Mankind and the Planet

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Mankind and the Planet, past, present and future Philosophical Speculations

Page 17


In the traditional conception, morality is conditioned by good faith; good intention and responsibility are co-determined by this fact. We call that bona fide morality.  Success in the realisation of human aims is, to a large extent, separated from the moral appreciation of an action, as we saw expressed in the view that success (or failure)  is not considered a suitable basis for morality.  What we are arguing is that there is a morality of success, a moral duty of knowledge, a crime of ignorance, that knowledge is rewarded and ignorance punished and that justice actually rules  in accordance with a 'natural', i.e. a Divine point of view, which differs from the human point of view.

The question that arises is, how can this moral perspective  of the relationship between Man and Reality be substantiated?  We reply that it will be more fully understood if the moral, not only the cognitive, aspect of truth if more fully perceived, if the moral aspect of truth is seen to be connected to the biological and natural aspect of truth.  Let us look at one example of how this works.

The capacity for moral judgement is not, as generally assumed, a gift shared widely in human groups.  It is as rare as the achievements of genius. Accepted moralities (and that includes their ideals) are never more than a very faint  and distorted reflection of the true morality, which is as unknown as the 'truth' in cognitive questions. True morality is in the latter category. Yet, a capacity for moral judgement may be improved or diminished. Now,clearly, one of the most devastating situations  facing the moral judgement is being compelled to witness the violation of moral standards without the ability to react in a practical way, i.e., without the ability to undo the violation. We cannot assume that the moral capacity stays intact if it is exposed to a situation  where it is a helpless witness to violations; indeed, it shares  the collective responsibility for everything that is done in the collective  within which the violation was committed. Belonging to a group entails assuming responsibility  for everything that is done in that collective. Registering indignation or dissenting from what was done in the group is currently believed to suffice as a reaction in order to save one's moral face and health. That may be good enough for bona fide morality, the morality between individuals, but is is far from good enough to prevent the natural, psychological decline of the faculty of moral judgement, the capacity to see through the thousand subterfuges of self-deception and arguments conducted by the will so that reality might have its way, not good enough if reality is to progress on its way, so that success, the coincidence of moral norms and reality may be achieved.

There is nothing more harmful to a faculty that determines that which is right or wrong, a faculty that knows ( and it has a duty to know) and needs to secure the conditions that enable that which  is right to be realised, than to be a helpless witness to its actual non-realisation. It can be compared to a physicist who continues to hold his views and opinions when all his experiments have failed and then lays the blame for  the failure on the nature of things. The higher, more severe morality, the only one that is in conformity with nature, is the morality that  exacts responsibility for the outcome of our doings and does not confine itself to a responsibility for motives and intentions. That, however is a digression.. The point is that a half conscious awareness of such a state of affairs inevitably weakens the moral sense which, once it has reached the natural level, cannot, in practice, refrain from reacting to violations of moral conduct. If, for whatever  reason, that should be impossible, the moral sense gets sick and in the end puts up a mere spiritual show and increasingly loses its capacity to know, a capacity that is inseparable  from true morality. Seen from the natural point of view, immorality stupefies, it makes stupid.  A crime and all its echoes in the collective sphere is not only a moral disaster; it is a disaster whose consequences are borne by the intelligence of all the members of that collectivity. What we see in the human world is merely the ghost, the disembodied spirit of the true capacity for  moral judgement, where one thought one knew what was right, yet does not know how to make it collectively victorious.

True morality, then, is bound up with the capacity to react in practice;  knowing is not sufficient. Knowing the morally required line of action and following it, or knowing and acting – rather, reacting – are intimately intertwined.  To have a capacity to know and suppress the capacity to act is like continuously stimulating a motor nerve and, at the same time, quelling the reflex action; in the end that will kill the  the response to the stimulus and the function of the nerve itself. Likewise, a constant inhibiting of one's moral reactive impulse, or at best reducing it to a powerless protest will not, indeed cannot, leave the moral judgement sane and unimpaired. And this affects the many other links  by which one remains bound  and has part in the responsibility of the group.

That crime has no consequences in Nature – an idea that suits bona fide morality rather well – is simply not the case. In the long run, crime is its own punishment, on the collective level. Crime that is not expiated, wiped out like an infectious spot on an organism and prevented from recurring will, with the inevitability of a law of nature    (it is in fact a psycho-biological law of nature in collectives)  weaken the capacity for correct moral judgement; it will weaken  the intellectual faculties, the decline of which will, in turn, create the conditions for further crime; eventually, the group will break down or disintegrate – an event usually seen as the end of civilisation. I would suggest as a name for this law of the natural consequence of misdeeds (which are only misdeeds if their misdeed-character affects nature or reality) 'the law of the limits of indignation'; I should add that, on a large scale, moral indignation that is not given the chance to react, to actually remove  that which caused the moral rejection, will die down. To feel morally revolted and be unable to react in a practical way sets in motion a whole swarm of insincere arguments that corrupt the intellectual faculties.  Immorality punishes itself in the long run by ruining the intellectual faculties necessary  for the successful conduct of life.

All of this, of course, applies only on a long range collective scale and only on the basis of collective conditions that affect the individual mind. To treat the highly complex connection, from natural misdeed to disastrous natural consequence,causally, is clearly problematic; only the hypothetical acceptance of such a connection can lead to ideas on how to investigate; any approach to the problem will therefore be approximate and fragmentary.  If evidence of the connection were grossly visible, there would be no moral problem.