oa Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology - Shunning the light

Volume 9, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1445-7377



This paper speaks of morality in the broadest of terms, but in generalities derived from one of the most fundamental of phenomenological doctrines. It is proposed that a polarization exists which corresponds to the epistemological divide that can be found between idealism and empiricism. Our morality harks back to Platonism, the arrival of which immediately provoked a response which resulted in a competing paradigm, its polar opposite : the embryonic Aristotelian doctrine of what Merleau-Ponty termed "induction". Interpretations to this day waver between adherence to the material world and the ideal. What is maintained in this paper is that idealism and empiricism are both epistemologically inadequate. Given, however, that our morality is one of moral universals, the reader is asked to reflect on what induction must mean for it, and to consider the shadow that induction, being far from benign, must cast in a society which rests on a belief in moral absolutes.

While acknowledging that this may raise eyebrows, given Nietzsche's reputation, the author contends that Nietzsche (1886, 1887) was the first to break with this duality and to speak from a place which was on neither side of this metaphysical divide. While scholars often ignore that part of Nietzsche's philosophy which is affirmative, focusing instead on his "nihilism", it is argued that the evils which his philosophy is said to foster mostly exist in a style of thought which he explicitly rejects. Although Nietzsche was hostile to modern ideas, perceiving in them a threat to our spiritual health, and hoped to "translate man back into nature" (Nietzsche, 1886/1989, p. 161) - which those sympathetic towards liberal values will take issue with - it cannot but be agreed with Nietzsche that in modernity the moral landscape has changed. Morality has been rationalized in a way that the ancients never knew; mind has been introduced into what primordially was the domain of instinct (Nietzsche, 1888/1990, p. 43). While for Nietzsche himself, however, rationality was more a symptom, the contention of this paper is that it is the source of the change in the moral landscape of modernity.

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