Root of Morality Is a Kind of a Natural Selflessness Term Paper

  • Length: 8 pages
  • Subject: Black Studies - Philosophy
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #97165063

Excerpt from Term Paper :


Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote about the natural nobility and inherent goodness of the savage, whom he saw as the earliest human being who was differentiated from lower animals and already possessing free will and a basic sense of perfectibility (Wikipedia 2004). This primitive being already had and realized a basic drive to care for himself and others and felt as well as expressed compassion and pity in a natural way. Rousseau assumed that the pristine condition of the savage or the natural human - as well as pre-human - state was characterized by morality, beneficence, harmony and justice rather than by raw brutality, disorder and inequality, as many have been made to believe.

But this natural or aboriginal state of morality, equality, kindness and order was disturbed by civilization and the creation or establishment of society, which Rousseau viewed as an artificial element that brought in corruption, chaos, injustice and unhappiness into human life and human affairs (Wikipedia 2004). The introduction of science and art, in his opinion, was inimical rather than beneficial to humankind, which already possessed an innate sense of morality, kindness and justice in earliest times.

The so-called progress of knowledge gave the power to governments to ravage individual liberty and his primordial state of harmony and kindness for the sake of material growth (Wikipedia), which replaced that primordial state with jealousy, fear, competitiveness and suspicion. Rousseau perceived this as resulting from the pressure of population growth and a psychological transformation, which transferred value from within the individual into that of social opinion as the standard of acceptability and well-being.

Rousseau specified that the development of agriculture and metallurgy, private property and the division of labor enhanced interdependence and increased the level of inequality in society (Wikipedia 2004). What he sorely noted was that this development resulted from the social contract imposed by the rich and the powerful upon the general population and, in so doing, entrenched inequality and immorality deep enough into the individual unconscious as to feign naturalness.

Like Rousseau, Arthur Schopenhauer was an idealist who believed that the individual could transcend experience and attain knowledge itself and for itself (Radical Academy 2004). He deviated from the view of Kant, who believed that the individual was limited to and by experience and maintained, instead that the human person possessed more than the sense and intellect to choose what seemed to him right or moral. He believed that will was each individual's reality through which he made moral choices. Will, therefore, was the only reality that covered all things in nature (Radical Academy) and he proposed that this will was fundamentally and instinctively self-preservation. This instinct, in Schopenhauer's opinion, was the essence of natural bodies, such as vegetative life in plants, instinct in animals and the will in the developed human brain. When the developed human brain attained consciousness, it could recognize what was right from what was wrong, or morality, and choose between them. The world, according to him, was the objectification of that blind will to live (Radical Academy).

At the same time, Schopenhauer suggested that this blind will to live and this objectification of the world could bring only pain and misery, because the true and deep yearnings of the will could not be achieved in this world. Hence, he saw that this blind will exceeded this portent and perpetuated itself through various forms of deceit, such as love, egoism and progress. The longer a person lived, the longer his misery at confronting his unsatisfied longings, driven only by this blind will. And so he proposed that the only way to end this miserable condition was to suppress the blind will to live (Radical Academy). He, thus, acknowledged the necessity of a kind of morality that nullified and would destroy this blind will to live. Schopenhauer concluded that it was, indeed and in fact, the root of all evil (Radical Academy 2004) and the steps that one could take to suppress it were aesthetics, ethics and ascetics.

Schopenhauer believed that aesthetics could achieve this goal by occupying the entire range of human activity in the contemplation of the idea of beauty alone and screened entirely from all desire and, thus, from all evil (Radical Academy 2004) that afflicted the will. Full contemplation of the idea of beauty would release a person from the bondage of this blind will. But he also found that aesthetics appealed and could work only for intellectuals and only for some time. The second step, ethics, had to be taken to make an individual aware that others possessed the same essence as his and this awareness would curtail his egoism, brought about, in turn, by his innate blind desire or will or instinct to go on living. The basic quality of ethics is compassion (Radical Academy) whereby an individual felt the distress of others and tried to efface or reduce that distress in them. Through the universal will, he shared their distress. But he also found that aesthetics and ethics combined were ineffectual in warding off the evil ensuing from that blind will and that asceticism was required to attain this objective. Asceticism consisted in constantly nullifying the will itself and only great saints have gotten this far (Radical Academy). Schopenhauer assumed that these great saints and great penitents of the Church were absolutely indifferent to, and detached from, the human condition and mentally insensate while bodily alive.

Friedrich Nietzsche opposed Schopenhauer's convictions and starkly deviated from those of Rousseau. Nietzsche shared Kierkegaard's view that philosophy should delve more into the personal concerns of the individual (Kemerling 2002) and insisted that such a task required the abandonment of traditional values, including the Christian religion.

He asserted through his works that traditional Western philosophy, particularly the Christian religion, was opposed to a healthy life in vainly attempting to escape misery and misfortune by denying or eradicating human desire (Kemerling). To his mind, only the most perversely tenacious and cowardly would and could remain or continue to adhere to this servile morality. He believed, rather, that to live without a God would be the more courageous, more honest and far nobler option or choice. In a Godless world, he figured that death would not be this feared, because it would then represent nothing more significant than the end of a life, which was entirely devoted to personal gain (Kemerling). He contented that the only authentic and successful human life belonged to the super-human person and was nihilist. Nihilism advocated that human life had no rules, no absolute values and no certainties upon which rules could rely on (Kemerling) and Nietzsche was its founder. The super-human person deliberately rejected everything considered traditionally important or essential, for only he could achieve or approach truth at all.

In his work, On the Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche pointed out the harmful consequences of traditional ethics, chiefly the meaning of "good" as that right exclusive to the socially and politically powerful who could impose their will on inferiors by sheer force of will (Kemerling). He illustrated this in the case of a priestly caste, which harbored resentment towards its natural superiors and developed a way to appeal to the "herd" of believers or less capable persons by turning values around or inside-out. This he described as "slave morality (Kemerling)" as endorsed by religious establishments, which compartmentalized certain forceful actions as "evil" and others as "good." He believed that cowards who thought through everything in advance were admired as prudent mortals.

Nietzsche saw genuine autonomy as emanating from or equivalent only to freedom from all external constraints on behavior (Kemerling). He considered a life without the artificial limits of moral obligation as the only natural and admirable one because such a condition or world would not need to sanction misconduct with the natural punishment involved in the triumph of a superior over a defeated inferior (Kemerling 2002). This posture received a response in these lesser people who wished to secure themselves from outside assault or interference by forming a false sense of moral responsibility and by internalizing a sense of guilt out of the natural fear of a superior enemy or conqueror. Furthermore, these lesser people's individual conscience imposed severe limits on the normal exercise of human desire (Kemerling). Nietzsche interpreted religion as an invention to which the strength of wills took recourse in explaining or settling the issue of the human condition's perpetual sense of being downtrodden or defeated in this life. He concluded that it was an act of self-betrayal for the human race to surrender its freedom to the fictitious demands of a fictitious God (Kemerling).

Nietzsche's "On the Genealogy of Morals" examined the moral origins and concepts in society. It contrasted "master morality" with "slave morality." The strong, healthy and free developed "master morality" in appointing their interest or glorification as "good" and the weakness, unhealthiness and enslavement of the inferior and defeated as "bad" or "evil (Hollingdate 1989)." In their oppressed condition, these inferior and defeated perceived their wealthy, advantaged and…

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