The more pluralistic a normative doctrine, the easier it is to devise it: just collect all the values you like, and let the people who have to implement the scheme worry about the numerous conflicts between all those 'ultimate' values later, even if all the relevant modal and factual information is available to them. On the other hand, in theory it is not hard either to devise a monist or lesser pluralist doctrine: just make sure that the value, or limited number of values you collect, has as little denotative meaning as possible, or as many different denotative meanings as possible. An extreme example of such monism would be a doctrine with goodness, rightness or virtue as sole value. But a doctrine with justice as sole value, or as an important value, is hardly a better example, unless it gives an interpretation in denotative terms of what it means by that value, or a procedure for establishing it.

'Everyone' is in favor of justice, like 'everyone' --or "every sound mind" as some have it-- is against murdering and stealing. For all people (or all these people) terms like justice and fairness have a positive connotative meaning, but it is not until their common belief is put into practise that it turns out that justice and fairness have entirely different denotative meanings for each person or group of persons. Hence, to really determine whether a doctrine is monistic, or monistic in a certain respect, it is necessary that its value is, or can be, defined in unequivocal descriptive or conceptual terms. Ritual values like 'virtue' and 'justice' will not do then, whereas values like happiness and kindness presumably do. There probably is not a sharp boundary between evaluative or polysemous concepts and concepts with only one conceptual or descriptive meaning, yet it is definitely possible to make headway in the one or the other direction.

When disciplinary thought focuses on a certain value, the attainment of that value is one of its principles. In a normative doctrine the principle is a normative assumption or rule of conduct to the effect that the value in question should be attained, should be aimed at, strived for, and so forth. However, if that principle is defined in terms which are primarily normative, evaluative or polysemous themselves, it does not give any, or hardly any, direction in practise. It then remains of purely, or predominantly, doctrinal, that is, propositional interest. In order to be more than merely a normative assumption or symbol, namely an unambiguous rule of conduct, a principle has to be interpreted by and within the doctrine itself in terms which are ultimately nonevaluative and unequivocal themselves. (Obviously this does not apply to a term like should which makes the principle into a normative one.) It is such an interpreted principle which we shall call "a norm", or "a doxastic norm" to be precise, for what is believed to be 'a norm' need not be a norm from our ontological point of view. Whereas a norm is a carpenter's square made of solid material, an uninterpreted principle is a square made of nothing else than dough or some such kneadable stuff. The carpenter who wants to lay out a right angle needs a norm, not just a principle.

That a principle is interpreted means that it is either wholly defined in denotative terms (like a principle of happiness), or part of a doctrine which has a built-in, interpretational procedure for determining what is and what is not in accordance with that principle. An example of the latter kind of interpreted principle is a principle of justice in a theory of justice explicating how to arrive at it. It is with such a theory that there can be a (doxastic) norm of justice, but without such a theory it has no, or hardly any, practical significance to adhere to a principle of justice. This does not only hold for principles in which the value is explicitly present, it equally applies to uninterpreted precepts such as that one should not murder or steal. If a precept like thou shalt nor murder is redefined in terms which are denotative, or if it is employed in a doctrine indicating what kind of killing is wrong, or that all killing is wrong (and to be called "murder"), only then can that precept function as a norm and provide people not just with a principle but with a normative direction or authoritative standard.

(That a normative doctrine which is not merely a second- or third-level propositional theory about normative thought must provide practical, normative directions may be self-evident. However, it is perhaps less self-evident for some that it is not the task of a normative doctrine to supply people with factual or modal information, altho it may do so. A moral agent who has received all normative information may thus still need more directions before 'e can act, or before 'e can assess 'er own actions on the basis of the norm or norms given.)

The great difference between an interpreted and an uninterpreted principle implies that a normative doctrine may only be called "monistic" or "monistic in a certain respect" if it has not more than one norm or interpreted principle. The most notorious example of a pseudomonist ethical theory is probably agapism or the ethics of love. It professes that love (or 'agape') would be the sole ultimate value and that all other values are derived from it, or that the sole fundamental moral imperative is to love. Anyone who might think that the love of agapism is not a purely evaluative term, but has a denotative meaning too, will be quickly undeceived with 'er mouth agape: it has such widely divergent denotative meanings that it can be tailored to anyone's amoristic or antiamoristic wishes. Agapism leaves the interpretation of its only principle (the besotted injunction to love) entirely to the user, and that user loves to have no normative directive whatsoever. But, while we reject the agapist's position ideologically, personally we shall bear 'im neither love nor hatred.

We hate to hate,
yet we must not ignore
that those who believe in love as a supreme value
have but too oft been seduced into not thinking of it,
have but too oft been seduced into not feeling it,
have but too oft been seduced into not making it.
Their besotted agapism failed and fails,
like hedonism always failed and still fails.
Just as no-one will fall asleep
by actively pursuing sleep itself,
so no-one will become happy
by embracing pleasure or happiness as an end in itself, and
so no-one will become loving or loved
by embracing love as an end in itself.
Sleep and happiness and love cannot be forbidden, and
sleep and happiness and love cannot be commanded.
The hedonists in search of happiness for its own sake
did not find it in the end,
whereas those who pursued good but altogether different goals
did seem to have found it.
The agapists in search of love for its own sake
will similarly neither show, nor find it in the end,
whereas those who pursue good but altogether different goals
may show and find it.

From time immemorial,
the lords and ladies of agapism have produced and adopted
obscure, incoherent and abominable beliefs
which readily enabled them to 'justify' violence and inequity;
they have made their followers pay lip-service to love,
while but too oft arousing only hatred or cupidity; and
they have heinously oppressed any love or sort of love
which did not serve their misological purposes.
From time immemorial,
the 'supreme being' of the agapist believers
has been a guru of reward or a god of revenge as well,
judging of peoples and not of persons,
judging of persons and not of particulars;
'He' has been a swordsman of fury,
an overlord of venomous punishment,
not sparing, nor having pity;
'He' has been a teacher of abnegation,
and a messiah of aggrandizement,
hateful to different belief and behavior,
and inflicting hardship upon all people and peoples
not obeying and not loving 'Him'.

Those who have learned from history,
and those who have gained insight into the connections
between the diverse tenets and actions and occurrences
so unrelated in superficial belief,
pursue an ultimate goal other than mere pleasure or happiness,
and other than mere love.
And while showing inclusive respect in practise,
a kind of respect some might also call "love" or "agape",
they are not the ones who love agapism or any of its fictions.

©MVVM, 41-57 ASWW

Model of Neutral-Inclusivity
Book of Instruments
Elements of Normative Philosophy
About Saying What Should Be