Tuesday, 14 March 2017

A Fresh Look at Genealogy of Morality

The polemic by Friedrich Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morality, had an intoxicating and toxic effect on my youth but now that water has flown under the bridge and that I have extricated myself from Herr Nietzsche's direct influence I wish to critically consider it with fresh eyes (and, as he would say, ears). 

I will focus on the first essay 'Good and Bad v Good and Evil'. 

The argument Nietzsche advances is that there are essentially two forms of morality that manifested in history, albeit in combined forms, an 'aristocratic' one and a 'plebeian' one. 

The 'aristocratic' one, which Nietzsche identifies with, views the world in terms of 'good' and 'bad', i.e. first rank and second rank. 

Spiritual high-mindedness, aptitude in warfare, physical prowess are seen as 'good' by warrior cultures, which became the aristocracies of history, regardless of the harm these cause to others, whereas meekness, passivity, cowardice, simple-mindedness are seen as 'bad', i.e. 'lowly', by these same cultures. 

Conversely, he argues, slavish evaluations interpret all that is symptomatic of the higher classes - exuberance, violence, arrogance - as evil and define themselves in opposition to these qualities. 

In that sense, Nietzsche writes, warrior morality acts first by saying yes to itself in all its gruesome reality (as depicted in Homer's Iliad) whereas slave morality first reacts by saying no to the warrior morality under which they suffer.

In other words, in 'slave' morality, anyone who is not arrogant, idle, violent but, instead, humble, industrious, peaceful is good. 

This reversal is what Nietzsche claims to be the genius and legacy of the Judeo-Christian tradition. 

Nietzsche goes further in saying that the lower classes come to value calculating cleverness more than the higher classes, since it has helped them survive and better their lot, and in any event men living under masters may indeed become far cleverer than these latter who are too engaged in active political life to pay attention to minutiae and detail. 

It is important to note, with Nietzsche, that these days the same individual may partake of both moralities at the same time, his soul 'a real battleground of values', and that these competing forms of evaluation have, in modernity, become more spiritual. 

The question I ask myself is how does this theory of morality play out in the current world climate and can it even be applied?

In politics, social engineers and globalists might well view themselves as 'first rank' and the mass of humanity as 'useless eaters' and therefore, in a twisted way, partake of 'aristocratic' morality. 

Those who fight the 'New World Order' agenda will perceive these dominators as evil and, in that sense, partake of 'plebeian' morality. 

Yet still others may consider the aforementioned elite dominators as precisely second in rank in their callousness and lack of creativity and view them as scheming slaves to fear ('aristocratic' bias). 

From a different angle, many liberal-minded people make fun of and look down on Donald Trump's inadequacies (an arguable 'aristocratic' evaluation).

Trump supporters for their part might view Muslims, homosexuals and Jews as 'evil' (an arguable 'plebeian' evaluation).

Whereas most art is assessed in terms of 'good' or 'bad', discerning individuals might pick up on evil messages and agendas lurking within that art, such as in movies and music - does this mean to say it is a 'slavish' evaluation?

The controversy around German philosopher Martin Heidegger is interesting in that respect as his supporters view him as a high-ranking philosopher ('aristocratic' evaluation) but his detractors view him as an evil Nazi ('plebeian' evaluation) whose writings should all be removed from libraries. 

Ditto with Hannah Arendt, who did show a pronounced aristocratic bias in her writings (e.g. The Human Condition). While she took kindly to Ancient Greece and Rome and underplayed the problem of slavery in those cultures since it allowed for some to be free from necessity, a role modern technology has come to play for us, and went so far later on as to say that evil expresses itself superficially, not deeply, some modern commentators view her in her philosophical elitism as a kind of 'white supremacist', particularly in so far as all her referential material is elite, white and male.  

Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist movement certainly identified with 'warrior' morality and one of their gripes with Jews was to have un-made this warrior morality by inflicting mankind with a conscience. (See my addendum to the post Amorality of Nature - Knowledge of Good and Evil). 

Modern day anti-semites, for their part, often regard 'political correctness', 'positive discrimination' and pro-immigrant stances as emanating from Jewish conspiracies to commit 'white genocide' but in seeing Zionist Jews as 'evil' are themselves partaking of 'slave' morality.

Anti-welfare state politicians will take a poor view of 'benefits claimants' (looking down - arguable 'aristocratic' evaluation) and seek to cut their money while those who suffer the cuts will view these same politicians as 'evil' (arguable 'plebeian' evaluation).

Yet plenty more will look down on the anti-welfare brigade ('aristocratic' evaluation) out of the moral, Christian-inspired, ground of not preying on the vulnerable. 

Taking myself as an example, while I take a low view of business, TV and money-making generally, many others will take a low view of my bohemian, benefits-supported lifestyle. 

Yet I also see evil in the world, all the more so after having read up on cases of ritualised abuse, child exploitation, torture, State-sponsored terrorism and mind control experimentation.

It seems clear to me that the good and bad v good and evil ways of looking at the world have such an enormous variety in application coming from so many different angles, sensibilities and socio-economic groups that is has lost most if not all of its illuminating potency. 

The only thing to take from this writing is that moral valuations are context sensitive and variable within each individual and it is of no philosophical value to characterise them as either 'aristocratic' or 'plebeian', living as we do in societies organised along different, more complex, more egalitarian lines than those from which these two moralities arguably sprang.  

Commonplace Thinking: Winners and Losers

It is worth bearing in mind and even regularly reminding oneself that many people do not take to sophisticated thought patterns.

A Facebook friend of mine was angry about UK Brexit voters who refused to listen to her points online, since according to them they had 'won' and she had 'lost' so it was her duty to shut up. 

The winning-losing, success-failure couplets are now a commonplace and extremely widespread means of evaluation, encouraged at all times by mainstream media outlets and many TV shows.

In entertainment many commentators point to box office receipts and sales returns as salient points to raise in evaluating films and video games, in the 'working world', unemployed misfits are of course casually referred to as 'losers' (successful business owners being the 'winners'), in business, success or failure at making money (rather than success or failure at contributing to the common good) are constantly scrutinised by investors and, in politics, voters will often make fun of how the opposition 'lost' at an election or a referendum.  

Months ago I expressed my love of losers or people who identified with the 'loser' label, not knowing in their so doing how well their heads were screwed on (Losers). 

For winning and losing is a playground, childish and morally dubious way to appreciate the world, since abusers and psychopaths (including multinational corporations) who harm others may well and in fact do come to be seen as exemplary successes to be imitated and followed whereas introspective, ethical people (or companies) who care for their fellow human beings will often be looked down as wastes of space and time (at least by the competitively minded and by investors). 

This makes me think of Philip Pullman's hint in His Dark Materials that the true battle fought through the ages was and is one between wisdom and ignorance.

Yet it is arguably futile to attempt to fight ignorance with wisdom, since people who choose to ignore truth, knowledge and the good will not allow themselves be persuaded by philosophical arguments, however clear, concise, fair-minded and transparent. 

Independent and esoteric researcher/speaker Mark Passio (see Mark Passio and the Chess Game) does not, for his part, suffer fools gladly and is credited with saying
"Wilful ignorance in the presence of knowledge is the measure of a bad person."
Yet, even though disastrous in its effects, ignorance is not a wrong in itself. People are entitled to be ignorant, even of that which they could reasonably be expected to know. It is harm caused to others, whether through ignorance or conscious malice or both, that is a wrong.

What are Clichés?

Clichés were no doubt once original angles on the world that have outstayed their welcome among discerning members of the public. 

Because life constantly overcomes and has to overcome itself (partly through the influence of the so-called law of diminishing returns), thoughts/ideas over-used and no longer illuminating will be interpreted as dead by said discerning individuals who will seek out or offer new angles and perspectives. 

Yet clichés offer handy short cuts and points of agreement in daily human intercourse and the value of that should not be underestimated. 

Effects of Personality Type

Like many others, I have indulged in filling in personality quizzes (such as on the website https://www.16personalities.com/) and although the results have come up somewhat different at different times, the one that most forcefully presents itself is INFJ, i.e. Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling and Judge and that is the one, all things considered, I most identify with, not least because it is the rarest of all types and my girlfriend admits to my being a 'rare bird' and therefore not very relatable on social media or even in real life. 

It is no small point of pride for me that this was/is the alleged personality type of Plato, Spinoza and J.K. Rowing but also of Hitler, whose biography by Alan Bullock I read as a teenager and actually identified with despite that historical figure's shitty worldview, effect on others and legacy. 

Indeed long time followers of my intellectual development will recall the highly narcissistic and toxic worldview of my early twenties, born of insecurity, fear and low self-esteem and a most poisonous superiority complex, which took German philosophers Nietzsche and Heidegger far too seriously. 

Some of the posts I wrote in this state are still extant on this blog, albeit slightly moderated but many have been removed due to their arrogant and ugly nature. 

Anyway the interesting thing about the personality type system is that it does make one realise how at odds you might be with other people in terms not only of introversion or extroversion, but also in terms of priorities such as whether being right matters more than not upsetting others' feelings, whether truth matters more than cooperation, whether power is more valued by you than justice and so on as well as characteristics such as how imaginative you are, how improvising or planning you are, how sensitive you are etc.

Are all personality types equally legitimate or are some objectively more moral than others? 

Raising this question of the morality of personality types I am of course being typical of my own personality type, as morality may not be a big concern for other, less idealistic, personality types for whom, say, competitive, status-conscious values will be more important. 

Politicians need be extroverted to make a name for themselves in their particular trade and their worldview and personality preferences as reflected in business values, the need for competition, 'leadership' will unfortunately come to bear on others who do not share them. 

Thus, in shaping the world in their image, politicians will come to determine the fate of people, such as thoughtful introverts, who do not identify with business and competition. 

Indeed in my blog post Knowledge and Sensibility I put forward the hypothesis that much of the world's activity and human expressions, likes and dislikes, stems from the associations and divisions that occur between different 'sensibilities', which I defined as including personality preferences as well as comfort zones, sensitivities, intellect, imagination, creativity and so forth. 

Perhaps there are personality types that are just incompatible and will not mix well together and indeed personality type is likely to colour one's political preferences as well, regardless of the role of mass mind control methodologies.

For as I stated in my post Anarchist Split, even individuals who pride themselves on their political awareness and do not fall for the system of political representation also divide along right-wing, left-wing lines, particularly in their view of money and capitalism and how resources should be allocated. 

It is likely that those who value business and enterprise will fall on the anarcho-capitalist side of things whereas those who want to indulge in self-explorative (some might say self-indulgent) creativity like myself will fall on the anarcho-socialist side.

Perhaps introverts are more left-wing than extroverts? Is that why the United States has so much suspicion towards left-wing programmes and 'socialism' (or its particular view of it) for being the nation that is said to be the most extroverted on the planet?

Personality type also has an impact on mental health and it is almost a cliché now that sensitive introverts are at risk of developing conditions such as anxiety and depression as well as being preyed on by bullying dominators, including as early as school.

This is no doubt largely due to society in its mainstream aspects (over)valuing extroverted traits, particularly in jobs, requiring as they often do the need to self-promote, be a 'team player', network, smile, have fun, party and so forth.   

The book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain deals with some of these issues although I personally hated reading it, it being born of such an American perspective and underplaying the utter inanity of so many extroverts and American corporate culture - which have been highlighted more honestly and courageously by introvert researcher Barbara Ehrenreich. 

Some introverts might even come to see many status conscious, competitive extroverts as 'psychopaths' when in fact these latter are merely responding to their own sensibility in its emotional contents. 

Anyway as an artistic INFJ it is no surprise that I'm on welfare, completely unable as I am to conform to job culture or indeed most socially determined institutions. My blog, whether in its works or writings, is entirely biographical and reflective of my personal life preferences and as I once wrote on ScruffyOwlet's Tree, you are entitled to hate me