File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2003/lyotard.0302, message 94

Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2003 00:00:16 +1000
Subject: Re: Ethics


>In my ongoing project of reading Macleod's novels in the order they were
published, I
 >am finally up to "The Cassini Division." The book starts out with a quote
from Joseph
>Man is a living personality, whose welfare and purpose is embodied within
>who has between himself and the world nothing but his needs as a mediator,
>owes no allegiance to any law whatever from the moment that it contravenes
>needs.  The moral duty of an individual never exceeds his interests.  The
only thing
>which exceeds those interests is the material power of the generality over

>What do you think about this statement? Is it defensible?

Like the oncoming war, it is unnecessary.

But since that is my opinion of what everyone is quoting about ethics, I
will try to explain.

We learn ethics and patriotism and all the beliefs that can be crammed into
our heads as children, adolescents, and eventually as so-called "mature"

Most of  us have probably had formal religious instruction, Steve and
perhaps others may be exceptions.

Ethics is about behavior, about how we relate to others and how others
relate to us..  Humans are born helpless, dependent on parental or
parental substitutes for survival.  As toddlers they learn behavior with
other toddlers in family or child care.  They learn about what happens when
striking or
biting or taking toys from another toddler.

Children on playgrounds in any of the several countries I've visited always
sound alike, whatever the language, a wonderful sound.  Without adult
supervision they learn from older kids, organize games, rules, penalties,
and learn about winning and losing.

That's a microcosm of ethical behavior.

The Macleod statement applies to deeply religious people who believe the 10
commandments but are enthusiastic about the death penalty.

If we want to know more about ethics we should study our personal history.
You never know the mind of another person - you only know what they
communicate by words, body language, other behavior that affects one of five

History is always now, and memory is what we forget with, but the person on
Earth you know best is yourself.  You have had silent conversations with
that individual all your life - more conversations than you've had with

If the ethics one learned were deficient there is good reason to mend them.
Failure to observe rules, to keep promises, love God and neighbors,
etc.doesn't mean we should , as Macleod suggests, make up our own rules.
But of course we fail and of course we excuse ourselves, convince ourselve
it is the fault of parents, spouses, children, God, or someone else we've

When there's a successful Revolution, as in 18th Century U.S. and France,
and 17th Century, the victors make up a Constitution to suit themselves,
with God's blessing of course.  And it works fine.  To keep his side of the
bargain, God's made all the wars these three countries ever fought holy, and
all the dead young fighters were divinized.

The old ethics worked for those who used them, not for people who lie,
cheat, commit adultery, break promises to those they love or to associates
who depend on them.




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