14

Morality Vs. Ethics and Why So Many Confuse the Two [OC]

Submitted by ziq in Anarchism (edited )

This is a major misunderstanding leftists have of post-left politics. Most leftists are unable to grasp the difference between morality and ethics.

'Moral' is a label applied by people to themselves and their group so they can be perceived as a righteous being capable of doing no 'wrong'.

The 'moral' person sees themselves as fighting a universal battle between good and evil. They are the righteous crusader for good; incapable of straying from the 'moral code' that enshrines them in sanctified goodness.

The label 'immoral' is applied to whoever the 'moral' group decides is counter to their notions of goodness. They do this so they can maintain 'moral' superiority over the out-group and thus justify any action they take to marginalise these undesirables without feeling remorse or having to justify their behaviour to anyone.

The immoral villains can never be forgiven for their perceived crimes against morality because morality is definitive and final. The despicable villains must be forever shunned by the altruistic heroes in order to maintain their pious morals.

Racial segregation was considered morally righteous in the US South. As was cleansing the land of 'savages' during colonisation. Lynching bi-racial children for being 'impure'. Denying women equality by reasoning that it would lead to 'moral decadence'.

The recent government massacres of drug users in the Philippines were justified by creating a moral panic. The tyrant leading the massacres appointing himself as the one and only arbiter of virtue, that all moral people should blindly follow.

Perhaps the most deadly moral panic of the last century was spurred by Mao's cultural revolution in China. His Little Red Book of quotes; a virtual moral blueprint, was used by the party-faithful to purge scores of random people for having morally-objectionable... haircuts or fashion sense. Likewise, Stalin and his supporters in the USSR forced homosexuals into gulags where they were worked to death for 'crimes against morality'.

And of course the prototypical moral blueprint; the Christian Bible, was used to lead brutal moral crusades across the world; mass slaughters, land seizures and forced conversions of non-Christians.

Moral systems are designed to oppress and marginalise anyone the system deems undesirable. They are based on transcendent rules that are forcibly applied to all people from all backgrounds, in all situations; regardless of each individual's desires and values.

Unlike reactionary universal 'morals', ethics are decided on a case-by-case basis by the individual based on their own values and desires. Ethics are tangible and tied to real cause and effect outcomes.

A moralist opposition to violence is: violence is universally wrong, immoral, bad.

You might be daring enough to ask "Why?"

...Simply because the moralist says so. Requesting justification for such an abstract statement would be scoffed at because morality is seen by the moralist as some kind of divine truth that can't be questioned. The simple act of questioning it would be enough to render you immoral.

On the other hand, a measured ethical opposition to violence can be made by an amoralist... They can see that in many cases violence begets more violence, fosters systems based on the dominance of the strong, and can lead to deep-seated multi-generational divisions. But in other cases, they could see violence as ethically just. Because the alternative (e.g. fascism) would likely be worse.

A moralist forces their reactionary and irrational will on everyone else. An amoralist isn't concerned with forcing their personal perspective onto everyone, or with maintaining that perspective in every situation as if were unquestionable dogma.

Morality places paint-by-the-numbers judgement on every action, positing that all actions in column A are inherently 'wrong' and unacceptable, while all actions in column B are inherently 'right' and necessary. Regardless of the experiences of the people involved, their personal convictions and motivations, and the conditions that are present in that place and time.

Post-leftists aren't 'monsters' for rejecting morality. We're rejecting an incredibly flawed and reactionary concept that directly leads to untold misery.

Comments

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11

Dumai wrote

"ethics" is traditionally understood to mean "moral philosophy", as in, the philosophy concerned with the study of morality as an object, from the investigation of its metaphysical foundations (or lack thereof) in metaethics, down to the minutiae of moral conduct in normative ethics

i mean you're free to take a moral anti-realist metaethical position -- and you're certainly free to disagree with the standard definition of "ethics" -- but something about the way you're presenting "the" difference between morality and ethics feels a little misleading at best. and it leads to conclusions that i don't really think are helpful

1

ziq wrote (edited )

I'm writing about post-left anarchy and the distinctions post-left anarchy makes between ethics and morality. I'm not sure how it's not helpful since it explains our reasoning in great detail.

What is 'traditionally' understood as morality and ethics is the problem the postleft rejection of morality addresses.

As a Christian, your propensity to moralize would put you at odds with post-left philosophy, but that doesn't mean you need to deny it's a valuable train of thought just because it doesn't appeal to your senses.

9

Dumai wrote

it's not helpful because it kind of fudges the terms, and without clarifying how your use of this language differs from the popular use, you're only going to lead people to poorly conceived ideas on ethical philosophy somewhere down along the road:

Unlike reactionary universal 'morals', ethics are decided on a case-by-case basis by the individual based on their own values and desires. Ethics are tangible and tied to real cause and effect outcomes.

this is actually a normative consequentialist ethical position and doesn't really break with how philosophers use the term "morality". rejecting morality, if that's what you're inclined to do, requires more than playing with words i think

1

ziq wrote (edited )

I think it's too much to ask that anarchists talking to other anarchists in anarchist spaces should have to define their terms every time they use them.

I also think it's a plenty helpful critique of morality or I wouldn't have wasted hours writing it. If my argument is poorly conceived, you haven't demonstrated that in any way in your rejection of it.

The terms are only fudged if you're somehow attached to the idea of a moral left, which is as ridiculous as being attached to the notion of a 'civilized' left in that it adapts oppressive terminology with a brutal colonialist legacy and calls it radical - for no good reason.

how philosophers use the term "morality"

I don't think that's relevant to any of my arguments since I'm talking about the common usage of the word and specifically the way it's used to control us by our oppressors and reinforce their hierarchies.

8

Dumai wrote

I think it's too much to ask that anarchists talking to other anarchists in anarchist spaces should have to define their terms every time they use them.

if you're using this terminology in a way that diverges hugely from how it is traditionally used, and your whole point here is to educate people and clarify your ethics, then i don't actually think it's too much to ask in this case

The terms are only fudged if you're somehow attached to the idea of a moral left

i say they're fudged because i don't think you're actually rejecting morality in any meaningful sense here

1

ziq wrote (edited )

if you're using this terminology in a way that diverges hugely from how it is traditionally used, and your whole point here is to educate people and clarify your ethics, then i don't actually think it's too much to ask in this case

Well I've pretty much definitively defined the terms with this piece (which I'm surprised I needed to do since it's commonly accepted terminology among post-leftists, individualist anarchists and even the half-baked stirner-meme anarchists on reddit) so there's no excuse for misunderstanding it now.

I still think it's too much to ask that anarchists explain basic anarchist concepts to long time anarchists every time they use them. It's not like I go around blatantly misunderstanding collectivist-anarchist terminology and then accusing people of being monsters based on my misunderstanding.

i say they're fudged because i don't think you're actually rejecting morality in any meaningful sense here

I made a pretty detailed distinction between collectivist one-size-fits-all blame-game always-black/white morality and individualist highly-adaptable usually-grey-area ethics. But ok.

5

Dumai wrote (edited )

what i mean to say is that your definitions of "ethics" and "morality" are rather idiosyncratic outside of the online post-left but you're presenting them as the standard, which can be misleading and i'd rather nobody get the wrong idea about what these terms usually mean

I made a pretty detailed distinction between collectivist one-size-fits-all blame-game always-black/white morality and individualist highly-adaptable usually-grey-area ethics.

and i'm telling you the distinction doesn't bear much scrutiny for reasons i explained

it relies on a simplistic one-dimensional portrayal of what morality is and has been (even bourgeois morality), which can only limit your criticism of it, and what you're presenting as "ethics" doesn't differ all that much from a consequentialist view of morality

1

ziq wrote

standard, which can be misleading and i'd rather nobody get the wrong idea about what these terms usually mean

See the first line of my OP:

This is a major misunderstanding leftists have of post-left politics.

I don't know how much clearer I can make it.

and i'm telling you the distinction doesn't bare much scrutiny for reasons i explained

Your argument is that some unnamed philosophers define ethics as 'moral philosophy', while my argument is that anarchists make a distinction between moralism and amoralist ethics. I'm not sure why your establishment philosophers are being allowed a monopoly on terminology or why their ideas are more important than the ideas of post-leftists. There's nothing sacred about their musings.

4

Dumai wrote (edited )

I'm not sure why your establishment philosophers are being allowed a monopoly on terminology or why their ideas are more important than the ideas of post-leftists.

they're not, and as i said, you're free to disagree with the mainstream view of what ethics are

but firstly, if you're thinking this post will be the first time some readers are introduced to the difference between morality and ethics then i think would help to mention how this division is traditionally realised and make it clear, exactly, where post-leftists are going against the grain, and why. i say this because i'd hate for anybody to find this post and then read some foundational ethical theory and get absolutely lost because your use of the word "morality" doesn't at all match it's wider use. this doesn't invalidate it but if this is meant to be a 101 on post-leftist ethics then it should probably be addressed, at least. it would only flesh out your argument and avoid any potential mishaps with neophytes

and secondly i don't think this division here is very well-considered or representative of anarchism as a whole, even anarchistic traditions that reject morality, and you only achieved it by fiddling with terminology. i'd compare it to anarcho-capitalists who defend capitalism by defining it as a system of voluntary, mutually beneficial exchange between individuals and manage to completely ignore the question of how capitalism has been historically defined, but obviously i don't think you're anyway near that level so just take that as an example of how this kind of thinking can go very very wrong if you're not careful

0

ziq wrote

I don't think there's anything mainstream about philosophy and since this is a political forum I'm not even sure philosophical definitions are relevant. I only really care how the word is used in real life.

6

Dumai wrote (edited )

if you're talking about ethics and morality then you are talking about philosophy, including the kind of philosophy laypeople do every day

and i've never really known any layperson to juxtapose ethics and morality in the way you are

-1

ziq wrote (edited )

I also went into how people that praise themselves as being 'moral' are usually anything but, which could be your main take-away from this if you reject the rest of my argument. Moral posturing doesn't make people better than other people.

2

edmund_the_destroyer wrote

But to Dumal's point, you're not fitting the terms 'morality' and 'ethics' to their common usage. If some person says, "All Latino people are inherently unethical and we white people are inherently more ethical", it's no different from saying "All Latino people are inherently immoral and we white people are inherently more moral."

So you're using the two terms to try to make a distinction that doesn't exist. I do agree with part of your fundamental point, which is that each side at best believes it is the side of good and at worst adopts the rhetoric of pretending to be the side of good and demonizes opposition. But that's universal.

5

RosaReborn wrote

I agree with you. I may still use "morality" in normal speech even I am talking about ethics however.

Post-leftists aren't 'monsters' for rejecting morality. We're rejecting an incredibly flawed and reactionary concept that directly leads to untold misery.

This is incredibly important. We must always question our own ethics and justify their reasoning. In doing so we uncover conditioning of society that we never see before, things that lie outside the scope of moral/immoral or somewhere in between. Especially true for individualist anarchist thinking

3

ziq wrote (edited )

In the past I would have filled the comments section here with a heated back and forth between Chomskyist and Defasher to illustrate the deficiencies of a moralist position in an easily digestible and entertaining format.

I can't do that any more so just use your imagination to see how that conversation would have unfolded.

8

retiredshared2 wrote

You could still, just write it like a play.

enter CHOMSKYIST, DEFASHER

CHOMSKYIST: blah blah blah

DEFASHER: not blah blah blah

exit CHOMSKYIST

7

retiredshared2 wrote

In the past I would have filled the comments section here with a heated back and forth between Chomskyist and Defasher to illustrate the deficiencies of a moralist position in an easily digestible and entertaining format.

Making a faux debate makes it very open to strawmen and is just a bad idea overall. Don't recommend.

6

noordinaryspider wrote

I thought this was very well written and it clarifies some issues I have been having with language, not with amoralism itsself.

Thank you.

More please.

1

ziq wrote (edited )

But this also serves to demonstrate how we are controlled and limited by others 'morality'.

1

selver wrote (edited )

I've found this distinction, and arguments against morality in general, to be less and less useful/convincing. Isn't this just describing critical thinking?

I believe the negative reactions post-leftists get online over this is because it's so often used as a way to avoid arguing ethics. Just call someone a moralist for having a strongly held belief, even if it has been critically though out, and you can pretend to have outwitted them.

And as Dumai said, so many people confuse the two because the tiny number of post-lefts are the only people who use words this way.

1

ziq wrote (edited )

We can't expect others to understand our personal ethics when they're informed by our own unique experiences and desires.

My decision to remove an ML from a position of power using my defasher account to shine a light on her actions before removing her with my admin account was an attempt to minimize backlash against raddle from what I knew was a vengeful clique.

Admins are always treated by collectivists as if they are synonymous with the entire site, and anything an admin does that people don't like is used to destroy the site.

My actions were considered immoral by most of this community. I'm still chastised for it constantly, with people even going as far as to call me a sociopath.

But to me; my decision was completely justifiable under my own ethical standards. My realization that her politics; her words and actions as a mod presented an imminent danger to raddle, led to me performing what I saw as the only viable solution to safeguard the integrity of the site.

I did a 'bad' thing in service of what I saw as being far more important concerns. I was guided by an informed fear of MLs historically hijacking leftist spaces and destroying them.

I wasn't trying to hurt anyone. It was a wholly ethical decision in my head, and I don't expect anyone else to understand that when their experiences with the user in question, MLs in general, and their personal ethics may be wholly different from my own.

After 4 months of constant fury, doxxing, hijacking of chat rooms and attempts to hack raddle to take it offline coming mainly from her clique of friends after I came clean - I think I've shown myself i was justified in my 'immoral' action to separate my true feelings from my admin account. To use proxies to voice my concerns about real problems. Everything I feared would happen happened after I came clean. My only solace after having to step down as admin is knowing that the current admins are both anarchists and I don't have to worry about a genocide-denying ML constantly trying to make rules to ban criticism of Stalin.

I'm not a sociopath or a villain. I can only follow my own ethical convictions. My every instinct tells me I made the right choice.

2

TheLegendaryBirdMonster wrote

You're rewriting history dude

morals and ethics don't mean anything when we're talking about not respecting the rules that we had as a small community. The unsaid rule you broke was manipulating votes and making yourself untrustable to users, as an admin. It was never explicited and I understand that some nero-atypical folks may not get the cue if it's not 100% explicit but you still knew you did "bad" since you were guilty and came out.

People dont resent you because you did "immoral" stuff, but because you fooled them. Most of us are here because we want a chill place where we arent bullshited by the admins. Lo a behold, you were as trustable as a reddit admin. If you just banned her and explained it the next day in meta, everything would have been almost fine.

also prob the heated arguemts with chomskyist where some folks got emotionally involved wiith a straw-man didnt help your case.

0

ziq wrote (edited )

There was no vote to mod or demod her. I appointed her as an emergency measure when we were under heavy brigade without consulting anyone other than emma. I removed her privileges the same way. I wasn't going to ask anyone's permission to take away temporary privs, I'm the one who was legally liable for all the kiddie porn the spammers were posting (site is registered in my name) and I added her to handle the night shift during the brigade to protect myself both legally and health-wise from not being able to sleep because I had to stay up to deal with the constant porn spam. It was really no one else's decision and I never claimed appointing admins was a democracy.

I never banned her.

This thread is addressed to the user that said earlier I have no conscience and their moral code makes them better than me

2

TheLegendaryBirdMonster wrote

sorry about the wrong vocab, you're right you never banned her, idk why i said that, probably meant banned from admin-ing.

I agree with your decision: it it normal, as an admin, to take decisions that will anger some users. I disagree with the way you handled it, but you prob know that so there isnt much to say anymore.

I missed that one, it probably explains your post then.

1

selver wrote

You don't think that the erosion of trust & general disengagement from the site outweighs ridding the site of one ML? You couldn't have possibly gone about it a better way? Open dialogue instead of underhanded manipulation?

1

ziq wrote (edited )

I don't think giving her devoted friends the opportunity to enshrine her permanently as an admin would have been a good idea. They would have won any vote I triggered to remove her powers and it would have legitimized her position and resulted in the site being destroyed like every site MLs take over. I tried to handle it by shifting the 'blame' for removing her powers to my non admin account to avoid the drama. I don't really care if it was underhanded, I have no faith in people to be able to handle being stripped of their power. They've tried real hard to destroy this site for months and it wouldn't have been any different if I had asked their permission to remove her and then done it anyway after all her friends said no.

0

SouthsideGrackles wrote

The use of instinct as a basis for "right" is very moralistic. The use of ethics as a rationalization to justify your actions and the self righteous pursuit of whatever you want is also in line with the behavior of moralizers.

0

ziq wrote (edited )

Making the right choice for me isn't moralistic. If you don't do what you think is best for yourself and your site then what are you doing exactly? Should I make my choices for the 'common good' or whatever? No thanks. I don't even like most people.

I don't need to justify my actions to anyone, that's not what this is about and I should have never fallen into the "forgive me for betraying your impossible moral standards please" trap.

And you're one to talk about moralizing when it's all you do here and all you did on reddit. At least I'm honest that I do what I do because it suits me best and don't try to wrap it up in abusive moralist bullshit like your "I have to protect everyone from you, you evil manipulative sociopath literally Trump you worthless trash destroyer of anarchy so I'm going to follow you around and rant about you for 2 years to protect your innocent brocialist victims" shtick.

1

rot wrote

I think the concept of what you consider best for yourself is informed by moralistic values and could be considered a type of morality. Self-sacrifice for the "greater good" is held as a moral stance by some. Similarly, individualism is considered a moral value.

0

ziq wrote (edited )

Deliberate self interest isn't moral values or literally everything anyone ever does can be described as moral values. It's only moralizing when you pretend you're doing it for pious reasons.

-1

SouthsideGrackles wrote

"I don't need to justify my actions to anyone"

And yet, look how hard you're trying to do so in this thread.

Plus, the main point is that you're acting in a very moralistic sort of way, where you still believe in "right" and see yourself and your actions as righteous, and those that disagree as "other" , against whom all actions are justified.

You're still a huge moralist, and it is even more insidious than most morality because you don't even acknowledge its existence.

As a post leftist myself I'm honestly embarrassed for you and your lack of self awareness in regards to what you're saying and how you are warping an anti-moralistic perspective into a moralistic one in order to justify your actions as "right".

There is no "right".