Throughout the entire history of philosophy, ethics has been the ethics of being, the basic moral imperative has always been “you should live”, and all the rest is a justification of this imperative. Ethics were always apologetic …
I’ve come across some wonderful material via Joshua Queirós and his web site Misanthropy and Melancholia and particularly his translation of The Project of Negative Ethics from Portuguese to English. This is a profound work by Julio Cabrera proposing an ethics of non-being. A short extract from the start of the translation by Joshua:
- Throughout the entire history of philosophy, ethics has been the ethics of being, the basic moral imperative has always been “you should live”, and all the rest is a justification of this imperative. Ethics were always apologetic, beyond their own theoretical options. No philosopher faced the possibility of a morality of non-being, that is, the ethical consequences stemming from a radical rejection of being. This Project aims to initiate a conversation about an ethic of non-being, or a negative ethic.
- That being is “better” than nothingness is the Grundsatz of all western morality. Being is never considered as a choice among others.
- Man not only contemplates being, but lives it. The problem of being is, to him, the problem of life. A traditional ethic would be possible if man could not live the being, but simply contemplate it.
- When man asks himself about the possibility of non-being, he already is. Therefore, the issue of non-being incorporates to him, while already living the being, two configurations, which I will here name suicide and abstention. The ethical issue of the existing life is different from the ethical issue of the life that does not yet exist. The traditional ethic has been constructed as if life were something compulsive, never facing the possibility of it being a choice. The traditional ethic has been an intellectual justification of that compulsion. Ethics never addressed the compulsive anguish that led it to self-build itself. Because being is, to man, life, that he never managed the strength to even put to himself the question of a negative ethic.
- The huge philosophical “risk” is: that if there is a morality of non-being, to live can be seen as the maximum immorality, precisely in the same sense as defined by the affirmative ethics.
This is very reminiscent of Schopenhauer and the quote he uses from Calderon: “man’s greatest offense is that he was born.” The translation can be accessed at The Project of Negative Ethics.