Monday, November 22, 2010

In the next few posts, I’ll try to outline the creole moral system that emerges when people unaffiliated with any established moral community begin to form their own community.

Since the type of moral principles that are inherently tied to a particular moral community are not accessible to the unaffiliateds, the delicate balance (described earlier) between fairness, the specifics of which are less tied to a particular culture, and ethics of community and divinity, the specifics of which are strongly tied to a particular culture, is resolved by granting primacy to the former in all cases.

This single decision forms the basis of we might think of as a pseudo-religion, one complete with code, narrative and aggregation rules. I’ll start from the narrative, the doctrinal basis for this emergent system, for reasons that I hope will become clear.

We saw earlier that when the Jewish narrative is made explicit, it consists of three main threads: a unique origin, reward for adherents, and an orientation towards redemption. Actually, most religious narratives can be made to neatly fit that paradigm and the emergent religion of the unaffiliated is no exception.

The first article of faith is that all instantiations of the ethics of community and divinity are arbitrary social constructs but that the ethics of fairness/justice/equality are objective, self-evident and real. Members of the unaffiliated faith are moral absolutists with regard to the obligation to respect others’ rights, but moral relativists with regard to good and evil, insofar as good and evil can’t be translated into the language of rights. Once you are committed by lack of affiliation to the relativism of the kind of morality that requires a community, whatever morality is left looms large. It is but a short leap of faith to the conclusion that “rights” are woven into the very fabric of the universe. (In fact, we will see that Kant, and subsequently Rawls, explicitly defend the primacy of rights over goodness based on a conception of human beings in which membership in a moral community is a secondary and contingent aspect of human identity. That’s all tied up with powers of the state, so I’ll leave that discussion for when we get to the problem of statehood.)

The second article of faith is that all narratives of moral communities are false and lead to ruin. (This narrative itself is exempted; the non-God of the unaffiliated is a jealous One.) In fact, there is a whole theology the sole object of which is to systematically demonstrate how every other narrative is designed for the sole purpose of subjugating victims to the whims of powerful insiders. It is instructive to compare this article of faith to that of traditional religions, which also regard other religions as false. It is often glibly said that the faith of the unaffiliated and the faith of the affiliated are very similar. The affiliated think that all moral communities but one are misguided and the unaffiliated only disagree about the one. This misses the point. I might regard the belief system of another community as bizarre, but I understand that I am viewing that belief system from the outside while a member of the other community is experiencing it from the inside. I understand this because I experience my own belief system from the inside. I might view the specifics of another community’s code as arbitrary, but I understand that the commitment of a member of that community to that code might nevertheless be authentic and not instrumental, because I experience my own authentic commitment to a code that I realize seems arbitrary to outsiders (and, in many cases, really is arbitrary). But to an unaffiliated who is blind to the experience of membership in a moral community, all belief and all commitment is necessarily inauthentic and manipulative. The fundamental tenet of critical theory – that all moral systems exist for the sole purpose of screwing somebody – is an a priori belief. All the rest is just a matter of figuring out who is screwing whom, and how.

The third article of faith is that we are on the path towards inevitable redemption in which the whole world will recognize that all moral systems are false and will accept the true faith of the unaffiliated.

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

In my next post, I’ll discuss the code of the unaffiliated and in the one after that, I’ll show how it might lead to tyranny.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Y. Ben-David said...

It is interesting to note that the John Lennon song you included in this posting was chosen by none other than Shimon Peres to be the theme song of his grotesque, Stalinistic "birthday party" (partly paid for by the Israeli taxpayer) held for his 80th birthday. It was sung by a joint Jewish-Palestinian children's choir led by Bill Clinton.
A perfect illustration of the post-Zionist mentality of the Israeli ruling clique of which Peres is such a central figure. This goes along with Peres' statement made in the 1990's that "we have come to realize that all the ideologies we used to believfe in are unimportant".
No wonder Israel is in such a spiritual mess.

5:23 PM  
Blogger evanstonjew said...

Both Rawls and Kant were religious members of particular religious communities. Kant thought religion as a possibility was necessary to make morality possible for a few reasons. See his book Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone. For Rawls see the recent posthumous book "On My Religion."

http://www.amazon.com/Brief-Inquiry-into-Meaning-Faith/dp/0674047532/ref=sr_1_5_bnp_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1290906481&sr=1-5

4:12 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

YBD,
Even so, better Lennon than Lenin.

EJ,
Thanks for that. I confess that I lack a principled method for identifying unaffiliateds. Some of the obvious candidates for membership seem to have identified with communities, as you point out.
I miss your blog.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Y.Ben-David said...

Ben-
Better Groucho Marx over Karl?

4:39 PM  

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