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Monday, 21 August 2017

Morality?


Some people would say I’m a good person because I’ve never killed anyone. Others would say I’m a bad person because I don’t practice political correctness.

I reject absolutist morality, which claims that there is one universal maxim of ‘goodness’ to be applied to everything. For example: murder is always wrong, lying is always wrong, cheating is always wrong. I fall somewhere between relativism and nihilism. Moral relativism states that morality is subjective and depends on context, so there can never be one objective morality. Moral nihilism states that there is no such thing as morality, as no one’s conception of wrong or right is the same.

Psychopaths are generally nihilists because they don’t care about right or wrong, they only care about sustaining and fulfilling their cause and purpose. Psychopaths carry out deeds in order to help themselves, and don’t care for others. It should be noted that being a nihilist doesn’t make you a bad person. Some adopt a nihilistic view because they feel life has no inherent meaning and it’s easier to accept this or kill yourself.

Most people have some sort of standard for right and wrong. I’m not sure if I view anything as fundamentally wrong or right. At first glance you think; of course murder is wrong. But what about soldiers that kill each other in war? What about killing someone to save the life of someone else? If someone was coming to kill my brother, of course I would kill them first.

My notion of morality is based on choosing between emotion and logic. The above statement comes from a place of emotion; I love my brother, so I would undoubtedly kill for him. Many view abortion as immoral. I view abortion from a place of practicality. If someone is not in the right emotional or financial state to raise a person, logically it doesn’t make sense for them to have the kid in my opinion. Some would say ‘they shouldn’t have gotten pregnant in the first place’ which is illogical to me, because you can’t change the past. Saying ‘you shouldn’t have done it’ is a waste of time and won’t help to advance towards a solution.

What about rape? Surely rape is always wrong? But again, it’s all about context. In the film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the protagonist is raped, and then rapes the man who raped her. Are her actions immoral? If you believe in ‘tit for tat’ maybe you think her actions were justified. If you believe in ‘turn the other cheek’ or ‘forgive and forget’ you may claim her actions were immoral or unnecessary, and made her as bad as him. It’s the same dilemma with capital punishment. Those that are against capital punishment would say that it is wrong to kill a killer because that makes you as bad as them. Another would say that you should get rid of all the bad people because they’re a danger to society and that will abolish crime.

In the anime Death Note, the problems with this thinking are brought to light. The protagonist is able to kill people by writing their names in a magical book of death. He decides to kill criminals in order to rid the world of ‘bad’ people, but in doing so becomes ‘bad’ and mad with power himself. He goes from an ordinary boy into a sociopath.

Hence why part of me believes morality is utterly contextual and almost obsolete. Our standards of morality are all so conflicting that it is hard to tell what right and wrong mean. I try to apply the libertarian view to as much of my life as I can; ‘as long as you aren’t hurting anyone, it’s ok.’ I stopped drinking because it was harming me and emotionally harming those around me. Is an addict a bad person? Are they inherently bad and selfish? Or are they simply ill?

I have a post about why I’m against slut shaming. I don’t see pre-marital sex as 'immoral.' If it involves forcing someone against their will and causes physical or emotional harm to someone else, then it’s bad. I don’t view being ‘slutty’ as good or bad, just as I don’t view abortion as good or bad. Same applies to smoking. Smoking is not ‘immoral.’ But from a logical perspective, it is bad for your health. Same with doing crack. Doing crack or heroin does not make you an inherently bad person. But they have bad affects on you and will cause harm to you and those around you. They may cause you to do ‘bad’ things like steal.

But before you talk about how stealing is wrong, rewind the tape. Why is the person stealing? To fund their addiction. How did they become addicted? Struggles with depression, born into poverty, abusive relationship; father left them. Circumstances mostly out of their control. (I am also a determinist, which adheres to a nihilistic attitude when you realise you’re not really in control of anything). The point of that above statement is that rather than pointing fingers and saying ‘x is wrong’, looking into how x happened and led to y and z will lead to clarification and better understanding.

Morality can best be summed up in this thought experiment:
You’re on a train that won’t stop. Ahead you see two different tracks. On one of the tracks there are five people tied up. On another track there is one person. If you steer the wheel you will only kill the one, but if you do nothing you kill the five. Which is the better thing to do?

I believe, neither. Neither is better or worse. Either way people are still going to die, and if you want to delve deeper you can say everyone dies and maybe it was simply their time. You don’t know anything about the people. The five people could have been serial killers and the one person could have been the person to cure cancer. There is no way of knowing.

To conclude, morality is subjective. There is no way of knowing what is right or wrong because we place our own notions of right and wrong onto every situation we find ourselves in. Our notions of morality come from our experiences, judgment, culture, and the way we’ve been raised. In the UK, being gay is practically celebrated. Back in the 50s you could be murdered for it.

2 comments:

  1. Interesting read. In the USA, our laws try to balance a "moral code" that everyone has agreed on. The constant are the crimes that are illegal (murder, rape, theft) and the flexibility comes in the sentencing which takes such factors into account as intent, circumstance, etc. The best example of this is in murder as we have 1st degree, 2nd degree and 3rd degree which is reliant on whether the person planned the murder or it happened spontaneously and why/how it happened.

    I don't like religious moral codes being pushed on others because they are very biased and rooted in the religion/cult. The law, on the other hand, in a democracy, should be representing the most commonly shared moral values of the members in that society - with everyone getting a voice so there is some justice. Unfortunately for people who are in the minority, they tend not to like this method.

    This is why I think it's so important that people balance their feelings/personal biases with objective truths. Scientifically, people who are gay are born that way and most people cite this recognition as what helped them understand gays and get past their personal feelings. Seeing it from a more scientific perspective made them stand back and realize it was similar to judging people for their race/gender/eye color etc. For those who only looked at it through how they felt about it, the science didn't matter either way.

    We can't appeal to everyone's personal feelings about things but if we can all find some common ground where there IS objectivity and data etc, then I think we would be better off. Too often I see people going for the emotional argument which is ultimately a narrow-minded argument as it can only appeal to those with similar emotions. When people use facts and data in an argument, it has more of a likelihood to appeal to the common sense judgment of most people because it makes sense to be more organic and go "with the tide".

    This is how I try to balance things myself. If I went with how I feel about stuff, my proposals would always be subjective and more limiting as you mentioned. However, if I go with what is true and most logical, my proposals would appeal to more people because they are objective so many people can find common ground there.

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    1. Very well said. I think it's the same in the UK as well though I don't know much about the legal system; like 1st degree murder/manslaughter etc.

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