torsdagen den 23:e oktober 2008

The soft deontology of Zoroastrian ethics

Dear Dina

I agree with you 100%.
But Dino was testing the hypothesis that Zoroastrian ethics would also include a responsibility for the outcomes of our actions. I disagreed with this hypothesis and so do you.
Furthermore, I believe that it is precisely because Zarathushtra connects thoughts, words and actions in a feedback loop, each part relating to the other two - the fundament of Zoroastrian ethics - that he also excludes the outcomes of our actions as part of our self-identity (within which ethics belongs).
It is therefore the intentions that we identify with. I am that within me which does what I desire to do, rather than I am that within me which is causing everything that happens to me to happen.
Desire (or even drive) is what is ethical, occurance is not.
In the world of ethics - as Dino correctly pointed out - this is called soft deontology.
- Dölj citerad text -


Ushta
Alexander

2008/10/23

Dear Alexander,

I agree that Zarathushtra does not say that we are responsible for the outcomes of our choices, where such outcomes are beyond our control, or caused by others. I do not think any one would disagree with that.

Essentially Zarathushtra's teaching is one of individual responsibility for our own choices. So far as I am aware, he does not explicitly get into intent vs. outcome, as articulated by you.

In the law there is the concept that a person is responsible for damages that are proximately caused by his negligence, where he knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known, that his action would result in such consequences. In the law, there is no concept of responsibility for outcomes caused by other factors. Zarathushtra does not use the vocabulary of American civil law, but I think his ideas are consistent with them in this regard.


Wishing us the best,

Dina G. McIntyre.


-----Original Message-----
From: Alexander Bard
To: Ushta@yahoogroups.com
Sent: Wed, 22 Oct 2008 9:14 pm
Subject: [Ushta] Identity and responsibility

Dear Dina

Yes, we are reponsible for that part of what happens to us which comes back to us as a direct result of our own actions. We are even obliged to identify with those outcomes of our actions.
But far from everything that happens to us is directly caused by our choices. And there is no indication anywhere in The Gathas that Zarathushtra holds us responsible for that which happens to us which is outside of our control. This is the major difference between an ethics of intentions and an ethics of pure effects. The whole concept of ethics based on intentions is what Zarathushtra launched historically, which was Nietzsche's point when choosing Zarathushtra as his main character (as he declared later in "Ecce Homo"). This is also what Jesus mainly preached, although St Paul later reintroduced moralism from Judaism into Christianity where it has since remained a central dogma. Not so within Zoroastrianism, however.

Ushta
Alexander

2008/10/23

Dear Dino and Alexander,

I see Zarathushtra's thought a bit differently from Alexander in this respect (although it is possible that I have misunderstood Alexander).

As I understand it, we are indeed responsible for our choices in thought, word and action. And this has nothing to do with a judgmental "God". Zarathushtra teaches that everything we do comes back to us -- that we reap what we sow, the good and the bad -- but this is not done for punishment. It is done for enlightenment, as part of an educational process. Part of an evolutionary process, whereby our understanding, compassion, etc. are increased. One of the unique aspects of Zarathushtra's teachings (in my view) is that his solution for the defeat of evil (or destructiveness, as Alexander prefers) is not punishment, but changing minds and preferences, freely, from within, based on our choices, and on earned and unearned experiences.

Wishing us the best,

Dina G. McIntyre.



-----Original Message-----
From: Special Kain
To: Ushta@yahoogroups.com
Sent: Thu, 16 Oct 2008 12:33 pm
Subject: AW: [Ushta] Identity and responsibility

Dear Alexander,

This is a very important note, indeed, and absolutely not minor at all!
We become our decisions, our thoughts, words and deeds.
So is there no responsibility, whatsoever? Why does the concept of responsibility always rely on a judgmental god? I'm sure that we're partly responsible for the things we happen to experience, because we could've made a different choice before, whether most events are out of our hands or not.

Ushta,
Dino

--- Alexander Bard schrieb am Do, 16.10.2008:

Von: Alexander Bard
Betreff: [Ushta] Identity and responsibility
An: Ushta@yahoogroups.com
Datum: Donnerstag, 16. Oktober 2008, 18:56

Dear Dino

A minor but perhaps important note here:
You will not really find any support for the idea that we are responsible for the outcome of our decisions in Mazdayasna. We ARE our decisions, we identify with our decisions. But that is not the same as saying that we are RESPONSIBLE for our decisions. First, because such a concept reintroduces an Abrahamic judgmental god through the backdoor - if we are responsible for something we also need somebody to be responsible before - and there is no such judgmental divinity in our faith. Second, existence is CONTINGENT, lots of things happen and interfer with the outcomes of our choices that are outside of our control. Zarathushtra constantly returned to this theme, that existence is contingent rather than a set of necessities. So I would be careful and not use the term responsibility here. Identification with our choices is strong enough and coherent with Zarathushtra's teachings.

Ushta
Alexander

2008/10/16 Special Kain

Dear Ronald,

I partly agree!
We punish ourselves through bad thoughts, bad words and bad deeds. But I prefer to say that we're responsible for the outcome of our decisions. We are responsible for our own good and evil, for heavenly and hellish experiences. "Punishment" is a nasty word that is important to people with a Manichaean background or who masochistically enjoy to suffer from a guilty conscience. And that's not my cup of tea.
Please read the other members' postings CAREFULLY: I haven't written about a physical heaven and a physical hell as physical places in this world. I described those two places in psychological terms as two different states of mind. Neither heaven nor hell exist.

Kind regards,
Dino

--- Ronald Tell schrieb am Do, 16.10.2008:

Von: Ronald Tell

Betreff: Re: AW: [Ushta] We the Mazdeans
An: Ushta@yahoogroups. com
Datum: Donnerstag, 16. Oktober 2008, 17:15

dear dino
in accordance to the gatha there is no physical place like heaven and hell.this is my opinion and maybe this is wrong, but zartosht nevers told us about a physical punish place like a hell.
there is no punishment like in islam or christianity. we punish ourselves in this life, in frotn of bad actions we do.

ushta

ronald

----- Original Message ----
From: Special Kain
To: Ushta@yahoogroups. com
Sent: Thursday, October 16, 2008 12:09:48 PM
Subject: AW: [Ushta] We the Mazdeans

Dear Moobed,

As far as I know Zarathushtra was aware that people do not learn through punishment and reward. That's why their stay in hell is only temporary. If he knew that people don't learn through punishment and reward, why should he stress it? Heaven and hell are not astral theme parks beyond the physical world. They are two different states of mind, caused by the outcome of our thoughts, words and deeds. Our mindsets shape the experiences we're making. And the experiences we're making will always hunt us down. There's no sacred justice beyond the petty games we're playing.
Frankly, I don't see why there should exist such places like heaven and hell, when all people are born equal and are granted the gift of freedom of choice. We may choose as we wish and account for the long string of experiences and events that this process entails.
Why should I not make mistakes? Being wrong also incites a learning process. Why should I not want to learn anything more about this beautiful world?

Ushta,
Dino

torsdagen den 16:e oktober 2008

Identity and responsibility, part 2

Well, first of all, Weber is wrong!!!
It is precisely Christ's introduction of the ethics of intentions which is the ETHICAL aspect of Christianity.
Please note that Nietzsche LOVED Christ and HATED St Paul!!! And Nietzsche and Lacan understand ethics far better than Weber (who is a decent sociologist but a crappy philosopher).
Christ got this ETHICAL approach from Zoroastrianism (possibly the schools and sects he attended before he began preaching) which was the ethical religion par excellence in the Middle East at the time of Christ.
What St Paul later did was to REINTRODUCE moralism to Christianity from Judaism. Moralism has since THEN dominated both Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Bahai, the four Abrahamic faiths.
Ethics is the ethics of IDENTITY. It is values originating from and reflecting back on OURSELVES as existential creatures. This was Zarathushtra's point, this was Spinoza's point, this was Nietzsche's point, this was Lacan's point, this has been the point of ethics all along. Nothing else.
We are ONLY reponsible to ourselves for the decisions we make ourselves. So we decide both what is RIGHT for us and what IS us at the same time. We identify with our actions (and our words and our thoughts) according to Zarathushtra, NOT with any outcomes. Zarathushtra never states any such thing in The Gathas.
The thing is that there is NO external reponsibility (because there is no extrernal judge to whom we are responsible). Ahura Mazda is our point of REFERENCE in existence but not our point of judgment. This is a DRAMATIC difference between Zoroastrianism and the Abrahamic faiths.
Christ wasn't bad at all. It is the storytelling surrounding him (his resurrection etc) which is disturbing. But there is a lot about Christ's teachings which is very much in sync with the teachings of Zarathushtra. He clearkly had good teachers. Unfortunately St Paul never did and HE shaped the church and the faith with his letters and other texts.
Ushta
Alexander

2008/10/16 Special Kain

Dear Alexander,

Yes, I can easily follow your explanation. :-)
But there's one thing that is really disturbing me. You differentiate between our intentions - with Zoroastrianism as an ethics of our intentions and identities - and the outcome of our actions, the latter being moralistic of some sort. This is exactly opposite to Max Weber's concept of ethics: the ethic of intentions being moralistic and perfectly in tune with Christian morals, the ethic of responsibility being entirely different from that and undeniably Machiavellian. I am a supporter and defender of the latter, because things mean what they cause.
But, of course, I can't be held responsible for the outcome of my actions. An artist can't be held responsible for how people react to his works. If a kid chooses to shoot his classmates, and the religious right put the blame on Marilyn Manson, I would most certainly defend Marilyn Manson. On the other hand, reactions are part of that particular work of art. People's interpretations and misconceptions contribute to its meaning and artistic value, for better or worse.
So where did I get completely wrong? Please let me know, I'm DESPERATELY eager to learn more! :-)


Ushta,
Dino

Identity and responsibility

Dear Dino

A minor but perhaps important note here:
You will not really find any support for the idea that we are responsible for the outcome of our decisions in Mazdayasna. We ARE our decisions, we identify with our decisions. But that is not the same as saying that we are RESPONSIBLE for our decisions. First, because such a concept reintroduces an Abrahamic judgmental god through the backdoor - if we are responsible for something we also need somebody to be responsible before - and there is no such judgmental divinity in our faith. Second, existence is CONTINGENT, lots of things happen and interfer with the outcomes of our choices that are outside of our control. Zarathushtra constantly returned to this theme, that existence is contingent rather than a set of necessities. So I would be careful and not use the term responsibility here. Identification with our choices is strong enough and coherent with Zarathushtra's teachings.

Ushta
Alexander

2008/10/16 Special Kain

Dear Ronald,

I partly agree!
We punish ourselves through bad thoughts, bad words and bad deeds. But I prefer to say that we're responsible for the outcome of our decisions. We are responsible for our own good and evil, for heavenly and hellish experiences. "Punishment" is a nasty word that is important to people with a Manichaean background or who masochistically enjoy to suffer from a guilty conscience. And that's not my cup of tea.
Please read the other members' postings CAREFULLY: I haven't written about a physical heaven and a physical hell as physical places in this world. I described those two places in psychological terms as two different states of mind. Neither heaven nor hell exist.

Kind regards,
Dino

--- Ronald Tell schrieb am Do, 16.10.2008:

Von: Ronald Tell

Betreff: Re: AW: [Ushta] We the Mazdeans
An: Ushta@yahoogroups.com
Datum: Donnerstag, 16. Oktober 2008, 17:15

dear dino
in accordance to the gatha there is no physical place like heaven and hell.this is my opinion and maybe this is wrong, but zartosht nevers told us about a physical punish place like a hell.
there is no punishment like in islam or christianity. we punish ourselves in this life, in frotn of bad actions we do.

ushta

ronald

----- Original Message ----
From: Special Kain
To: Ushta@yahoogroups. com
Sent: Thursday, October 16, 2008 12:09:48 PM
Subject: AW: [Ushta] We the Mazdeans

Dear Moobed,

As far as I know Zarathushtra was aware that people do not learn through punishment and reward. That's why their stay in hell is only temporary. If he knew that people don't learn through punishment and reward, why should he stress it? Heaven and hell are not astral theme parks beyond the physical world. They are two different states of mind, caused by the outcome of our thoughts, words and deeds. Our mindsets shape the experiences we're making. And the experiences we're making will always hunt us down. There's no sacred justice beyond the petty games we're playing.
Frankly, I don't see why there should exist such places like heaven and hell, when all people are born equal and are granted the gift of freedom of choice. We may choose as we wish and account for the long string of experiences and events that this process entails.
Why should I not make mistakes? Being wrong also incites a learning process. Why should I not want to learn anything more about this beautiful world?

Ushta,
Dino

söndagen den 12:e oktober 2008

Asha and Evolution

Dear Dino

This is correct!!!
Actually, without change, existence itself would be impossible. Or rather: Existence is Change! Existence is Evolution! Our perception actually only works through the registration of changes. That which does not change at all can not be perceived. So change is FUNDAMENTAL.
I believe the built-in relativism of the concept of asha is precisely what saves Zoroastrian philosophy from becoming dated and defunct. Your insights below only add to this understanding.
And don't worry about Mehran Gheibi, he's our little joker in this crowd, not really understanding scientific reasonings like evolutionism etc. But we love our mobed Mehran anyway.

Ushta
Alexander

2008/10/11 Special Kain

Dear friends,

I'm still new to Zoroastrianism and learning to understand it better every day. This is something that once striked me, and I'd like to share this thought with you. Please correct me if I got anything wrong.
There's a highly nuanced range of meaning to the concept of asha, but it seems to be an attribute, if not the core element of Ahura Mazda. Since it can be seen as the laws of nature, we could assume that asha as emanating from Ahura Mazda also means that the laws of nature have evolved over time.
Charles Sanders Peirce already proposed an evolutionist understanding of nature at a time when the universe was seen as a big, well-oiled machine, consisting of eternally valid laws and regularities. So the law was first. But today it is a scientific fact that even the laws of nature have by chance evolved out of something else - which seems to fit in with Zarathushtra's concept of asha as one of Ahura Mazda's attributes. Thus, Ahura Mazda is best compared with Alfred North Whitehead's concept of GOD as the totality of existence and reality as a PROCESS. There's nothing static about Ahura Mazda or asha. Just because things change slowly doesn't mean that they don't change at all!
Since there's nothing eschatological about evolution, change is good in itself.

Have a nice weekend,
Dino

onsdagen den 1:e oktober 2008

Gonzales vs Morales

Dear Parviz

The thing within you that says you should exercise more and eat less is nothing less but what psychoanalysts refer to as your super-ego. But the problem with the super-ego is not so much that it demands the ultimate sacrifice from us, but rather that the super-ego never gives up. If you would indeed exercise more and eat less then the super-ego would only find something else for you to have to do as to keep putting its pressure on your ego. And so on and so forth. So your ego MUST ignore the super-ego up to a point only to keep the super-ego in place. Keeping the super-ego in place is actually far more important for you than doing exercse and eating less. Because it keeps you SANE, it keeps you within the realms of Mazda. This is why we as Zoroastrians are NOT obliged to follow our conscience (since the conscience is often just a fancy word for the super-ego). We are instead obliged to take a BALANCED view on reality and our possibilities and make WISE judgments. We have our minds to do that. The cult of the conscience is for Christians and Muslims. We rather worship the capacity to think in itself. Which is why charm and sweetness rather than machinic perfection are typical Mazdayasna ideals.

Ushta
Alexander

2008/10/2 Parviz Varjavand

Gonzales vs Morales,

Dear Dino and Alex,

Please correct me if I am wrong on what I want to say. We keep saying that we belong to the Religion of Zoroaster maybe because we want to make moral issues out of the ethical choices we know we have to make.

I know what is good for me, but I don't do it.
I know that I have to exercise more and eat less, but I don't do it.
Then someone tries to put "the Fear of God" in me.
My doctor tells me, "hey idiot, if you do not exercise more and eat less RELIGIOUSLY, we will have to soon cut your feet off first and next you will die in agony and misery. You should be ashamed of your lovely family that out of love for THEM at least, you do not eat less and exercise more". My doctor is trying to turn an ethical issue into a moral one for me so that I will obey it, yet still I go on eating more and exercising less. We humans are suicidal bastards and nothing can turn us around when we go on a binge to damage the environment and ourselves.

There is one thing that works! I have a next-door neighbor who is a Jane. From early childhood he has been thought to RELIGIOUSLY eat less and exercise his Yoga daily. He suffers MORALY if he does not do it, so he does it. He has been denied the luxury of choice in this matter, so he does not have to struggle like me. Could this be the key to why we trade the luxury of having ethical choices and surrender ourselves to Morals that are thought to us from early childhood?

Parviz

Ethics vs Morals, Part 3

Dear Zaneta

This is absolutely correct!!!
Just take a look at The Gathas and you will see its ethics but no morals: You will not find any commandments anywhere. But you will constantly find a search FOR identity IN values. And there Zarathushtra finds his source of ethics: It is that which is good for the communty in the long run which is also good for himself. The short-sighted barbarian who only does what is good for himself and in the short run therefore ends up lonely and bitter. While Zarathushtra can enjoy life to its fullest as its creative co-creator.
So what Zarathushtra is providing isn not exact values but meta-values: The condition within which WE as Mazdayasni after him can construct our own values. You can not be further removed from the law-enforcing God-Judge and The Ten Commandments of The Old Testament, the source of values for the Abrahamic religions.

Ushta
Alexander

2008/10/2 Zaneta Garratt

Hi Alexander and Dino,

This fine letter Alexander wrote reminds me of a saying by William Shakespeare that I have often found comforting in times past which is-
to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Morals can be false and are obeyed because society demands this, not because a person believes in them while ethics come from the heart of a person who means to do good,,

Best wishes from Zaneta

Ethics vs Morals, Part 2

Dear Dino

If values are ETHICAL, then they are concerned with who you are to yourself. A typically ethical motto is "to be true to yourself no matter what happens". Ethics is therefore concerned with right and wrong (rather than the good vs evil of moralism). That is the right thing to do which is what you do for yourself to be yourself. Zarathushtra was absolutely into this. This is why he constantly speaks of "being good for the sake of goodness itself and only this" and how what we think becomes what we speak which becomes what we do which in turn returns to become one with us. You become your actions just like your thoughts and words determine your actions. Please note that there is no place for ANY God-Judge whatsoever within this feedback loop. Consequently, unique among early religious theologies, you will not find any commandments listed anywhere in The Gathas. All values are ethical, created by and for you to be you, there is no room for any moralism anywhere. Interestingly, this concept of pure ethics was unheard of in western theology and philosophy until Spinoza introduced the theme in hismajor work "Ethics" (he borrowed the theme of ethics from the Moroccan sufis), even though there were ethicists among the Greek philosophers. Paramenides and Heraclitus are often counted among them. Plato however was a secular moralist. To him, the word of ideas was the real world and set the standard for values in the physical world. This is why Platonism became so popular both within Christianity and Islam, it blended so easily with the religious moralism. The Gospel of John is one big merger of Platonist philosophy and Judaist theology.

Spinoza's potential influence of Nietzsche's Zarathustra character would be most interesting to hear more about. Nietzsche loved Spinoza and refered to him as his only friend, despite the fact that Spinoza had been dead for over a century when Nietzsche was born. So he meant this spiritually.

Ushta
Alexander

2008/10/1 Special Kain

Dear Alexander,

Thank you very much for correcting me!
Could you please dig a little deeper in these philosophical definitions? It is very interesting and I'd like to know more about it!

Kind regards, Dino

PS: Searching the Internet I accidentally stumbled upon a German article discussing Spinoza's role as inspiration for Nietzsche's 'Zarathustra' character. Maybe it will contain information that might be interesting for Ushta? I'll read it and we'll see.

Ethics vs Morals

Dear Dino

This definition of ethics and morals is common but outright wrong in philosophical circles.
But then again, everyday language is full of similar widespread misunderstandings. For example, psychoanalysis and psychotherapy are often confused with each other but really have got nothing at all to do with each other (psychoanalysis is a philosophical enterprise, psychotherapy is a psychological exercise, the first an art form the latter a social science).
All one can do is to constantly repeat the correct meanings of the terms and hope the confusion will finally go away. Just look at how we constantly have to CORRECT people's misunderstandings about Zoroastrianism! But what else can we do?
Spinoza made the original definition of ethics as opposed to morality in the 17th century. It has been used by philosophers ever since, latest as the dominating definitions in the philosophy of Jürgen Habermas (ethics dealing with right vs wrong and morality with good vs evil according to Habermas' definitions).
I recommend that you use the philosophical definitions. In which case, Zoroastrianism is ETHICAL (values are always relating to the identity of the person conducting the act concerned) whereas Christianity, Islam and Judaism are MORALISTIC (values originate from God-The Judge to whom we must obey to be considered good). The difference is both obvious and dramatic.

Ushta
Alexander

2008/9/30 Special Kain
- Dölj citerad text -

Dear Ushta friends,

Maybe the difference between ETHICS and MORALS has been exhaustively discussed, but your postings encourage me to come back to this subject matter. Please, don't yawn - read first!
Zoroastrian ETHICS is often constrasted with Christian/Jewish/Muslim MORALS, with Zoroastrian philosophy being more relativistic and Christian faith being concerned with absolutes - such as absolutely good vs absolutely evil. But when searching Yahoo and Google, most articles I end up being flooded with define ethics as the theory of morals, with morals being the practice and application of ethics. This definition doesn't match the comparison mentioned above.
Max Weber could be useful here, as he differentiates between the ethic of ultimate ends and the ethic of responsibility in "Politics as a Vocation". The ethic of ultimate ends is quite religious, because it is concerned with the actor's faith and conscience. You act according to your religious belief, no matter what results come out - as long as you act according to certain rules, everything is perfectly fine, because the ultimate ends are God's business. The ethic of responsibility is concerned with exactly those results. We always have to bear the (possible) consequences in mind whenever we undertake an action.
It's obvious that Christianity conveys an ethic of ultimate ends - for example, always pity the poor, irrespective of the poor guy's poverty's cause and the further consequences of your pitying. Pity is good in itself.
Since Zarathushtra was well aware that things only mean what they cause and Zoroastrianism isn't offering any final answers nor any fixed rules, he (possibly) promoted an ethic of responsibility, since thoughts, words and deeds can only be good in comparison to what they probably cause. And this is Spenta Mainyu, a constructive mentality.
Any comments? :-)

Kind regards, Dino