Beyond Good and Evil: Towards an Experimentalist Ethics
from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects
Paul had already put his finger on these psychological dynamics two thousand years ago. I perpetually find myself amazed that Christian fundamentalists, in their obsession with the law, do not notice this or see its real daily effects in our country. It is a shame that all of the good words are taken… Words like “Christian”. When I read the Paul of Romans, or the red script in my Bible (i.e., Jesus’ words), what I discern is an ethical philosophy trying to navigate these sorts of sickly psychological deadlocks and social conflicts. Thus when Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, not to pray in public, not to judge others, to love our neighbors, and when he abolishes the law, everything seems geared towards overcoming these deadlocks and promoting social harmony. All of the things Jesus denounces– praying in public, judging others, hitting back, etc –are things generative of conflict and strife.
How is it that a cult of death arose around a man who said such things? How is it that so many of his followers are obsessed with the moral law? How is it that so many of these followers are convinced that what is important, what is central, is having an absolute faith that makes you a “Christian”, rather than creating a kingdom where Jew and Gentile, Jew, and Roman, and Greek, and Chinese, and Indian, and, and, and… where all are welcome and included while nonetheless remaining what they are? How is it that this revolutionary, emanicipatory ethical vision based on difference comes to be clothed in the most hateful and brutal superstition and cruelty? In short, where all of these ethnic and religious differences become indiscerned, irrelevant? I find it deeply mysterious. I mean, damn it, Luke directly says cites the kingdom of heaven as being here.
Second, there is the Hegelian argument. In the Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel shows how the truth of Kant’s categorical imperative or moral law is the French Reign of Terror. If the French Reign of Terror is the truth of the categorical imperative or the universal moral law, then this is because the universality of the law, as Kierkegaard observed, degrades all that is particular, or, more properly, all that is singular. We are thus warranted in overstepping the particular– individual people –because what is important is the universal to come and no particulars can ever live up to the moral law. In striving to actualize the ideal man, those behind the Reign of Terror find that every actual human falls short and therefore must be killed. Do we not find this dialectic again and again wherever the universal comes to trump the singular?
Finally, third, there is the Nietzschean argument. Far from being a universal moral law grounded in a Good Will, the moral law, the categorical imperative, is in reality a disguised will to power that seeks to subordinate the other, to divide them from what they can do, and take revenge upon the other through their moral judgment. Do we not sense this sickly spirit of revenge in every moralist obsessed with the moral law? Do we not sense, again and again, that the cruel Nun from our childhood school, that the strict teacher who acts according to principle, that the fundamentalist evangelist secretly takes pleasure in their judgment and punishment?