Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Do the Right Thing

What is it to be a moral person? Kant talked about the categorical imperative. However hard it was to determine, it was something which delineated wrong from right? But by what means in the age of drive theory where we conceive of the mind as being composed of unconscious elements that are by definition not within the power of understanding, can one talk about right action? In some sense most people are like The Sleepwalkers which was the title of a novel by the German writer Hermann Broch. Gide wrote The Immoralist and  Do the Right Thing was the title of an early Spike Lee film. The idea of morality is never far from the zeitgeist. It seems almost a simple matter of avoiding the seven deadly sins, lust, sloth, gluttony etc. But experiments by Kahneman and other researchers other have shown that people are often unable to parse their motives. Morality can be little more than a subterfuge. For instance, the otherwise liberal leaning firm of Schneiderman, Weiner and Spitzer famous for its hectoring about the sins of others turned out to be guilty of a few of its own. Oscar Wilde's Portrait of Dorian Gray brilliantly visualized this kind of ego splitting. For instance, schadenfreude or the enjoyment of other people’s suffering is an immoral sentiment that at the same time can drive people in unusual ways. In order to avoid acting on an emotion, a person may bend over backwards and end up doing something that's not to their benefit. People with high moral aspirations, in this regard, may be the ones who have the most ambivalent relationship to morality. They may do something immoral, i.e. cause self-injury, in order to exonerate themselves from accusations of doing something they feel is wrong where others are concerned.

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