Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Derrida's critique of positive morality is being tested in the lab

An interesting overgeneralization from a very specific study points toward the conclusion that morality is a symmetric trading strategy -- offering almost as much profit on the short side as on the long side. In other words, avoiding a punishment can be as pleasureably motivating as getting a reward. This conclusion quickly leads into an argument for mores over morals: when behavior is regulated by a set of customs that define membership in a specific group, morality no longer exists in a dialectical abusive relationship with immorality, and moral behavior increases.

{ I apologize for pandering to groovy search engines by putting Derrida in the title, since it is also Hegel over Kant, Aristotle over Plato and maybe even Scotus over Aquinas. Though I love Derrida and would never underestimate his significance to twentieth century philosophy, I follow the man's example and reject the word "postmodern" to describe his broad intellectual movement. Historically, "postmodern" was a polemical term from a war that is now pretty much over, a slogan that allowed factions to gain political and economic control of various cultural institutions by recasting a perennial debate as a fundamental shift. The term "antimodern" better shows the deep traditionalism that underlay much so-called "post-modernism" without presupposing a radical discontinuity in intellectual history. }

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