Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Kant & Job: Recompense Annuls Ethics

Does doing good benefit us materially? If not, why then do good?

Kant reasoned that the moral dimension of ethics would go out the window if "ethics paid." (In Sedlacek, Economics of Good and Evil : The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street, Kindle location 14%) Sedlacek says that, for Kant, "if we carry out a “moral” act on the basis of economic calculus (therefore we carry out an hedonistic consideration; see below) in the expectation of later recompense, its morality is lost. Recompense, according to the strict Kant, annuls ethics."

The Old Testament "prophetic schools emphasized that there was no algorithm between good and reward." (Ib.) Ecclesiastes 8:14 says: There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. 

The best example of this is the book of Job. Job's trials are meant to show that "Job does not do god for profit." (Ib.) Job remains righteous even though it does not pay materially for doing so. Famously, Job says, "Though he [God] slay me, yet I will hope in him." (Job 13:15)

So why do good if there is no cash value? Sedlacek writes: "The answer can only be: For good itself. Good has the power to be its own reward. In this sense, goodness gets its reward, which may or may not take on a material dimension. Nevertheless, in the proper sense of the term, morals cannot be considered in the economic dimension of productivity and calculus. The role of the Hebrews was to do good, whether it paid off or not. If good (outgoing) is rewarded by incoming goodness, it is a bonus, not a reason to do outgoing good. Good and reward do not correlate to each other. This reasoning takes on a dimension of its own in the Old Testament. Good (incoming) has already happened to us. We must do good (outgoing) out of gratitude for the good (incoming) shown to us in the past." (Ib., Kindle location 1217)

The Jesus perspective seems to be this: We love, because He first loved us, not in order to be loved back. As we love we may not be loved in return; indeed, we may get crucified. Sedlacek writes that "the principle of doing good (outgoing) on the basis of a priori demonstrated good (incoming) was also taken over by the New Testament. Atonement itself is based on an a priori principle; all our acts are preceded by good." (Ib., Kindle Locations 1294-1296)

Today, according to Sedlacek, econonics has been, in theory, entirely divorced from morality (good and evil). In today's legal system there is no mention of love or gratefulness. (Ib.) But in actuality it is not so divorced. Sedlacek wants us to understand this and re-evaluate economic theory by bringing it out of a false mathematical abstractness and neutrality.