The structure of Tremblayian morality

UPDATE: Wisdom Commons posted a link to this entry while accusing me of being “confused.” I am not confused. Anyone is free to try to refute the deductions I propose, or to present differing observations.


(note: I do not call it Tremblayian out of arrogance or belief that I am morally superior, but only to give it some label to distinguish it from other moral systems)


P1. Morality is defined as the study of the evaluation of human action. Moral systems concern themselves with how to make such an evaluation, and what principles must guide it.
P2. To analyze the field of morality we must, as in any other field, start with what is observed and analyze it. Any further deductions must be grounded in these observations.
P3. All other moral systems are invalid due to not following P2, either by positing premises that are not based on what is observed, or by making reasoning errors in their deductions.

– Christian morality claims that the Bible is the standard of morality. But in order for this to be true, the moral agent must first decide to read the Bible and accept it as the standard of morality. Therefore there must necessarily pre-exist a moral structure that is outside of the Bible. All attempts by Christians to resolve this problem have led them to some form of moral realism.
– Utilitarianism claims that we must pursue the greatest good for the greatest number, but why not the least harm for the greatest number, or some function of both? Neither of these goals are observable or deducible from what is observed, and therefore they are all outside the purview of morality. It is also logically impossible to perform the inter-subjective comparisons which are necessary for utilitarianism to draw any conclusions whatsoever.
Both these systems also break the universality principle in different ways.


O1. All living beings have values. (a value is anything- object, state or relation- that one seeks to gain or keep)
O2. All living beings act in accordance with their values.
(O2 is a tautological statement given the definition of values in O1, but can also be deduced as the law of causality applied to actions.)
O3. Some of the actions performed to fulfill a given value are more successful than others.
O4. On the whole, we can roughly predict which actions will be more successful by the use of reason applied to the specific domain of the action.
O5. The values of human beings, at coarse granularities, form a self-sustaining hierarchy:
– physical values (eg. health, food, shelter, mobility, etc)
– mental values (rationality, purpose, conceptual knowledge, education, self-esteem, leisure, etc)
– social values (free exchange, language, communication, friendship, love, etc)
– organizational values (freedom, rights, justice, equality, infrastructure, health care, education, etc).
O6. The coarse-grained values of human beings are innate, not learned. Learning can only refine our understanding of them and how to fulfill them. We know this because they exist in all human societies and in all individuals.
O7. The finer-grained values (i.e. the values which we effect in our daily lives as sub-divisions of the coarser-grained values) are matters of implementation, and can be highly personal. While we all eat, we also all eat different things, and what we eat depends on a number of personal factors, some of which are present-time and some of which rely on long-standing conditioning or associations.


D1. There exists a principle by which we can evaluate actions: whether an action, taken to fulfill a given value or values, is a rational or irrational way to do so. Actions can therefore be evaluated as “good” or “evil.”
D2. There exists a principle by which we can evaluate values: whether they sustain other values, and whether they integrate within a hierarchical structure. Values can therefore be evaluated as “good” or “evil.”
D3. Moral principles must be universal- apply to all human beings at all times and in all places- or they do not pertain to the innate values of every human beings (we should rather call them “attempts to stratify” or “personal preferences,” depending on the proposition). This is called the universality principle or the moral razor.
D4. There exist mental attitudes, general principles of action, which are conducive to moral actions, and some which are counter-conducive. The former we call virtues, the latter we call vices.
D5. Principles are needed in practice when the particulars are too numerous or complex to constantly analyze. We need virtues because actions must often be taken in the course of moments, where long reasoning on an issue is not desirable.
D6. Because they are closest to what one would call “moral principles,” virtues represent the backbone of a moral system and its most demonstrative expression.

Examples of Moral Principles

Towards the self:

Rationality: The commitment to understand causal principles using our reason.
Critical Thinking: The commitment to rationally evaluate what one believes, regardless of one’s prior attachment to ideas, ideologies or worldviews, using all the knowledge possible. The commitment to rationally evaluate what other people claim, neither denying or accepting automatically based on other properties of the person or what is being claimed.
Integrity: The commitment to act in accordance with principles in pursuit of long-range values.
Responsibility: The commitment to hold oneself accountable for achieving one’s values on the basis of rational principles.
Honesty: The commitment to grasp the truth and admit it to oneself.
Authenticity: The commitment to reject all indoctrination (religious, social, political) and to act on the basis of one’s own values instead of the values propagated by any exterior determinism.

Towards others:

Benevolence: The commitment to act peacefully towards other people as long as they do not harm us (tit-for-tat strategy).
Non-Coercion: The commitment to not initiate the use of physical force or exploitation against others (in accordance with the universality principle, this also applies to any act committed as an agent of the State).
Anti-Coercion: The commitment to denounce or help prevent coercion or exploitation done against others (in accordance with the universality principle, this also applies to any act committed by an agent of the State).
Autonomy: The commitment to act by one’s independent judgment.
Non-Prejudice: The commitment to evaluate other people as being morally equal to ourselves, equally worthy of rights and freedoms, and equally unworthy to break other people’s rights and freedoms.
Justice: The commitment to evaluate other people rationally and act accordingly.


C1. Tremblayian morality do not fall to the is-ought problem, because one can easily translate statements of fact into statements of morality through the existence of values, under the following general form:

(1) X is a state of affairs I am placed under.
(2) I value not-X.
(3) Y is the most rational action to undertake in order to effect not-X.
(4) Therefore I ought to do Y. (from 1, 2 and 3)

C2. Tremblayian morality states that morality (or at least its foundation) is innate, not learned, which is the underpinning for the concept of the true self and the process of deconversion (gaining authenticity). This implies that man is innately good and that all basic moral concepts are available to all (e.g. Lysander Spooner’s belief that justice is an innate property, and therefore cannot be invented by the State, only refined by free individuals). As I have proven before, exterior determinisms cannot logically cause any law or rule to be moral without personal belief or approval, which itself would come from some personal pre-existing moral code.

C3. Tremblayian morality implies that a classless society is the most moral (due to the universality principle), and therefore imply that some form of Anarchism is the most moral organization system. This, combined with our innate organizational values (e.g. our belief in freedom, equality, on what is and is not necessary for society to provide, and so on) and our views on human beings (whether we believe man is innately good or evil, what we believe is man’s natural state of being, whether we think man can be free), gives rise to one’s ethical view (i.e. what form of organization of society is the most desirable).

C4. O2, as well as the fact that social life is natural and innate, suggests to me that the issue of “egoism” and “altruism,” or of “self-interest,” is probably irrelevant and/or unnecessary.

17 thoughts on “The structure of Tremblayian morality

  1. Roderick T. Long August 12, 2008 at 12:19

    Christian morality claims that the Bible is the standard of morality.

    This seems an over-generalisation. I was raised as a Christian but was never taught to confuse the map with the territory in that way.

  2. Francois Tremblay August 12, 2008 at 12:21

    You were raised as a Christian and were not taught that morality comes from the Word of God? Interesting. Well, I’d say that’s pretty rare.

  3. Roderick T. Long August 12, 2008 at 20:10

    Not all that rare. In the more liberal denominations the impact of 19th-century textual criticism went pretty far. It’s not at all unusual for Christians hold that the Bible a) reflects moral truth as opposed to being its source, and b) doesn’t reflect it perfectly or with equal consistency throughout, being filtered through the understandings of fallible mortals. Don’t confuse degree of obnoxious loudness with degree of numerical dominance.

  4. Francois Tremblay August 12, 2008 at 23:46

    All right then, treat it as my critic of Divine Command Theory as applied to the Bible specifically.

  5. Roderick T. Long August 13, 2008 at 11:41

    God commanded me not to believe in divine command theory. :-)

  6. Black Bloke August 14, 2008 at 18:31

    Good work François. How long did this take to develop?

  7. Black Bloke August 14, 2008 at 18:36

    Also, I’d recommend writing a description of responsibility that doesn’t include the word “responsibility” in the explanation.

  8. Francois Tremblay August 14, 2008 at 18:38

    “Good work François. How long did this take to develop?”

    Entirely too long, I’m afraid. Pretty much ever since I started reading about morality.

  9. Anarcho-pragmatiste August 15, 2008 at 19:07

    “I do not call it Tremblayian out of arrogance or belief that I am morally superior, but only to give it some label to distinguish it from other ethical systems”


  10. Francois Tremblay August 16, 2008 at 02:51


  11. Anarcho-pragmatiste August 16, 2008 at 15:23

    No it’s not a sarcastic laughing by me. I know you’re serious and I agree with you. After your dicussion with Jeremy, I find it funny.

  12. Francois Tremblay August 16, 2008 at 15:26

    Oh okay.

  13. incarnadine256 December 10, 2008 at 16:46

    This is a bit late, but I’d like to congratulate you on this post. I’ve been thinking a lot about ethics lately, and the conclusions I’ve drawn are very similar to yours.

    I do have one criticism that I’d like to make, however. You suggest that values form a hierarchy and I don’t think this is accurate. While it is true that one needs to fulfill the more “basic” values before fulfilling the more “complex” ones is possible, people still have the ability to order their own values as they choose.

    Let me use two of your examples, food and freedom. Obviously if I am to experience the value of freedom, I must eat, because it is impossible to experience freedom without being alive and one needs to eat to survive. But there is no reason I can’t take a “liberty or death” approach to life and choose that I’d rather die than not have freedom.

    Now, obviously people who hold “complex” values to be more important than “basic” values are going to have trouble leading full lives, but that is their decision. I think a hierarchy of values is a useful tool, but you can’t assert that it’s grounded in reality. To do so is value-arrogance.

  14. Andrew December 16, 2008 at 19:39

    Here’s what I have to say about values and ethics.

  15. Aahz January 9, 2009 at 18:14

    Amazing work. Of course, it’s also irritating because now I feel the need to enumerate Aahzian Ethics as well and I’m not sure I’m up to the challenge. We shall see.

    I’m also still not sure how D3 (“the universality principle”) comes into play, but I’m hoping that further reading and thinking on the conept will prove of merit there.

  16. Francois Tremblay January 10, 2009 at 11:56

    It comes into play because it is a disproof of a lot of moral concepts and theories. Sort of like Occam’s Razor, if you will.

  17. Francois Tremblay January 10, 2009 at 23:03

    “Also, I’d recommend writing a description of responsibility that doesn’t include the word “responsibility” in the explanation.”

    Thank you for noticing that. I made the change.

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