• OK, it's on.
  • Please note that many, many Email Addresses used for spam, are not accepted at registration. Select a respectable Free email.
  • See https://www.intpforum.com/threads/upgrade-at-10-am-gmt.27631/

Spengler on the Difference Between Tragic Morale and Plebeian Morale

The Grey Man

Well-Known Member
Local time
Today, 16:17
Joined
Oct 6, 2014
Messages
582
Location
Canada
From The Decline of the West; Volume 1, Chapter X:

So long as the man of a Culture that is approaching its fulfilment still continues to live straight before him naturally and unquestioningly, his life has a settled conduct. This is the instinctive morale, which may disguise itself in a thousand controversial forms but which he himself does not controvert, because he has it. As soon as Life is fatigued, as soon as a man is put on to the artificial soil of great cities - which are intellectual worlds to themselves and needs a theory in which suitably to present Life to himself, morale turns into a problem. Culture-morale is that which a man has, Civilization-morale that which he looks for. The one is too deep to be exhaustible by logical means, the other is a function of logic. As late as Plato and as late as Kant ethics are still mere dialectics, a game with concepts, or the rounding-off of a metaphysical system, something that at bottom would not be thought really necessary. The Categorical Imperative is merely an abstract statement of what, for Kant, was not in question at all. But with Zeno and with Schopenhauer this is no longer so. It had become necessary to discover, to invent or to squeeze into form, as a rule of being, that which was no longer anchored in instinct; and at this point therefore begin the civilized ethics that are no longer the reflection of Life but the reflection of Knowledge upon Life. One feels that there is something artificial, soulless, half-true in all these considered systems that fill the first centuries of all the Civilizations. They are not those profound and almost unearthly creations that are worthy to rank with the great arts. All metaphysic of the high style, all pure intuition, vanishes before the one need that has suddenly made itself felt, the need of a practical morale for the governance of a Life that can no longer govern itself. Up to Kant, up to Aristotle, up to the Yoga and Vedanta doctrines, philosophy had been a sequence of grand world-systems in which formal ethics occupied a very modest place. But now it became "moral philosophy" with a metaphysic as background. The enthusiasm of epistemology had to give way to hard practical needs. Socialism, Stoicism and Buddhism are philosophies of this type.

To look at the world, no longer from the heights as Æschylus; Plato, Dante and Goethe did, but from the standpoint of oppressive actualities is to exchange the bird's perspective for the frog's. This exchange is a fair measure of the fall from Culture to Civilization. Every ethic is a formulation of a soul's view of its destiny - heroic or practical, grand or commonplace, manly or old-manly. I distinguish, therefore, between a tragic and a plebeian morale. The tragic morale of a Culture knows and grasps the heaviness of being, but it draws therefrom the feeling of pride that enables the burden to be borne. So Æschylus, Shakespeare, the thinkers of the Brahman philosophy felt it; so Dante and German Catholicism. It is heard in the stern battle-hymn of Lutheranism "Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott," and it echoes still in the Marseillaise. The plebeian morale of Epicurus and the Stoa, the sects of Buddha's day and the 19th Century made rather battle-plans for the outmanoeuvring of destiny. What Æschylus did in grand, the Stoa did in little - no more fullness, but poverty, coldness and emptiness of life - and all that Roman bigness achieved was to intensify this same intellectual chill and void. And there is the same relation between the ethical passion of the great Baroque masters - Shakespeare, Bach, Kant, Goethe - the manly will to inward mastery of natural things that it felt to be far below itself, and modern Europe's state-provision, humanity-ideals, worldpeace, "greatest happiness of greatest number," etc., which express the will to an outward clearance from the path of things that are on the same level. This, no less than the other, is a manifestation of the will-to-power, as against the Classical endurance of the inevitable, but the fact remains that material bigness is not the same as metaphysical majesty of achievement. The former lacks depth, lacks that which former men had called God. The Faustian world-feeling of deed, which had been efficient in every great man from the Hohenstaufen and the Welf to Frederick the Great, Goethe and Napoleon, smoothes itself down to a philosophy of work. Whether such a philosophy attacks or defends work does not affect its inward value. The Culture-idea of Deed and the Civilization-idea of Work are related as the attitude of Æschylus's Prometheus and that of Diogenes. The one suffers and bears, the other lolls. It was deeds of science that Galileo, Kepler and Newton performed, but it is scientific work that the modern physicist carries out. And, in spite of all the great words from Schopenhauer to Shaw, it is the plebeian morale of every day and "sound human reason" that is the basis of all our expositions and discussions of Life.
By way of interpretation:

What should I do? is not a question that primitive people take seriously. Their lives are too short, their needs too pressing, for them to spend too much time in idle thought. Their morality is therefore expressed not in words, but in deeds—not in speeches or books about what one ought to do, but in doing. Only recently has the West come to think of morality as an intellectual problem with a solution that can be reached by means of logic and disseminated through symbols. So astonished were we by the success of Newton et al in describing general laws of nature from which particular ends can be deduced that we now think we can, analogously, reduce morality to a few principles that will be valid for all time, not understanding that Newton was successful precisely because what he rendered intelligible was natural, which is to say, objective, impersonal. It is precisely the opposite with morality, whose laws are efficient not in nature, but in the soul—not in the world represented by experience, but in he who experiences the world, and who alone bears the weight of his community with it, not for all time, but in the eternal nunc stans.

The Farnese Atlas (2nd century B.C.):

4164

So it is that we begin to marry concepts of natural things with concepts of moral agency, thereby producing abominable hybrids that can only roam free when the reason takes leave of its senses. Jeremy Bentham’s first principle of utilitarianism, that “the greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation,” is one such chimera. It is simple, to be sure, and perhaps attractive on account of its elegance, but I find, upon closer inspection, that it expresses no fact of experience whatsoever, which is why the belief held by some of you, that the first principle of utilitarianism is a self-evident truth capable of intuitive apprehension, is insupportable. Utilitarianism is, from top to bottom, an intellectual fiction, like married bachelors.

Now, it will not be out of place to remark that this account of a change in Western thought on morality is an inversion of the change that my own ethical thought has undergone over the time I have spent on this forum. Gone is the soldier “awaiting orders,” replaced by the philosopher constantly asking, Is it true?—in Spengler’s terms, I am no longer looking for morality, but understand that I have had it all along.
 

onesteptwostep

Think.. Be... ..buzz buzz :)
Local time
Tomorrow, 06:17
Joined
Dec 7, 2014
Messages
3,162
You literally just had to suggest the last sentence to make your pitch.

Lrn2hemmingway :)
 

Cognisant

Prolific Member
Local time
Today, 10:17
Joined
Dec 12, 2009
Messages
8,329
The Grey Man said:
What should I do? is not a question that primitive people take seriously. Their lives are too short, their needs too pressing, for them to spend too much time in idle thought. Their morality is therefore expressed not in words, but in deeds—not in speeches or books about what one ought to do, but in doing.
Basing your morality on actions rather than theory doesn’t absolve you of your obligation to justify your actions, if say you killed someone and you’re put on trial to say “it seemed like a good idea at the time” is a poor defence. True that they cannot fault your moral theory, because you have no moral theory to fault, yet ironically such a nihilistic defence is only tenable in abstract terms, practically speaking you’ll just be dismissed as immoral by fault of idiocy.
The Grey Man said:
Gone is the soldier “awaiting orders,” replaced by the philosopher constantly asking, Is it true?—in Spengler’s terms, I am no longer looking for morality, but understand that I have had it all along.
If you mean that you’ll take each moral dilemma as it comes that’s all well and good but you’re just deferring the problem until it arrives, no action can be taken until the action to take is decided upon and that decision has to be made somehow, you cannot simply not have a moral theory unless you wish to abstain from life altogether which is arguably itself a decision based on the moral theory that abstinence from decision making is virtuous by the absolute minimization of potentially immoral decision making.
The Grey Man said:
Only recently has the West come to think of morality as an intellectual problem with a solution that can be reached by means of logic and disseminated through symbols. So astonished were we by the success of Newton et al in describing general laws of nature from which particular ends can be deduced that we now think we can, analogously, reduce morality to a few principles that will be valid for all time, not understanding that Newton was successful precisely because what he rendered intelligible was natural, which is to say, objective, impersonal.
Consciousness is a mountain of unknown mechanisms that we are meticulously deconstructing, some continue to say it will never be entirely understood and yet in spite of their criticisms progress continues to be made. There is a time fast approaching when morality will be objective, when the distinction between moral and immoral is replaced with a measure of efficiency, when virtues become the standard and vices are malfunctions to be fixed, when guilt and innocence will be nothing but anachronisms.
 

DoIMustHaveAnUsername?

Active Member
Local time
Today, 22:17
Joined
Feb 4, 2016
Messages
166
When the great Tao is forgotten,
Kindness and morality arise.
When wisdom and intelligence are born,
The great pretense begins.

- tao te ching
 

onesteptwostep

Think.. Be... ..buzz buzz :)
Local time
Tomorrow, 06:17
Joined
Dec 7, 2014
Messages
3,162
When the great Tao is forgotten,
Kindness and morality arise.
When wisdom and intelligence are born,
The great pretense begins.

- tao te ching
Literally no point in that poem. If you deconstruct it there simply is no axiomatic thought it.
 

DoIMustHaveAnUsername?

Active Member
Local time
Today, 22:17
Joined
Feb 4, 2016
Messages
166
When the great Tao is forgotten,
Kindness and morality arise.
When wisdom and intelligence are born,
The great pretense begins.

- tao te ching
Literally no point in that poem. If you deconstruct it there simply is no axiomatic thought it.
it means normies who aren't in harmony with the Tao rely on artificially constructed mechanical concepts of morality and kindness before it gets even worse./s
 

Pizzabeak

Prolific Member
Local time
Today, 14:17
Joined
Jan 24, 2012
Messages
2,401

The Grey Man

Well-Known Member
Local time
Today, 16:17
Joined
Oct 6, 2014
Messages
582
Location
Canada
When the great Tao is forgotten,
Kindness and morality arise.
When wisdom and intelligence are born,
The great pretense begins.

- tao te ching
This states the main message of my post more elegantly than I could have.

Basing your morality on actions rather than theory doesn’t absolve you of your obligation to justify your actions, if say you killed someone and you’re put on trial to say “it seemed like a good idea at the time” is a poor defence. True that they cannot fault your moral theory, because you have no moral theory to fault, yet ironically such a nihilistic defence is only tenable in abstract terms, practically speaking you’ll just be dismissed as immoral by fault of idiocy.
This is all quite true, though my obligation to justify my actions in your hypothetical case consists merely in the fact that I will be punished if I fail to do so. That my ethical theory will not help me defend myself in your purely notional courtroom is perfectly acceptable to me, since it is not intended to do so—indeed, I would be a fool if it was. Should I find myself charged of a criminal offence, it will be understanding of the concrete facts of the actual case that helps my defence, not that of abstract ethical principles, which brings me to your next point:

If you mean that you’ll take each moral dilemma as it comes that’s all well and good but you’re just deferring the problem until it arrives, no action can be taken until the action to take is decided upon and that decision has to be made somehow, you cannot simply not have a moral theory unless you wish to abstain from life altogether which is arguably itself a decision based on the moral theory that abstinence from decision making is virtuous by the absolute minimization of potentially immoral decision making.
I don't need a theory of morals to live life, just the morals themselves. Trees don't need a theory of when to shed their leaves, nor animals where to make their nests. It is only men who delude themselves into thinking that their actions need to be grounded in concepts, and this quite late in their history. All that is needed to act is to have a will, which is to say, to have values. One value of mine, at least, has become abundantly clear: the need to conform my beliefs to facts. I hope one day to produce a theory of my own some day—not a doctrine to organize the armies of abstract righteousness on Earth, but an intelligible expression of what I think to be true.

Consciousness is a mountain of unknown mechanisms that we are meticulously deconstructing, some continue to say it will never be entirely understood and yet in spite of their criticisms progress continues to be made. There is a time fast approaching when morality will be objective, when the distinction between moral and immoral is replaced with a measure of efficiency, when virtues become the standard and vices are malfunctions to be fixed, when guilt and innocence will be nothing but anachronisms.
We are already capable of viewing things objectively and thinking of them in terms of their connections with other things in nature. This is almost exclusively how think of machines, and the shrewdest among us are able to think of their fellow humans this way as well, albeit not with the mathematical precision (though future technology may grant them this). But where in the naturalistic view of a machine and its parts is there any value whereby it can be judged efficient or inefficient, functional or non-functional? Where is this to be found if not in the subject and his will?
 

Pizzabeak

Prolific Member
Local time
Today, 14:17
Joined
Jan 24, 2012
Messages
2,401
There are two things, someone's implicit drive towards actions or motivation, and then one influenced upon imitation/influence. Based on what you posted it has something of a "you have to see it to believe it" belief imprinted on it. Philosophy is getting as popular as ever now because it's seen as an "overlooked" subject. I might write a book soon, which will cover topics on a similar ground in a more complete way, while posting about it here too. To summarize, it's not a "desire" to "deserve" something, as it could even be "pragmatic thinking" or adrenaline from the idea that they're doing something great. It could be disbelief, skepticism, or in other words the refusal to entertain an idea. The chaos is mitigated through society and civilization. The revolution is a lie, and the people will never have enough power to anarchically take ruling hierarchy. It's an argument no one wants to debate because working around it surreptitiously is more effective and suggests more success in your endeavors to patrons.
 
Top Bottom