27 March 2014 ~ Question of the Day ~ Morality

Who decides what morality is?

Good questions OM and Bhatta,
The OED defines moral as “Relating to the nature and application of the distinction between right and wrong”.
Decide is defined as “To determine (a question, controversy, or cause) by giving the victory to one side or the other”.

So it seems that there are several levels of determination possible.
First one must be willing to admit of the existence of something called “right” and “wrong”, or something similar.
As children, we all start out making simple binary distinctions. The ideas of “right” and “wrong” are a prime example of such a simple binary.
Most of our choices in reality do not present themselves as simple binaries, but as complex situations, with complex chains of consequences stretching into our possible future.
So for most of us, as we age, and gain a deeper understanding of the potential consequences of choices, the simple idea of right and wrong we had as children vanishes. Things get much more complex.

It seems to me, that in so far as the terms “right” and “wrong” retain any shadow of their childhood meaning, then we are each personally responsible for making those choices.
And having said that, there is no doubt that there can be many different levels of social and legal agreement about what is “right” or “wrong”; and that in some societies these external agreements are held as much more important than our own personal determinations. Thus our choices can have consequences at many different levels, and can be judged at many different levels.

And it seems to me that most people do the best they can in the situations they find themselves most of the time.
And based upon that observation, I tend not to worry too much about ideas like morality, and just deal with whatever reality brings my way in the most effective way I can for the benefit of myself and all others.

[followed by]

Hi OM,
You should know by now that I don’t acknowledge any final authority.
Reality comes closer that anything else, and given that my only access to reality is through my unreliable sensory systems, I can’t rely on that absolutely.
All is probabilities.
And I do own the full 23 volume Oxford English Dictionary. It is one of the single greatest repositories of human knowledge.

[followed by]

Hi Kathy,
The problem with your last point is that no two situations are ever entirely identical, and no two individual’s understandings are ever entirely identical, leading logically to the conclusion that any strictly codified set of rules will necessarily lead to suboptimal solutions in some instances, and perhaps even catastrophic for the entire group.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) with reasonable security, tools, resources and degrees of freedom, and reasonable examples of the natural environment; and that is going to demand responsibility from all of us - see
This entry was posted in Philosophy, Question of the Day and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comment and critique welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s