Tuesday 18 June 2013

Double-negative morality - the triumph of secularism


...may be summarized as follows:

I feel there is no compelling reason why I should not go-along-with current practices and prevailing trends.


Modern morality is thus not, or not typically, actively evil - it is instead conforming to evil; and this conformity is not active but rather has a double-negative quality.

Of course, once a person has gone-along-with evil (because he feels no reason not to) then he will be corrupted by that collusion - and will usually come actively to embrace that evil, to defend it, then to propagate it - but the initial move is more of an un-principled acquiescence.

Such behaviour appears cowardly - indeed it is cowardly; but much of this cowardice arises because courage is neither activated nor mobilized; and courage fails to deploy because there are no grounding beliefs which demand implementation; or which, when violated, cause a strong reactive response.


This, then, is the triumph of secularism.

Not to make men actively pursue evil en masse; but to subvert, erode, demotivate, confuse and relativize-away any grounds men might have for resisting or failing-to-go-along-with consensus.

Then, consensus can be driven incrementally towards evil by even a tiny proportion of strategically-wicked persons - and this will passively be followed by the mass, because there is no compelling reason not to follow it.



Adam G. said...

One of you best insights. Men are social animals.

Arakawa said...

And thus it's all too common for people seeking to alter the status quo to be flagrantly and deliberately shocking and unreasonable. Whether you're to the Right or to the Left of the current consensus, it's a cheap and easy way to paralyze the vast majority of people into acquiescence, leaving only your actual committed enemies to deal with.

Whether such a game can actually be played for Good in this day and age is a question I'm undecided on. I guess that's the implicit hope behind your 'Modern Diogenes' notion from a loong while back... this strikes me as sort of the flip side of that idea.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Arakawa - I had forgotten that posting


But I don't think I meant somebody swearing and using sexually explicit language. Actually, I'm not sure what I did mean!

Arakawa said...

I understood the Diogenes post as describing the case of someone who was contending for power while (somehow) remaining sufficiently holy to be impassible to the vast majority of threats that would ordinarily be brought out to neutralize / co-opt him. Such a Diogenes would indeed be flagrantly unreasonable -- having no need to justify the principles and goals he was pursuing, since those with equivalent goals and motivation would cooperate, those with contrary motivation to his own would not listen, while a substantial portion of the people who think like this:

"I feel there is no compelling reason why I should not go-along-with current practices and prevailing trends."

May very well be dragged along (having no inclination to resist) in the Diogenes' wake, without ever needing to be reasoned into the shift in opinion.

Of course, it's the (somehow remaining holy) part that's the whole problem with that picture....

Generally people interested in power emulate the 'flagrantly unreasonable' portion. Which, lacking an actual compelling reason to be flagrantly unreasonable (such as the urgent assertion of actually correct principles that are too basic to explain), is necessarily accomplished by fairly artificial blustering. I guess swearing and using sexually explicit language without any real reason to do so falls into that category....

Bruce Charlton said...

@A - That sounds about right.