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 -
Great post. BG&E is one of my favorite works of philosophy. The problem, though, is that it's *really* lonely to make your own ethics.
If you construct your ethics from scratch by studying all eras of history, reading philosophy, debating and discussing ideas, doing math and cost/benefit analyses, studying all religions, discussing with people of all religions and different backgrounds... if you analyze *every* single one of your ethics, you'll have ethics like nobody else's. You'll have views that make you not fit in with particularly anyone.
It's good, because your views will map well to reality and be consistent and cohesive. It can make you really strong. But it's lonely, because basically no one understands you. Even people who respect you a lot don't fully understand you.
I accept this as a price for looking to do expansive, ground-breaking work. But I wouldn't quickly recommend it to someone else. Honestly, if a person found a group where he or she agreed with 80% of that group's ethics, and the other 20% wasn't too bad... then that person might be better off just joining and living all of that group's ethics.
It's really hard living your own way, not being understood. Being understood is a basic human goal and need, and consciously moving away from that is painful. It's worth a lot, but it's quite a high price.
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