Sunday, December 9, 2012

Ethics for Atheists, Agnostics, and Other Immoralists (Part II)

Looking back over my previous post, I noticed some shortcomings. The most egregious is the paucity of examples of ethics. I only provided one example, namely morality as commonly conceived. Another example is an ethic based on the integration of emotions, drives, desires, and beliefs. The ideal of such an ethic is to have various emotional and mental entities work together toward a single goal or ideal. New experiences are understood and interpreted according to a schema that seeks balance and harmony. Dissatisfactions and self-critical thoughts are expected to produce reasons for their assertions of poor self-worth.

An easy criticism of any ethic, including the ethic implied by morality, is that it is egoistic and self-centered. It cab also be said of the ethic of morality is also egoistic and self-centered. In the Christian system of belief one submits to morality in order to avoid eternal damnation. Even in a moral version of the ethic of morality, i.e.  one without explicit punishment for disobedience, egoism and selfishness plays a critical part: one does right in order to avoid the ravages of a guilty conscience. The ethic of morality is a bit of prudence as a means to avoid unpleasant consequences, and not rooted in love, generosity, respect, or any other humane quality. There is no unselfish ethic. Only degrees of subtlety.

Another easy criticism is the lack of an explanation of how a person could already be following an ethic before choosing or even articulating an (preferred) ethic. Already following an ethic is not in its root an ethic of sacrifice and self-abnegation Already following an ethic means such an ethic is natural and is opposed to renunciation of desire. It also means that such a person is a stranger to himself. I find myself ignorant of who and what I am. Self-knowledge would then appear to be a process. It may be that everyone is this way, but it is not necessary for it to be so for everyone. Perhaps most importantly, all that is necessary for such a one to be restless and dissatisfied with one's status quo.

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