Friday, December 7, 2012

Nietzsche: on prohibitions

#48
"Prohibitions without reasons: A prohibition, the reason for which we do not understand or admit, is almost a command not only for the stubborn but also for those who thirst for knowledge: one risks an experiment to find out why the prohibition was pronounced.  Moral prohibitions, like those of  the  Decalogue, are suitable only for an age of subjugated reason: now, such a prohibition as "Thou shalt not kill" or "Thou shalt not commit adultery,"  presented without reasons, would have a harmful rather than a useful effect."

-- Nietzsche --
from The Wanderer and His Shadow
in  The Portable Nietzsche


I have to disagree with Nietzsche at one point for I think he was overly optimistic about the state of human reason.  He seemed to think that no longer could anyone simply issue a prohibition without adequate reasons and get people to obey.  Or, perhaps when Nietzsche was writing, this was true of the general population.  If so, then the situation has deteriorated for I see millions of people who simply follow orders about doing or not doing something simply because they were told to do so and without questioning the rationale for such orders.

But, some, no doubt, will argue that I'm wrong here because I don't accept someone saying "God said so" or "the government said so" or some "Leader said so" as being an adequate reason. 


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