First Principle of Practical Reason

Do good and avoid evil is the ethical equivalent of the principle of contradiction. It is the foundation of any rational ethical argument. This is the reason people do not make arguments that we should do what is flatly evil, such as murder or adultery. People rather argue that this or that is not actually evil and not violating the principle of rational ethical discourse.

This is less clear when we talk about being a “bad boy” or not being a “good girl.” Taken at face value they are simply ethical contradictions. However, the substance of the argument consists mainly in the rejection of standards of goodness and badness. A “bad boy” has some good qualities men want and women are attracted to (they could not be otherwise), but which are in contradiction to some standard which is being critiqued or rejected.

An amusing example of this type of ethical incoherence comes in the movie “Mastermind.” There is a discourse where Mastermind talks about how good it is to bad, but it is good that he is bad, but he wants to be bad not good, but…etc. Being bad as such cannot be rationally defended and such an amusing discourse is a reminder of that.

The ultimate move out of this problem is the Nietzschean turn. There simply is not right and wrong. There is nothing but the will. This cannot be anymore coherently defended than a contradiction, but there is no defense of it simply a will to power. The will in such a state is left without an object, yet an object is required otherwise the will would do nothing. The object is power. The simple exercise of the will over other wills. It is an attempt to reject something impossible to reject and we are still left with a good and evil, a right and wrong.

The object however is the most universal and thus ambiguous of ends, an act of will to will. But the will requires some object to will. Some end or other to pursue. Whatever this end is becomes the “good” of the will. The will to will over others, to dominate, the complete actualization of the will or as much as possible. This makes the perfection and good of the will to act without an end or to act on every end. Right and wrong are marginalized as the good of the will is to act, not for this or that end, but to act something, anything, everything. The object of the will is no longer the good, but everything that is willed is good, because it is willed. The good is not the principle of the will, but the will is the principle of what is good.

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3 Responses to First Principle of Practical Reason

  1. chaddamitz says:

    Nietzsche’s work at first glance seems scholarly and erudite, but after careful analysis, its filled with enigmatic aphorisms that are oftentimes contradictory and incoherent. Of course, Nietzsche embraced contradictions because he presupposed humans were irrational creatures trying to find universal truth through “pounding uncertainty into straight arrows.” He wrote about this in his book Human, All Too Human.

    For Nietzsche, what these philosophers were doing was running from their own humanity by attempting to make objective claims in a relativistic world where there is no absolute truth. He thought these objective claims were not justifiable, even criticizing scientists for definitively asserting the law of gravity or the Earth revolving around the Sun.

    This type of extreme skepticism, in my opinion, does not correspond to the nature of reality. For instance, we can determine that we are thinking beings. “I think, therefore I am.” We have the ability to know the speed of light travels at 186,000 miles per second. There is an intuitive understanding that a square circle is inconceivable or a person can not be both A and non-A at the same time and in the same place; the law of non-contradiction.

    Ironically, Nietzsche commits the same mistake he blames his predecessors for doing. While he affirms the multiplicity of perspectives, such as the slave morality from Christianity and the master morality from the Greco-Romans, he imposes his “Will to Power” philosophy as the highest ideal, the better way to overcome these inferior perspectives. He asserts, absolutely: “We must move beyond good and evil.”

    As you are aware, his philosophy has been known as Nihilism because it believes in the rejection of all religious and moral principles; that nothing in the world has a real existence. The question I have for Nietzsche would be: “How do you know this for certainty?” How do you know there is no such thing as good or evil, but just a will to power?

    It would seem to me, on the basis of extreme skepticism, you could never formulate any epistemological framework. Without knowledge, even asking these questions are itself meaningless. Thus, you would never derive at any sort of self-actualization of the will, which was Nietzsche’s hope in his eternal recurrence of events for the powerful overman: To see the entirety of what is as necessary for his own existence.

    Thoughts? If you want to know my opinion, I think truth can be found in the God-Man Jesus Christ, who clearly revealed his plan for all of us. Truth is not found solely in an ideology, logic, or science, but also in a personal relationship with a Creator. Thanks again for your article. Have a good day.

    Like

  2. semioticanimal says:

    I can’t say that I have read Nietzche closely, but from what I understand I think you are correct. He would simply assert that your questions are merely attempt (of a slave?) to exert your will over his, which simply will not do. My impression of Nietzche was that he embraced endless contradiction and this is at least consistent with his own principle of will to power. I pointed our a contradiction once to my professor in Nietzche, and his response was “Exactly.” Nietzche simply did not care for logical consistence.
    As for Jesus, he is in fact the Way, the Truth and the Life. Since God is Truth Itself and Jesus is God, all truth ultimately can be found in and from the God-Man Jesus.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. chaddamitz says:

    Glad to hear you are a Christian. Keep up the good work. Remember, your blog is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). Blessings!

    Like

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