Our morality rests on intuition before the ideal. The little child is already building it without having received instructions on this subject. Advantage: every human owns her morality, adjusts it to hazards and personalizes it to her environment. Disadvantage: life in society imposes a difficult consensus with such a diversity of individual morals.
Here appears the individual/collective conflict, or T<>D principle, which is the basis of a large number of analyzes on this blog. In illustration, start by reading:
- 1 In search of a fundamental moral principle
- 2 3 dimensions of morality
- 3 The Great Moral Debates
The utilitarian solution to this dilemma is to save as many individual lives as possible. I strongly attack this position because we will see later that it is falsely collectivist. Then a folder of 4 articles takes you…
In search of a fundamental moral principle
1) Let’s get on board the trolleyology with David Edmonds, author of Would you kill the Fat Man? He details variants of the trolley problem, its philosophical interpretations, and its connections with the neurosciences of morality. Appear choices made personally by the philosophers summoned but no normative theory. Is it a preserve that must continue to be protected? Is morality an endangered species? Or can the T<>D, soliTary vs soliDary conflict, serve as a common thread?
2) Are cognitive biases stupid? asks the 2nd article. Since some make morally dubious choices, this is a trial made for intent. To save this unfortunate which is very useful to us, either we hide it (death without intention to give it), or we find mitigating circumstances: cognitive biases. It is a morgue of the downward look that exonerates the aristocratic consciousness by accusing the unconscious small staff. Let us rather look for the amoralities in the imbalances of the T<>D, the weakened D’s, in other words the defects of empathy. Let us emphasize this weakness in the courts of justice, rather than believing the reason of the people deficient, and framing it by a sterile multiplication of laws.
3) How to establish individual moral responsibility? The 3rd article examines the neuroscience of morality and the case of a sex offender cured by removal of a brain tumor. Can we get rid of our responsibility on neural links? Sterile question that opens the door to a fanaticism of the downward look, with a eugenics that would like to eliminate in our chromosomes mental deviances. Morality is at the crossroads of implicit innocence and explicit responsibility. Since society does not have the means to customize the level of responsibility, it is up to everyone to do so. It is up to everyone to claim their rights when they feel ready to assume the obligations attached, instead of receiving the complete package at their majority, a parachute triggered by 18 rounds of the Earth around the Sun.
4) The 4th article explains why utilitarianism is fundamentally flawed and cannot guide our moral choices. It treats the collective as a living entity whose individual cells would be expendable. No, individuals alone have the opportunity to offer their unique life. Society is a manager of resources, not lives. It is superior to egos but not to individuals in their completeness. The divinization of the collective by utilitarian philosophy has caused the regression of authentic solidarity, which is now expected of the supreme entity, the State, rather than exercising it oneself.
Continue with 3 older and shorter articles, which take you into…
3 dimensions of morality
1) The human dimension, illustrated by a disabled parking card story. Morality is a matter of adjustment between individual and collective interest. ‘Good’ is etymologically the one who ennobles himself, who raises his mind above his egotistical condition. But achieving this is no longer a matter of personal momentum. The simple and universal words of the prophets have been replaced by a straitjacket of illegible and impersonal laws.
2) Two dilemmas plunge us into the temporal dimension of morality, the definitive eradication of the smallpox virus and the use of CRISPR-Cas to reprogram our genome. What extent of prediction should weigh on our choices? Morality is encomplicated when the complexity of the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ factors is inscribed in it, and the ignorance generated knows how to position us on ‘neutral’.
3) A bold rapprochement of the complex dimension of morality with Bennett’s logical depth: Biological evolution would be an increase in the depth of information, argue complexity specialists. Morality would be a principle equivalent to a maximization of logical depth. The extinction of the last representatives of a rare species seems more immoral than the death of common animals because the loss of the former decreases the depth of information of the ecosystem, not that of the latter.
However, diversity is not in itself the fundamental principle of morality. We have better grasped it in the individual/collective conflict, which here affirms its universality.
The Great Moral Debates
What is a defendant’s legal liability when a brain MRI shows brain abnormalities? Is a so-called ‘organic’ origin of abnormal behavior sufficient to exculpate it? Slicing is easy enough when it comes to a tumor, very contentious when neurotransmitters are found in unusual amounts. Cause or consequence? Even when a genetic cause can be identified, does not the conscious neural network have the role of adjusting these innate deviations to its environment, no genome representing the norm?
Researchers are testing the behavior of students through games of dice and sums to be won. They come across a counter-intuitive result: those who claim to be attached to an intangible moral rule (the deontologists) are more dishonest in games than those who try to maximize the general well-being (the utilitarians). I show how major and intentional biases in the study truncate its result. I conclude that while it is easy to turn us all into good school utilitarians, being a deontologist is a never-ending life journey.
Susan Neiman in ‘Thinking Evil’ condemns a resignation from contemporary philosophy about evil. She sees the Holocaust as such an exorbitant evil that it requires a complete overhaul of ethics, rather than just deconstructing world history. We could thus absolve ourselves of belonging to the species which has registered such abominations to its credit. I show that Neiman is a blatant example of the exclusive downward look, that of the (final) judgement, which wants to depreciate and nullify the upward or constitutive look. Of all the rules, morals are the least likely to be enforced. On the contrary, they must be worn by each of us. The collective is a retro-control intended to promote moral spontaneity before castigating its excesses. Morality is ascending, constitutive. Punishments “descend” when the drift is proven, “proven” meaning very broadly consensual in the upward direction, constitutive of the collective.
To do morality without morality is above all to restore all of its true dimension to morality properly so called, to stop flattening it under our hurried steps, to give it back volume, scope in the space of social life, and not just confine it to the volumes of the Legal Code. Let us fight against the reductionism of ethics to the legal in the same way that we fight against that of behavior to genetics.
Cultural symbols are not found in biology, which does not make them illusory. For example, the concept of race made no reference to genes, unknown at the time of its creation. Some authors today denigrate race by its non-existence in the arrangement of genes, but this does not change its cultural determinants. To get rid of this annoying symbolism, we must examine its role and find a substitute for it.
Still on the subject of racism, the line of criticism and counter-criticism ends up ostracizing all those involved. The obsession with the gene in the racist is a quest for genealogy rather than nature… and the same quest is found in the anti-racist! This great article says it: Let’s stop being addicted to race. Racism and anti-racism are the avatars of an exacerbated individual narcissism. The true supporter is a non-racist, a race agnostic.