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Dec 28, 2014

AGAINST MORALISM

Ethics without pragmatism and morality not realistic are free? Even worse: are counterproductive? Lose all value, values without power or effectiveness to be done? These are eternal questions that have caused bitter discussions and debates irreconcilables.

In this respect, Ramon Valls had a clear position taken:"It can be clearly perceived that Politics without Ethics comes to be cruel and frighteningly unjust. However it is equally so that Ethics without Politics is reduced to celestial music. It degrades the moralizing to immoral because its sermon is ineffective in causing the good in this world".

The conscious, willful distancing from the model of "we" in the church, classes, civil society, the agglomeration of "‘I’s" or the culture-nation (and its supporters) was key in the later evolution of Ramon Valls. We have also seen that these four rejections were firmly rooted in his agonist vision of human nature and the fears and dangers associated with it.

For a realistic pragmatist, convinced of human agonsim, as was Valls, moralism (not morality or ethics) is a total error. Valls thinks that moralism is necessarily naive and inefficient because it proposes a world and humanity which denies its agonist condition, or at least as if this condition could be overcome by limits, penance or will.


 
The human evil and tendency to conflict do not disappear simply because one realizes that it is bad, counterproductive and violent (and it is!). So he states forcefully, "Moralism deals as well with senseless topics. For example it says that if the whole world were good there would be no need for laws. Or if we all loved each other the world would be goodness and light. (...) We won’t say trivialities and we repeat that ethics without politics is a children’s story. (...) In short, moralism is immoral. It is an ideal refuge which is condemned to never come down to reality."

Valls’s denouncing of abstract moralism goes back to an idea very close to Kantian doctrine, of Christian origin, of the "radical bad": man is made of such twisted wood that there is no way to straighten him out, much less maintain himself straight. Valls is very clear that no moralizing will can effectively and enduringly transform the agonistic human nature. As we have seen, he considers the harsh discipline exercised by a real, institutional "we" (even a despotic one) to be far more effective over the course of history: "We know that Ethics doesn’t fall from the heavens. Its origins are far more modest. It is born from politics as an organizational technique which is always imperfect".

Coinciding with Hegel, Valls constantly accuses the moralists of being utopians, dreamers, abstract... Or "idealists", in the worst sense of the word37. His basic criticism is that they are not only ineffective and simply boastful, but they often hide their perverse desire to avoid the authentic problem and difficult task at hand. Heavily influenced by Nietzsche, Valls sees there the most common socioethical error of our times and one of the worst inheritances of religion. That is why he says that "moralism impregnates the mixture of beliefs which form the ethical pasta of the world, to use that phrasing. Its origin is clear. (...) The clergy especially seems to enjoy putting others in positions that they can’t reach".

In the decisive opening of the "Conclusion" of his last book Valls recalls significantly the "Parable of the Grand Inquisitor" that Dostoyevsky included in The Brothers Karamazov. As Valls says in his direct, unmistakable style, "In short, the grand inquisitor says to Jesus, "you act like the good guy, and everyone’s happy with you. I, on the other hand, act like the bad guy and am on everyone’s bad side. Despite that, you don’t do anything and I have to do the work." and it’s the dirty work, of course. To say it abstractly: morality is clean and politics is dirty. But morality is clean because it only preaches, without ever getting involved while politics is dirty because the human world is dirty."

Ramon Valls’s volleys against moralism were a constant in his classes and his
 

writings. He even included a new type of fallacy which he called the "angelical" fallacy to denounce the "moralist cliche, which as moralist is in
effective" which "demands that politics convert itself in the arm of morality despite its own interests. Until all humanity is educated and has controlled its agonist tendency, Valls thought necessary a strong coactive force which imposes peace and the empire of law. So he formulates an imperative, which in many classes and debates created misunderstanding, "It is a moral obligation to take the step from morality to politics to demand the right to do so".

Against the emotional we

Precisely because he linked the dangerous agonist human nature with more animal, irrational and emotional impulses, Valls is strongly opposed to arguments based on feelings or that include emotional aspects. With rational Hegelian coherence he identifies "sentimental" romanticism as another example of moralism, as it limits itself to proclamations of sentimental content without paying attention to concrete mechanisms which could effectively make that content work.

Undoubtedly this is what Valls saw implicit in even the most valid versions of religion, nationalism, romantic Marxism like "salt of the earth" or an anarchical liberalism of "people without a State will do it better". He saw well-intentioned naiveté, "beautiful spirits" putting themselves in a dangerous dead end street, or "angelical" mentalities that try to change the world without knowing it.

Coherent with his conception of the agonist human condition, Valls saw

emotions and feelings as more of a danger than a solution. He saw more the Sadducean trap which ends up enveloping everything than the intended good impulse which will finally save the world. Therefore he considers the emotional and sentimental attempts to reinforce the "political we" we have described to be dangerous and counterproductive. He believes that they normally strengthen human aggressiveness more than they limit it (which is the prime task of the juridic-state "we").

For this reason, as well, Valls reduced postmodernism to a sort of romanticism for spoiled children: "The postmodernist writings give off, in fact, a sort of conceited fatuity, typical of spoiled children (...). Youth who apparently are revolutionaries, but deep down they are yuppies who, possessed by a yearning to break things, take the revelations of their uncentered subjectivity to be brilliant thoughts".

As we could see in his classes and some conversations, Valls tended to reduce all Romanticism to a sort of sentimentalism, thereby minimizing the romantic bases of German idealism. He accepted that Romanticism seeks an absolute and it includes a potent ethical "we", but, he counterattacked, always thought of as natural and too often leaning to solipsisms and individual "genius" and the elevation of grand passions.
 
For Valls, Romanticism doesn’t realize that it wants to construct an absolute or a "we" with the most dangerous part there is in humanity. This leads to its inevitable failure, even more dangerous to the extent that, whether it wants to or not, its efforts attack and destroy rational, juridic, "objective" barriers, which are the only effective ones. They are, in short, the only truly effective "we".

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