Art of Axiomatics


Three overlapping circles

While morality as often posing as a pseudo-science is typically almost identical to the ensuing exercise of power is ethics the art of axiomatics that is simply irreducible to logics alone because it requires nurturing and developing the talent of good judgment which as all talent also requires advanced emotional cognitive capability.

Morality typically purports to be a science of good deeds, but is it really? And is logic necessarily ethical? Morality typically has a centralized structure with a privileged discursive center defining the discursive periphery, indeed much like Foucault’s Panopticon. Morality rather is the ideology of exceptions, namely morality justifies nominally immoral acts in the name of necessity. For example, killing another human being is typically nominally considered immoral but as Leviticus suggests, when someone comes to kill you, then you must kill him first.

Logocentric morality however in Para-Christian manner presumes that systems (Greek Logos) are the essential locus of good behavior and therefore worships the logic of systems. However, dogmatism in the sense of not permitting exceptions to good principles typically justifies acts that are not even necessary by its own standard. The reverse of such dogmatism is unhindered pragmatism whereby anything goes as long as serving one’s purposes.

Instead, it is important to understand that ethics is not a science as systems are not ethical and that ethics rather is an art. What does this mean? The art of ethics is about identifying, re-articulating and applying good axioms. A good axiom is one that is good in most situations. However even good axioms are overlapping and these are known as exceptions to good rules. Good axioms therefore delimit each other. The more good axioms that we have emotionally internalized, the better does our judgment become. The art of learning good judgment is therefore about learning as many good axioms as possible and crucially learn how these mutually delimit each other. The art of axiomatics is therefore one of intersecting circles where one circle prevents another circle from turning into either dogmatism or pragmatism, namely the checks and balances of axiomatics. The art of ethics is therefore about learning to understand where a good axiom stops and another commences.

Law is typically conceived of as the science of justice. Yet “secular” (i.e. Para-Christian) legal systems typically rely on forms of axiomatics that are independent of ethics and so rather constitutes literalism without what is known as ‘religion’. Secular law is therefore theology without theology, i.e. the notion that power is superior to ethics. The judge therefore is considered “right” because of the political authority invested by the state in his office. This is akin to saying “this is good and true because ‘God’ says it is!” Morality therefore is almost identical to the exercise of power. Morality justifies exceptions to itself by means of perceived or actual necessity. Morality is indeed precisely an aporia of exception to itself. The structure of morality is therefore precisely the discourse of perceived or actual necessity of structure of power.

The art of axiomatics is however dependent on good judgment and good judgment is learned by studying historical consequences of application of axioms. However, good judgment also requires emotions as a computer made of metals and plastics cannot conceivably calculate how different axioms delimit each other. Good judgment therefore is a talent and indeed a talent which like other talents can be nurtured and innovatively developed indeed. Ethics as the art of axiomatics is therefore not reducible to any uni-phallic logos since it is irreducible to logics alone and therefore cannot be mathematically calculated.

The art of ethics is usually also not reducible to dichotomous thinking as implicitly stemming from asymmetric gender ideology (dialectics being the heteronormativity of philosophy) as the art of axiomatics is usually not reducible to the perceived dialectics of any two factors. In fact, one good axiom may in practice intersect with many other good axioms. Good judgment may also fail due to lack of existence of or lack of familiarity with good axioms. For example in the Nuremberg trials the charged Nazi criminals correctly pointed out that they broke no law and rather followed orders. The court however ruled that the Nazi offenders should nevertheless have understood that what they did was wrong and therefore illegal. The Nuremberg process uniquely asserted that justice means that ethics overrules legalistic literalism. Unfortunately has this usually not been applied in legal systems generally although Israel’s High Court of Justice as inspired by the Nuremberg process frequently invalidates new parliamentary legislation as purportedly or actually contrary to the ethics of liberal democracy.

Therefore ethics is usually not entirely reducible to a binary adjudication of any two axioms and ethics must also anticipate its own imperfection, meaning not only relative lack of good judgment but also absence or ignorance of appropriate axioms for judging any particular situation. The appropriate axiom for determining a particular situation may simply not yet exist or at least not so in the mind of person trying to perform the art of axiomatics.

The art of axiomatics is therefore not a closed system but must as the Nuremberg judges indicated anticipate the coming of yet further good axioms. Indeed, the Nazi offenders as charged in the Nuremberg process were precisely told that they should indeed have anticipated that their legalistic behavior would indeed be considered illegal in the future. Therefore, perceived necessity is often an expression of ignorance and lack of imagination. This is not to say that there is no such thing as necessity but rather that the very notion of necessity is limited by existing discourse and that perceived necessity may rather be an expression of lack of imagination and lack of anticipation of the axiomatics of the future. One problem with morality therefore is its typically utter lack of interest in social innovation as perceived necessity may simply be a property of not only ignorance but also lack of imagination such as thinking in the box of genre, paradigm and dogma.

For example, it can certainly be rightly argued that prisons and wars should not exist. However the person putting forth this argument typically does not see herself/himself as obliged to engage in social innovation to resolve these two problems but will rather suffice with insisting that prisons and wars are unethical and therefore ought not exist. The same could be argued with the cycle of death known as so called ‘ecosystems’ and the cycle of suffering that is known as ‘capitalism’. However merely pointing this out is insufficient as the person making such an assertion is usually more focused on how things ought not be as opposed to engage in social innovation to provide better options.

Open society is full of oppositions and opposition is certainly most necessary as it is even legitimate to be wrong as what is wrong helps us infer what is right. This is however not to say that prejudice is legitimate despite it being legitimate to be wrong.  Adhering to a system of thought is typically insufficient in ending something wrong as systems themselves are not especially ethical. Communists thus typically point out the severe social inadequacies inherent in what is known as ‘capitalism’ without offering anything better, in fact the application of their impractical ideas have been completely disastrous in giving rise to far worse social phenomena. This is because they do not feel intellectually challenged to come up with better options and therefore out of intellectual inertia simply do not engage in social innovation. The quality of social innovation is therefore not limited to its theoretical qualities but it must also actually work to reasonable satisfaction. Sayyid Qutb, the evil genius of Sunni Islamism therefore was certainly right in observing that Communism is contrary to what is known as ‘human nature’. However, what he himself advocated was indeed no less contrary to what is known as ‘human nature’.

What is needed therefore is less certainty of necessity although there is often a time constraint as the temporal nature of necessity typically does not allow for timely implementation of social innovation. For example a soldier in a battlefield may not have time for social innovation as s/he may have to make a decision within a fraction of a second. Even so is war itself typically won by means of social innovation. Therefore we must as the Nuremberg trials meditate on past perceived ‘necessities’ and engage in social innovation so that those errors will no more be repeated.

Also axioms that are perceived as ‘good’ may not be so but may merely be instrumental in serving a purpose that is not ethical all. Also axioms need to be continually improved and axiomatics need become anticipatory in terms of anticipating the axiomatics of the future. One way to judge the goodness of an axiom is to put it in social, cultural and historical context and so historicization may reveal that an axiom perceived as ‘good’ may simply be expressive of a mere collective desire of a given period in history in a particular society. For example, there is reason to believe that diversity is indeed good, yet all diversity is hardly good. Is diversity in racism and sexism really good? And so the good axiom according to which diversity is good must be delimited by yet many other good axioms.

The ‘secular’ legal system is often considered as the decisors of justice. Rather courts of law historically emerged for the purpose of arbitration of disputes as intended to avoid vendettas. Courts of law therefore deal with conflict management rather than conflict resolution and aside from obvious cases this usually has very little to do with justice in the sense of wisdom of judgment. In fact, the officers of courts of law are typically even more callous than the presumed criminal offenders whom they sentence to cruel punishment. The very lack of conscientiousness is in fact no less typical of the officers of the courts of law than the criminal offenders whom they convict.

And so prisons continue to exist in the perceived absence of viable alternatives and the legal machine therefore continues to engage in extremely cruel acts of sentencing when actually the real task is social innovation. As most recidivist criminals suffer from antisocial personality disorders (ADHD/psychopathy) should the focus rather be on gene therapy and other measures that will actually obviate the very real need for prisons. And so merely stating that prisons must be abolished will not abolish prisons unless viable alternatives are offered in its stead.

Therefore a moral necessity may indeed be necessary due to a very real time constraint but that does not obviate the necessity of social innovation so as to prevent the reoccurrence of past errors as perceived necessity is typically due to the absence of social innovation. Social innovation therefore also needs to be anticipatory in the sense of predicting potential discursive necessities and providing innovative solutions thereto even long before the perceived necessity emerges. And so performing the art of axiomatics requires participating in the essential art of social innovation, indeed anticipating what Jacques Derrida referred to as the axiomatics of the future.