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MORALITY WITHOUT GOD

Posted in Derren's Posts

Posted by Derren Brown August 29, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Some sensible and fascinating discussion from Nigel Warburton’s excellent, excellent Philosophy Bites series. They really are ever so good.

From the site: Morality is a human creation. We don’t need God to have morality. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, author of a recent book on the topic, argues forcefully for this position in this episode of the Philosophy Bites podcast.

COMMENTS
August 29, 2009 at 12:36 pm
Brian (life of) says:

Have you ever checked out http://www.youtube.com/zjemptv? He talks about very similar stuff – morality, religious attitudes to homosexuality, a world without a god etc.


August 29, 2009 at 12:38 pm
Tash says:

sounds great – might just go and pop a few around the local churches 😉


August 29, 2009 at 12:38 pm
Adam Bourne says:

Interesting topic. . Morality, ‘right and wrong’ is a man made thing as well. Animals don’t understand or live by a set of morales. We created laws etc. but morality has also been ‘created’. Is morality also in the eye of the beholder or shared universally like laws are?


August 29, 2009 at 1:06 pm
Reaper9888 says:

Hmm a second post about God. What are you up to Derren. You sneaky man.


August 29, 2009 at 1:15 pm
Brian New says:

Morality isn’t a ‘human creation’.

The emotions of conscience can be felt without symbolic learning, as can be demonstrated in other species besides humans.

Religious ideas of morality high-jack this inner moral sense and introduce the metaphysical dimension, explaing the phenomena of a happy heart or guilt as the ‘voice of God’.

As such, morality is an error. Ethics, however, is a properly human project. With ethics, we can do better than nature, which has a tendency to get a bit obsessive with family and knee-jerky. Ethics simply prescribes for kindness to all sites of consciousness on the simple basis of the self-evident worst-scenario of suffering.

Morality distracts us from this basic principle of suffering – you will notice that theology places ‘authority’ as the foundation.


August 29, 2009 at 1:21 pm
Lauren says:

This isn’t even relevant but does anyone else think that the picture looks like a painting of a human eye. I quite like it…

Right, I will actually go click on the link now and stop being distracted by pretty pictures, ha.

🙂


August 29, 2009 at 1:45 pm
Vicki says:

Glad it wasn’t just me who did that Lauren! lol!


August 29, 2009 at 2:15 pm
Berber Anna says:

Adam: Did you ever observe animal behavior? Notice how kittens can annoy adult cats to desperation, but the adult cats will never retaliate tooth and claw as they would with another adult. Notice how a dog cowers if it unintentionally hurts its master. Notice how all birds in a garden stick together against a common predator, even if it attacks only one of them. Ants and wasps will attack worker females who surreptitiously lay their own eggs in the nest of their queen. Apes show moral behavior close to our own.

One may argue that all these behaviors are only intended to further the survival of the species. One would be right. That’s what our sense of morality is, too. As a social species, our survival depends on instinctive adherence to complex social codes, ie mores. Morality = biology.


August 29, 2009 at 2:52 pm
Tash says:

@lauren the pics pretty cool. 🙂 i thought it was suppose to represent being watched from space or up above.


August 29, 2009 at 3:04 pm

I’m an artist working on a series of artworks, which I hope will have a particular effect.
I believe it is possible to construct a series of thought experiments, which would walk through certain VERY CLEAR and VISUAL frameworks which would significantly diminish a person’s acceptance of supernatural claims and authoritarian ways of knowing.

Part of this framework is in understanding how and why our caveman ancestors needed religion, and how reason and science could never have been discovered without them.

Further, “god did it” helped early man reduce the cognitive load in his brain.
Religion and authoritarianism can be seen as a “bootstrapping” / cognitive optimization technique.

If anyone is interested in collaborating or contributing to this series of artworks, please contact me.


August 29, 2009 at 3:12 pm
KatM says:

That’s my pic: the “God’s Eye” nebula. Excellent choice.

Derren, how about giving us your own podcasted thoughts on these topics rather than simply refering us to others? Once a month would do just fine and if the excuse not to is not enough time then just give up the tweeting. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would vote for a podcast if offered the choice.


August 29, 2009 at 3:17 pm
jameshogg says:

Everybody’s rules of morality are different. And since there’s no objectivity in morality other than our evolutionary feelings, nearly all of morality is subjective.
This is why people have different answers to acts of stealing to survive, and saving lives by sacrificing another. So saying that, how can more love be felt in the world?
The answer may be a lack of this information: everybody is always trying to do the best for themselves in the best way they know how. If more people understood this, which could be considered as fact, then our subjective views of morality may change into something more empathetic and caring.
Again, new information shows to be key. Not necessarily changing people’s beliefs.


August 29, 2009 at 3:18 pm
roz says:

excellent treatise, brian new!

frankly, this whole bidness of “how can ya have morality without god” gets me really really pissed. we need to give ourselves more credit than that. this assertion is even more annoying than people who “turn their lives over to jesus.” why would jesus want such a wretched gift, when his dad castigated cain in genesis fer exactly such a “gift”? sheesh.

as my dentist once said, life would sure be different if jesus had caller ID…


August 29, 2009 at 3:59 pm
Chris N. says:

It has been demonstrated in experiments that other animals appear to have a sense of fairness.


August 29, 2009 at 4:04 pm
Adrian McKenzie says:

Morality without God… is pointless.

Ethics is merely a synonym of morality. It adds nothing new, and is equally as pointless.

Humans definitely did create morailty, and used the concept of God as its false metaphysical foundation.

Without God, there is no real foundation to morality.

Therefore, we must instead replace morality/ethics with an intellectual conscience, if the need for a guiding coda is required, i.e. a pragmatic corporeal sensibility.

http://cdn1.libsyn.com/philosophybites/Christopher_Janaway_on_Nietzsche_on_Morality.mp3?nvb=20090829143819&nva=20090830144819&t=068385154730749b88f32


August 29, 2009 at 4:26 pm
Adrian McKenzie says:

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong seems to replace God with a disguised God in the form of basing conscience on ‘Common sense’.

Why should we trust common sense as a basis for moraility. Why does Sinnott-Armstrong take that as a given without first addressing the question of what common sense is.

Take for example two British tabloid newspapers who extensively utilze notions of ‘common sense’ to make moral value judgements: The Daily Mail & The Sun. Why do these two papers extensively utilise this notion of ‘common sense’ to forcefully apply their world view onto human action? The reason is because ‘common’ sense’ is at its basis the views of the status quo, the established norm of society.

Common sense has never incorporated any notion of radical or intellectual thought as part of [cont.


August 29, 2009 at 4:34 pm
Adrian McKenzie says:

[cont.] its world view. Common sense when analysed from a cultural perspective is merely the collected views and assumptions of dead people, i.e. generations past. It is the man on the streets means of enforcing his views onto others via well established cultural norms manufactured by the status quo of any given society. Hence, why establishment right-wing tabloids such as the two mentioned above find it so useful to incorporate the common sense view as a way of appealing to the common man.

Unavoidably many of these norms will be highly influenced by the dominant religion of that society. Thus, common sense is in a large past influenced by religious morality, much of it is religious morality, something of which Professor Sinnott-Armstrong seems to be naively oblivious to.

[cont.]


August 29, 2009 at 4:42 pm
Adrian McKenzie says:

An intellectual conscience in comparison, is a means of looking at the world as it is now, in a specific context of human conduct. As a result, it does not rely upon referencing a system of views thought up by dead people and a false God. Something of which Sinnott-Armstrong’s ‘common sense morality’ can easily be accused of doing.


August 29, 2009 at 8:40 pm
Baxta76 says:

We don’t really need the bible to know what’s right from what’s wrong, do we?

I highly recommend reading this short Dawkins essay on this subject.

http://cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/Dawkins/viruses-of-the-mind.html

One day common sense WILL prevail.


August 29, 2009 at 9:00 pm
Nopke says:

Ofcourse we don’t need a god for moralty …. You might ask yourself .. what is moralty and is yours the same as mine or that from others? Moral is perhaps not inborn .. but it can give value to life. Towards your own self. Some will prefer not to see it … they feel as they can take and get so much more without it … …Or they only need to see it with a few people or just one on this planet …


August 29, 2009 at 9:24 pm
Brian New says:

But ‘ethics’ precisely connotes ‘intellectual conscience’, Adrian McKenzie.

And I don’t see the need, even, to say ‘conscience’ here, since this maintains a moralistic view, for ‘conscience’ is the collective term for the moral emotions.

Ethics is not ‘just a synonym’ for morality. Ethics is precisely *the* intellectual project of ‘what we should do’ in the world. What makes ethics ethics, and not morality, is precisely that it is void of a metaphysical foundation, just as good old Nietzsche prescribes in the death of God (an important meaning of which, if we think: God has always been dead; or, Lacan’s reformulation: ‘God is unconscious’).

God will always remain with us, albeit in this ‘deathly’ form. We even have a name for him — language.


August 29, 2009 at 9:34 pm
Kristen Potter says:

I rightly agree on morality being of human creation, as is the concept of God. But to no avail, I try to point out to some of my friends that we can find morality using psychology and sociology, but I’m not sure anyone is listening. :


August 29, 2009 at 10:35 pm
Zsolt Szentirmai says:

Interesting sound bites, and comments!

I believe mankind never had a chance to understand God – regardless weather God exists or not. Like a puppet has no chance to understand the puppeteer – somehow just not in the same league 😉 Because of this I partly agree with most of the previous statements.

I believe the concepts of God of various traditions, and moral rules too are man made, tailored throughout time by certain groups of devoted individuals. They formed both the image of God and moral in a way they felt it serves certain interest and needs of the tribes/nations/societies they lived in. [cont…]


August 29, 2009 at 10:35 pm
Zsolt Szentirmai says:

[cont…]

I think it depends on us whether if we can or not build our moral on something else than scriptures. If we do, and if manage to survive, and at least tolerate each other, I’m sure God won’t be angry about it 😉
But do you think people are ready for that?


August 30, 2009 at 12:05 am
Jess xxx says:

I’m an agnostic, and while I feel that there might be a God, I agree that morality is a ‘human creation’. We are not puppets, with our every move and thought being controlled by God. If that were the case, then human ideas, like the role of women in society, and attitudes towards homosexuality, would all have stayed the same (unless God is incredibly indecisive, and keeps changeing His mind as to what is right and what is wrong!)

In the end, we just go with what works and what feels right; and what feels right varies from person to person. So there’s no way we are all being given the ability to see right and wrong from a single being. However, just because we can all think for ourselves doesn’t mean that there is no God.

P.s. Love the posts on here! Really interesting!


August 30, 2009 at 7:46 am
Diana says:

I would have to disagree. I don’t think that we (mankind) create what works best for us or for a society as a whole. Just look at the state the world is in today. Have we not heard the term “moral decay?” If we are creators of those morals then why do we choose to corrupt and distort them?

So if I create my own morals, it would be fine to go and sexually abuse a child, because it aligns with my personal moral codes? It just doesn’t make any sense.

When man is left to his own devices I don’t see anything good resulting from it. If that was the case we would have world peace and no crimes would ever be perpetrated. Mankind is capable of many wonderful good things but sadly also much corruption and devastation. The latter the most likely.


August 30, 2009 at 9:49 am
Alice says:

I’m an atheist (recently shifted from agnostic) but I recognise that religion is worth taking seriously. It’s old, oooooold and wise about people and society and hey, we made it, it’s survived, it must have some interesting stuff in it.

Two amazing things I’ve found in religion that I can’t immediately find in atheism:

1) God’s love: the idea that everyone is a worthwhile human being and utterly loved and valued in God’s eyes. This is such a good thing to have as a background truth – I think there’s lots of suffering and human waste because people slip into the belief that they are unloved and worthless.

aieeee! length limit! Well, ok.

So, my current hobby is picking the bits I want to keep from religion and trying to translate them into atheism. It’s tricky but necessary!


August 30, 2009 at 11:15 am
Gewitternacht says:

I’d love to hear point 2), Alice!


August 30, 2009 at 12:01 pm
JoJo says:

Interesting subject, my partner recently went away on a training course and whilst there the subject of god was raised. As everyone discussed there various religious beliefs, my partner informed the group that he was in fact Atheist. This was not well received and the question of his morals appeared. One or two members of the group thought that Atheist’s lack morals because they don’t ‘believe’ in anything. My partner was quick to point out that he does have his own beliefs such as personal ethics and science, to which one member replied ‘so does that make you a scientologist then?’


August 30, 2009 at 12:16 pm
Adrian McKenzie says:

@ Brian – I think you have a very personal definition of the meaning of ‘ethics’, being something entirely seperate from morality. A definition you are very welcome to have, and argue for; but not one, I can assure you, that is shared by most academic philosophers. Ethics at best is merely a synonym of morality. Same concept, different word.

Also, an amoral ‘intellectual conscience’ not reliant on moral or ‘ethical’ principles is perfectly possible.

If what you were saying was correct, we would never see the pairing of the words ‘Christian’ and ‘ethics’ together. Try Google, if you don’t believe me.

The project is to move away from universal moral/ethical language terms and replace them with one guiding question: ‘Does this action affirm life?’


August 30, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Unfortunately a world without a god is no better than one with a god – witness Hitler, Stalin and others. It’s a point often made but needs to be repeated.


August 30, 2009 at 2:05 pm
Berber Anna says:

Diana: It would not, because it is not the individual that creates mores, it is society, man as a social species, that does so. I can assure you that neither myself, nor other agnostics of my acquaintance, ‘create’ mores that deviate from general human norms very much. ‘Do not harm children or infirm people’ seems to be instinctively ingrained in humans, as it should be for the survival of our kind. On that notion, man does not so much create mores, as invent a framework for social instincts.

Of course, there are also mores that make little sense in modern society, such as those that govern the oppression of females (seen in many animals to ensure paternity of the partnered male, but very obsolete when you have birth control, DNA testing and a complex society). Those may be abandoned.


August 30, 2009 at 2:06 pm
Omar says:

But after all, the thing I love the most about religious people it’s their morality…… If only we could get it without have to fear someone that’s going to smack us if we don’t……


August 30, 2009 at 2:19 pm
Adam Bourne says:

Berber Anna: if morality=biology then morality is just a title we have given to aspects of biology. We have ‘created’ the term and assigned it to something natural if it is the case that all morales stem from natural behaviour. However as a species so developed from that of animals morality is an issue that has gone past natural behaviours or feelings. Animals may behave in certain ways in various situations that display examples of morality but in our lives morality stretches to eg. work environments (or any other ‘man-made’ situation) it can be argued that we abide or ignore morales to be successful and in turn ‘survive’ as animals would. However as morales are differ across our various cultures it seems that morales are ‘manufactured’ from our choices and man made living environments


August 30, 2009 at 2:29 pm
Adam Bourne says:

Diane: i don’t mean to say that as humans we create morales that we choose and wish to live by, but that morales are ‘created’ in the sense that our societies, cultures and day to day lives ‘create’ these morales from, for example, examples or choices set by others. To a certain degree as Berber Anna has mentioned it is perhaps the case that to a certain degree morality is a biological concept. however i believe that these morales can and have been shaped and formed by our own cultures and societies, and whether this is purposeful or not, as a race we have changed, shaped and created them to fit our cultures. Those who kill animals for food for example see no reason not to, whether morale or not, however some are very against such acts as they go against their personal morale beliefs.


August 30, 2009 at 5:46 pm
Brian New says:

@ Adrian. Thanks for your reply (Nietzsche — a teacher we share?)

I would be careful of any conflation of Nietzsche’s re-evaluation of values with a new ethical project. Life-affirmation can be directly and monstrously unethical. For instance, the pro-life policy over pro-choice, or the life-affirming projects of National Socialism, including eugenics (to promote the ‘healthy’ life of an elect caste promotes the terror and suffering of millions of others.)

Ethics, as I have said, must be guided by the simple principle of compassion (Nietzsche distinguishes this from ‘pity’). To be ethical, then, we should be guided by our careful consideration of others’ suffering.

‘Suffering is not increased by numbers: one body can contain all the suffering the world can feel’ (Graham Greene).


August 30, 2009 at 10:18 pm
Zsolt Szentirmai says:

@ Brian, look what i found on the Online Etymology Dictionary on moral and ethics:

moral: “pertaining to character or temperament” (good or bad), from O.Fr. moral, from L. moralis “proper behavior of a person in society,” lit. “pertaining to manners,” coined by Cicero (“De Fato,” II.i) to translate Gk. ethikos (see ethics)

the rest is here:
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=moral&searchmode=none


August 30, 2009 at 10:34 pm
Adrian McKenzie says:

Life affirmation was the central point of Nietzsche’s philosophy. i.e. the focus on corporeal existence and how to enhance that existence. It was not an ethical project

And what is so wrong with being ‘monstrously unethical’? If it affirms life, why not? The post athiest has no need for such moral labels any more.

Nietzsche was as critical of compassion as he was of pity. He condemned compassion. He argued that “to see others suffer does one good” and that “to be unwilling to help can be nobler than the virtue which jumps to help.” Nietzsche declares that compassion, far from being praiseworthy, is actually a cunning way for people to make themselves feel superior to others, and then to congratulate themselves for being in a position to help those lower people i.e. ethical narcissism


August 30, 2009 at 11:13 pm
Jess xxx says:

@ Diana

I’d be interested to know where you think morals come from then, if not from ourselves?


August 30, 2009 at 11:25 pm
unmevsworld says:

Thank you for posting this, Derren. I think this is an important issue for non-theists to think about. I am pleased that you are looking into it too, Derren.
Adrian and Brian New–You both have interesting points. The question of whether ethics should be “What is life affirming?” or “What reduces suffering?” is one I will ponder. BrianNew-the points about pro-life and eugenics are good ones. I think either of those above questions should be amplified with the use of the word “all” to prevent such atrocities. What affirms all lives? What reduces suffering for all people? OR What affirms life without compromising another’s life? What reduces suffering without causing or allowing suffering of another?


August 30, 2009 at 11:42 pm
Zsolt Szentirmai says:

@Diana:
If we are creators of those morals then why do we choose to corrupt and distort them?
I don’t know why, but we do. Our morale does change over time. Is it perhaps part of the evolution of our mankind?

So if I create my own morals, it would be fine to go and sexually abuse a child, because it aligns with my personal moral codes?

No, you can’t change the moral codes alone. But if you’re a dictator, with a strong army at your command, it may help a little. Think about those leaders, kings, emperors, presidents, high priests, war chiefs, dictators who performed some pretty horrid practices on their fellow man over mankind’s fascinating history in the name of ……… . (a morally high idea of your choice)


August 30, 2009 at 11:44 pm
Zsolt Szentirmai says:

@ Adrian McKenzie ‘Does this action affirm life?’

On life you meant human life exclusively, or you would affirm the life of other lifeforms too?


August 30, 2009 at 11:52 pm
Zsolt Szentirmai says:

@Madame Arcati:
If God exist there were no “worlds ”ever existed without God. If God exists, he was there at the time of Hitler, Stalin – and also during the numerous occasions of Holy wars fought in his name.

Or you meant world without a “divine moral”? Because I think Hitler had one of those too. Not sure about the name of his particular divine guide though…


August 31, 2009 at 9:56 am
Jesus Christ says:

Philosophy or sociology? This isn’t philosophy, but I like the way you’re thinking DB. BTW, did he make his name up or what. Sinnott on morality. Anyway, I found another one of your your doppelgangers.
http://identi.ca/abompard

Now, what about the morality of teaching Patrick Bateman types “tricks of the mind”?
Right.


August 31, 2009 at 11:26 am
Siobhan says:

Richard Wiseman did an interesting piece on morality and religion recently here: http://richardwiseman.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/religion-and-morality-the-results/

Worth a look-see.


August 31, 2009 at 11:39 am
Siobhan says:

Oh, also, despite all of the variations and ideas about what morality is I always think, if you are looking for a ‘how-to’ you can do a lot worse then to read Desiderata,

http://www.lordtonymackenzie.com/desiderata.html


August 31, 2009 at 3:03 pm
Adrian McKenzie says:

@ Zsolt – I think you and Brian have misunderstood what I meant by life affirmation, but thank you for asking for clarification. I mean one’s life, as opposed to all life, i.e. to affirm the corporeal existence of oneself, as opposed to wasting it on metaphysical false goals and the rules and sensibilities of dead people.

@ unme – I don’t want to posit a subjective goal to ‘ethics’. I want to move beyond ethics and morality and affirm life via amoral principles pertaining to my own intellectual conscience. I define intellectual conscience as something more rationally developed and self critical compared to the knee jerk impulse of emotional conscience, which in effect is the sum total of our upbringing, specific culture and societal norms. Something I see as necessitating deconstruction


August 31, 2009 at 3:19 pm
Adrian McKenzie says:

@ Siobhan – With all due respect to you, but absolutely none towards Max Ehrmann who I regard as a moral prig and vainglorious Christian, re-reading that awful poem makes me wonder if Ehrmann ever did actually walk on water. It’s like a soundbite version of the New Testament via the principles of New Labour.

‘…be on good terms with all persons.’ What including Fred West and Peter Sutcliffe?

‘listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant.’ Why?

‘Avoid loud and aggressive persons.’ Well that’s the next Prodigy gig out of the question then.

‘Keep interested in your own career, however humble.’ What! Even if your a civil servant or supermarket shelf stacker. Oh, way to go in maintaining the status quo there Max.

‘for the world is full of trickery.’ You don’t say.

Humbug!


August 31, 2009 at 3:55 pm
Zsolt Szentirmai says:

@Adrian McKenzie: Thank you for your reply. I enjoy watching the argument, I learn a lot, thank you all. But I wanted to tackle another aspect of thinking about moral and life, which as I see it, in practice revolves exclusively around the life of humans, or even less as you put it: one’s life.
I got no problem with that, I think the only thing we have a chance to understand is ourself.

But in the meantime aren’t we forget about how much biodiversity on the planet is important to have human life at all? Will a world where there is nothing but human settlements, factory farmed animals and plantations, and a couple of zoos exist worth live in?

I think there is no metaphysics involved in this question.


August 31, 2009 at 6:11 pm
Adrian McKenzie says:

I agree Zsolt. Affirming one’s life entails the affirmation of all that enriches that life. Our environment is one such aspect of life’s enrichment.

One could counter: “But what about some business people who affirm their lives via the accumulation of profit by the means of exploiting the environment and in effect destroying or sullying nature. Are they not too affirming life?”

The answer is ‘no’

The business person in this example affirms their need for artificial (non natural) power. Their only achievement is abstract profit & societal status. But no real meaningful achievement.

This in itself lacks any authentic affirmation of life other than an artificial achievement in commerce, which requires only greed, a feeling of inadequacy, and a lack of introspection to achieve.


August 31, 2009 at 8:19 pm
Brian New says:

@Adrian McKenzie Yes, the central theme of Nietzsche’s philosophy is indeed life-affirmation — that is, to say Yes! to existence in the face of its potential for horror and suffering.

One of the most dangerous instincts in the midst of this predicament, Nietzsche realises (explicitly following Plato, Aristotle and La Rochefoucauld), is ‘pity’. –But just as you now admit that ‘[Nietzsche’s life-affirmation] is not an ethical project’, you should also confess that Nietzsche does not conflate ‘compassion’ with ‘pity’. Pity is a moral emotion. And, yes, in most cases when (religious) people talk of their ‘compassion’, they are really only talking about this malign pity. Consider this:

E.g. ‘Of course one ought to *express* pity, but one ought to guard against *having* it’ (Nietzsche).


August 31, 2009 at 8:35 pm
Brian New says:

[Cont.] @ Adrian

So Nietzsche certainly does not prescribe against actively practising pity! Surely you have noticed the deep compassion in his works (further to his explicit promotion in the quote above, from ‘Human, All Too Human’, sec. 50).

You’ve put the cart before the horse; hence your frankly worrying proclamations: ‘What is so wrong with being ‘monstrously unethical’? If it [i.e. eugenics] affirms life, why not? The post athiest has no need for such moral labels’. Remember: Hitler was a fan of Nietzsche too. You have to be careful — Nietzsche tells the truth; so make sure you read him slowly; do not misunderstand him. It’s very dangerous.

Nietzsche dislikes pity because it makes use of compassion in order to hurt ‘one’s fellow men and women’ (ibid.).

Nietzsche cares.


September 1, 2009 at 12:16 am
Brian New says:

Found these quotes, too. Thought they might further clear up Nietzsche’s stance on pity.

‘Joy and desire appear together in the stronger [organism] that wants to transform something into a function; joy and the wish to be desired appear together in the weaker [organism] that wants to become a function.
Pity is essentially of the *former type* [i.e. the stronger, assimilating organism]: an agreeable impulse of the instinct for appropriation at the sight of what is weaker’ (Gay Science: 118).

‘[T]he will to health *alone*, [is] a prejudice, cowardice, and perhaps a bit of very subtle barbarism and backwardness’ (GS : 120).

So much for your eugenics. N’s is not a crude life-affirmation, such as ‘No pity for the weak!’

Strength, according to N, is our very capacity for compassion.


September 1, 2009 at 10:56 pm
Adrian McKenzie says:

@ Brian – Are you googling Nietzsche? My apologies for asking this. But it feels as if you are, as opposed to basing what you are saying on actually having read Nietzsche’s books. It’s just that all your quotes regarding compassion and pity (of which he was critical of both) seemed to have been selectively lifted from Nietzsche’s early humanistic works, i.e. Human all too Human, Gay Science etc. as opposed to his middle period or mature philosophy, of which a Googling would not immediately reveal. I notice you also fail to quote Nietzsche’s counter statement to the one you quote above when he states shortly afterwards in the same book: ‘The pity that the spectators then express consoles the weak and suffering, inasmuch as they see that, despite all their weakness, they still have at least one power: the power to hurt.” […] ‘”But will there be many people honest enough to admit that it is a pleasure to inflict pain?” I think your own personal English moralism is laying far too much emphasis on the notion of ‘compassion’ in Nietzche’s philosophy where instead you may have been better defending his nobility.

On the subject of ‘monstrously unethical’; I think we are both aware that this phrase is merely a perjorative piece of moral rhetoric without any objective frame of definitional meaning. Examples of being ‘monstrously unethical’ ranging from selling knock off DVDs and stealing a packet of Toffos from Mr McNobby’s corner shop, right up to exterminating the human species for the purpose of gaining a hard on. It’s a moral tag with an inevitable lack of fixed meaning to it rendering it useless. And what’s so wrong with Eugenics? Have a read of p.13 of Professor Robert Solomon’s book ‘What Nietzsche Really Said’ to discover how Nietzsche would have fully endorsed eugenics. If it was not for the Nazis misapropriation of such a program it would not have become such a contentious issue. Most of the progressive thinkers in Europe of the 19th century were proponents of it.

Additionally, how can Nietzsche tell the ‘truth’ when he doesn’t even believe in the concept of truth, and has extensively argued against it throughout his works? Favouring intellectual honesty instead.

And should not a slow and studious reading of Nietzsche teach us that we are only truly alive when we are in danger?

Nietzsche cares not for compassion as your moralistic reading of him would lead us to believe. He cares more for the advancement of the species, the heightening of power, and the negation of nihilism.

Strength has very little to do with your notion of compassion, but more to do with the heightening of the feeling of power, the will to power.

I think you are Googling Nietzche for aphoristic quotes to entrench him in his early humanistic writings without reference to his later works. As many a Nietszche scholar has commented, one can only truly appreciate Nietzsche, when for every aphoristic argument he has presented, you have also read it’s counter argument elsewhere in his writings.

Compassion is ill at odds with suffering, Nietzsche opposed such compassion, as suffering he saw as a natural aspect of existence.


September 2, 2009 at 9:53 am
Francis says:

That’s what I love about this blog, brilliant debate on topics which are actually worth discussing. Not a Katie or Peter in sight…


September 2, 2009 at 10:29 pm
Zsolt Szentirmai says:

Black is White, White is black,
Aren’t we go slowly mad?


September 3, 2009 at 1:30 pm
Zsolt Szentirmai says:

Hi all,

To be clear I’ve never read Nietzche, and I’m not planing to. You may find yourself paying a very high price following his venture into those deep vast fields of doubt. You may loose your integrity on those planes he roamed and finally lost his. Time to time he probably felt pleased with he’s own brilliant Ãœbermench intellectual, but finally gone mad because he was fucking with the ideas of good and bad, right and wrong, true or false, black and white. And being mad is not the state of mind I prefer to be in. If you feel more brilliant and a bigger genius than Nietzche, the road to this hell is open forever, you’re free to try your luck. Be safe, see you later

So I rather follow a guidance of a man who is peaceful, humble, old and content, than a man who is reckless, clever, young and mad – whatever madness is. (e.g. the current Dalai Lama vs F. Nietzche)

I’m not a morally clean man, I’m not living by divine rules. I’m as ignorant and lazy as most of us, but these are my thoughts on moral an God.

We humans struggle and suffer a lot in our life. As an individual, and as a society as well. That God who you can ask questions, and will whisper the answers into your ears on plain basic English is not there for us. You go ahead and try it. And if you hear voices in your mind other than your own, and live in a judeo-christian-islamic society, be extra careful – soon you will find yourself in fundamentalist sect, a madhouse or just shot in the head. Better luck if you’re in Asia, you still have the choice to sit still under a Banyan tree for couple of years.

But in my understanding there is order in the Universe, and I consider its untouchable, unbreakable rules as Divine. There you go I said it. Throughout history there were individuals who had visions on those rules and try to describe them, but by transforming their ideas into any human language and into simple clear cut rules, ended up loose the validity of the original vision. The best we can came up with are long moral stories, like the Bible, The Bhagavad Gita, or shorter sayings and guidelines as the Dhammapada or Dao De Jing. These provided codes for an individual who lives in society to relate to. But created troubles because of the original ideas were not realised by the masses, largely because of the ignorance of people and the corrupt institutions established to pass on knowledge.

Our vision and God did not failed us, we did fail ourselves. Our intellect fails us. I fail myself.

Now we got modern science too. But the problem is when we search for morals we want The reasons, and if you want reasons, don’t ask a scientist.

Science was, is, and will remain our best tool to understand matter at a larger scale than the level of quantum (beyond that science is as mysterious as the omnipotent God). But hardcore science, the essence of scientific thinking: Natural Sciences are not even interested in the subject how should we live our life. How could it be?
Our thoughts, which are the governors and sources of our actions are not made of matter. How could Natural Science help, when still – and will remain – only speculate on what matter ultimately is, and what matter in time-space is? Natural Science in a such complex and vast a field as the human mind can only observe, analyse, create definitions and categories, set up temporary theories -like a toddler.


September 3, 2009 at 1:35 pm
Zsolt Szentirmai says:

I don’t even mention Philosophy, since it still not sure what philosophy is. So my question again:

Do you think we people are ready to get rid of our man made God concept, and our semi-corrupted guidelines we were tend to think originated from something larger than Life?

Peace!


September 3, 2009 at 8:52 pm
Adrian McKenzie says:

[Zsolt said: ‘And if you hear voices in your mind other than your own’….]

I often get voices in my mind telling me to do things, like…

‘Do the washing up.’

‘Tidy your bedroom.’

‘Mow the lawn.’

I tend to just ignore them and carry on killing.


September 3, 2009 at 10:47 pm
Zsolt Szentirmai says:

I wasn’t talk about you in specific Adrian! Please, don’t get me wrong! I’m not a native English speaker, maybe that’s why it seems i did.

After the sentence: “… but these are my thoughts on moral an God”, I was only speak my mind, freestyle without referring to anyone in the debate. I’m too tired to clarify it more, so please take my word for it. i was not referring to you with that sentence you quoted.

and please, just carry on killing 😉


September 6, 2009 at 3:11 pm
Brian New says:

@ Adrian. Thanks again for replying.

First, apologies for any condescending tone I’ve used — I’ve clearly touched a nerve. And, be confident that I haven’t merely been ‘googling’ Nietzsche 😀 I have read and re-read Nietzsche’s texts (mixing up my translators as much as possible — I like Whiteside and Hollingdale — and Norman), and I’m presently a doctorate student putting to use Nietzsche’s peerless epistemology and understanding of language and consciousness, in narrative theory. That said, I get a bit defensive when people take a crude and ‘first-year philosophy student’ attitude with Nietzsche — as though he advocated some kind of proto-fascist, compassionless will-to-power. Consider: can you remember what Nietzsche put forward as the highest distillment of will-to-power?

[tbc]


September 6, 2009 at 3:28 pm
Brian New says:

[cont.] @ Adrian
Now, no need to remind me that Nietzsche was critical of pity — recall what I’ve already said above: Nietzsche recognized pity as ‘One of the most dangerous’ emotions, explicitly following Plato, Aristotle and La Rochefoucauld. He saw it, indeed, as an insidious means to ‘hurt’ others. It is a will-to-power exercised from a position of desperation, closely related to resentment.

So you might then want to think to yourself, Adrian, that Nietzsche does not like pity because – it *hurts other people*.

That’s the trouble with pity – it abuses others’ compassionate strength. Helping others should come from a place of overflowing power, so advises Nietzsche. Not because we are pinched by our emotions of conscience. Hence he says to ‘express’ pity, but not to ‘have it’. [tbc]


September 6, 2009 at 3:38 pm
Brian New says:

@Adrian
I don’t think I’ll bother with Robert Solomon’s book ‘What Nietzsche Really Said”, if this Solomon really thinks Nietzsche advocates eugenics. You don’t need another book to understand what Nietzsche ‘really’ said. Just read Nietzsche’s for yourself. Simple.

Perhaps, though, I’ve in mind a different conception of eugenics than either you or Sol are referring to. I have in mind a caste of ‘superior’ intellectuals deciding what height and intelligence babies should be — as well as putting to death all those individuals alive at the time who don’t fit the bill. Rather, I would argue that a society’s strength is measured by its capacity to care for the frail and disadvantaged. It would want to affirm and promote the best of every single individual, no matter their circumstances.