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More on the distinction between morality and ethics [OC]

Submitted by Ant in Anarchism (edited )

About a month ago there was a post on this topic.

I think that this distinction comes from people’s work with Nietzsche. Nietzsche had a critique of what he called the "slave moralities" that were typical of Judaism and Christianity in a particular historical context. His critique of resentment (often untranslated from the French ressentiment) seems central to this.

How does resentment work? Let’s take the case of Bobby.

Bobby experiences suffering. Because of the power relations in their context, Bobby does not act against the cause of their suffering. They seek out a cause for the suffering; someone to blame that is outside of themself.

That suffering goes into Bobby’s memory, and disposes Bobby to strike back at that cause they represent as the cause of their suffering. Imagining revenge, and having an imaginary revenge, against the perceived cause comes to replace attempts to strike back immediately against the harm, and that fantasy does help to deaden the pain of the memory.

Often, Bobby will tell their self, “I will strike back tomorrow!” – After judging the harmer as bad, Bobby concludes that Bobby must then be good. Indeed, that is the reason Bobby gives themself for why they are not actually impotent to enact their revenge; because they are good! Lack of action is seen not as impotence but as a choice to be morally good (e.g. by turning the other cheek). Grinning as one bears suffering becomes moral, and that morality spreads among those similarly oppressed.

This is why the idea of hell is so desirable to the resentful person – it is a place to play out the revenge fantasy in the most full way, to understand one's own suffering under oppression as good, despite how the oppressor continues to enjoy prosperity in their oppression. Now political power and nobility are seen by Bobby as signs of evilness and damnation, and Bobby’s revenge will be completed through God as proxy.

In this context, it would appear that moral values simply are signs of distress, impoverishment, and degeneration insofar as they arise from, and answer to, the painful malfunction of resentment.

In an anarchist framework, we can understand a problem with this in terms of a tendency against mediation of various kinds. The resentful person, the moralist, is obsessed with the perceived agent of their their suffering – including that agent’s values - and seeks to invert those values and claim that inversion as moral. But not only is their entire existence then framed by themselves as a reaction to their oppression, their values are built on the same ground as their oppressors and are mediated first through that oppression. They are reactive, rather than active.

I think here what people often call ‘ethics’ in distinction to ‘morality’ is the process of coming to hold active dispositions and to do active actions, whereas ‘morality’ is what Nietzsche called ‘slave morality’ – those ethical positions that make virtue out of reaction.

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noordinaryspider wrote

Thank you. That was very clear and understandable. One of the kindest things a Raddler has done for me was to very gently bring me to recognize that my anger was normal, justified and that turning it inward was pointless.

Got to read me some Nietzsche and quit babbling so much now that I've got a study buddy.

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selver wrote

Read Nietzsche and Anarchy by Shahin.

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ziq wrote (edited )

I guess it would make it easier for others to understand my intentions if I said 'slave morality' instead of 'morality', but that could be perceived as making light of slavery.

In an anarchist framework, we can understand a problem with this in terms of a tendency against mediation of various kinds. The resentful person, the moralist, is obsessed with the perceived agent of their their suffering – including that agent’s values - and seeks to invert those values and claim that inversion as moral. But not only is their entire existence then framed by themselves as a reaction to their oppression, their values are built on the same ground as their oppressors and are mediated first through that oppression. They are reactive, rather than active.

Another problem I always have is using the word 'reactionary' to describe this instead of the way it's used by leftists to refer to anyone who is rightwing. I'm always told off for 'misusing' the word.

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ziq wrote

The stuff about hell really resonates with me.

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selver wrote

“In belief in what? In love with what? In hope for what?—There’s no doubt that these weak people—at some time or another they also want to be the strong people, some day their "kingdom" is to arrive—they call it simply "the kingdom of God" as I mentioned. People are indeed so humble about everything! Only to experience that, one has to live a long time, beyond death—in fact, people must have an eternal life, so they can also win eternal recompense in the "kingdom of God" for that earthly life "in faith, in love, in hope." Recompense for what? Recompense through what? In my view, Dante was grossly in error when, with an ingenuity inspiring terror, he set that inscription over the gateway into his hell:"Eternal love also created me." Over the gateway into the Christian paradise and its "eternal blessedness" it would, in any event, be more fitting to let the inscription stand "Eternal hate also created me"—provided it’s all right to set a truth over the gateway to a lie! For what is the bliss of that paradise? Perhaps we might have guessed that already, but it is better for it to be expressly described for us by an authority we cannot underestimate in such matters, Thomas Aquinas, the great teacher and saint: "In the kingdom of heaven" he says as gently as a lamb, "the blessed will see the punishment of the damned, so that they will derive all the more pleasure from their heavenly bliss.”

Nietzsche

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noordinaryspider wrote

Yea, me too in ways I'm not ready to post publicly. This is almost as "right on" as the book discussion thread i started in in Anarchy101.

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JoeMemo wrote

This has been thoroughly discredited by /u/dumai and others in the linked thread. There is no real distinction between morality and ethics.

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ziq wrote (edited )

Them being upvoted by others doesn't = discrediting. Most people would rather not think too much about ideas that conflict with their world view. The 'left' and 'morality' have been intertwined forever.

Furthermore, OP makes completely different points than I made, so even if my argument was flawed, you should re-examine clinging to your refutation of morality vs ethics based on OP's much better thought out analysis.