Volume 23, Issue 1, Spring 2018
Anthony Chuwkuebuka Ohaekwusi
Bauman on Moral Blindness
Analyzing the Liquidity in Standards of Moral Valuation
This article analyzes Zygmunt Bauman’s notion of moral blindness against the backdrop of his designation of modern culture as a dynamic process of liquefaction constantly dissolving every paradigm and subject to the flexible and indeterminate power of individual choice. Bauman argued that the social conditions of this radically individualistic liquid modernity result in a kind of moral insensitivity that he calls adiaphorization. Adiaphorization for him places certain human acts outside the “universe of moral obligations.” It defies the entire orthodox theory of the social origins of morality as it reveals that some dehumanizing monstrous atrocities like the holocaust and genocides are not exclusively reserved for monsters, but can be attributable to “frighteningly normal” moral agents. The present text therefore attempts to discuss the various moral implications of Bauman’s analysis of moral blindness, with a view to highlighting its weaknesses. It moves on to explore Bauman’s recourse to Emmanuel Levinas’ ethics of the “face of the Other” as a viable ethical remedy that trumps the uncanny effects of this whole adiaphorization effect. Finally, the paper further advances his call for a rediscovery of the sense of belonging, by appealing to some major insights originating from African traditions of ethical communalism in order to propose a possible route towards the avoidance and amelioration of this moral challenge.