Bahá'í Library Online
. . . .
.
>>   Book Reviews
> add tags
Notes:
Mirrored with permission from www.onecountry.org/e102/e10216as.htm.

Love, Power, and Justice: The Dynamics of Authentic Morality, by William Hatcher:
Review

by Brad Pokorny

published in One Country, 10:2
New York: Baha'i International Community, 1998-07
"Using logic in the search for supreme values:" Review of
Love, Power and Justice: the Dynamics of Authentic Morality
Author: William S. Hatcher
Publisher: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Illinois, 1998
Review by: Brad Pokorny


What is Justice? What is Truth? What is right and wrong? Is there a God?

These questions have engrossed philosophers and thoughtful people everywhere since ancient times. The answers have come in great variety, from Plato's theory of ideal forms to more recent concepts of cultural relativism and situational ethics.

The relevance of these questions today is highlighted by discussions about the need for a new paradigm of global ethics and the accompanying search for universal values. These discussions are perhaps most heated in areas like human rights, where there is continuing disagreement over the degree to which all possess the same rights or whether cultural and religious factors give rise to different rights for different groups of people. But the questions - and the answers they generate - also loom large in the background of contemporary debates over the environment, educational methodology and media ethics - not to mention more straightforward issues like military intervention and national sovereignty.

For these reasons even the most hardheaded of policy makers, as well as thinking people in virtually any culture, will find new and important ideas in the latest book from William S. Hatcher, an American-born mathematician, philosopher and educator at Laval University in Quebec, Canada.

Love, Power and Justice: The Dynamics of Authentic Morality offers a bold and creative philosophical framework for understanding these great questions and more. Quite specifically, the book seeks to define the nature of "authentic morality" - a term that Dr. Hatcher uses to describe a moral system that conforms with "an accurate perception of the structure of reality."

In the process, Dr. Hatcher outlines a series of philosophic constructs that assert with convincing logic the existence of an all-powerful Creator, the ultimate nobility of the human being, and the necessity for viewing altruistic love as the guiding value in human relationships. Dr. Hatcher's work also defines the legitimate use of power and the prerequisites for establishing justice.

The logic he employs goes far to prove the universality of such values and, by extension, to establish the universal nature of human rights, the downfall of cultural relativism and the demise of situational ethics. Another by-product is a stunning critique of some of this century's most vibrant ideologies, including fundamentalist religion, collectivist economics and the currently reigning idea that individualistic competition promotes society's best development.

The book begins in a straightforward and direct manner, with the simple assumption that the ultimate source of all intrinsic values is God, "for He is the Creator who has alone determined the inner structure and degree of refinement of each entity in existence."

As the supreme value in existence, the Creator by definition becomes the ultimate end and goal of all human moral striving, Dr. Hatcher says. Further, he asserts, "[b]ecause the 'reality of man' (the human soul) is capable of reflecting all the attributes of God, the human being is the apex of creation" and "the highest created value." He continues that since "the God-given value of humankind is inherent in our essential nature, it is intrinsic and, since it is shared by all humans, it is universal."

This, of course, is all quite similar to what has been taught by most of the world's religions. And such ideas have also been hotly disputed by materialistic philosophers who argue that there is no God (or no reliable proof of God) or any evidence of the human soul, and so on. Yet it would be wrong to say that Dr. Hatcher, who is a Bahá'í, looks to the past for his ideas, and that his call for the acceptance of absolute truths and universal values is a return to traditionalism.

Rather, Dr. Hatcher says he has drawn on and been inspired by the Bahá'í writings for the insights that have led to his new formulation. Further, Love, Power and Justice is distinguished for its almost exclusive reliance on pure logic for its conclusions.

Indeed, what makes the book so important is its use of new forms of logic, based on mathematical concepts discovered within the last 100 years, that, in subsequent sections, are used to prove the existence of a universal, unique and uncreated Creator [see below] and, by logical inference from that, the existence of a supreme and universal system of values. Dr. Hatcher reasons, for example, that since God is the unique, universal Cause, God must also be the most refined entity in existence and, accordingly, the most valued entity in existence.

With these conclusions established, Dr. Hatcher then fills out the rest of his book with an exposition of what such a reality must mean for human morality - deriving what he considers to be "authentic" morality from this hierarchy of values.

Authentic morality begins with our relationship with God, as the highest value in the universe, and our relationship with other humans, as the highest created value. "Since the human being is the supreme value in creation, it is our interactions with other humans that have the greatest degree of moral implication," he writes. "So much is this so, that we can say that the most specific goal of morality is to establish authentic relationships with other human beings.

"The mark of authenticity in interhuman relationships is the presence of self-sacrificing love or altruism. Non-authentic relationships are based on various forms of egotism and self-interest and are characterized by conflict, disharmony, manipulation, cruelty, jealousy and the like."

In examining further what such a concept of authentic relationships must mean in terms of moral actions in society, for example, Dr. Hatcher takes a look at other models of reality and finds them deficient. He is especially concerned with any ideology or system that holds ideas or things to be more important than human beings.

For example, he writes, although all religions have taught of the necessity of authentic relationships (such as Christ's commandment to "love God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as they self"), he concludes that many religious groups have become more concerned with doctrine, rejecting authentic morality and instead defining morality as a set of rules or beliefs that must be accepted above all else, even if doing so means harming others.

"Indeed, militant and exclusivist fundamentalist ideology seems to have become predominant within many of the world's major religions in these closing years of the twentieth century," he writes.

Dr. Hatcher likewise examines various humanistic ideologies. Communism and other collectivist ideologies were doomed to fail, he suggests, because they hold that the only possible source of individual value is what may be attributed by society, rather than the intrinsic value that stems from the God-created soul. "We must each conceive of ourselves as having value, for to consider oneself worthless is to perpetrate spiritual or psychological suicide," Dr. Hatcher writes. Since the only source of self worth in a collectivist society is, by definition, the value attributed to the individual by society, the individual soon realizes, whatever the rhetoric, that his or her value is determined by his or her position in the status hierarchy.

In this situation, he writes, "[p]ower and authority allow us to compel others to recognize our worth." Hence the tendency to seek dominance over others, which causes great unhappiness and inherent instability.

The ideology of individualism in the West is also flawed, Dr. Hatcher believes. "Recall that individualism gives value to personal ability that is demonstrably above the perceived norm in society," he writes. "Individualism is the supervaluation of the special. In a society where all accept the individualistic notion of value, we can avoid the self-perception of worthlessness only by demonstrating special ability in some way. This is done primarily through competition, i.e. by constantly striving to outperform others and thereby to demonstrate our superior ability in a given area of endeavor."

One problem is that sometimes the optimal strategy for winning a competition is sabotage or corruption - and, without authentic morality, there is in the end no ethical reason to abstain from such behavior.

A value system based on authentic relationships - and in particular an authentic relationship with God - gives rise instead to the pursuit of excellence, whereby one's self-worth is measured not through competition with others but by the degree to which an individual improves his or her talents (or, rather, strives to develop one's God-given qualities).

There is much more to this book than outlined here. Dr. Hatcher spends considerable time looking at how his theory of authentic morality applies to questions regarding the pursuit of power and the creation of justice. Power should be used only to promote justice, never for revenge or for purely selfish motives, for example.

In contemporary philosophy, then, the metaphysical theory outlined in Love, Power and Justice is in a category virtually by itself, diametrically opposed to the dominant schools of post-modernistic relativism, materialism and deconstructionism.

The book adds up to a powerful exposition on global ethics - even though it has none of the usual set of "dos and don'ts" that one usually associates with other attempts to formulate a universal prescription for living. Rather, Dr. Hatcher presents us with something much more intriguing: a new framework for ethics that he believes can be logically proved to be universal and authentic.
Back to:   Book Reviews
Home Site Map Forum Links Copyright About Contact
.
. .