The Beheading of John the Baptist and the categorical imperative
Nun Elisaveta (Senchukova) offers a look at the well-known biblical history from the point of view of Kant. How, like figures in a domino, one meanness brings down the next after itself, and as a result the righteous suffers. And was it possible to change everything?
Benozzo Gozzoli. Salome
Kant's categorical imperative has two formulations. One is better known: "You must always do so that the maxim of your will can become the basis for universal law." In other words: do what you would like all people to do. Another wording does not even need a "translation": "A person can never act as a means, but only as a goal."
The story of the execution of John the Baptist is a story about people who did not understand German classical philosophy. Well, that is, in general, this is the story of one meanness, but if they knew Kant’s words, at least one of them would try to change the current situation.
Here comes the secular reception of a morally unscrupulous king. Everyone knows that he is morally unclean: he took his wife away from his brother. There, of course, the whole family was still there – his dad, Herod the Great, also killed a bunch of people for power. But with him, at least “there was a cult, but there was also a personality”: indeed, the outstanding king, built a lot, correctly solved the problem of hunger. And here – just a depraved and not very clever plebeian who seized power.
It also contains the beginnings of piety. Well, as piety – imagine some official who came to power from banditry, who donates to the temple and even consults with the priest. Even if the priest boldly says to him: “You, Ivan Petrovich, you are walking in vain from your wife and dealing with your competitors – God will punish you”, such a person will sigh heavily: “We are not like that – such a life. Pray, Father, that God will forgive me. ”
About the same story was with Herod. He was very fond of listening to a smart and spiritual person, but he was not going to fulfill his calls at all.
So, a secular reception. The daughter of the owner’s wife is a lovely young talent, a girl or even a girl, possibly in a charming pink dress, comes out and shows her dance art. Here you also need to understand that in the East, women before men dance … well, this is some kind of application. To offer a girl in this way to entertain the guests is not quite decent, if not to say "obscene."
Already here Herod acted, to put it mildly, ugly. Putting a young girl on public display, and obviously not marrying her – this is the use of her stepdaughter as a means of entertainment. If everyone starts doing this (that is, if Herod’s “maximum of will” becomes the “basis for universal legislation”), this is fraught with equating the child with a slave.
But even if we distract ourselves from the cultural context, even if the Salome dance is something like “now Mashenka will stand on a stool and read us a rhyme”, what is happening does not become more decent. Because even if Masha is called to innocently read the poem, the drunken guests of her mother’s roommate, Masha will experience some discomfort. Because it carries a fume, because this man is not even her native, because my mother does not come to the rescue.
Speaking of mom. Apparently, our Mashenka-Salome is not the first time becoming an object of entertainment. This, you know, happens in our time, but usually in completely deserted families, and this, thank God, is a criminal offense. However, who said that the Herod family, mired in debauchery and drunkenness, was not descended? So, Salome on the offer of a drunk stepfather: “Ask what your soul desires!” – doesn’t say “I want a doll” or “I want a new dress” and don’t even “I want a scarlet flower”, but … she goes to her mother. She is not in a position to make a decision.
Mom quickly realizes that with this situation you can fuck. An expensive fur coat in the Middle East is not really needed, diamonds are already there, they have not yet invented new machines … Oh! And we’ll remove the bored holy man! And order me, daughter, the head of this bore of Yochanan!
If Herodias knew of the categorical imperative, she would at least think about whether anyone would ever ask her personal head in the same way. But Kant has not yet been born.
Salome also did not read Kant yet – she does not look at her mother with round eyes and does not ask: “Mom, what are you doing ?!”, although it would be very logical (next time someone will order my head – the girl might have guessed ) She dutifully goes to Herod and passes her mother’s offer.
If Herod was at least a little interested in the fate of the girl, he would at least neatly specify: “Baby, did you come up with this yourself?” But how, he promised, then all the friends got together, they would start laughing. The boy said – the boy did. And if I read Kant, I would understand that it’s not worth chopping off John’s head, for the reasons mentioned above, not listening to her daughter when she’s talking stupidity, or hanging out with friends. Because if we carry out all the stupid things that are required of us, all these promises are drunk, the world will soon plunge into chaos. Sober-mindedness here is perhaps even more important than sobriety in its standard sense, to which this day is dedicated at the state level.
Another detail. Herod promised the talented girl everything she wanted, “even before the kingdom”. But it is not familiar to the ancient king that he paid much more. Man can never be a means – only a goal. John is more expensive than the whole kingdom, not only half (and even such a wretched kingdom, like the misunderstanding that remained to Herod under the control of the Roman Empire).
And finally, the guests. Why, when Herod sends for the executioner, someone doesn’t say: “Bro, you cho, stop it! We understand … ”But with humanism in those days it was somehow not a success, and everyone just laughs at a good joke. Maybe John got them all with his moralizing. Or maybe they don’t know him at all, it’s just for them some kind of criminal on death row. In those days, if you are not a citizen of the Roman Empire, you can easily get on death row.
Yanuarius Tsik. The Beheading of John the Baptist
As for John the Baptist himself, his categorical imperative was written in his heart, but this was an isolated case. He was executed, and we are fasting that day. Such a one-day hunger strike in solidarity with the victim of repression. Not even political, but ethical. As a reminder to himself and the world that a person cannot be a means.
Not only, by the way, a saint – the categorical imperative teaches us to put ourselves in the place of man in general.
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