Morality

I have been hearing the word morality bandied about a lot recently; people on facebook and other places questioning whether it was moral for the NATO powers to have got involved in the conflict in Libya. This got me thinking: what is morality anyway? It occurs to me that it is quite a silly notion when you think about it. I came up with two main arguments why the term should not be used o back up any argument.

For starters, it is totally subjective. You can argue that just about anything is moral or has a moral bass. I’m sure, for example, that the Nazis claimed they ad a moral basis for committing mass murder. It is an arbitrary notion, set usually by a majority yet ignores the fact no rules ever apply universally. For example, most people believe it is morally wrong to kill, but what if the killing was done in self defence? The same goes with stealing, and I’m sure you can think of a great many other examples. People, especially those on the political right, seem awfully fond of trying to back up their arguments by claiming something is moral, but they forget how intellectually problematic that term is.

My second reservation about the concept of morality is that it completely ignores postmodernity. We live in postmodern times where there are no certainties any more, no hard and fast rules. In fact, I think the concept of morality is the very opposite of postmodernism, as it clings to the old binaries such as right and wrong, true and false which postmodernism swept away. The old grand narratives line religion, politics, even gender have been reread; when placed under scrutiny such concepts disappear; nothing can be said to be absolutely certain any more.

To hang on to an idea like morality, though, is to ignore all this as it maintains that something can be objectively right or objectively wrong, and that there are a set of arbitrary rules everyone should adhere to, rules usually imposed on others by a dominant culture in order to repress and subjugate. To resort to such a notion in an argument means one has refuse to engage intellectually with the necessary concepts; frankly, I think it betrays a certain arrogance, if not stupidity. It betrays an ignorance of the intellectual complexities at hand, which is why I am baffled that some people continue to use it.

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