Independent Media Centre Ireland

Marx And Morality

category international | anti-capitalism | opinion/analysis author Monday January 11, 2016 20:33author by Paddy Hackett

Morality based on materialist conditions

Society determines the character of culture.

Society determines the character of culture, consciousness and morality. Capitalism, then, determines the nature of morality. Consequently it provides the conditions that enable us to condemn the exploitation of labour power as morally wrong. If exploitation is morally wrong then there is a necessity to eliminate it and replace it with social conditions that are exploitation free. In this sense we can say that there is a materialist basis that justifies condemning exploitation and alienation as morally wrong.

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author by Mike Novackpublication date Sat Jan 16, 2016 01:44author address author phone

To give a simple example (from what you said)

A is immoral (that given as true) is INSUFFICIENT all by itself to derive B is obligated to do something about A (assuming that B personally isn't doing A, etc.)

"A is immoral" is a statement.about fact, an "is" statement. "B should do something about that" is a "ought" sort of statement.

You need an "axiom" here, relating at "is" to the "ought". For example, you COULD have something like "If X is wrong, then even if personally innocent of X, ought to do something about it." Now I'm not going to argue for or against particular axioms of that sort, just going to point out that the moral philosophers of this world aren't in agreement. Lots of "schools" out there.

But you aren't going to get anywhere with pure materialism. All "is" statements". Even Marxist moral philosophy is going to need some "oughts". If this isn't making any sense to you, I suggest going back to Ethics 101. The necessary 'axiom" relating "is" to "ought" is NOT going to be a materialist statement.


author by Paddy Hackettpublication date Sun Jan 17, 2016 21:05author address author phone

Mike: But you aren't going to get anywhere with pure materialism. All "is" statements". Even Marxist moral philosophy is going to need some "oughts".

Paddy: It is not going to need “an ought” because the conditions for the elimination of a fact that is morally wrong already exist and are developed within capitalism as a social system. This means that objective conditions exist for the replacement of capitalism with communism. In a sense this is a socio-ontological matter.

Morality is just a form of condemnation –that capitalism is wrong. Once it's moral nature is established then the moral fact can be eliminated. The problem is a subjective one: the failure of the working class to develop this moral consciousness –class consciousness. The internal materialist or objective conditions already exist.

author by Mike Novackpublication date Tue Jan 19, 2016 19:47author address author phone

But really there may be no help for you but biting the bullet and taking a course of the Ethics 101 sort.

You think you can get from "X is bad" to a REASON why you should do anything about X just from the "X is bad"

WHY? WHY should something being bad be a REASON for you to do anything? Suppose instead we had a statement "X is blue". Does that give you a reason to do anything? Both are stating a factual condition. Neither sasy anything about your actions.

Now suppose you have a statement "If X is Z, you should eliminate X" Do you notice something about that statement, that it has BOTH and "is" and an ought"? That means if you have these statements:

1) If something is bad, you should work to eliminate it.
2) Capitalism is bad.

Conclusion: You should work to eliminate capitalism.

But while statement "2" above is a statement in the realm of factual statements, statement "1" was not. It states a relationship within the moral realm of discourse. It is NOT a "material" statement.

Could I make a suggestion. The left tradition did not come into existence with Marx, it pre-existed. And among the precursors were some who some in ethics. So why don't you look up "utilitarianism. Like I said elsewhere, I suspect you could base morality for Marxists with most schools. But historically, there was a relationship between the utilitarianism and the pre Marx left.

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