The Wodanian Ethics
“We say this because it would be odd to think that political science or wisdom is the most excellent form of knowledge, given that man is not the best of the inhabitants of the universe. What is healthy and good for human beings is not the same as what is healthy and good for fishes.”
“It is evident that philosophical understanding is not the same as political science; for if you call concern with what is beneficial to yourself philosophy, then there will be many different philosophies. There will not be a single one concerned with the good of all animals, but a different one for each.”
“Wisdom is concerned with conduct; so we need to have both forms of knowledge, universal and particular – the latter, perhaps, more than the former. And here, too, there will be a kind that has a supervisory role.”
Aristotle, the Eudemian Ethics.
Allow us to start with a question, ‘what is the nature of our existence?’ If we limit our inquiries to the present moment it is not possible to answer this question at all, for, what we are really asking is, ‘from where did I come?’ Now we may answer this question in two parts; the immediate, personal sense, and the macro, genealogical sense. In the immediate sense we, that is – homo sapiens, come from two parents of opposing genders – sperm from the male is inserted into a female ovum in a process known as fertilisation. The macro, genealogical sense is simply an exhaustive extension of this process – we look back on a generation by generation basis until the entire inquiry encompasses so much time that we must abandon the individual phenomena of genetics to present the timeline of our species – homo sapiens. Tracing the genetic material of Homo Sapiens brings us to a point in time 200,000 years from our present day. But where did Homo Sapiens originate from?
Higher Primates are broken down into two subdivisions; Catarrhini and Platyrrhines. These Higher Primates, often referred to as either ‘Simians’ or ‘Anthropoids’, can be traced back as far as 40,000,000 years ago. At this point in history the Higher Primates split into the subdivisions of Catarrhini (Apes and Old World Monkeys) and Platyrrhines (New World Monkeys). The prefix of both ‘New World’ and ‘Old World’ is a reference to the area which the monkeys colonised. New World Monkeys descended from African Simians which colonised South America around 40,000,000 years ago and have the appearance of a flat-nose, (Platyrrhines, in Greek). The Old World Monkeys and Apes remained in Africa and have the appearance of a down-nose (Catarrhini, in Greek). The Catarrhini group itself split into Old World Monkeys and Apes around 25,000,000 years ago. Following the line of Apes (collectively known as ‘Hominoidea’) we arrive at another split; Great Apes and Lesser Apes diverging roughly 17,000,000 years ago. The Lesser Ape, also called Gibbons (Hylobatidae), are smaller in size than the Great Apes but are still tailless which prevents their classification as ‘monkeys’. The Great Apes (collectively known as ‘Hominoidae’ and, perhaps more commonly, ‘Hominid’) diverged again about 16,000,000 years ago into Homininae and Pongo (Orangutans). Around 7,000,000 years ago the Homininae split into Hominini and Gorillini (Gorillas). Around 6,000,000 years ago the Hominini split into Homo and Pan (Chimpanzee).
Homo Evolution and the Australopithecine Link
The link from Hominid to Homo is not as clear as the above framework suggests. The earliest evidence of the Homo genus existing on Earth is dated to roughly 2,800,000 years ago in the form of Homo Habilis. Yet the direct ancestor of Homo Habilis is still the matter of some debate. It is accepted that the Hominini subtribe Australopithecine is the direct ancestor of the Homo genus, but it remains to be proven exactly which species of Australopithecine fulfils that coveted role. Australopithecus Africanis and Australopithecus Garhi have been put forward as contenders among others. Yet some argue that the Homo genus emerged before both Australopithecus Africanis and Australopithecus Garhi, believing that Homo Habilis was a descendent of the earlier Australopithecus Afarensis which existed between 3.9 and 2.9 million years ago. Homo Habilis itself existed between 2.8 and 1.5 million years ago having split from the Australopithecine genus. Between 1.8 – 1.3 million years ago lived Homo Ergaster alongside Homo Erectus 1.9 million – 70,000 years ago. Some argue that Homo Ergaster is just the African variety of Homo Erectus and that Homo Erectus is the descendant of Homo Habilis, in line with current evidence. Homo Erectus was the ancestor to Homo Heidelbergensis with the latter living from 600,000 years ago until around 200,000 years ago. Homo Heidelbergensis then evolved into three separate species; Homo Neanderthalensis (existing from 250,000 – 40,000 years ago), Homo Denisovan (existing from 200,000 – 40,000 years ago) and Homo Sapiens (existing 200,000 years ago to present).
The Migration of Homo Heidelbergensis and Homo Sapiens
Two known migrations occurred out of Africa in the history of Homo evolution. The first occurred between 300,000 – 400,000 years ago when Homo Heidelbergensis emigrated from North Africa. One group headed northwest into Europe and evolved into Homo Neanderthalensis whilst the other travelled east through Asia evolving into Homo Denisovans. The second migration occurred when Homo Sapiens, having evolved from Homo Heidelbergensis in Africa, journeyed to the Levant about 100,000 years ago. This brought Homo Sapiens into contact with both Neanderthals and Denisovans. Within 5,000 years of contact both the Neanderthals and the Denisovans were extinct.
The Model of Acquisition
Humanity is a biological agent reliant upon sustenance in the form of nutrients to live. Without food Homo Sapiens will starve. It is therefore necessary to acquire adequate sustenance to survive and excess reserves if one wishes to grow. Survival and civilisation depend upon the acquisition of resources. It is therefore necessary to build resource acquisition into our model of ethics as, without which, Humanity cannot exist in which to construct models on ethics. There exist three methods of acquisition for us to study. These are;
- Acquisition through exploration – Homo Heidelbergensis and Homo Sapiens migration from Africa
- Acquisition through extermination – Wars for resources; Manifest Destiny, Lebensraum
- Acquisition through conservation – Environmental resilience and ecosystem stability
Acquisition through trade has been omitted as some product must be first acquired before it can be traded. Even the flow of digital information requires hardware and energy to function. It will even be said than any ‘virtual’ entity is not actually virtual at all for at least two-thirds of the system must reside in physical space – that is, it requires a physical platform (normally a computer to process) and an energy source (power plant, battery, etc.) to function. Only the third part, the concept, is free from these physical forms.
Moving on, every ethical system that claims to be a philosophy of rational existence must justify, or, at the very least, identify the origins of its existence. To this end allow us to examine the three methods listed above.
The first is fairly straight forward; one simply moves to areas of wealth to consume resources. There does not necessarily have to be an understanding or equilibrium established with the environment. Such knowledge may help a species survive a little longer, even to the basic level of moving away to allow the area to replenish.
The second method occurs when the first fails and has proven to be Humanity’s default position in times of crisis (most notably soil degradation and population overshoot). Its ‘justification’, if we may even employ the term, simply states that the needs of one group are greater than another. It can utilise concepts to enshrine such doctrine (‘Manifest Destiny’, ‘Aryan Supremacy’) but all have the same goal – the extermination of one or multiple groups to benefit the persecutors.
The third concept is the most laboursome of the three because it requires an understanding and respect of one’s environment – most notably the limits of its ecosystem – if we are to secure a prosperous future. It imposes real constraints upon the behaviour of Homo Sapiens who must develop not only an environmental framework but also a value system which complements this conservation. It is this third method which the Wodanian Ethics shall explore.