The Transcendence of Morality

Philip J. Kain

in Marx and Ethics

Published in print March 1991 | ISBN: 9780198239321
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191679896 | DOI:

Series: Clarendon Paperbacks

The Transcendence of Morality

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Karl Marx believed that bourgeois morality and its concepts of freedom, equality, and justice are based upon, derive from, and express the alienated surface appearance of capitalist society. The concepts of freedom, equality, and justice proper to proletarian morality, on the other hand, derive from the scientific study of the essence of society (which contradicts surface appearance), and science allows for the beginnings of a new, higher morality. In the ‘Critique of the Gotha Program’, Marx examines several models of distributive justice and argues that the present day distribution of the proceeds of labour is the only fair distribution on the basis of the present day capitalist mode of production. He holds that legal relations arise from economic ones and denies that the former can regulate the latter. This chapter explores Marx's transcendence of morality by considering an aspect of his distinction between essence and appearance. It claims that there is no ongoing contradiction between science and ethics in Marx's thought, as the contradiction theorists argue.

Keywords: Karl Marx; ethics; morality; freedom; equality; justice; capitalism; essence; appearance

Chapter.  12393 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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