Morality is not necessarily good — An interview with Hans-Georg Moeller

Hans-Georg MoellerQ: Are you hoping to just inform readers? Give them pleasure? Piss them off?

A: All of the above.

Admittedly, the following quote from a recent interview in Religion Dispatches with Hans-Georg Moeller, author of The Moral Fool: A Case for Amorality is not your typical exchange when discussing a philosopher’s work. However, it does reflects Moeller’s willingness to go against the grain about the ways in which morality and notions of ethics are applied in contemporary society.

In the interview, Moeller states, “It seems to me that ethical communication has almost reached a pathological level in our society…. [The Moral Fool] is aimed at making such pathologies visible—for instance in the mass media, in politics, in warfare, and in legal procedures, but also on a personal level, when people are urged to practice and experience a ‘morality of anger.’”

In the following question, Moeller suggests that the important take home message for readers is, “Morality (moral communication and moral thought) is not in itself ‘good.’ And: Dare to take ethics not so seriously.”

The solution Moeller argues is:

The remedy I suggest is: “ironization” of moral language and moral communication. In the end, a book such as The Moral Fool intends to ironically deconstruct rigid moral language as it has been created, for instance, by mainstream Western moral philosophy. I think similar deconstructions can be performed in the mass media (late night Shows might help) or perhaps even at the fringes of politics (through ironic speech or ads, etc.).

On a very general level, I’d say that Eastern philosophies can demonstrate the contingency of certain foundational notions of Western thought that hardly go questioned. I have tried to challenge the widespread “prejudice” about the goodness of morality with the help of Daoism. Other possible challenges could tackle the value of “truth” (as opposed to “efficacy”) or the one-sided focus on “life” as the antagonistic alternative to the non-living (as manifested in various “Wars on Death” or often uncompromising “Pro-Life” attitudes in contemporary society).

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