Saturday, June 20, 2009


In reality, what Aristotle showed, and what few have since understood, is that ethics hinges on friendship! The main stages of ethics, which are hardly a “concept” or “customs” relative to a culture, but positively something that is universally human and natural:

1) Firstly I fall in love. At this stage, no one can do anything for me, not even me! I can not ask (myself) advice… That would mean whatever I was told “Hey Avatar, no, you’ve got it wrong, stop falling in love, come now, what are you doing?!!” No, at this stage, I undergo and I withstand.

2) Then I ask myself what is happening, and I judge if I should take it a step further or if it is best to make a run for it. Is this person “married”? I am “married”? What are the chances that this friendship can be long lasting? In short, I confer with myself ad I consider whether what attracts me is accessible or if I am taking a one way ticket to unhappiness or despair.

3) Further I ask myself if (to the extent that I have decided to take it a step ahead) what are the most appropriate means to attain my good, for the person that I love is MY good (I don’t delve here into the attitude of the other person, because obviously, in love, the vice versa is a requisite, and no one can be forced to love).

4) Then I step into action. It is the imperium, as when I decided to get up at 5 a.m. and that I prepared everything, and the alarm bell rings and I have to get up: now I must take action.

5) It is only at this stage that ethics spring up as a formalisation of PERSONAL behaviours in view of attaining a PERSONAL good as a sort of safeguard in view of taking action, i.e. of attaining MY good. Thus, Kant (for example) has ignored the first 4 stages, for it is only at this stage that the categorical moral imperative should appear, imperative which assails us. In truth, let’s be clear, 98% of good Catholics are Kantian as are 110% of Protestants!

6) It is only at this stage that justice appears, which is a universalization of individual morals, thus a moral extended to everyone else in as much as we recognize for them the possibility of living the same story as us. Moreover, and this is a parentesis, Muslims start here, at the 6th stage, for it is definitively justice which primes for them.

This begets the question, can we move from a common good to a personal good. The answer is no - at least that’s my opinion. That is also why I am dubious when I see that children in “personal difficulty” are “treated” by imposing a common good on them, presented as an individual good, even though they are devastated on a personal level. This is the same error that totalitarian ideologies such as communism make. We claim to save the person by diluting him in an encompassing whole… but we can not have a sense of the common good without one of our personal good. It’s impossible, lest we become a zombie, that is to say a living dead being.

Credit drawing: Fritz at


  1. This is a dilemma. First you have to teach the kid that there is such a thing as personal good behavior and that it begets benefits. Then you have to, somehow, teach him that the concept of personal good must also include family and friends even if the benefits abate somewhat. Then, at the appropriate time, the concept has to be extended to include society at large. When the concepts of personal good behavior collide and conflict then the concept of ethics enters the arena. DB

  2. "That is also why I am dubious when I see that children in “personal difficulty” are “treated” by imposing a common good on them, presented as an individual good, even though they are devastated on a personal level."

    This resounds with me... although I'm unsure if I understand it how it is meant to be understood. "The teacher in me" uses story... so here is an idea that I had coming into this post... albeit slightly less evolved than yours. :-) I posted on it a few months back on my blog in fact.

    When I was 26 I was arrested for driving without a license. I did not have a license because of a ten dollar ticket I never paid. I never paid it because the court notice was thrown away (by me) because I can be irresponsible with opening foreign looking mail.

    After experiencing the humiliation of being arrested by my school district's police force, I paid over 1000 dollars in court penalties, fees, towing fees and car repairs. The force of common good onto my personal sense of good has resulted in this:

    I will now be more responsible to avoid penalty... not because responsibility is a virtue that benefits my fellow man, and my personal experience on this planet.

    I hear quite clearly the meaning "living dead being." We have a society of individuals that lose the sense of personal good when the common good replaces it for them.

    If we begin with a clear understanding of personal good, then we can move into an understanding of common good.

    Am I getting this? Because I'll be so excited if I'm making progress on these weighty yet though provoking posts of yours. :-)

  3. Sounds like the difference in thought and governments that could be found between ancient Sparta, and Athens...

  4. So if we were to apply this to the current discussion about teaching MBA ethics in school - First we have been led by the unemotional spreadsheet and the avoidance of penalty - but now there is to be an added element of socially responsible ethical behavior. Since the 'common' good is so far removed from the spreadsheet, possibly the law and sometimes general public agreement - is there no ethical standard possible without a significant legal framework? Current discussion seems to assume that the common good will automatically require a balance sheet sacrifice by the individual.

  5. @DB,
    You have given this more thought than I have :)

    I remember reading your fine story. I hate how that can happen. Yes I think you are on the right track: friendship is the finality of the human person. As a side note, Avatar would follow quite closely the debates in the ethics committees (even pitched in at one stage).

    @Ciss B,
    I really sshould study that period more closely. Thanks for pictching in :)

    I think there is generally little (real) ethics to be found in the corporate world. Further, the less metaphysical foundations there are in a community, the more laws there are. In a sense, law is the anti-metaphysical viewpoint.

  6. I feel sometimes so frustrated with my english:((

    What you said about common good , personnal good and totalitarism is absolutly true!
    But In the meantime, it is interesting to see how in some societies, it can goes at the opposite and make it hard for a society to acoomplish what I believe to be some basic human progress (I am thinking of the debate about health insurance for everyone that is taking place here in the United States).

    The part that interested me more in this post is the part about common solution applied to personnal difficulties especialy in the case of children.
    I think that school as it has been created might fit for 60% of the children ( this is not a statistic, just an opinion). For the others they have to adapt or leave. There are other options, like Montesori schools, or free schools, but they are too expensive. And as long as "normal" school fit for more than 50% of the population, it will stay the common solution for personnal needs :-(((

  7. Quite simply: If you try to squeeze everyone into the same size shoe, a lot of feet are going to hurt. Social rules and expectations are enforced without respect to individual differences, which of course is inevitable if societies want to exist with some semblance of order. Individuals do this to themselves as well, trying to achieve goals and live lives they're not really suited to, in order to fit in or achieve some personal vision of success.

  8. @AngelsHair,
    That was quite well expressed! Unfortunately, HArvey does not have that much to contribute here.

    All the more if the size of the shoe is not based on an objective definition of radical human nature. Your second comment corresponds to the individual's idealistic vision, which we all have to a greater or lesser degree. :)