The Basis of Individual and Social Ethics
In any case they believe in responsibility, and that is a spiritual matter. They say: "1 am responsible before mankind and before the next generation. What does that mean? They belong to a materialistic school, and yet they want to build up humanism (or spirituality) and make men submit to it, They cherish this idea, but minus God. Sartre even says: "If God enters all this, then there exists no spirituality, for, the basis of it all is human liberty, and God's presence means lack of liberty, and thus responsibility without liberty of choice is meaningless.
Someone may say: "What prevents us from believing in spirituality without belief in God? For, there is a conscience inherent in man ' s nature, which enables him to enjoy good deeds, and abhor wicked acts. He performs good deeds not for the sake of material benefits, but simply because he enjoys doing do, as he enjoys knowledge of history or geography etc., the only profit of which for him is a greater awareness. Similarly, ethical matters give him pleasure." Epicurus, the Greek philosopher, supports this idea. Omar Khayyam, too, is said to believe in it. Hence Epicurism was applied later on to every type of pleasure-seeking unconcern. But it is claimed that in his real school, Epicurus also believed in spiritual pleasures which were more lasting and more easily secured. Love of beauty flowers, birds, songs, etc. is another example of pleasure without having any material benefit, but giving the spirit some enjoyment.
All those remarks may be true to some extent, but they involve two limitations. Firstly, man's conscience may not be sufficiently identifiable in depth to provide a basis for a school of thought. If a human being does something only for pleasure, it is only as far as the border of death or successive imprisonment, and within the field of diversion, but not in the form of profound needs which are identified by a school of thought. No one is ready to give his life for flowers in his garden. He wants to be alive to enjoy them. Helping others gives pleasure, but no one is willing to die for it.
So, it is true that one enjoys good deeds in the depth of his conscience, and the Qur'an, too, recognises this. However, even conscientiousness does not provide a basis for a school of thought. It requires a much deeper faith. So, if someone says that Imam Husain (a) came to Karbala and offered his own life and those of his young followers, as a way of merely satisfying his urge to serve people, this is not a true judgment. This is because he was evidently motivated by not only his conscientiousness, but his deeper faith.
If there is no God and no order of objectiveness, and no intrinsic connection between man and things, should we not say that there is an error in nature? Schoepenhauer says: "Nature, in order to mislead people and send them after its own purpose, offers them pleasures." For example, nature desires the survival of creatures. If it orders a man to marry and work to support his wife and children, an intelligent man would not do so. But nature deceives him in such a way that he willingly seeks marriage In any case every pleasure is based on a need. We eat because our nature requires that substance, and drink and sleep for a similar reason. If we had no need, we would not resort to them.
The reason for material enjoyments is clear, but what about spiritual pleasures? If I watch an orphan feed, why should I be pleased? It has nothing to do with me, and so this pleasure is futile, for, there is no basic wisdom in it. But if we believe in an inter-relationship in world order and in a creation based on wisdom, then we consider all human beings as fellow-members of a single community, who seek the pleasure of witnessing others' wellbeing. This is so because we follow a true principle in creation. But if this pleasure is accidental and only due to one's natural make-up, again it would be futile, since it lacks a natural objective, Therefore, while we believe in a moral conscience and claim that men naturally benefit by good deeds and lose by evil ones, again our actions would be futile without a belief in God and in the goal of creation.
When we believe in a moral conscience granted by God to man to attain a goal, then an orphan and an old woman and myself will be considered fellow- members of an organization and parts of a general plan. Thus, we follow a divine will and wisdom and try to attain that goal. Then nothing is futile and everything is real and true.
Therefore every school of thought and every social system needs a number of spiritual ideas; an ideology which is above material values, and is so strong that it becomes sacred. This sacredness may be considered worthy enough by a man to sacrifice his personal life for it.
A school of thought, such as indicated above, is reminiscent of the poet Sa'di :
"The wind and clouds, the sun and the and firmaments are all busy working, So that you may gain a livelihood, and not spend it in negligence,"
It believes in a responsibility for every created thing. Or, as the Qur'an says (31:20): "Do you not see that God tamed for you everything on the earth and in heaven?" Thus, each thing in creation is meant for a purpose, and it performs its task accordingly.
Therefore, man, too, has a responsibility, in an ocean of responsibilities. But a system which considers things to be without an ultimate goal, believes in no responsibility for any creature, but confines it to man. Why this should be so, is not explained.
Ideals are fundamental for every school of thought, in order to give an individual, as well as society, something to work for. And, these ideals are meaningless without a belief in the Creator and His Wisdom manifest in the Creation.