Kant's Moral Values in the Light of Maya Harmonics. (08/16/2001)

Following along in the wake behind, or in the aftermath of, the comments just concluded (in Maya Calendrical Geometry) about the absence of meaningful distinction between opposite spaces arranged in harmonic constructs, as the Maya probably conceived of such ideas during their Classic period (250 AD-800 AD), where opposite poles in binary structures are seen as mirror-images of one another, and hence as identical twins, so to speak, it might be useful to examine a specific western European philosophical argument that makes use of binary opposition, even the one between good and evil, to see how well or how badly it stands in the face of a challenge brought to bear against it from the thoroughly other point-of-view of Maya philosophy. An obvious fact that cannot be overlooked here is that whatever follows this value-laden opening gambit, whether for the good or the ill of human society, the argument articulated is going to be heavily weighted, even predominantly biased, in favor of the native American perspective. Taking this approach to the dominant philosophy of the western world, especially in light of the fact that its pronouncements have always been associated with the divine word of God, and hence seem virtually unassailable, any reasonably knowledgeable person can expect fierce opposition to the notion that native Americans have a useful contribution to make to a subject already settled in the minds of those who adhere to that dominant ideology.

Be that as it may, and even for that reason, I have chosen statements made by Immanuel Kant in his Critique of Practical Reason as a point of departure for the analysis. In that work, where Kant investigates the moral implications of some of the ideas he established in the Critique of Pure Reason, he asserts that

"The only objects of practical reason are therefore those of good and evil. For by the former is meant an object necessarily desired according to a principle of reason; by the latter one necessarily shunned, also according to a principle of reason."

Only a few paragraphs later, Kant clarifies his meaning by saying that "What we call good must be an object of desire in the judgement of every rational man, and evil an object of aversion in the eyes of everyone." Kant also takes the trouble to differentiate carefully between reason and instinct, making the "objects of practical reason" something more than just a bare matter of desire and aversion. He says, for instance, that

"For the possession of reason would not raise his worth above that of the brutes, if it is to serve him only for the same purpose that instinct serves in them; it would in that case be only a particular method which nature had employed to equip man for the same ends for which it has qualified brutes, without qualifying him for any higher purpose."

Several problems seem apparent here even before one brings a concept of harmony to bear against them. For instance, it is not difficult to imagine a case in which "everyone" on the ground of "a principle of reason" desired, even strongly desired, the total and absolute annihilation of a group of people who were opposed to this or that kind of a political action or religious belief that characterized the majority opinion of a society. In England during the 13th Century, for example, a story was circulated that an enclave (ghetto) of Jewish people kidnapped a Christian child, tortured him to death in bloodthirsty rituals, and buried his body in a latrine to conceal the crime. This story, which was completely false, so incited the Christians in England against their Jewish neighbors that the King and Parliament ordered the expulsion of every Jewish person from the realm. Those Jews who were not executed were driven from England without recourse to due process of any kind and without being allowed to take with them any of their possessions whatsoever. Clearly, and in hindsight, one can question the rationality of this act but, at the time, and when it mattered, even for several centuries afterward, this behavior was perceived by "everyone," with the exception perhaps of the Jews who were expelled, as being a perfectly reasonable, good and moral thing to do.

More recently a question over the nature (whether good or evil) of scientific research conducted with stem cells taken from human embryos has arisen in the political arena. At stake is whether or not federal money should be appropriated to fund that research. What inevitably happens in the Kantian moral context, of course, and only because there is no innate and universally consistent moral reality inherent in the human soul, is that an ideological struggle is initiated in an effort to constitute a hegemonic consensus favoring one side of the dispute (such research is inherently good) over and against the other side (such research is inherently evil). The "moral" issue is then settled according to which side generates the most support for its position, according to which side is able to mount the most convincing argument in support of funding the research, in the most benign circumstances, or which side can bring the most coercive force to bear against forbidding the option of its opponents in the worst case. Kant's position, then, fosters a belief that morality depends more on public opinion than it does on any rational faculty in the human soul or mind. A recent ABC-News poll found that 56% of those questioned favor the approach George W. Bush has taken to resolving the issue. While it certainly cannot be argued that "everyone" holds the opinion that such research is morally good, or that the determining factor in choosing that course of action is grounded in a "principle of reason," where most people react instead from an emotional depth beyond calculation to the substance of the issue, it is nevertheless true that in this particular case federal funding, even if on a rather limited basis, has been judged morally acceptable by a majority of the people who have expressed an opinion. Tomorrow, however, that percentage of acceptance may very well shift in the opposite direction, making the good suddenly evil, and the evil just as quickly good.

In a pluralistic society, where no coercive, hegemonic consensus exists on one side or the other to establish, a priori as it were, which of two alternatives represents the good, and where, as a consequence, every choice comes down to a popular vote, to the results of an opinion poll, Kant's view of morality simply fails to create any reasonable or sensible ground for determining what course of action should be preferred as morally sound. The problem with Kant's position, of course, is that the Good simply does not exist as an inherent quality in the human mind (or soul) but only comes into existence as such when coercive pressure of one kind or another is brought to bear by society, even by a small and elitist segment of it, by a priesthood for instance, in an effort to convince the majority of its citizens that one action is preferable to another because an elitist enclave deems it better and more morally sound than its opposite. Morality by hegemonic consensus, then, is really all that Kant's position offers.

This problem has its essential ground in the idea that "man" was placed on the earth, inserted, as it were, like the wholly finished product of a divine Creative will, into a pre-existent and completely defined hierarchical structure, with the worst at the bottom and the best at the top, and left to drift between the two, fully endowed with freedom of choice, but pulled upward by the existence of a supposed "higher purpose" than the one that dominated everything residing at the lower levels of the structure whose necessarily contrary purpose was to pull "man" down to the depths of its own opposite brutish level. Everything here makes a kind of sense as long as there is no opposing view to the one that insists on binary distinctions between good and evil. In the context of Maya harmonics, however, where such distinctions are not just blurred but fundamentally annihilated, simply by virtue of the fact that opposite poles in every binary structure become indistinguishable twined mirror-images of each other, the possibility of calling one thing good and the other evil, one thing high the other low, one best the other worst, is reduced to a distinction without quantifiable meaning. Binary morality, then, is reduced to its proper level in the context of harmonic reality, to a level that cannot rise above meaningless, even groundless, absurdity. Put simply, there is no such thing as a meaningful difference between good and evil, between God and the Devil, when any element of harmony is allowed to enter the distinction.

Immediately after the first encounter between Europeans and native Americans, old world observers began describing the inhabitants of the Americas as a people without any sense of morality whatsoever. This was probably the only true statement Europeans ever uttered in their aggregate characterization of the indigenous inhabitants of the Western hemisphere. While that might be perceived as a condemnation of tribal people, which is certainly the way in which Europeans meant it to be taken, the truth is that saying such a thing about the other is the highest compliment (if such a hierarchical distinction could actually be said to exist) that can be expressed. This is true because the existence of binary distinction in the first place is the only thing that makes it possible to characterize anything at all as being evil in the face of an equally non-existent, wholly imaginary, and purely invented opposite category identified as being good. In other words, the only reason it was ever possible for 13th Century Christians to expel the Jews from England was because Christian ideology provides and generates a first necessary distinction between what is good and what is evil. Rather than admitting the truth, that Christians in England simply wanted to appropriate Jewish property without fear of legal ramification and/or social condemnation for a blatant act of thievery, they simply characterized Jewish people as vicious savages who killed Christ as an innocent child in their brutish and bloodthirsty religious rituals. Characterizing the other as evil both permits and encourages action against them that cannot be defined except as essentially evil. Genocide, mass expulsion, forced conversion, is both never good and never justifiable except, and/or unless, it is first possible to characterize the victim as evil in opposition to the hegemonic consensus that always defines itself as the good. As soon as that is accomplished, it becomes not only possible but absolutely inevitable that the good will exercise whatever program of absolute evil it perceives as necessary to annihilate the stain of otherness from its realm. Put simply, binary morality is the only sure and consistent cause of evil in the world.

When Europeans invaded native America they found a continent of people who had not the slightest inkling of the concepts associated with binary opposition and binary morality. Instead, they found a people harmonically joined to each other and to their environment where concepts of good and evil, high and low, moral and immoral, had simply never been used to characterize the state of any known or imagined condition of the human experience. Native Americans also had not the slightest inkling of the fate that awaited them. Once Europeans characterized native Americans as being without any sense of binary morality, which was certainly true, they were freed from any restraint that might have prevented them from initiating the most horrific program of genocide, mass murder, and blatant thievery, the world has ever witnessed. That the Eurocentric killing machine continues to grind its way through the naked and defenseless fields of its victims, even past the beginning of the 21st Century, without even a single backward glance at the 100,000,000 native corpses its has already managed to amass as the foundation stones of it legacy, ought to make it abundantly obvious why there is so little hope that any American child, European or otherwise, will survive to secure its own patrimony.