Zu theoremen der Motivationskrise

"Eine prinzipielle Moral ist mithin ein System, das nur allgemeine Normen zulässt (d.h. Normen ohne Ausnahmen, ohne Privilegierungen und ohne Einschränkung des Geltungsbereichs). (..) Formalität heisst, dass keine konkreten Verpflichtungen (wie im traditionellen Naturrecht oder in der Ethik), sondern nur abstrakte Erlaubnisse rechtlich normierbar sind (Handlungen dürfen nicht geboten, sondern nur freigestellt oder verboten werden)."  Jürgen Habermas, Legitimationsprobleme im Spätkapitalismus, edition suhrkamp, 1973.

(amateuristic English translation below)


Not what I wanted to quote; I would have preferred something in English, something non-political & preferably something linguistic. But this is what I came across, &  my old fascination with the subject outweighs the less-than-lyrical Habermasian style. So, here goes: morality and ethics or, cross-wise, content and form.

I have long been obsessed with the difference between morality and ethics. It still strikes me that in ethics we have something less, something merely instrumental & rather contingent whilst morality is, or more fitting: should be, more universal & basic. I associate ethics with lots of paper, back & forth on interpretations, codifications, ... It's not just that we need something more stable and pure than that but, essentially, we would not be our human selves without it. Maybe it's mere contingent wish to want to be our human selves but you'll agree that the level of contingency is qualitatively distinct from all that instrumentally needs to be put in the body of law (& its many derivatives in group rules and the like).

The argument for this is Habermasian, I guess. It is essential for us to communicate (take a linguistic quought from here, it will probably be about that). Communication can only be achieved if there is a common shared thing that can be discussed, however imperfectly. Human progress is such that one is bound to engage, potentially, in discussion with anybody else whether we like it or not (& it is yet another truth that most of us most of time instinctively do not like it at all). Hence, universality can't be avoided & the positive expression of it is morality (the negative is fear from it - commonly known as xenophobia). The distinction with contingent legal codes & ethics is very marked in principle as in the latter stability is the prime goal, not progress (not that it's bad; it's practical - practicality should not be brushed away too rapidly).

The turn of phrase 'to moralize' and its associated gut reaction of wanting to vomit could well be the reflection of all of this. People react negatively to moralizing on this view not so much because they want less morality but because something as essential as morality is put in the everyday dirt & made to do work as a slave to the benefit of something or someone particular. My favourite example of it would be the 20th century myth that 'one needs to work hard to earn one's way' - this is moralizing, it may well have been true in the 20th century and for some time to come but it still is contingent. It is not essential to work, it is essential to communicate. It may be unethical to be a lazy bastard, but it is not by definition immoral.

Morality can only consist in very few claims; claims which are indeed formal, not in a legalistic sense but in a logical/dynamical sense (the same logic/dynamic one will find in natural languages to make a little bridge to linguistics). Obviously this does not mean that morality allows you to be unethical as in most cases the unethical or illegal (and maybe there is something between ethical and legal as there is between moral and ethical) will be the best practical way to make moral sense of specific cases (at least when the ethics and the laws have evolved in a moral way i.e. via due process preserving the due process). But just like etiquette does not translate into ethics, we should not take a moralizing & maximizing approach of having ethics translate into morality because morality needs to be light - and not burdened with all the things that happen to be important here & now to keep the beasts in all of us from breaking out.

I believe (but have time nor motivation) that taking the details of the quote, with a lot of hard work, one can make logical connections between my quought and this quote.

Oh well, another time. Maybe ...

" A principled morality is therefore a system that only allows general norms (i.e. norms without any exceptions, privileges or limts on its applicability). (..) Formalness means that there are no concrete obligations (like in natural law or in ethics) but only abstract permissions which are rightfully put as norms (actions cannot be ordered but only allowed or forbidden)."

Whilst writing this I was listening to Ozric Tentacles, Swirly Termination.

22:48 Gepost door Guido Nius in Liefde | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: habermas, convergence, form-content, universals |  Facebook |


Everything counts in large amounts

"It's a competitive world
Everything counts in large amounts

The grabbing hands
Grab all they can
Everything counts in large amounts"

Depeche Mode, The Best Of Depeche Mode, Disc 1.

Faced with complex issues we try to find complex solutions. Administrations of most dinosauric dimensions are engaged to tackle, tune & tweak the complexities. Heads of those administrations, whether private or public, achieve heroic status, and adopt appropriately heroic characteristics. Like Alexander the Greath they strive to build an empire that can last forever, like Hercules - & with self-acclaimed Herculean efforts -they stand the most extreme tests of character. Complexity breeds grand nobility.

The error is made before the heroism comes in (heroic behaviour is symptomatic in all cases of an earlier error). Presently, the error lies in allowing complexity to arise, allowing the problem to become a 'big' problem. 'Thinking big' is nothing else than  enlightenment gone wild. Individual liberty as universal goal gets transferred to the quantities associated to that individual, in our present case: to money, to capital, & that liberty of capital cannot but take over from individual liberty. In capital terms - everything counts, but only in large amounts. Money to exchange becomes capital, capital grows and requires more & more complex structures in which it can keep on growing. Individual liberty is progressively lost in these structures & people reduced to supporting those structures that keep capital flowing & growing.

The solution is not, as some would have it, to think small. Capital structures aren't important enough to determine how we should think, that's exactly where the error is: thinking in terms of production, labour and growth, or absence of growth. We're productive and we cannot help creating - that's how we are - we just need to create instead of becoming bigger & winding up as helpless as a wounded dinosaur. It's a good thing that we're globalized because it means new ideas find more brains that can work from them to create even better ideas. Growth is good as long as it leads to an improved connection between the artist and his/her audience. Beyond that, & we're mostly beyond that, growth is like gravitation: some is needed - too much is, simply, destructive. Size is an enabler, not an objective, not even an implicit goal.

We need to realize that we need competition to stimulate creation. Competition ís an intrinsic good because it is a necessary aspect of dynamic progress. Growth can be competition's worst enemy because once things are too big - they tend to stifle any meaningful competition. Competing to become the biggest is no competition, meaningful competition is about becoming better & becoming better inevitably is a matter of becoming different. Not just inventing but re-inventing oneself. We must endure a certain size - as we must endure gravitation - to be able to be in optimal contact with as many others but anything bigger than the minimum needs to be, in short, cut in manageable pieces if we want to avoid that the pieces manage us - as they do at the moment I write this.

Whilst writing this I was listening to (surprise!) The Best of Depeche Mode, Volumes 1 & 2.

21:10 Gepost door Guido Nius in Actualiteit | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: friendship, learning, pop culture, competition |  Facebook |