In Place of Prejudice

How do we construct ideals to live by?

Socrates was sentenced to death for corrupting the youth of Athens. Why? He had publicly questioned the authority of the city's gods to legislate how we should live. His more or less explicit prioritisation of ethics over state religion was subversive. If social moral standards are not dependent on the whims of the gods – if the gods don’t determine the standards we should live by – then individuals appear to be licensed to think for themselves.

Plato, who agreed with his teacher that gods can’t underwrite social morality, postulated a realm of transcendent value in the place of gods. Where a god might command and punish, Plato’s transcendent value was supposed to inspire and be loved by all who glimpsed it. Nietzsche went further, proclaiming the death of God and of transcendent value too. On his proposal, conventional social morality is only an ideological social construct developed by the physically weak to subjugate the physically strong. An all-powerful ethic

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Paul Davenport 22 December 2016

The first requirement is that we understand what it is to be human.