Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Blog Asst pt 2 (and 3?) The Spirituality of Power (non vice-versa)

In my last post, I discussed how those who worship a god, or gods, or any selection of deities, really only do so because of their power, and therefore really only worship their power, not their other qualities.

In this installment, I shall tackle the notion of power in regards to the faithless - those who do not readily worship, or even acknowledge such a divine power, people such as myself, and majority of the class.

   If you do not follow divine command theory - that is, taking your orders from a higher power, you're rationalizing your  morality out of some ethically archetypal school of thought, like Kantian judgement, Niccomachean Ethics, Ethical Egoism, etc. However, each of these draws its conclusions based on some measurement of power.

Take Ethical Egoism or Utilitarianism for example. Both ultimately mandate to do what is in the "best interest."

In Ethical Egoism's case, it charges the actor to do what is in one's own best interest. "I can lie, cheat, or steal, so long as I come out on top. It's not a good idea to do this though, because if I get caught, and I probably will, then everyone will know I am a less than reputable chap, and the outcome will be negative for me."

In Utilitarianism's case, one does what is in the best interest of a whole, or a greater good. A fantastic example of utilitarianism can be found in Alan Moore's "Watchmen"(If you haven't read the graphic novel, or at least seen the movie, I recommend it, exclusively for the ethical metaphors so well constructed throughout). In it, Ozzymandias, the alleged "smartest man in the world," devises a plot to kill millions of New Yorkers with an incredibly complicated scientific device, which the world blames on either Aliens (if you read the comic) or Dr. Manhattan, the resident demigod of the United States (if you watched the movie). The act in and of itself was carried out in lieu of an inevitable nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union, but the sudden disaster was enough to unite the two superpowers in a worldwide utopia, out of fear of some far greater, yet completely nonexistent threat. Ozzymandias rationalizes this as "killing millions to save billions" - Utilitarianism at its finest.

Both of these however, rest entirely on one's power - one's ability to do. Both are consequentialist schools of logic; they require that rational action first follows the consideration of the consequences. Considering is a form of doing. Therefore, the power to consider the consequences of your actions is a form of power.

In Kantian ethics, one derives what is ethical from rationally considering one's duties, or looking at the laws of the society at large. If there aren't rules to cover the situation, imagine the action universalized, and see if it makes any sense to live in that kind of world. For example - murder.
Imagine a world where the act of murder is universalized. Human life would quickly extinguish itself in a massive, self imposed apocalypse of the most gruesome proportions. Murder is clearly not ethical. Imagine theft, as well. If everyone were a thief, trust would be out of the question, and entire economies would collapse because the very basis of exchange presumes trust between the buyer and seller. Therefore theft is not ethical.  Here again, we witness power. Not only the power to consider circumstances, but the power to create and universalize a series of events on a grand scale to achieve such considerations. One might even go so far as to say that by universalizing instances of an action to determine its morality, we are acting as gods of our own imagination - exercising our power over it to do whatever we please in order to experiment with our own rational decision making process.

Regardless, power is the key factor here. If we hadn't the power to do these things, we would be without the ability to reason ethically, if not the ability to reason at all, and society would either cease to function altogether, or divine command theorists would be the only people on earth with any assertive idea as to what was to be done about anything.

I would venture to say that most anyone engages in ethical reasoning without a god is certainly proud of it, otherwise they simply wouldn't do it. There is an inherent sense of accomplishment in that you know what is right or wrong without being told explicitly what is right or wrong, but being able to determine it for yourself. It is enriching and empowering. There is no subdued voice in the back of your mind begging the question muttering "but why did God say that x was wrong in the first place? All you know is that he said it was wrong." On the contrary, you usually know what is wrong and why, exactly why, and you can really engage discussion with someone about the reasons of it for hours, if you felt like it.

The feeling that comes with this power, I argue is in and of itself spiritual. When I lost my faith during my adolescence, I felt as though I were achieving some level of transcendence - critical thinking, rather than blind faith- being what a divine being would employ to determine what is right and wrong before dumbing it down and mandating it to its subjects. I'm sure that many will agree that if there is anything divine in humanity, it is the power to make rational decisions on a great many matters, and reason among one another.

To conclude (how I originally intended in a third blog post, but found unnecessary halfway through writing this), the faithful worships the power of their respective divine entity, not the entity itself. The faithless do not worship, per se, but we all hold in great esteem our powers of reason, deduction, creation, and action. They are powers that have taken us to strange continents, the moon, and we later hope to employ them to take us to other worlds and galaxies beyond. Most importantly, however, they give us the power to traverse the distances between one another, and we are well aware of it.

These two very opposed representations of reality, one in which a divine power is what manifests our reality, and we barter with it for favorable outcomes - and the other is one in which we are the only sentient things to be held accountable for the way things are both rest exclusively on the very broad and vibrant idea of power. A concept completely and utterly intangible, but at the same time unequivocally existent.

1 comment:

  1. I like your idea of achieving transcendence in the subtraction of an imposed but alien faith. Power in this sense is self-possession and mental freedom.