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{Monday, October 07, 2002}

"I am afraid we are not rid of God because we still have faith in grammar." Nietzsche -
Twilight of the Idols

Our roving correspondent Verity Vergessen has sent us the following found essay

The Image of Morality

The image of morality is undoubtedly composed of what are called �ideas� and thus can be analysed as part of �popular philosophy� - as the �ins and outs�, the �why and wherefore� of what is �known� to be acceptable and what is not. One may speak of �my idea of what is right and wrong� and this may draw upon one�s own experience of moral concerns as well as upon �ideas� of the same thing. However, as even the �vulgar philosopher� may be aware, right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable may be called into question and a certain �relativism� may assert itself - in such a case the �intelligent reader� may even suffer some kind of crisis if only of �ideas�, if only �spiritual��

The image of morality is an image of the law. Thus it is an image of what is - as a matter of fact - against �the law�. �The law�, �the Law�; one is tempted to capitalise the �l� as with proper nouns and, to get to one important point, as with �God�.

* Morality has religious sources, for example, �the Torah�.

Thus we might distinguish between two laws: the �law� as a matter of fact and the �Law� as a thing with a proper name like the Torah, the English Bill of Rights or to give other examples the Titanic, the Levant or the Great Bear. However, there is no such thing as �the Law� even though we do talk and write very often about �the law� whether it be police, the law of the land or whether - a little less purely - sod�s law or the second law of thermodynamics� We can be realist or nominalist about the law; but here:

* The law is - first and foremost - the �law of the land�, made up of acts of Parliament, bylaws, etc.

The image of morality also implies - at least - an image of the self. First of all the self of any moral thinking is free, otherwise he or she has no choice in his or her course of action and can thus only be held responsible for being who he or she is by nature (to cut a long story short, as an animal�). Again we find ourselves in the realms of philosophy:

* Moral philosophy is meta-physical.

Or to put it another way moral thinking appeals to some kind of super-natural decision-making power capable of transgressing or violating laws of human conduct (as well as obeying or even following). One should recall that there is a certain morality in friendship, in work and even in acquaintance: it would perhaps be possible to argue that these moralities and the rules with which they function are - as a matter of fact - images of civil law or �based� on civil law. Nevertheless, I am more interested in showing that an image of morality exists and in trying to get at morality itself: a production or creation of morality that would belong to some kind of legislation or rule making. This free-action might be called morality itself and would in fact be capable of transgression:

* The real morality does not obey the law but engages with it.

The original title for this essay was �the spectre of morality� however I considered �the image of morality� to be more viable. But there is in a sense a �spectre of morality� which we might be able even to name and which is perhaps even more easily recognisable than the image: let us call it �the hell of the subject� or �Gehenna�. This is an accursed place, a place where �nothing goes right� even where �everything goes wrong�, irremediably. It implies the violation of some kind of law, the failure to live according to one�s image of morality and of oneself - here, if we were psychoanalytically inclined, we might even find a place for the super-ego - here we do not like ourselves�

Without wanting to go too fast, we might come up with a name for �the image of morality� (having found a name for the spectre): �normal�, as in �back to normal�, �Normal� as a proper noun or �normality� as an essence, �Purgatory�, or �everyday� or �ordinary� life. How should we dispatch the subject of our essay, so it is unmistakable, to steal its soul with a word processor as it were?

Let us describe a unique thing, a strange white machine called �Normal�. The defining moment of its motor is non-transgression, however, we must be aware that �Normal� is not one single machine, it is �legion�: tens, hundreds� it is hard to count in mind� If it is a vehicle that this �non-transgression engine� runs it is a vehicle which carries many. It is typically shared, again, by many, whether a community, a group or a circle which perpetuates a set of rules of its own alongside the main rules and laws constituting the society or societies in which the many members live. �Normal� typically serves a circle of friends.

* �Normal� is a plane for (leisure) flights.

However, having named the image of morality �Normal� and having begun to describe its functioning we can perhaps separate it from something else, maybe as a �by-product�: �the family�. Bowing under the weight of history, gender or tradition I am inclined to describe this sort of circle of friends as a fraternity even though there may well exist women in such circles. Transgression does occur among the circle of friends, for example drug taking, but it is contained; of course sometimes someone goes too far (perhaps for the others, perhaps for himself�) and there is a rupture, an �excommunication� even a scapegoating or a sending to Coventry or perhaps just a separation.

As a digression we might perhaps reflect upon �air-rage� as an analogy for the appearance of transgression amongst a circle of friends.

Thus the image of morality is a flight, in the sense of a flight of fancy, or even of reason; a mental flight of a fraternal and - I would hazard a moderately cynical guess - even a �generational� nature. If not the flight of a community, it is nevertheless much more a question of communication and reflection than of thinking, it is perhaps even a flight from thinking.

* The name of morality is �Virtue�.

One must undoubtedly conduct some sort of normative adventure; such is �moral philosophy�. One must encounter and go beyond opinion to arrive at thinking. One must go to the source of rules and laws. One must undoubtedly bring about the beginning of one�s own �moral universe�: an idiom. The �idiom� is the project of the virtuous man, his cause, his faith, his destiny and his consistence.

I think, I can. This is the burning bush of the virtuous one: his thinking is potential. It is not deciphering, interpretation or decrypting - it is action, creation, invention, production. He is alone but he is not enfeebled, this is even part of his - thinking - virtue, his strength.
Per virtutem et potentiam idem intelligo. Spinoza: Ethica IV

This ability, however, is not power. It is neither office nor lordship. I think, I can: I am not bound by a bad conscience, I am not following orders, I am free. To think, in this way, is maybe command, but it is certainly a passage: it is the passage to action, and it recurs.

That which is evil can only be power, otherwise one can never be free, without power over others one cannot do morally wrong. However, one can break the law. Breaking the law, from this point of view, can appear good as it can be an act against power. Yet even potentially one can act upon others, one can persuade, influence and inflict violence without office. One can have unofficial power. One can torture, rape, blackmail and �take advantage�.

Power is: the police, violence� There are landlords, there are families, there are schools and there are �public services�.

Virtue does not necessarily break the law, it breaks, or rather goes beyond, the norm. (The virtuous man breaks the norm as the record breaker breaks the record.) Virtuous is above average. The virtuoso does what he does - at least - well.

* Virtue is excellence.

To have an �idiom�, a character and to master one�s actions, one has to be alone. And the ability to tolerate solitude can itself seem like a virtue. One has to learn to like one�s own company. One also needs to rehearse - whatever it is in which one means to excel. One has to come to terms with power; this is one of the best reasons for asserting that solitude is necessary and ultimately ought one not to make an effort to think? One, one, one, one� it comes before two and three�

A possible author of that essay was Wolfgang Hoppyl

Lawrence Lessig Keynote from OSCON 2002 - Free Culture
"In 1774, free culture was born. In a case called Donaldson v. Beckett in the House of Lords
in England, free culture was made because copyright was stopped."
That free culture no longer exists. But somewhere in the interstices -
"You are rebuilding nature. This is what you do. You build a common base
that other people can build upon."

Visit Ecologia Digital

Heckler & Coch is not a double act
a wisecrack
or a whammy or a double-back,
or is it?

"JOHN BUCKLER'S review of M.A. Flower's Theopompus of Chios appeared in the American Journal
of Philology 117 (1996) 495-498. He has also published the first historical commentary on
George Grote's newly found essay, "Of the Athenian Government," in W.M. Calder III
and J. Trzaskoma, eds, George Grote Reconsidered (Hildesheim 1996).
The essay was only recently discovered in London among Grote's papers."

"We often think that when we have completed our study of one we know all about two,
because "two" is "one and one". We forget that we still have to make a study of "and" -
that is to say, of organisation." Arthur Eddington - The Nature of Physics (1958) page 103,
quoted by Ludwig von Bertalanffy in 'Chance or law' - "Beyond Reductionism"
(Hutchinson & Co, 1972)

See also Science. Volume 284, Number 5411 issue of 2 Apr 1999, pg 79
Beyond Reductionism by Richard Gallagher and Tim Appenzeller.
And The Mysterious Matter of Mind by Arthur C. Custance, Ph.D.

posted by Andrew 10/07/2002 11:38:00 AM