Is morality subjective or a universal truth

The German philosopher Markus Gabriel: "The motto is: persevere and don't let yourself get infected by the madness"

The current situation seems confused. How threatening is the virus? What do social networks do to people? Are people spiritual beings? And where is morality in the end? René Scheu met the German star philosopher Markus Gabriel and with him found surprising answers to the pressing questions of the time.

Mr Gabriel, the NZZ has launched a journalistic initiative that focuses on the following statement: "No truth is unassailable." That sounds good and of course makes journalistic sense - but what does the philosopher say about it, especially someone who wants to grasp the concept of truth more strictly and tighten it down?

You put me in a difficult situation right from the start. On the one hand, I really appreciate the NZZ. But on the other hand, this sentence naturally makes me terribly nervous. Because it is in the essence of truth to be invulnerable. We are currently in Zurich while we are talking here. This sentence is true. We could now be of the wrong opinion that we are not in Zurich, then we are making a mistake. This can happen when you're confused, but not really when you're in normal shape.

So what is meant by the claim is: what is presented as truth by someone should be able to be attacked. But today it is practically common sense to say that there is no such thing as a single truth, especially not in a democracy. So where is the mistake of reasoning?

We confuse opinions and truth. It is true to say that you in Switzerland or we in Germany live in a democracy. And in a democracy there is freedom of expression and therefore diversity of opinion, at least to some extent. If one position prevails in the competition of opinion in a democracy, it is no truer than another for that reason alone. It is completely absurd to say such a thing. No, she was just more successful. The truth does not need the human consensus, and conversely, of course, the democratic consensus does not necessarily need the truth.

An example, please.

Well, I don't want to spare you either. Let's take the Schrödinger equation from quantum mechanics. What if ETH students scribble a few formulas on a piece of paper and agree by majority vote that this is correct, have they reformulated the Schrödinger equation? No, they just scribbled down bullshit. Or, even worse, in the moral area: If the majority of the British or the Swiss should come to the conclusion that it would make sense to set up concentration camps for EU refugees, this would be morally reprehensible regardless.

Is it a proof of tolerance to say that one has one truth and that others have a different one?

No. It is exactly the other way around - that leads to fundamentalist statements of the first order and is also terribly confused.

Because people would live in different worlds if there were different truths?

Exactly. And if everyone lived in their own world, then we would have nothing more to say to each other, we could only fight. While this view is proven to be wrong, if we act like it is true, then at some point we will actually crack our heads. So anyone who speaks of the truth in the plural in this way and means what he says is threatened with violence.

Here, too, I would like an example.

How about Donald Trump?

With pleasure. The American president is still moving after four years.

He loves the game "My Truth, Your Truth" that the postmodern left started with and takes it to extremes. It sounds like this: The fake media tell you something, but I tell you the truth and nothing but the truth - there were more spectators at my swearing-in as US President than with all of my predecessors. And of course Trump says that without irony, brazenly, calculating. Trump's thought behind it: if we are already in a Nietzsche film adaptation, in which only the interpretation is important, but not the facts, well, then we are ruthlessly pushing through our view of things. Or another example: a left-wing radical and a Talib are discussing with each other. The Talib insists that girls are not allowed to go to school. The left-wing radical thinks that's bad, but then suddenly comes up with the idea: Okay, I have to accept that in Afghanistan, because that seems to be a cultural practice of the Afghans. My truth, your truth.

But cultural relativists actually see it this way: different countries, different customs. And cultural relativism now has a pretty strong lobby at universities.

Convincing cultural relativists have read too much bullshit that they eventually begin to believe in and confuse tolerance with arrogance. That is sad, but in the end they remain an ideologically blinded minority. In their favor it could be said that in the imbecility of their position they are still better than the representatives of the cancel culture.

How do you come up with that now?

Unlike the good-natured, friendly cultural relativist Richard Rorty, the cancel culture activists are open to wanting to fight others. They are actually Trumpists, but with the opposite sign: They replace the search for truth with a fight against those who think differently, which they justify by saying that they no longer talk to those who think differently, even want to silence them.

You are not entirely wrong about that. The cancel culture is applied post-structuralist theory: It is not about truth, because it is merely a pretext anyway, it is always and everywhere about power. In this logic, anyone who pretends to have the truth is aiming only at power. And vice versa: whoever has the power has the truth.

For the representatives of the cancel culture, the motto is: The end justifies the means, everything is allowed if it serves to increase power, even the greatest nonsense. White, straight men are currently the new enemy, as trite as it sounds. And politics, media and HR departments have long since passed the new cliché around without being asked. Classifying people by skin color and gender and pointing the finger at them is, of course, racism and sexism. Whoever denies white, heterosexual men the right to truth in principle is committing precisely the same mistake that we should overcome in the name of moral progress. The aim is equality and not the cancellation of some alleged horde of white men.

Do you still see it relaxed because intellectual fashions come and go?

Not quite, because internet bullying has become limitless. Social death can affect anyone today, and society has not yet learned to deal with it. Digitally organized shitstorms, regardless of the side, are a dangerous form of bullying because the mob hides behind their avatars and hashtags. The spiral is over the top: It is no longer enough to be a gay man in order not to be bullied, provided you know. And a young, lesbian, colored woman also has a real problem if she does not voluntarily confess that trans people can be anything they claim to be.

Only Transrace doesn't work at all. However, there is a new pseudo-moral hierarchy: whoever has the most sacrifice points has the greatest authority.

There is actually an instrumentalization of real victims of racism, sexism etc. by academics who are spoiled for living. That doesn't help the real victims. Anyone who poses as a victim without being one acts deeply cynical. At the top of this alleged pyramid there is still a dispute - what is morally higher, black, female or trans? Which property gives exactly how many points? Let us give this dynamic of discursive victim abuse a name: it is radically evil. It comes as the good, as if it were a matter of balance, i.e. equality, mutual recognition in the Hegelian sense, which underlies our modern constitutional state. Instead, the activists want the exact opposite - namely, revenge on a partially imaginary enemy.

How exactly?

You want to take revenge for allegedly or actually suffered injustice, with new injustice. They uninhibitedly declare people with certain characteristics to be inferior, for example by spreading the prejudice that white, straight men are more prone to racism than other people. But this prejudice is already racism. This results in a new kind of prosperity Maoism, an imitation of the Cultural Revolution in the form of a racist identity politics. People are brought to their knees and put up with a disgraceful poster, so that they publicly repent for their wrong skin color, their religion or their sexual preferences. Quite horrible. There are no human races, not even a white race, but unfortunately there is racism.

Do you think positive discrimination is a philosophical problem tout court?

It can make sense to grant privileges to people who have been negatively discriminated against with clear objectives and for a certain period of time - it is then a matter of defining quotas for East Germans, for example, so that the capable are represented on the boards of numerous German companies. The argument here is not moral, but practical. However, quota regulations are a double-edged sword. For example, let's take women's quotas for board members in German companies. Of course, more women are desirable, but are quotas everywhere the way to go? Because then one would consequently have to argue that more women are urgently needed in construction or in the GSG 9. In any case, we should be careful not to fall back into tribal and class society. That is why we need better, more rational arguments for quotas.

Meanwhile, resistance against victim ideology and identity politics is also noticeable from the left. One can say with the Girondist Pierre Vergniaud: The identity-political revolution, like Saturn, is constantly devouring its own children. So isn't that the beginning of the end of this unleashed power game?

Vergniaud was a clever man, but like so many others, he ended up on the scaffold. So I would be careful - hopefully at some point the crazy bullying will stop, but it will be more the day after tomorrow than tomorrow. In this respect, the motto is: persevere and don't let yourself get infected by the madness. And if the digital society is not radically reorganized, reason will eventually be gone.

After the heights of philosophical reflection, we have now landed in the lows of daily politics. Let's ground the discourse further. Is it true that Sars-CoV-2 is dangerous?

Good question! There is a true answer to this question, but we do not yet exactly know the truth. So: The virus is dangerous, of course, people die from it and, in any case, too many. It also threatens to destroy our health systems because it is unfortunately quite contagious. Depending on the demographics, the infection mortality is probably somewhere between 0.4 and 1 percent, and that breaks our systems if we let it run. This makes the virus too dangerous to run without having to be a killer virus like Ebola or Mers. At least that's how it looks at the moment. As a philosopher, I am currently more concerned with the social and political implications of both the virus itself and the pandemic response. Because both, the virus and its fight, cause damage, we just cannot put a figure on it at the moment.

The next question, again a matter of current politics and highly explosive: Should the state commit itself to an austerity policy in times of corona, or should it be even more indebted and invest in infrastructure projects?

This is a question to which there is not just one right and one wrong answer, because the future is always uncertain. This is the old insight of Aristotle: when I say that there will be a sea battle tomorrow, I am making an assertion that is now neither true nor false. So this is not an opinion either, because opinions must always be true or false, but an assumption. And when it comes to guesswork, political processes are needed for social balancing and finding consensus. That is why parliamentary democracy is so important now, because it offers a space for deliberation.

So would you say we don't live in the age of opinion, but in that of conjecture?

In complex times of crisis like ours, even the greatest experts can only create error-prone forecasts or practice prophecies, regardless of whether it is about Corona, the stock exchanges or the next US election. Experts tend to choose apocalyptic visions because it makes it easier for them to win: If the prognoses come true, they can say that thanks to special intellectual abilities they always knew it. If, on the other hand, the gloomy scenarios do not occur, they can patronizingly claim that their warning has averted the apocalypse, and they even receive applause. Some epidemiologists in Germany like to play this card: They warn and warn - and people love them for the fact that their nasty prognoses never come true because measures have been taken to prevent them. Not only is the prevention paradox slumbering here, but also a disguise of our factual ignorance of the future. The exact waves of the virus are unpredictable, period. If they were, you wouldn't be able to defend yourself. This is about models that are helpful in averting potential disaster, not about predictions.

When the sophists emerged in antiquity, Attic democracy came to an end at the same time.

The point now is that these empty opinions have a performative power and help shape our political reality. They infect the spirit of the people, whereby they not only determine their actions, but also politics, because our representatives are trying to find out the empty opinions currently prevailing by means of surveys.

Scientific models are not empty opinions, but are intended to show possibilities for action. Unfortunately science is being treated like an oracle at the moment, let alone religion. In politically mediated societies like ours, a vicious circle is indeed closed here: the scientific, hypothetical projections are politicized. Mind you, I am not afraid of the pharmaceutical companies because they are supplying us with headache pills and hopefully soon with corona vaccines. Instead, I am also afraid of the Fama corporations, i.e. the social networks, when it comes to Corona, because they spread empty opinions and rumors. And at some point the day will come when we can no longer tell these things apart because it is too exhausting, and then we say in unison to relieve us: Everyone should have their own opinion. But that's wrong, because it is often about facts that are far too important, be it Corona or climate change. A society is characterized by how it deals with dissent, and relativism is bad dealings with.

At the same time, this is only natural, the confirmation bias belongs to a tribal being like humans: We want to hear what our kind has always thought we knew.

When evolutionary biology meets the new technology of social networking, it is indeed an explosive mix, no question about it. But actually media has always worked that way. When a guy runs towards a crowd with a chainsaw, he is sure to be noticed, and even the NZZ reports about it. When a noble lady walks towards a crowd with a rose in hand, no one cares. They also do not report that thousands of Indian couples have fallen seriously in love again today. But woe, a thousand Indian couples or - better still - ten Austrians are killed in a train accident, then even the quality media are worth a push message.

We deceive ourselves - and then believe in the deceptions.

We are fascinated by the illusions. I am currently working on a new theory of subjectivity, which is laid out in my book “Fictions”, and the idea is that being someone is the measure of our errors. My true convictions are the same as yours - we both sit in Zurich and we share this view too. The problem with this is that it is completely uninteresting for both of us, and under normal circumstances - outside the setting of a philosophical conversation - we would not talk about it either. We would be silent. We only talk to each other because we want to find out what wrong opinions each other has. Because only then do we really know who he is. Various theories of truth have been formulated in the history of philosophy, but so far no theory of falsehood. But in the age of social networks we urgently need such a pseudology and a taxonomy of errors.Because we are no longer only dealing with fundamentalists, but also with sophists.

Do I understand you correctly: you are - like quite a few intellectuals - worried about the future of democracy?

When the sophists emerged in antiquity, Attic democracy came to an end at the same time. The sophists are simply called differently today - spin doctors. But back then it was really still about the agora and face-to-face conversations. Today it's about manipulation in an anonymous society - and the sophists have completely different technical possibilities, are now based in Silicon Valley and have more power, money and infrastructure than the entire German auto industry. Because of their unimaginable power, we only stare at the dumb surfaces of our devices and no longer at human faces. And we never know - is what is being served to us right?

I see the problem. What would the solution be?

There is no technical, only human - the enlightened citizen. We have to equip it with good philosophical theory so that it does not get caught up in the false conclusions and prejudices that are circulating.

Education should fix it?

Education has to fix it. Because it is like this: fallacy, fallacy, fallacy, wherever the philosopher looks! Zeitgeist, as is evident today more than ever, is the number of fallacies accepted at one time. And what follows on the sophistry? Second level sophistry. When it comes to migration, Corona or the EU, the AfD is committed to “having the courage to truth”. The AfD people then even say the truth by chance, even though they are lying, i.e. actually consciously wanting to tell the untruth. Trump ticks the same way: He lies with half-truths, a new language game.

How exactly?

Citizens shout at Trump: "Black lives matter!" And he replies with a universalistic message that makes the hearts of all enlightened people beat faster: "All lives matter!" In fact, more whites than blacks are shot in the US because there are more whites. So Trump is partially right. In truth, he wanted to say something completely different in the eyes of his fans - that the whites should keep shooting at the blacks.

He lies by telling the truth.

This possibility arose because too many politicians in a democracy no longer dare to tell the truth or at least what they think it is. That would be a start.

The new realism is as refreshing as it is suitable for everyday use. There is a reality that we can see, there is truth, there is falsehood, there is objectivity. In the last few decades, however, the humanities in particular have worked hard to prove that all of these terms are just constructions.

It is a pathology of academic operations. Only Foucaultians and Derridaists, who smell power constellations everywhere in an almost paranoid manner, seriously believe this. A rock-solid Swiss watchmaker doesn't doubt for a second that there is reality and truth.

Conversely, however, it has also become a fashion in the natural sciences to deny the existence of the human mind. This view, too, has long been en vogue in popular literature and everyday life: humans are conceived as machines or algorithms that deceive themselves and stylize themselves as spiritual beings.

This, too, is a pathology of academic operations. One does not exclude the other: And it has long been the case that the deconstructivists are sitting with the neuroscientists. They then both try to prove that there is no such thing as the human spirit, which the Swiss watchmaker experiences from inside every second of his existence. Take Donald Hoffman, for example, a cognitive psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, who takes all the nonsense to extremes. In his new book “The Case against Reality” he claims roughly the following: The brain even hallucinates the brain, in other words: There are no neurons, that too is just a delusion of - what actually? We can no longer say that. And so we approach total ignorance - and science has become the opposite of what knowledge creates.

What does it do to us when we deny the obvious and see ourselves as machines?

It's simple: at some point we start to behave like machines. And in the end we actually believe that we are machines. We overlook the fact that machines can only act like machines because they are machines, while we can act as free beings, which also includes that we behave as if we were unfree. A wrong self-portrait, i.e. wrong thoughts about ourselves, can make us sick or crazy. And I actually claim that the thought that you are identical to your brain, a kind of brain machine, is an expression of a mental illness.

Can you describe in concrete terms how such a neurocentric would behave in everyday life, for example when it came to sex or food?

Clear. Let's call our test subject John Bennett (which of course is not an allusion to the well-known American philosopher Daniel Dennett, who actually holds some neurocentric beliefs). So what if John is into sexual exchange? He sits there wondering what his oxytocin levels are all the time. Then he injects something and slowly feels good, but he doesn't know what the level of the woman he is aiming for. So it would be absolutely right for John to give the woman drops in the glass; that would even be the perfect strategy if he wants her. So John secretly turns into Bill Cosby - he sees attraction as a hormonal issue and a mere brain state. Such a thing would of course be deeply inhuman because, like everyone else, one would only come into consideration as a manipulable object. That would be a completely alienated way of life, no one acts like that.

Instead, we are currently objectifying ourselves in another respect - and indeed with great conviction: namely as a body that is infected by viruses.

That is the self-image of people in the new hygienism, which also starts like a great real satire. Woe to you sneezing or coughing on the train! You will be treated like a leper. People meet today to show that they can keep a meter and a half away. You march to your table with the mask on, and then you spend a couple of hours without a mask. You sit in the restaurant and the first hour of dinner consists of a discussion about how dangerous it is to be together in closed rooms, but how moral you are at the same time because you have observed all the rules and installed the Corona app yourself . We can currently observe a variety of behavioral anomalies of this kind. I also agree with the Swiss watchmaker, who continues to see himself as a free, responsible, rational being. He doesn't have to go to the sweaty club now, he's wearing a mask, he can work from home for once, but he's not scared to death right away. He doesn't stop being human, but acts cautiously in the face of the dangers of the pandemic.

You have already hinted at it in conversation and explain it in your new book "Moral Progress in Dark Times": There are not only natural and spiritual facts, but also moral facts that apply always and everywhere. First of all: what is it that makes you so sure?

Let's go back to the Swiss watchmaker. You shouldn't rape Ursula - and of course not Otto either. That is morally reprehensible. This is largely undisputed today, but the acts were morally reprehensible even in ancient Athens or Mesopotamia. And you can be sure that sexual exploitation has pissed off some ancient Greeks.

What would your evidence be?

Another thought experiment. There was a kind of prostitution in Greek temples that was justified by pseudo-religion. Women were forced to live in the temples and they were abused generously by the Greek elite. The elite found the prima vista quite okay because they got their money's worth. However, if the prostitutes had been asked what they thought of the practice, they would certainly not have all said that that was Apollon's will. These poor people have just been abused.

Slavery was a common practice in ancient Greece. The upper class bourgeoisie kept slaves against their better judgment - and were they hypocrites?

Here, too, we asked the wrong people - for example Aristotle. On the one hand, he hesitates because he sees that the slaves are constantly screaming under the whips. Of course, as a cultivated person, that cannot leave him indifferent. On the other hand, he knows that he can't write in peace without slaves - so they're kind of okay too. But one only had to ask the slaves whether slavery was morally imperative or not, and one would have received a crystal-clear answer.

Let's stick with this thought experiment and take it to the extreme. It could actually be the case that a slave is completely satisfied with his life, provided he has a civilized master who takes care of him - because the slave is thus relieved of the arduous responsibility for his life. Would slavery be okay then?

Slavery means by definition that one is enslaved against one's will, that one's own will is not recognized and taken seriously. What you are citing would be a hierarchical arrangement between two sovereign people, and of course nothing speaks against it in principle, it would not be slavery, but a bizarre other form of dependence. Admittedly, self-inflicted immaturity is not to be recommended, I am an enlightener! One should not be allowed to conclude a contract of underage, even if of course law and morality are not identical.

So can legality and morality be completely separated from each other?

Not complete, but they are not the same. Some time ago the German Ethics Council discussed seriously whether the incest ban should still apply. And there were certainly voices who thought that incest was morally unproblematic. The question is interesting because in the case of incest, most people immediately show an instinctive reluctance, immediately, without further justification, in the sense of: does not work at all. . .

. . . we are finally touching the foundations of our civilization. . .

. . . certainly. I consider incest or cannibalism to be completely clear no-gos and I have no sympathy for softening them up. But what if two mature people do not have these feelings of disgust, i.e. when the grown son wants to sleep with the mother and the mother with the son?

Then one would conclude that something is wrong, therefore a pathology is present.

Only: Is incest immoral even if both are using contraception, if the act satisfies both and if no one is harmed? Even if one tends to believe that there is nothing moral against an incestuous sexual act then, the matter is not fully discussed. Because, in the end, contraception can never be safely regulated and there is always a residual risk, incest remains forbidden from the point of view of its defenders. But even with perfect contraception or infertility, I consider incest to be unacceptable. So it is rightly illegal, although there may be debates about moral status. You see - philosophers do not automatically moralize when they think about morality.

Thinking knows no taboos. How would you, in general terms, define what morality or ethics is?

By ethics I mean the sub-discipline of philosophy that analyzes morality. And morality, in turn, consists of two parts, the moral facts - that is, what is good, bad or neutral - and the ideas about these facts - the value judgments, which can be right or wrong.

To be and ought to function according to the same principle: just as there is right and wrong in epistemology that can be recognized, so is there also good and bad in ethics?

Exactly, and of course still neutral in morality. Moral facts are objective and universal, apply at all times, in all spaces. They can be recognized by people, even if they are not always immediately recognized. And when we recognize a moral fact, we are immediately called upon to act, that is, to do the right thing.

I've never seen it like that before. And how exactly do we know such a moral fact?

For this we have a moral sensorium, which we commonly call conscience. Of course we can be mistaken about moral facts, but we make progress in the knowledge of good as we progress in the knowledge of nature. Ultimately, we act morally when we only do or not do something because we are human - not because we benefit from it or like it.

That makes sense, but at the same time it sounds tautological. What distinguishes humans from other hominids?

The spirit, that is, the ability to lead a life in the light of an idea of ​​who or what one is and should be. Lions don't do anything because they think they are lions. For example, if they eat gazelles, they don't because they think that is what lions do. They don't argue about whether they should be vegetarian, they just eat gazelles. You are what you are. Humans, on the other hand, always act against the background of their self-image - the spirit always has an image of itself and of the position it occupies in the cosmos.

So everyone is a little philosopher?

Inevitably. Man is the philosophical animal. But we are just better and worse philosophers - and some professional philosophers undoubtedly sometimes judge worse than our Swiss watchmaker.

This philosophical person is related to his fellow human beings, to the dead, the living and the still unborn, he is related to all other animals, and he is related to the planet. This is a moral process of knowledge - where do we stand today?

First of all, morality ensures our survival as human beings, because this is how it came about in evolutionary terms. Seen ontologically, man is a social being, a tribal being. Civilization - and society in general - is unthinkable without morality, because it enables cooperation and secures our livelihoods. But at the same time morality is more than that - it enables us to coexist in dignity, freedom and respect for other lives. And it allows us to sacrifice ourselves, for example for freedom, otherwise there would be no democracies today.

Without compassion there is no morality - so it is always about the perspective of others.

Adam Smith spoke of “sympathy” in his magnum opus “The Theory of Moral Sentiments”. We train this openness in social and natural togetherness, it is an eternal learning process - and I am deeply convinced that ultimately what is morally correct is also economically correct. Because those who only make a profit because they pollute the environment, i.e. pollute others, are acting - in the long term - also economically nonsensical. Markets are not immoral, that is what only critics of capitalism of the past and neoliberals who argue in a reductionist way think. Markets are important in order to advance people as moral beings, but only if they - or more precisely: the actors working on them, i.e. the producers and consumers - keep pace with moral knowledge.

But in the long run - as another well-known economist named John Maynard Keynes knew - we are all dead. Will the higher morality disappear with humans?

Morality belongs to the realm of mind-dependent existence - it only exists if there is mind.

How do you mean that exactly? Does morality exist independently of the spirit - or does it only come into being with the emergence of the spirit?

The question is wrongly asked. Because we can only ask because we both have spirit. Moral facts are as real as natural facts, only they depend on how we react to them. The mistake most philosophers have made to this day is to say: If something really exists, then only if it is independent of us. But then the watchmaker immediately comes back into play and asks the counter question: What about us, are we independent of ourselves? Of course not. And yet we exist. Specifically, this means: If there had been spirit a billion years ago, these spirit beings would have had to come to the same conclusions as we did. That is the punch line of the new realism that I am establishing and advocating.

Well. Then finally let us examine and evaluate a few moral facts from a philosophically-enlightened-advanced perspective. I won't make it easy for you. Are you ready?

Go ahead.

Are freeway speed limits good, bad, or neutral?

Neutral.

Art?

Angry.

What why?

Because art in the hands of the wrong people means that we no longer recognize what is morally correct. Plato was right: art is always misused, there is never only good, emancipatory art. Of course, this does not result in a ban on art, but rather a requirement of good taste.

More concrete?

Many people believe, for example, that what has been going on in the White House for several years is something like a season of "House of Cards". And Donald Trump probably thinks so himself. Art leads to a fictionalization of reality - with devastating consequences for our morals.

Literature? It's about identification with protagonists, i.e. empathy, i.e. moral education of people.

I really don't think so. I have no sympathy for Anna Karenina because Anna Karenina doesn't exist. Of course I can believe that I have such feelings, but that would be a delusion.

Veganism?

Neutral - as far as we know today.

Why not good?

Because we know too little about plants. Veganism is not good per se, because not eating meat also creates environmental and other costs. That is mostly forgotten. Also, what if the plants have a rudimentary form of consciousness? What if the broccoli hurts to be plucked and devoured?

Democracy?

Well.

Monarchy?

Angry.

Competition?

Well.

A donation to the Greens?

Neutral.

A donation to the FDP?

Neutral.

Soft Drugs Legalization?

Well.

Hard drugs legalization?

Neutral.

Anal sex?

Neutral.

Consumption of pornography?

That depends on how it was produced. Youporn tends to be angry because salaries are paid that are too bad and a lot is certainly shot with brutal forced prostitution. But if a good, sustainable porn company makes a film - neutrally.

The Christian faith.

Neutral.

Have children?

Neutral.

Artificial intelligence.

Angry.

Why?

Unregulated, this is a pure manipulation machine. It undermines the self-image of people as a free, spiritual being - with consequences that cannot be foreseen today. We have to regulate this immediately, then things will look different.

Social networks?

Angry.

Read a book by Markus Gabriel?

Well, of course.

A prolific and popular philosopher

rs. Markus Gabriel is 40 years old and has a work to show that could lead to the thought that he is already 80. The Bonn philosopher is not only an extremely productive but also a genuinely original thinker who is on an equal footing with the classics. You could say: Gabriel is the new, ingenious Schelling who has everything in mind. He has been working on putting philosophy on a new foundation for a decade.

He has just presented two new books, one ("Moral Progress in Dark Times") of a more popular philosophical type, the second ("Fictions") with a highly philosophical foundation.

Gabriel is first working on a new moral realism. He describes humans as a morally capable animal, which is characterized by the fact that it is able to act through insight into good (or bad). The good can be recognized - and it is precisely in the concept of moral facts that the sting of Gabriel's new foundation of human morality lies: They are as objective as they are universal. Moral (and epistemic) truth and reality do not divide people, but rather unite them. But this requires a sufficient theory of human subjectivity.

Gabriel provides approaches to such a theory in his second major work. Against cultural relativism in the humanities and scientific reductionism, he insists on the factuality of the human mind. He defines it as the «ability to self-image» and understands it as the unavoidable real that man must always assume, even when he tries to deny it. And this spirit has a self-shaping power that man notoriously underestimates - with the punchline: Depending on how we understand and locate ourselves, we are (read: this is how we act) too. This shows a neo-existential note in Gabriel's philosophy, which is likely to cause a sensation.

Markus Gabriel: “Moral progress in dark times”, 368 p., Ullstein 2020, and “Fiktionen”, 636 p., Suhrkamp 2020.