1. Looking Back and Looking Ahead
The challenge posed at the end of the preceding discussion of fourth-dimensional value was this: How, if at all, might we access the fourth dimension of value from the limited points of view and forms of life of the first three dimensions of value in which we necessarily find ourselves as finite beings?
As it turns out, this was the problem faced by the retreatants in the section on Ethics— that is, those who stayed behind at the retreat to search for objective values after others had left. These retreatants were frustrated by the failure of those at the retreat to reach agreement about which ways of life were objectively good and right because they were arguing from different points of view and could not agree. But unlike those who left the retreat because they did not believe there was any objective good or right to be seeking, these retreatants had not given up the belief that there was an objective good and right to be seeking and they stayed in order to continue the search for it.
Looking at the efforts of these retreatants from the perspective of the discussion of the dimensions of value, we can now see their reflections as a way of groping toward the fourth dimension of value from the different third dimensional points of view and forms of life they inhabited. Viewed in this way, the reasoning of these retreatants (spelled out in parts 2 and 3 of the section on Ethics) provides clues we must now explore.
What did they do? They decided to take an initial attitude of openness respect toward other points of view. They did this as a way of limiting narrowness of vision, expanding their minds beyond their own limited points of view and ways of life in order to find out what might be worthy of being regarded as good from all points of view, not merely from their own.
But immediately, having decided to take such an attitude of openness, an objection arose. If persons take such an attitude to all points of view and ways of life, will that not lead to a kind of relativism which supposes that no view is any better or more worthy of respect than any other? And will such an attitude not therefore lead to an indifference to objective truth and right.
To this objection, the retreatants responded as follows: relativism and indifference need not be the inevitable consequences of taking such an attitude of openness respect to others, if that attitude is conceived as part of a search for wisdom about what is objectively good and right and what is not. So conceived, openness respect would not be an invitation to indifference. Rather, it would be viewed as a way of expanding our minds beyond our own limited points of view in an effort to find out what should be recognized as good from every point of view (what is objectively good), not just what is recognized as good from our own point of view. Taking such an attitude would thus become a way of searching for the objective good under conditions of pluralism and uncertainty rather than a denial of that objective good.
At this point, a second related objection arose. Wouldn’t taking such an attitude of openness respect to every way of life amount to tolerating, among others, the ways of life of the Hitlers, Stalins, ruthless dictators, killers and other evildoers of the world? And if this is so, it seems that such openness respect would amount to relativism and indifference after all. To this, the retreatants responded that taking such an attitude as part of a search for what is good from all points of view (objectively good), would not imply tolerating every point of view and way of life whatever. For, it turns out that you cannot respect every point of view in the sense of allowing it to be lived without hindrance or interference. There are situations in life (many of them in fact) in which it is impossible to be open to every point of view in this sense.
So, while the initial attitude in the search for the objective good, the retreatants argued, is to “open your mind to all other points of view in order to find the objective truth about the good and the right,” the truth you find when you do so is not that “you should open your mind to all points of view.” You cannot. Openness of mind is an initial attitude in the search for wisdom in these matters, but relativism and indifference need not be the final attitudes.
In cases like the assault in the alley, or the pirates attacking Philadelphia and raping women, or Hitler and his followers consigning innocent persons to gas ovens, one cannot be open to every point of view, no matter what one does. If you accord openness respect to the assailant or the pirates or the followers of Hitler, allowing them to live and pursue their plans of action without interference, you cannot do the same for their victims.
2. The Moral Sphere and Its Breakdown
These situations, it was noted, are situations in which the “moral sphere” has “broken down,” where the moral sphere is defined as a sphere in which all persons can be treated with openness respect by all others. When this moral sphere “breaks down,” all persons cannot be treated with openness respect. Some ways of life will be prevented from being pursued, no matter what one does. But which ones should it be?
Here the answer was found by the retreatants by returning to the original goal of openness respect. They recalled that openness respect was not assumed to be the final truth about what is good or valuable, but was to be a guide in the search for that truth. Montaigne, they noted, had said that ideals are to us as the stars were to the ancient mariners: We never reach them, but we guide our path by them. Similarly, they argued, it is the persistent striving to maintain an ideal in which all persons can be treated with openness respect by all others (a moral sphere) to the degree possible in the face of obstacles that is to guide us in the search for what should be recognized as good or valuable from all points of view (that is, objectively valuable). Such striving is meant to preserve us, to the degree that is within our power, from narrowness of vision that comes from viewing things only from our own points of view.
When this moral sphere breaks down, we cannot follow this ideal of openness respect to all to the letter (“cannot reach it”), no matter what we do. But we can continue to “guide our path by it” in adverse circumstances by trying to restore and preserve conditions in which the ideal of openness respect to all can be followed once again by all.
That would mean trying to restore and preserve the moral sphere when it has broken down by stopping to the degree that we can those who have broken it and made it impossible for others to follow the ideal. For it is the sphere in which the ideal of openness respect to all persons can be followed by all persons. Making efforts to restore this sphere when it is broken down is thus as close as we can come to maintaining the ideal of openness respect to all points of view and ways of life in adverse circumstances, when we must depart from that ideal to some degree, no matter what we do. And maintaining this ideal to the degree possible is our way of expanding our minds beyond our own limited points of view to find out which should be recognized as good or valuable for all points of view, not merely from our own.
The retreatants thus arrived at an answer to the original question of who is to be regarded as less worthy of being treated with openness respect when the moral sphere breaks down and it is no longer possible to treat everyone with such respect, no matter what one does. Those less worthy of being treated with openness respect when the moral sphere breaks down are those, such as the assailant and the pirates, who have broken the moral sphere, thereby making it impossible for others to treat them with openness respect and to treat all others involved with openness respect as well.
3. The Ends Principle
In this manner, the attitude of openness respect the retreatants chose to assume was viewed, not as the final truth in these matters, but as a way of searching for that truth under conditions of pluralism and uncertainty. They reasoned that the traditional way of searching for what is good and right from all points of view, and hence of accessing the fourth dimension of value, was thwarted by pluralism and uncertainty. That traditional way—of positioning oneself in one’s own point of view and trying to prove it objectively right and every other view wrong —led to fruitless bickering.
But, unlike the relativists and skeptics who left the retreat, the retreatants who stayed were also not yet ready to give up the idea that there was an objective good and right to be searching for; and they desired to find out whether their way of life or any other had it. The attitude of openness respect suggested itself as an alternative way of searching for two reasons. First, it took seriously the conditions of pluralism and uncertainty that have thwarted other attempts to find objective or universal value. Second, it focused attention on the fact that it is objective or universal value—what should be recognized as good or right from every point of view—that one is looking for.
Instead of trying to prove one’s own point of view and way of life absolutely right from one’s own point of view, they reasoned, try this: Be willing to accord an openness respect provisionally to other points of view and ways of life, allowing them to be pursued without interference to the degree that one can do so while maintaining a moral sphere to the extent possible in which all persons can be treated with such openness respect by all others. In this way, one would allow persons to show by their actions and plans of action whether or not their ways of life were worthy of being treated with openness respect by all others, including oneself.
In this way, one would lift from oneself the burden of proving one’s own way of life is right and every other wrong, from one’s own point of view, and place the responsibility on all persons equally to show their ways of life worthy of being treated with openness respect by all others by how they plan to act and live, as one would expect of a theory of ethics. What you find when you do this is that some persons, such as the assailant, pirates, Hitler, con men and many others we discussed, will then show their ways of life to be less worthy of being treated with openness respect by others, by making it impossible to treat their ways of life with such respect while allowing all others to be treated with such respect as well.
And this reasoning, as the retreatants noted, applies to one’s own way of life as well. If we ourselves break the moral sphere, we make our ways of life less worthy of being treated with openness respect by others, i.e., less worthy of being allowed to be pursued without interference or subordination by them.
Those who show their plans of action or ways of life unworthy of being treated with openness respect in these ways, do so by failing to “treat all other persons as ends” and by treating some others “as mere means to their own ends,” where these expressions have the meanings defined in part 4 of the section on Ethics (which I repeat in a footnote here for ease of reference). In short, they violate what was called the
Ends Principle (EP): “Treat all persons as ends in every situation, and no one has means only (or as mere means).
We saw that by reasoning in this way, the retreatants were able to arrive at many traditional ethical rules endorsed by the major world religions and wisdom traditions (do not kill, lie, steal, cheat, etc.) and commonly recognized exceptions to these rules. They were led as well to the Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”) in one of its traditional meanings—allowing the ways of life of others to be pursued without interference or subordination, as you would want your own way of life to be allowed to be pursued—up to the point of course where the moral sphere breaks down. And they were led to universal human rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—that apply to persons up to the point where they would break the moral sphere.
Because these rules and principles, with their exceptions included, like the Ends Principle from which they follow, were meant to apply universally to all persons at all times, the retreatants would have been led by their reasoning to some fourth dimensional ethical values.
4. A Further Question: Moral Motivation, Aspiration and Worth
But, at this point, a further important question arises about the retreatants’ reasoning that must now be addressed. For they were not naïve enough to think that any persons from any points view or forms of life would agree with the ethical principles at which they arrived. They knew many other persons had left the retreat and were not willing to start with an attitude of openness respect to begin with, such as they were willing to do.
Many who left believed their own views and ways of life, religious or secular, were the true one’s and should be recognized as such by everyone else. Unable to convince the others, they chalked their failure up to the ignorance, stupidity, sinfulness or corruption of those others who would not agree with them. Still others who left the retreat, relativists, skeptics, and the like, did not believe there was any objective good or fourth dimensional values to be searching for.
But while the retreatants were aware their reasoning and the ethical principles at which they arrived would not be agreed to by any persons from any points of view, they did believe that their reasoning showed something of great importance. It showed that the ethical conclusions at which they arrived would be arrived at by anyone from any point of view or form of life who was willing to start with an initial attitude of openness respect to all other points of view and forms of life. Anyone who, in the interests of limiting narrowness of vision, is willing to start with such an attitude and to strive to maintain it to the degree possible in the face of obstacles and conflicts, would arrive at the ethical conclusions at which the retreatants arrived.
So the further question we need to ask is this: What would motivate the retreatants, or anyone, to take such an initial attitude of openness respect to all others, an attitude that would lead one to the ethical conclusions at which they arrived?
I now want to suggest an answer to this further question. I believe that two primary motivations can lead persons to take an attitude of openness respect toward others, as the retreatants did in the attempt to resolve their conflicts and differences. The first of these motivations is one we have discussed and which clearly motivated the retreatants in their quest: (1) the recognition that we are finite beings who must see the world from limited points of view, which is the source of pluralism and uncertainty. The second motivation is the one we must now explore. I will call it (2) “an aspiration that we and our ways of life, despite our finiteness, have a worthiness that requires of other persons that they treat us with openness respect—that they act toward us in such manner that we are able to pursue our ways of life without interference or subordination or domination by them.”
The retreatants had both these motivations. That is why they stayed at the retreat after others had left. They realized that because of pluralism and uncertainty, they could not demonstrate to others that they and their ways of life were worthy of such respect simply because of the rightness or the intrinsic worthiness or the superiority of their ways of life. Yet they wanted to continue to believe that they and their ways of life were worthy of such respect from all others; and so they were willing to stay at the retreat to see what could be done to show this, despite the limitations of pluralism and uncertainty.
This aspiration for a worthiness for such openness respect from others is I believe an important human motivation. It is not universal or inescapable, but it is widely held and it is an important motivator to morality. It comes out most clearly when others treat us as if we lacked any such worthiness for such respect by them. This is the case, for example, when others impose their will on us with no concern for our purposes or interests, when they humiliate us, or treat us as inferior, when they exploit us and those we care about, and in general when they treat us and our ways of life as unworthy of respect by them.
On such occasions, we express the aspiration that we and our ways of life have such an objective worthiness when we assert that “It is wrong for you to treat me this way. For I have a worth that makes me deserving of your taking into account my desires, interests, concerns and purposes in the plans of action you choose to pursue that impact my experiences and my life.” When, on such occasions, we react in this way with indignation or resentment or a sense of injustice, we are giving expression to a sense that we and our ways of life have a worthiness that requires that we not be treated in such fashion.
Child psychologists tell us that the beginnings of this sense of injustice are manifested in early childhood. On the basis of cross-cultural studies, for example, distinguished child psychologist, Jerome Kagan, and other researchers found that well before school age, children develop a sense of justice and will protest when they think a parental order or the distribution of a dessert is “unfair.” This sense of justice and fairness must be cultivated by upbringing, to be sure, as these researchers also note, and can be suppressed by harsh conditions of upbringing. But it is normally there in germ from the early years, they argue, and will flourish if not suppressed.
It is noteworthy that justice was often traditionally represented in sculpture and painting as a blindfolded woman holding a scale. Traditionally, mothers were the regulators of the domestic environment in the earliest years of life, responsible for dividing up the food and other necessary goods to the young. Being blindfolded and holding an equally balanced scale signified that justice required that children were to be treated fairly in the distribution of these necessary goods.
It is not merely that as we develop into adults, we want or desire to be treated with such respect by others, though that is true for most persons. It is also, and more importantly, that we believe we deserve to be treated with such respect by others, that it is wrong for them not to so treat us; and so we are justified in reacting with indignation and a sense of injustice or unfairness when we are not so treated.
Moreover, it is not merely that we believe we deserve to be treated with such respect by some persons, but not by others. Rather we believe we deserve such treatment from all others. That is what it means to say that the worthiness or desert we believe we have and should have for such treatment is objective. It is a worth that should be recognized by all persons from all points of view. Those who do recognize it are therefore right to do so and those who do not recognize it are wrong not to do so.
Because of pluralism and uncertainty, however, we cannot demonstrate to others that we and our ways of life are deserving of being treated with such respect simply because of the objective rightness or the intrinsic worthiness or the superiority of our ways of life. Many of those who left the retreat (and many who stayed) believed their own points of view and ways of life were the objectively right ones and were superior to others. Yet they failed to convince others because, given pluralism and uncertainty, they were appealing to contestable values and beliefs that they held, but others did not.
Nor can we demonstrate in some a priori fashion that our plans of action and ways of life deserve such openness respect from others simply because we are human beings or rational beings or purposive agents. For, given pluralism and uncertainty, others might well acknowledge that we are human and rational and purposive agents and yet deny that the particular plans of action and ways of life we choose to pursue have a merit or worthiness they should recognize. In other words, it doesn’t follow that simply because as rational beings we have the capacity to choose our own life plans and ways of life, that our plans of action and ways of life are worthy of the openness respect of others irrespective of the kinds of plans of action and ways of life we actually choose to pursue.
Whether our plans of action and ways of life are worthy of the openness respect of others depends, in other words, on how we use our humanity and rationality to choose plans of action and ways of life that are worthy of such respect from others.
That is why I have spoken of this motivation for openness respect from others as an “aspiration” rather than merely a desire. To aspire to something means “to have a fixed desire or longing for” that thing. But it also means “to have a willingness to strive to do what must be done to attain what is desired.” Given pluralism and uncertainty, we cannot be certain that our plans of action and ways of life are indeed worthy of such openness respect by all others. But if we aspire to such respect we will strive to do what we can do to be worthy of it from all others.
And this is the key to the reasoning of the retreatants. For it turns out that there is something we can and must do if we are to be worthy of such openness respect from all other persons. We must treat all other persons as ends, and never as mere means to our own ends in the sense of the Ends Principle. For, as the retreatants found, those who treat other persons as a mere means show their ways of life to be less worthy of being treated with openness respect by others, by making it impossible to treat their ways of life with openness respect while allowing all others to be treated with openness respect as well.
And this, the retreatants found, applies not only to the ways of life of others, such as the assailant, pirates, Hitler, con men, and the like, it applies to our own ways of life as well. If we break the moral sphere (making it impossible for other persons to treat us with openness respect and all others with openness respect as well), then we make our way of life less worthy of being treated with openness respect by others.
By acting therefore out of an “aspiration that we and our ways of life have a worthiness that requires of other persons that they treat us with openness respect,” and being willing to do what is required to be worthy of such treatment under conditions of pluralism and uncertainty, we arrive, like the retreatants, at certain ethical principles, such as the Ends Principle and others mentioned, that should guide our behavior.
And a further interesting consequence of proceeding in this way is that, the same way one shows one’s own plans of action and way of life worthy of being treated with openness respect by others, is the same way one goes about finding out which plans of action and ways of life of other persons are worthy of being treated with openness respect by oneself and others, and which are not so worthy. One does both these things by living one’s life in a certain way, in accord with these ethical principles, thereby striving to avoid breaking the moral sphere to the degree possible and doing what one can do to restore and preserve it when it has broken down. Such ethical behavior is thus a doorway to the fourth dimension of value for finite creatures like ourselves. It is a necessary condition for giving our lives a worth that transcends our own merely subjective and relative desires.
 To treat persons as ends is (i) to treat them with openness respect (to act toward them in such manner that they are able to pursue their plans of action and ways of life without interference or subordination to others) (ii) to the degree that one can do this while maintaining to the extent possible a moral sphere in which all persons can be treated with similar openness respect by all others, (iii) and to do this in order to place on all persons the responsibility of showing by how they act and live and plan to act and live in relation to others that they are worthy of being treated with such openness respect by all others.
To treat persons as means only or as mere means is to engage in moral sphere-breaking plans of action or ways of life, those that (i) require or license agents acting on them to impose their wills on others, or make others do or undergo what they want, whatever the desires, interests, concerns or purposes of those others might be in the matter (ii) in situations where the agents are not doing what they can do to maintain a moral sphere in which all persons can be treated with openness respect by all others.
 Persons who violate this principle may do so in two ways. First, by “breaking the moral sphere” when it does obtain and hence by engaging in “moral sphere breaking plans of action.” Second, they may do so by failing to do what they can reasonably do to maintain (restore and preserve) a moral sphere to the degree possible when it has already broken down and cannot be ideally realized. These two ways of violating the Ends Principle correspond to Ideal Theory and Non-ideal Theory, as defined in parts 4 and 5 of the section on Ethics.
 In this respect objective worth is like objective truth. If a theory about the universe, such as quantum physics, is objectively true then it should be recognized as true by all persons from all points of view. It is not that all persons will in fact be recognize it as true. Many may not understand it, others may reject it because it conflicts with other things they believe. But the point is that if it is objectively true, those who do recognize its truth are right to do so and those who deny its truth are wrong to do so.