Moral Judgment is Gone Baby Gone
Part II. The Prophet Sorokin Speaks:
In the book, Crisis of Our Age, Sorokin points out that our sensate society (materialistic and empirical) is in fatigue and nears a collapse. Sorokin calls the west “The culture of man’s glorification and degradation.” I feel that a collapse of a sensate culture is good, and I welcome it. The first characteristic of this collapse is the one that I want to discuss here. Value judgments cannot be subjective. This is not a popular proclamation. But if we’ve tossed absolutes away, what is left to keep law-makers, law-enforcers, or law-abiding civilians ethical?
The first characteristic of cultural disintegration is “the inner self-contradictions of an irreconcilable dualism.” He explains that we present a number of “irreconcilable contradictions.” We proclaim equality of all human beings, and yet exercise a number of “intellectual, moral, mental, economic, political, and other inequalities.” We discuss equal opportunity, but supply none. An oligarchy-type government hails itself as being of, by, and for the people. The government promises social security, happiness, racial reconciliation, and peace, while it produces none of these things. His words are in block quotes.
What is more sinister than the inequality of man according to capitalism is the
face of a great degradation and de-humanization of man of debasement, distortion, and desecration of all social and cultural values. If the dazzling façade glorifies man as a divine hero. The second face strips him of anything divine and heroic. If one face of our culture shows it as a creative flame of human genius rising higher and higher to the central world of absolute values, its second face sneers at such a self-delusion and drags it down to the level of a mere reflexological ant hill, to the mere ‘adjustment mechanism’ of human ants and bees.
I must continue the page in the words of Sorokin, if you will indulge me:
A mere glance at the main compartments of our culture will be sufficient to show this fact. To begin with, take contemporary science and ask how it defines man. The current answers are that man is a variety of electron-proton complex; or an animal closely related to the ape or monkey; or a reflex mechanism; or a variety of stimulus-response relationships; or a psychoanalytical bag filled either by libido or basic physiological drives; or a mechanism controlled mainly by digestive and economic needs . . . No doubt man is all these things. But do any or all of these conceptions completely explain the essential nature of man? Do they touch his most fundamental properties which make him a creature unique in the world? Most of the definitions which pretend to be especially scientific rarely, if ever, raise such questions. They pass them by.
Finally, I conclude with a Polaroid of the grittier side of anyplace within a society that had rejected absolute truth. What happens morally to a materialistic culture, and how does this effect moral judgment?
A society whose obsession is short-term is not concerned with the past or future. It “neglects eternal values.” The culture adopts a Carpe Diem mentality because tomorrow is uncertain. “Snatch the present kiss; get rich quick; seize the power, popularity, fame, and opportunity of the moment, because only present values can be grasped. As the tempo of change accelerates, this “present” grows ever shorter and more transistory.”
From the same system of truth and values follows the doctrine of relativism. Since everything is temporal and subject to incessant change, and since sensory perception differs in the case of different organisms, individuals, and groups, nothing absolute exists. Everything becomes relative truth and error, moral and aesthetic considerations, and what not.