03 February 2014

Against definitions of moral goals

Everywhere these days one hears the goal of morality defined more or less as follows: it is the preserving and advancing of humanity; but this amounts to a desire for a formula and nothing more. Preserv­ing what?, one must immediately counter, advancing where? Hasn't precisely the essential thing, the answer to this "What?" and "Where?" been left out of the formula? So what, then, can it contribute to the instruction of what our duty is other than what currently passes, tacitly and thoughtlessly, as already established? Can one discern sufficiently from the formula whether we ought to aim for the longest possible existence for humanity? Or the greatest possible de-animalization of humanity? How different in each case the means, in other words, practical morality, would have to be! Suppose one wanted to supply humanity with the highest possible degree of rational­ity: this would certainly not mean vouchsafing it its greatest possible longevity! Or suppose one thought of its "highest happiness" as the "What" and "Where": does that mean the greatest degree individual persons could gradually attain? Or a, by the way, utterly incalculable, yet ultimately attained average­ bliss for everyone? And why is precisely morality supposed to be the way to get there? Hasn't morality, on the whole, opened up such abundant sources of displeasure that one could sooner judge that, heretofore, with every refinement in morality, hu­man beings have grown more and more dissatisfied with themselves, their neighbor, and their lot? Hasn't the most moral person up to now been of the belief that, in the face of moral­ity, the only legitimate human condition is one of profoundest misery?

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Dawn 106