We have never been asemic

The basic question in philosophy is the distinction between ethics and morality.

As kids, we all pick up from the environment what is done and what is not; this encompasses not only issues of morality and ethics, but also etiquette, grammar and aesthetic notions. Sometimes, a distilled “moral code” is explicitly pressed upon us, but only as a failsafe: no one — not even people who believe in trolley problems as an instrument of inquiry — really believes the morality within the cognitive reach of a child is really sufficient to take stock of the world, as subtle, contradictory and indefinitely rich in details as it presents itself.

But now we are adults; this means we have, in principle, a wealth of philosophical traditions, well within our adult cognitive reach, that shed light on the basic distinction between ethics and morality. We get lost along the way (and I don’t mean “because we don’t study philosophy”; practical life makes us develop naïve or ad-hoc philosophies of this and that). We get either drunk on epistemology — the theory of knowledge, or rather the theory of theories-of-knowledge that can become knowledge-of-knowledge — or ontology — the theory of reality.

The Good News of General Axiology is that these problems, in their innumerable specific real variations, ultimately flow from the distinction between ethics and morality. The Better News of General Axiology is that theory of a more genericized kind touches all sorts of specific real problems — what to do about incels, how to think about politics, how to make sense of this and that incoming disaster.

The Bad News is that we have, at best, a series of literary resonances evoking an overall effect that General Axiology is more than mere ansatz. From the beginning we’ve made up various kinds of technical concepts aiming at the basic distinction (e.g. left and half axiologies, tempo and kairos, etc.). But we’ve also blurred things quite a bit. This blurring reflects the fact that much of the ongoing anomaly is due to chromatic aberrations that produce bleeding-over effects. This was the core of Jairwave: Bolsonaro is a purely moral political affair, but it produces ethical ghost-trails.

Maybe the basic distinction can never be mastered, only obliquely approached. Every interesting real situation will present itself in blurred, paradoxical form, and the task at hand will be to tease out a chromaticity that maximizes the evidence of anomalies. If asemic horizon believes itself to be interesting, it will also need to be shaken and probed for its own latent anomalies, most pressingly the fact that it presents itself in the form that it does — a blog, largely concerned about itself, persisting only on pain of making up words.

Let this, at least, be a razor test: never trust any system of thought that identifies ethics with morality. Novelty, causality, knowledge, freedom, death and symbolic calculus are all mutually and simultaneously determined in such a way that conflating ethics with morality is either lazy thinking or purposeful, sustained error.

Above all: never trust a man who will call himself an “ethicist”.

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