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Having Your Own Ethics is Lonely

Stefanie Zobus just wrote up "Be Yourself (Or, on things "good" and "bad")." It's a nice post. She talks about the underlying philosophy of Nietzsche's "Beyond Good and Evil," which is really a remarkable work.

Stefanie advocates you make your own ethics and beliefs, because good and evil are just defined by consensus.

Things people usually consider “good” or “bad” are determined by consensus. In different cultures or contexts those are different, too; heck, even within one. However, just because a number of people agree on something doesn’t make it right. How about being sane in an insane world? Foucault wrote something nice about that in his “Madness and Civilization.” Besides, some centuries ago everyone thought water was the cause of diseases and sought to avoid it as much as possible, while in fact the opposite is the case. Water was seen as “bad.”

Who is to say that to pursue this or that is “good” or “bad”? I don’t think anything can be said to be “good” or “bad” in the absolute sense. I come to despise those terms. They make people do things they do not want to do, be who they do not want to be just because something is considered “good” or “bad” in their environment or among their peers. The terms manipulate people on reasons that lack or are not spelled out. “Good” and “bad” are stand-in reasons without real content people give when they don’t have real ones. They are tags that hide what’s really behind things.

I responded in comment on her site -

Academics Don't Get It

I came across an academic analysis of Hagakure. "Embracing Death: Pure will in Hagakure" by Olivier Ansart, University of Sydney.

It's extremely well-researched, but the author can't wrap his mind around the concepts because they're so alien to him.

Here's a footnote, for instance - emphasis added:

There would indeed be some conceptual contradiction, or at least tension, in the notion of a blind obedience that would depend on reward. The ideal of unconditional, or gratuitous, service was of course frequently encountered in the moral discourses of the period – and was later often singled out as one striking difference between the feudal relationships in Japan and in Europe. However in practice, cases where harshness, ingratitude and shabby treatment of the retainers by their master all but dissolved the obligations they felt to his person or family were even more common. After all, absent a favor to be returned could there be an intelligible reason for good and loyal service?

It's funny, because Ansart is staring at the whole picture. He has thoroughly digested the words of Hagakure, but can't think like its meaning.

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