On universal principles
In this article I want to address the phenomenon of “moralism”. In particular, I am interested in moralism in politics and in academic and intellectual life. To articulate my argument, I will use as illustrations the two circumstances I have discussed in my previous articles: the war in Ukraine, and the debt crisis in Argentina today.
Let us begin by defining moralism. I owe the definition to Alasdair MacIntyre, who, in his most recent work, “Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity”, points out that moralism revolves around an understanding of obligation that requires the adoption of an impersonal and universal perspective that challenges everyone equally and is therefore hypothetically inescapable. MacIntyre states:
On the Illegitimacy of Debt
In this article I would like to refer, through a couple of notes, (1) to the debt contracted by Mauricio Macri and his acolytes with private banks and the International Monetary Fund, and (2) to the legitimisation that, in recent days, the government of the Argentine Nation headed by President Alberto Fernández, accompanied by both Houses of Congress, made of these spurious loans by authorising the refinancing agreement with the international organisation.
As has already been repeatedly explained and is public knowledge, without any of those involved attempting in any way to refute this public denunciation, the indebtedness contracted by the government of Mauricio Macri was illegitimate in two ways.
It is difficult to avoid the qualification “treason” when referring to Alberto Fernández. However, there seems to be no other qualifier more in keeping with reality. The president has betrayed the Argentine people. A people battered by four traumatic years of shameless neoliberalism, a global pandemic, more than 100,000 dead, chronic inflation that has been running at over 50% a year for four years now, increasing poverty that has turned food into a luxury good, and to this must be added the disappointment and frustration of the population in the face of a government that claimed to be national and popular, arrived by means of an electoral front made up of explicit enemies until very recently. However, there seems to be no other qualifier more in keeping with reality. The president has betrayed the Argentine people. A people battered by four traumatic years of shameless neoliberalism, a global pandemic, more than 100,000 dead, chronic inflation that has been running at over 50% a year for four years now, increasing poverty that has turned food into a luxury good, and to this must be added the disappointment and frustration of the population in the face of a government that claimed to be national and popular, arrived by means of an electoral front made up of explicit enemies until very recently, united exclusively in the face of the horror of having Macri and his acolytes in the House of government, indebting the country to facilitate systematic dispossession through capital flight, and the persecution of political and social opponents, by means of a criminal organisation within the State, which in every way is comparable to the actions of the ominous genocidal military dictatorship.
About Intellectuals and Experts
As a researcher I am obliged to answer certain questions prior to my research activity: Why do I do research? Why do I want to know certain things? Why do I strive to find answers to certain questions? Why do I want to solve certain problems?
Obviously, when I say that these questions are “prior” to my research activity, I do not mean that I first have to solve these questions (or even formulate them) before I can carry out my research. Usually the opposite is the case. I discover the why and what for in the process of research practice itself. Or, to put it another way, I am able to fully articulate what motivates me, the genuine object that animates my will to know, as I progress in my task.
How do we think about truth in relation to this war? The first thing is the hard data: the lives cut short, the deaths, the refugees, the fear, the hostilities, that which we call “objective reality” in its “superficial”, apparent, immediate dimension.
Then we have the “subjective reality”, that which we think is happening when we observe reality in its superficial dimension, that which, we interpret, is hidden under the immediacy of the bare facts.
Now, what is the link between objective reality and subjective reality? In our age of marketing, propaganda, post-truth, as some call it, this link seems to be broken. For that reason, there is an urgency to think once again about truth, to be able to tell reality and act in it. That is the genuine vocation of the philosopher. As Marx taught us, it is not about interpreting the world, but about transforming it.
It is easy to understand that those who suffer the consequences (of war) find it unacceptably complacent to ask why it happened and whether it could have been avoided. Understandable, but wrong. If we are to respond to tragedy in a way that helps the victims and avoids the even worse catastrophes that lie ahead, it is prudent and necessary to learn as much as we can about what went wrong and how the course could have been corrected. Heroic gestures can be gratifying. They are not helpful.NOAM CHOMSKY
The invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing war confront us with all sorts of aporias. It is difficult to think constructively about what is happening as we watch on our televisions the destruction on the ground and the ominous prophecies voiced by our analysts about our global future.
The comfortable alternative at the moment is unanimous and unrestrained condemnation of the Russian government’s crime against international law, forgetting entirely the background that has brought us to our current circumstances.
So, on this note, I will refrain from joining the chorus of the so-called “Western media”. Firstly, because I consider it a form of moral self-deprecation to join in this kind of textbook response to which social media and “emoticons and flags” communication repeatedly enjoin us.
Let us begin, once again, by retracing the path we have taken so far. To do so, let me paraphrase a quotation from the American political philosopher Michael Walzer which, in my view, sums up the spirit of what we are doing.
The context is a reflection on the significance of the exodus of the Jewish people. Walzer summarises his narrative structure as follows.
(1) The starting point is “Egypt”, which symbolises the enslavement of the Jewish people. (2) On the horizon, we have freedom, in the figure of the “promised land”: Israel. (3) Between the state of slavery and Israel (the promised land), what we have is a road. There is no alternative. If we want to get to Israel, we have to cross the desert, and for that we have to walk, we have to “join (others) and walk”.
The aim of this series of conversations is to explore the question of “post-truth”.
Let us begin by briefly outlining what this phenomenon refers to. In general, the term refers to a certain priority given in the public space to emotions and personal beliefs, to the detriment of or above facts.
This is related, in turn, to a political phenomenon relevant to our discussion: a kind of generalised anguish on the part of citizens regarding the truths that bureaucratic authority and corporate power seek to establish in our time.
Postmodernism and Post-Truth
Analyses of the post-truth phenomenon generally adopt two strategies.
[This entry is the summary of the second meeting of the seminar «Appearance and reality. On Living, Dreaming and Dying», held last Thursday, 17 February 2022].
1. The Current Moral Order and Critical Ethics
In the second session we began with a brief summary of what had been covered in the previous session. In particular, we returned to the notion that there are two perspectives on ethics proposed by the Philosophy of Liberation, and insisted on the idea that this distinction can be fruitfully applied to a better understanding of Buddhist ethics.
In short, the critical proposal of the Philosophy of Liberation can help us to «free ourselves» from conservative perspectives, which tend to create or defend systemic injustices, producing victims voluntarily or involuntarily due to the attachment to the dogmatic formulations of tradition, and to established institutional forms.
Let us remember that Buddhism is, before anything else, an ethic. That is, a system that teaches us how to act, that helps us to distinguish what we should or would do well to cultivate, and what, on the contrary, we should avoid, because it is harmful.
[This entry is the summary of the first meeting of the seminar “Appearance and reality. On living, dreaming and dying”, held last Thursday, 10 February 2022].
We begin by briefly explaining the programme “Dimensions of Experience”, of which this module is a part. “Dimensions” aims to introduce students to Buddhist meditative practice. However, unlike other courses, the perspective adopted is a critical one. That is, meditation techniques are not simply offered for implementation in our daily lives, but are reflected upon. From our perspective, meditation can be counterproductive and even harmful. Moreover, we believe that a certain interpretation of Buddhist philosophy, in collusion with postmodernism, has been an unwitting ally of neoliberalism and all the evil that this system of social and ecological relations has caused and is causing in the world.