Friday, December 15, 2006

Self-ownership and Morality

It is commonly recognised in the West that the basis of human rights is the principle of self-ownership. (If we do not own ourselves then there is no basis for doing unto others as we would have them do unto us). In contast, Vedanta and Buddhist scriptures state that immorality has its root in the idea of self-ownership or egoism. Morality springs from dissolving the individual self in the universal Self.

Socialism began as a movement to abolish regimes in which serfs were literally owned by the rich, but Stalinist and Maoist totalitarianism removed the people's newly won self-ownership. Marx's 'Property is theft' was extended to even ownership of self. Except for the leader, of course.
The deluded belief in an imaginary ego, bolstered by yes men living in fear of being sent to the Gulag or worse, led the atheist Stalin to perpetrate some of the worst immorality ever known.
A prevailing atheist view is that morality should come from the self-owning individual, not from a sense of being owned by an omnipresent self (God). Morality should come from an individual's personal responsiblity - it should not be imposed from 'above'. The well-known
spokesman for atheism Richard Dawkins writes:
"We're much better off when we're answerable to ourselves, and the principle that everyone owns his or her self - no slavery to dogma, or philosophy. No domination, no war, no harm, no theft. But lots of voluntary mutual consent."
Dawkins is a logical positivist yet he believes in something there is no scientific evidence for: individual selves. He is right to try to abolish conditioning even conditioning in the form of religion. Conditioning is a terrible basis for morality - but there is a basic inconsistency in the view that morality should be based on an imaginary ego.

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