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the order of life

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  • George Walton
    Emile Cioran Even today nobody can tell what is right or what is wrong. It will be same in the future. The relativity of such expressions means little; not to
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 23, 2005
      Emile Cioran

      "Even today nobody can tell what is right or what is wrong. It will be same in the future. The relativity of such expressions means little; not to be able to dispense with their use is more significant. I don't know what is right and what is wrong, and yet I divide actions into good and bad. If anyone asked me why I do so, I couldn't give an answer. I use moral criteria instinctively; later, when I reconsider, I do not find any justification for having done so. Morality has become so complex and contradictory because its values no longer constitute themselves in the order of life but have crystalized in a transcendental region only feebly connected to life's vital and irrational forces."

      [emphasis Cioran's]

      Are our contemporary myths about right and wrong [in the industrial West] really all that more sophisticated than those practiced by primitive, aboriginal tribes around the globe? They certainly cannot be defended as more effective. In fact "the order of life" in the modern world becomes increasingly more fragmented with each passing year. So much so that evangelicals [of all religious and secular stripes] are on the warpath in nation after nation to recreate that old order. Or a new order even more doctrinaire and draconian.

      Human morality is not something that can be taken seriously from a philosophical perspective. We don't pursue good and bad because we have ensnared them in logic; we do so because it is a fundamental part of being human. We interact....socially and politically and economically. That means disagreements and conflicts. And there are only so many slices in the pie; so rules have to be devised to facilitate the least dysfunctional method for dividing it up.

      And we know how that is generally done.

      Of course we interact in other ways as well----sexually, emotionally, within and between communities, artistically, racially, ethnically, between genders. But in the 21st century the rules are barely connected at all anymore to "life's vital and irrational forces". Instead, amidst a fractured demographic smorsgasbord of literally hundreds of communities and sub-cultures we kind of make things up as we go along. The old "orders of life" have now transfigured into "lifestyles".

      Everyone has their own story. And even when you recognize this is all it is you also recongnize it is not practical to abandon it. You have to come up with one or another rationale to justify what you do. And even this analysis is just one more story about how human moral interaction unfolds.

      The part that confuses most people, however, is Cioran's conjecture that human moral interaction reflects an intuitve or instinctive discourse. They prefer to believe we have left that to the savages. We have become so much more civilized in the way in which we ponder and then institutionalize these things; and so derive a much more considered set of moral convictions. And we can, of course, defend them with rational arguments the more primitive folks know nothing of.

      Next to us, in fact, they know practically nothing at all.

      About, say, lifestyles or the rule of law or the global economy or nihilism.


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