Pandora III: The Platinum Rule

A Kill at Ashdown Park 1743. James Seymour, 1702(?)-1752. Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery and subscribers 1969. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T01115

✥ The Platinum Rule

Empower autopoietic systems proportional to the extent these systems empower other autopoietic systems.

✥ Autopoietic systems

For now, I will leave autopoietic systems undefined, and I will restrict myself to its subset containing the members of the various life forms currently found on Earth. An individual zebra, for example.

✥ Empowerment

Empowerment means supporting the autonomy and flourishing (cf. eudaimonia) of an autopoietic system in the broadest sense. The opposite of empowerment is disempowerment: interfering with the autonomy or flourishing of an autopoietic system. Watering a crowberry plant in times of drought is empowerment; uprooting it disempowerment.

✥ Proportionality

A crowberry plant supports other forms of life. 

Crowberries are eaten [by] many animals from robins to capercaillies, and from stoats to bears.

luontoportti.com, entry on crowberry

Therefore, to uproot a crowberry plant does not only disempower the plant itself but also imposes on the food resources available to robins and other crowberry eaters. If food is scarce for some of those crowberry eaters, this disempowers other autopoietic systems.

Suppose a mother has a six-year-old son, Matias. They are camping near a field with flowers. Matias likes picking flowers. Should his mother allow that? If she would follow the Platinum Rule, she wouldn’t. Though intervening imposes on Matias’s autonomy, not intervening imposes (a) on the autonomy of the flowers, who will die, and (b) on the insects dependent on the flowers, who will have fewer resources available to them.

✥ Why do we need the Platinum Rule?

I have invented the Platinum Rule (PR) with some considerations in mind. Most importantly, the rule should be activesimple, inclusive, moralflexible, meaningful, and general. “Do no harm” is a good rule when everyone would commit to it. But we do not live in such a world. That’s why I like an active ethical imperative that encourages ethical behavior on a planet with immorality and amorality.

Following the Platinum Rule means contributing to flourishing and autonomy, and resisting instrumental attitudes toward the members of life forms, human or nonhuman.

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