The Basis of Individual and Social Ethics
Now let us see what comprise spiritual goals or values. Are they real or only suggestions to deceive simpletons? Why are they considered of much higher worth than material values?
What is a value after all? When a person performs a task willingly, it is for a purpose, a purpose which is important to him, whether it is material or spiritual. It means that that purpose has an interest for him, otherwise he would never follow it. It is said that absolute purposelessness or futility is impossible.
From a material viewpoint, it is obvious that I will be drawn to whatever is useful for me and for the continuation of my life; for, I am naturally attached to my life instinctively. The word value can be used for material things, as well as spiritual ones. A physician can have value for me. So has medicine.
Material things are in reality physical or required for the body; exercise is also needed for the body, though it is not a substance. SO! food and exercise have value for us. Being charitable to others may have no material benefit for the doer; similarly serving society and the next generation may only be good deeds, but what are their values to him who serves?
A person makes a great effort to serve in an educational organization for the sake of the next generation, and receives no profit, and may even lose his time and the possibility of having a higher income, How should we regard this matter spiritually?
Spiritual matters are very important in human life. The question may be asked whether spirituality is confined to the faith in God, or whether it is possible to have no such faith and yet have a number of spiritual values to govern human life.
Sartre in his book on "Genuineness of Man" quotes this sentence of Dostoevsky: "If there were no God, everything would be permissible." This means that goodness and badness, truth and falsehood, treason and service all depend on whether we believe in God or not, If we have no such belief, then there will be no barrier, and everything is allowed. Is this true or not?
There is one thing peculiar to Marxists that, as materialists, they claim that they have nothing to do with spirituality, or humanity, and if they refer to sound humanism, they imply a classless society, According to them men are either sound or deficient, and their defects arise from private ownership of property and socio-economic class differences. Once these differences are removed, human beings return to their previous state of soundness. They believe in no other perfection for man and no other progress or evolution.
What about recent schools of thought like Sartre's, which are materialistic and yet believe in spiritual values like humanism, and speak of human responsibility? On the one hand they believe man to be free from any divine sovereignty, or rule of nature, and his will does not by any means depend on the past, It is man who builds himself up, not environment, or destiny or God; so he is responsible for himself, Therefore any act chosen and done by him, must be good. In this way he makes himself a model for others to imitate, and to this extent he is responsible for the conduct of others, too.
Now let us see what this responsibility is and what it means, It is a spiritual matter, not a material one, In a materialistic school they may say, a human being has a conscience which answers questions of responsibility If they believed that man has two personalities, an animal one and a human one, when he commits an offence, the former is chastised by the latter, That would be something But they deny the existence of conscience. So, where is the root of responsibility?