The Age of Moderation: Western Ambivalence and the Moral Life

The Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes Moral Life, Kenneth Minogue, London School of EconomicsToday at Ethika Politika, I discuss the value that division and conflict can bring to our pursuits of moral truth.

The problem, however, is that divisiveness is particularly out of fashion these days. Indeed, many seek to force “unity” on others from the top down — a feature of modern society that Kenneth Minogue likes to call “Western ambivalence.”

Here’s an excerpt from the post:

We are told to “soften our rhetoric,” to “reach across the aisle,” and to “find common ground.” We are reprimanded for framing matters of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in moral terms. No longer should our debates be about the merits of this vs. that, but rather, we are to concern ourselves with the supremacy of neither. Not surprisingly, this doesn’t get us too excited about anything.

The consequences of this appear quite clear. Without a drive toward engaging ideological struggles (and the ability to do so), how will the moral life ever flourish?

Here’s another excerpt:

The danger of today’s widespread ambivalence, therefore, is not necessarily that everyone might pretend to submit to a single, unified “truth” (although they certainly might), but rather that they would be too ambivalent to know it. As with our competitive endeavors in economics, a retreat from the active, heightened struggle of what Minogue calls the “moral life” will lead to an unauthentic, untried society in which ambivalence equals unity, and unity trumps morality.

As already indicated, Minogue’s views provide some valuable insights on this matter; thus, I found it helpful to leverage a few ideas from his recent book, The Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes the Moral Life.

To read the full post, which contains more of my thoughts on Minogue’s book, click here.

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  • Remnant Culture

    "Extremist" is just a dirty word for someone who actually believes in something. My thoughts on slippery centrism:

  • Reyjacobs

    Its not democracy that erodes the moral life. Government has essentially nothing to do with morals. Its social structures that erode morals. Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, Schools. The need to fit in within these social structures erodes the moral life. Why? Because all of them are filled predominately with immoral people. As a result, fitting in always involves letting your morals slip. But why would religious organization be filled with so many immoral people? Because although originally developed (theoretically) with some set moral criteria that must be followed on pain of excommunication, most religious leaders don’t want to excommunicate their own family members. Which means the moral standard gets dumbed down until all the family and friends of the clergy are able to meet it. Then anyone left who is still as stringent in their morality as the original standard was, will now either have to live as an outcast within the so-called ‘community’ or let their morals slip to meet the the new lower standard of the unwashed masses.

  • Remnant Culture

    “Extremist” has become a dirty word for someone who actually believes in something.

  • Aaron Mansfield

    “Extremist” has become a dirty word for someone who actually believes in something.

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