Re: ethics, joyous growth, etc.

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Mon Feb 02 2004 - 23:18:17 MST

Perhaps of some salience to the topic, from that fine, clear-eyed writer Ken
MacLeod, at

Morality has very little to do with choosing sides. It can tell us that a
given act is dreadful, but it can't tell us whether to say, 'This is
dreadful, therefore ...' or 'This is dreadful, but ...' We still often
believe that we oppose our enemies because of their crimes, and support our
allies despite their crimes. I wouldn't be surprised if Margaret Thatcher
was quite sincere in condemning ZAPU as a terrorist organization because it
shot down a civilian airliner, and in supporting one of the mujahedin
factions, despite the fact that it had deliberately blown up a civilian
airliner. Sometimes our moral justifications can blunt our moral sense.
Think of the incendiary bombings of Germany and Japan. Suppose they were a
military necessity. If so, better to accept that what 'our side' is doing is
wrong and do it anyway than to persuade ourselves it is right because it is
in a just cause.

(The writings of a great amoralist - a de Sade, a Stirner, a Nietzsche - can
inspire a handful of murders in two centuries. Over the same period, the
writings of a great moral philosopher - an Aquinas, a Kant, a Bentham, a
Mill - can justify, if not indeed incite, the deaths of millions in just
wars and just revolutions. Morality is an immensely dangerous and
destructive force, which must be restrained by the strongest human passions
and sympathies if it is not to break all the bonds of society.)

Morality is real. Morality is ideology. It is the heat given off by the
workings of quite different machinery. In measuring the heat while ignoring
the mechanism - in making a moral case for or against a particular war, for
example - the moral philosopher reasons 'consciously indeed, but with a
false consciousness'. The screams of those caught in the machinery continue
unabated. They cry to heaven. It is only in what Locke called the 'appeal to
heaven' - the clash of arms - that anyone (apart from, of course,
'pacifists, Quakers and other bourgeois fools' as someone said, who indulge
in 'pacifist-Quaker-vegetarian prattle about the sanctity of human life', as
someone else said) sees a hope that some day the machinery can be made to
stop, and the screams to cease. That hope itself is the machines' fuel.

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