats like to chase small things that move. But Smullyan argues that in general, humans are basically good, as follows: I am basically good (or so I think), and others are like me (I have strong reasons to think that too); therefore everyone is basically good. That logic is contradicted by the existence of men-made evil and by a similar logic: there are others who are fascist, others are like me so I am a fascist. In all cultures women tend to be more peaceful than men. That those generally pacifist mothers produce such violent sons is probably not the effect of the usual massive rape after a war which produces generations that have only half their genes from the winners. That would mean that the original sin of routine violence would sit on some key genes on the Y-chromosome which was forced on the conquered victims. Alternatively, both aggression and collaboration surely had evolutionary benefits.

Materialists think that antisocial behaviour is not a default (except for sociopaths by definition) but exists if triggered. Such triggering is easily done with ideas created by words. Personal history can be an important contributing factor but the main factor is environment and situation; do what the others do. Statistical fluctuations are ubiquitous, so 1 to 5% of any population is inevitably psychopathic. A sociopath would not be be a serious social problem if he would not excite lesser lunatics to form supporting groups that do things he can claim as his own; for that he needs some ideology. To support charismatic dictators and stimulating neofascist movements is disastrous for our own well-being but we keep doing it because we adore alfa males, immortality, transcendencies, and all the other goodies made up by creeds and leaders who pretend to fulfill our desires. As Steven Weinberg says: “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." That statement remains valid if religion is replaced by any atheistic ideology.

How idealistic are local morals?

For a traveller it may be useful to be able to estimate how idealistic the inhabitants of a visited country or region are, if only to know when not to ask why. There are several indicators that show the degree of idealism in the ethics of a society. All indicators say the same. The value of life in public policy indicates how platonic a culture is. Life is cheap and death rather easily accepted in cultures where the soul is immortal, gods and gains are worth killing for, and ideas are always vastly superior to bodies that are their source. In more materialistic circles death penalty, honour killing, kamikaze tactics, and suicide terrorism are less popular. Another indicator that can be used to determine the degree of platonism is portrait pornography, the number of portraits of the local leader and his slogans shown on bill boards. How many statues do heroes of the state have? The degree of flag fetishism (how many national flags are flaunted, why and when) is also a measure of ideocy. Patriarchy is the mother of all ideologies; how patriarchic is public opinion? Are women tools of reproduction, demeaned, exploited, enslaved, or attacked? How prude are the media? Fact phobia is also a conspicuous feature of idealism: how frequently are journalists, writers, cartoonists, artists, dissidents, human rights lawyers, environmental activists, and whistle blowers killed or jailed? How many victims are made when revolts are crushed? How illiberal is political correctness? Even the degree of corruption in officials and officers correlates with the other indicators because corruption can exist only in a platonic society, in a hierarchy of unassailable authorities.

The world in which we live is not as we think it should be. Introduction of agriculture hundred centuries ago brought a culture with novel gods and their requirements such as property, slavery, money, gender inequality, and corporatism, which all completely changed ethical norms and made life more miserable than it used to be. Our ancestors thought they were thrown out of paradise by an angel because they dared to think. Thinking was forbidden by God because it breeds insubordination. They could have concluded that dismissing that angel and its chief instead of obeying them, would strongly have improved their paradise. Now is the time to repair that omission. Owing to our collective technology we are no longer forced to be slaves, so we are finally able to discard our antisomatic habits which our ancesters thought to be necessary. For more on the materialist program, read the section on praxis of materialism.