The Right Thing To Do: Matrix Morality [MT122]

David Noel
Ben Franklin Centre for Theoretical Research
PO Box 27, Subiaco, WA 6008, Australia.

Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels
-- Dr Samuel Johnson

Politics and Other Crimes

Is there a moral aspect to Politics? I imagine that almost everyone would say that there is. What about Science, is there a moral side to that?

I suspect that those who think there is morality to science would not respond as readily as they would to the question on politics. The more thoughtful response might be to say, that it is not really science itself which has moral aspects, it is the application of science.

How about Mathematics? Well, no, hardly anyone would say there is a moral side to mathematics. Mathematics, traditionally the Queen and Servant of the Sciences, is viewed as a non-judgmental tool or techniques package. Valuable both as an analysis and as a synthesis and prediction tool, mathematics pervades the whole structure of modern society. But neither its existence nor its use is classed as moral. Mathematics is morality-neutral.

And just like mathematics, Matrix Thinking is also morality-neutral. The MT apparatus which we have developed here is intended to provide a powerful tool for analysis of human society and other social structures. It is also intended to provide a useful prediction and synthesis tool for possible changes to these societies. But it is not intended to give an answer to the question as to whether particular past, present, or future situations are Right or Wrong.

The Buck Stops Here

Here is the crunch. Matrix Thinking is non-judgmental, it is morality-neutral. This is not a Proposition, I am defining it so. If instances may be pointed out where my application of MT does appear to be judgmental, then I will say that these instances are purely ones where I have been less successful, or even in error, in attempting to accomplish my main intention in building the MT intellectual engine.

It is true that, in what has gone before and what follows, terms as 'better than', 'advantaged', or 'successful' may have been used in the presentation of formal propositions. These terms clearly appear to have some judgmental bias.

I admit this, but say that the judgement is really one level removed. For lack of other acceptable terms, and to avoid increasing the semantic burden with non-essential new words, I am using these terms in the generally-accepted sense. For MT, 'better than' means accepted as better in that instance at that time, with nothing absolute about the 'better'. And, of course, like the Curate's Egg, MT recognizes that something may be 'good in some parts'.

What is Morality?

According to the usual dictionary definitions, Morality is concerned with the distinction between Right and Wrong. Whether Right and Wrong are absolute terms or not is a question with as many answers as there are people to respond. Moral behaviour is usually equated with 'right' behaviour, or, one step removed, conduct according to a set of rules which is accepted as right.

Matrix Thinking, as we have seen, has the formulation of rules as part of its basis. It does not say what is moral, but can yield a definition of what morality is. Let us present such a definition as a Proposition.

Proposition 122A**. Morality is recognition of the needs of wider systons

I imagine that such a definition can be regarded as acceptable at the level of individuals. Some would make it stronger, perhaps adding 'and response to' after 'recognition'. This MT definition allows the usual ideas of traits such as selfishness, violence against others, and intolerance being 'morally-negative'. More important, it brings out the concept that morality is a synenergy flow which is directed outwards, from a narrower syston to a wider one.

As always with MT, the intention is that contents of Propositions should be tested as applicable over the whole Matrix, over all levels of systons. Morality is usually applied at the level of individuals, but is sometimes seen at wider levels, particularly at country-syston levels.

Wars and Immigration

This is most clearly seen with wars. Wars at every level are usually viewed as high in moral content, particularly religious wars such as the Crusades. In most wars, the countries involved believe that they are in the right, that they are acting in a moral and justified manner -- even if they are opposing a country acting directly oppositely, but with the same moral conviction.

It is of interest that Japan, as a country-syston, has officially apologized for its actions during World War II. Many would think that this is only right and proper -- undoubtedly it was the Japan-syston which was responsible for its acts, these were not just the sum of the acts of the individual soldiers and others involved -- but what is interesting from the MT viewpoint is that the 'systonization' of Japan has reached such a level.

It has already been suggested that the syston skin around Japan is one of the most impermeable of any country in the world. In a real sense, Japan can be considered to have a 'national conscience', permitting it to give a national apology. The act of apology involved has very few parallels elsewhere -- most other examples involve a head of state 'expressing regret on behalf of' the country's people.

Almost every 'moral' aspect of the individual has its parallel in other syston levels. These are most evident with systons with thick and obvious skins, such as countries, which in modern times have built up entry controls unparalleled in previous history -- very thick skins. The equivalent of individual selfishness is national immigration restrictions. The equivalent of personal altruism is a country's foreign aid program. The equivalents of personal jealously and personal pride are national jealousy and national pride.

To those who have a personal sense of morality -- and who does not -- the question from MT would be this: does your morality justify or rule out an action at a wider level, which it would not justify or rule out at a narrower one?

If your neighbour is poor and you would like to help him by buying the fruit he grows or the chairs he makes, should your country help its poorer neighbours by buying the fruit or furniture they produce, or should it impose entry and customs tariffs to stifle these imports off? If you have a morality, how far out does it extend? If your syston skin is a thick, impermeable one, bloated with SIOS, does this accord with your moral principles? Do you treat your neighbour as yourself?

MT does not say what is moral. But, in the usual spirit of generalization, Matrix Thinking can be applied to generalize about morality.

Proposition 122B**. Any morality applies equally at all syston levels

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

To make a comment on this article, please click HERE.

Go to the "Matrix Thinking: How Society Works" Home Page

Versions 1.0-1.2, printed editions (Matrix Thinking Book I, BFC Press, Australia, 1992-1997)
Version 2.0, 2004, PDFs etc on World Wide Web (
Version 3.0, 2014 Jul 11, Reworked from chapter 122 of "Matrix Thinking" as one article in a suite on the World Wide Web.