02 May 2011

Debugging morality v. ethics

It is, indeed, a fact that, in the midst of society and sociability every evil inclination has to place itself under such great restraint, don so many masks, lay itself so often on the procrustean bed of virtue, that one could well speak of a martyrdom of the evil man. In solitude all this falls away. He who is evil is at his most evil in solitude: which is where he is at his best - and thus to the eye of him who sees everywhere only a spectacle also at his most beautiful.

from Nietzsche's Daybreak, s. 499, R.J. Hollingdale transl

All morality finds it basis in religion. It is religious "don't or do dos". The Bible has a codified list of things people should not do. Laws have been enacted based upon them. Many of those laws fall under what is known as the "Puritan Laws", but the majority are not.

And this is where ethics becomes distinctively separate. Sartre always argued that is there was no god, man would create himself. Man would judge each action. The existential movement echoes this belief. Religion removed from actions.

To get more into the minutea, morality has the rule of not killing. It is an amoral act. Punishable. All countries have laws that deal with this. Some execute people who violate this law. Some versions of religious texts allow for retribution.

Hegel argued against retribution. He found it to be something that no society should uphold, that taking the life of another was a violation of that person's rights. Ethics.

Here's how it is different from morality: In religion a person is told what they are allowed and not allowed to do. They are given the moral laws of their faith, complete with punishments. In ethics a person must judge for themselves if their action violates the actions of others while satisfying the actions of themselves.

"Now, being God might very well mean to know everything. But you must understand that even for God the knowing don't come easy. So when a question come up that stumped his big ol' God-brain, he set about finding an answer. And that's where we come in. He invented morality and planted it in our breasts. And only through our actions could he ever hope to learn about that particular thing. (84)"

The Sound of Building Coffins, Louis Maistros, New Milford,CT: 2009 The Toby Press LLC

While it seems fundamentally the same as a moral situation, an ethical one is not. The difference resides in the person. A moral person knows that killing is wrong and should not be done. An ethical person reasons whether killing another would deny that person rights and whether those violated rights were less important than them being killed. And an ethical person is not bound by the rights of the person. Nietzsche would argue that one who considered the rights of others was just a sheep. If a person deemed another should be killed, then that person should follow through on it.

Religion does not influence morality, it is the basis for it. Religion creates laws, laws that are shaped by its belief system. Morality does not stand up to the harsh light of ethical review.

1 comment:

  1. http://richarddawkins.net/videos/623139-who-says-science-has-nothing-to-say-about-morality

    He can say it better than I can....