[OPE-L] Robert Fisk on the Holocaust Conference in Iran, and a thought about Marxian ethics

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Sat Dec 16 2006 - 12:58:27 EST

Robert Fisk: Different narratives in the Middle East
Published: 16 December 2006

(...) How, I always ask, can you expect the West to understand and accept
the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 men, women and children from Palestine in
1948 when you will not try to comprehend the enormity done the Jews of
Europe? And, here, of course, is the wretched irony of the whole affair. For
what the Muslims of the Middle East should be doing is pointing out to the
world that they were not responsible for the Jewish Holocaust, that,
horrific and evil though it was, it is a shameful, outrageous injustice that
they, the Palestinians, should suffer for something they had no part in
and - even more disgusting - that they should be treated as if they have.

Complete article:

It led me to muse about our previous discussion about
rationality/irrationality, and its link to ethics, in terms of a few quotes:

"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye
even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." (Bible, Matthew

"... people who are governed by reason, that is, people who, under the
guidance of reason, seek what is useful to them, desire nothing for
themselves which they do not also desire for the rest of humanity, and
therefore they are just, faithful and honourable." (Baruch Spinoza, Ethics,

"There is...only a single categorical imperative and it is this: Act only on
that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become
a universal law." (Immanuel Kant, Metaphysics of Morals, 1797)

"The criticism of religion ends with the teaching that human beings are the
supreme beings for human beings - hence, with the categorical imperative to
overthrow all relations in which man is a debased, enslaved, abandoned,
despicable creature" (Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's
Philosophy of Right, 1844).

I tend to think that a Marxian theory of morality is grounded in the idea
that human beings are social beings, and consequently that their existence
involves the necessity to co-operate, in order to survive. This cooperation
is partly coerced, but partly voluntary, and consequently involves
behavioural choices according to valuations of human priorities. In essence,
the foundations of morality in the general behavioural norms "do unto others
as you would have them do unto you" and "don't do unto others as you would
not like them to do unto you" are general rules for survival, under the
condition where people have to co-operate. The Enlightenment philosophers
then introduce general criteria for behavioural consistency (non-arbitrary
behaviour) that no longer refer to the imposition of an external authority,
but to principles of human reason available to all. What Marx and Engels add
(among other things) is the "leap from the realm of necessity to the realm
of freedom", which implies co-operation as free association, i.e.
co-operation no longer externally imposed or enforced, because people have
learnt regulate their own behaviour consciously, in such a way that it
maximises their freedom, a leap which has definite material and social
conditions as its prerequisite. In that case, the conflict between
individual behaviour and society would be substantially transcended, and,
ultimately, make the imposition of morality and law irrelevant.


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