Morality

Morals are actions that prioritize serving individual beings and social groups over things, though how much and who is a constantly debated question.

Context

Moral decisions are always a connection between several elements:

  1. Decider – Someone who makes the agency of choice upon the matter.
  2. Subject – Someone else who experiences the consequences of that choice, though it may sometimes be the Decider.
  3. Decision – The action itself. In the case of thought experiments, those decisions are usually magnified by technology.
  4. Motive – The reason for the Decider’s decision.
  5. Consequences – what ultimately happens from the decision.
  6. Authority – you, me, and anyone else observing or imagining the experience, as well as any standard of rules that dictate which of the above are most important.

Since moral decisions have at least 6 moving parts, they’re always complicated, though principle-based morality is generally simpler because it generally removes the consequences from consideration.

Large moral decisions are conscious, but most moral decisions are unconscious habits. Ethics is strictly morality about the near-recent past, often driven by animal impulse and principles, with consequences that materialized in the present already.

Our moral decisions are either drawing from the past (non-consequentialism) or calculating the consequences of the action (consequentialism). If we have any preconceived thoughts before even hearing about the situation, we have principles.

Basis

Depending on the philosophy of the perceiver, the goodness of the action resides in the decision, motive, or consequences:

  • Goodness in the motive is driven by a belief that virtue holds the most value.
  • Goodness in the decision is from believing that we have little control over our actions.
  • Goodness in consequences is from a belief that goodness and results are directly connected. This can get extremely complicated because of how unpredictable things are!

People can often justify their moral decisions as good when they’re, in effect, operating on merely fear. Often, people who perform evil or criminal activities feel they’re forced to do it because of the situation.

Morality must have a basis for its actions. There are some things that can’t define morality:

  • Individual choice – Otherwise, murder is perfectly fine because people choose it. Claiming people are victims of their choice to murder is silly, but a good political move.
  • Justice – Morality determines the basis of laws and justice, not the other way around.
  • Group decisions or the collective of humanity – If that were the case, Nazi Germany would have the moral right to do what they did. Power may magnify morality, but can’t define it.

As a general concept, we are all born with a conscience that maintains a semblance of morality. Based on our upbringing, culturally imposed standards will at least partially program our conscience.

In practice, morality can only exist as a reference to whatever authority formed us. In whatever case, we must submit to that authority and are morally enslaved to that construct:

  • If Islam is true, jihad has its time and place.
  • If Christianity is true, everyone must renounce their ego.
  • If atheism is true, the preservation of the most fit of our species is ideal.
  • If pantheism, of any type, is true, then self-happiness is the greatest achievement.

Many post-moderns and Leftists claim that reality itself is nebulous and, thus, morality is entirely relative. At the same time, they claim that value as an absolute. To say “all moral values are relative” is an absolute value. To live by it is moral absolutism.

In practice, most people want moral relativism to justify their views as a type of “live and let live” approach. If people were being really honest with themselves, they’re using reasoning to justify and hide their fear of moral consequences.

Virtue

We must learn virtue because thinking about others doesn’t come naturally. On the other end, we don’t need to learn evil because self-interest is an unavoidable part of who we are.

A virtue is a trained habit of making decisions grounded in love for others, not merely as a single decision. This habit naturally expresses itself through our intuitions.

Without love for others, any principle by itself will veer into excess, typically expressed as either harshness or paternalism.

Some virtues stand alone as states of being:

Some virtues are responses to conflicts:

  • Bravery/Courage – stands against opposition
  • Persistence/Perseverance – maintains a purpose faithfully with little or no outside support
  • Integrity – holds fast to important values no matter what

Some virtues are strictly products of the mind:

Some virtues come through how we see things:

Some virtues tie to our relationships with others:

A few virtues are a “middle ground”:

  • Prudence/meekness – makes decisions carefully, even when it’s possible to indulge a bad decision
  • Self-regulation/patience – holds back from excess, even when we feel compelled to act

Intuition

We already naturally understand these principles, at least in part. Acting on our principles is far more relevant than simply knowing them. Finding and acting on virtue is the one true usefulness of religion. However, irrespective of religion, we can still discover goodness simply by severe and chronic exposure to evil, similar to seeing a dim light in a very dark room.

Even when we don’t understand virtue directly, we form a selfishly-driven alternate that floats nearby them. We frequently imagine ourselves to be more moral than we really are, and tend to judge ourselves with more grace than others. We usually do this from a deep fear of how terrible we’re really capable of.

Some of the most powerful evil in existence channels virtues and healthy principles toward destructive ends. This is easier than it sounds because many principles are very similar, but convey entirely different implications (e.g., equality versus fairness, wisdom versus knowledge).

The scope of our capacity for ethical behavior comes closely with how well-refined our intuition is about the subject of our decisions. To enhance our ethics, therefore, we must enhance our understanding, especially of the domain beyond this life, and to learn as specifically as possible.

One of the easiest ways to perform immoral actions is to behave kindly to Person A while harming Person B. We’re able to justify our actions by claiming Person B had it coming, and Person A is unlikely to complain. Taken across a large organization, this moral decay is a huge reason bad systems exist.

Many times, entire societies have moved themselves around simply because a few people took a quiet stand against evil. No matter how complicated a situation can get, it’s not hard to tell when a person is unfairly treated, enslaved, or killed without a very good reason.

Humility

With the exception of self-destructive habits, morality always requires other people, meaning we must love others. To reliably love them, we must consider them more frequently than we’re automatically disposed to doing.

However, we also often fear being unloved, so we naturally believe we must stay important to others. To do so, we’ll declare ourselves the “best” at something. That “bestness” is also known as conceit, or the Christian concept of pride.

If something risks outperforming us, we wish (and often try) to outdo them. Our innate talent (of which we were often born with) determines if we succeed.

There are many places we can try to be “best” at:

  • Possessing more power, reputation, strength, intelligence, possessions, or education than someone else.
  • Having less of anyone else of the above.
  • Being more religious or humble than others.

This quest for an object of conceit is a compounding system that extends into further and further niches. However, it’s all for self-promotion, so it has no legitimate virtue.

The opposite of self-conceit is humility, which expresses as a desire for others’ well-being and growth. While some religions carry most of these ideas, some secular creators (e.g., Stephen Covey, Dale Carnegie) express the same idea with different purposes for it.

Humility isn’t a focus on one’s own faults, but more a focus away from oneself onto others. The evidence of a humble lifestyle is someone who makes others feel important without ever thinking of oneself strictly beyond tending to legitimate needs.

The greatest moral hazard to any soul comes through false humility, which involves heavy preoccupation on appearing to consider others’ best interests instead of doing it. A falsely humble person will live a paradoxical life of self-sacrifice for the purpose of gaining reputation and the power that comes with it. Ironically, most outsiders of religious groups think of false humility when they observe a religion.

Conceit has a cure, but requires a few things:

  1. Regard others as equally important to oneself. This requires more work toward others than toward oneself because we don’t know exactly what other people are thinking and feeling.
  2. Never over-identify with anything that attributes to self-importance, especially on how it appears to others.
  3. Accept all other perspectives are equally valid, even when the reasoning isn’t always as sound or is missing apparent portions of reality that other people can plainly see.
  4. Quickly admit failure as it arises, irrespective of what it looks like or implies.

Humility is critical for the good life and a healthy society, but it’s extremely rare in this world for several reasons:

  • Conceited people tend to grab all available power and, therefore, most of everyone’s attention.
  • Giving a humble person power may provoke them to self-conceit and make them a poor role model for others.
  • Even if a humble person received all the power, they’re not always shrewd enough to hold back the evil or conceited people from taking power again.
  • True, complete humility requires complete self-awareness, which is impossible because we keep experiencing things that change us.

Application

Since virtue is a habit, we must very carefully consider what we’re doing. If we’re wrong, we’ll destroy quite a bit before we realize what we’ve been doing.

Good moral education requires people developing an intuition for it, not rote memorization. However, it’s possible that the people who pay the educators don’t want a moral person to change how they do things.

Moral decisions affect everyone differently, depending on their philosophy, but they’re all built on a similar framework tied to our universal wiring and have a relative component based on cultural training.

People always abide by a moralized value system, even if it’s not accurately based on virtue. People who commit immoral actions nearly always feel bad for doing what they had done because they’ve violated their principles (even if the principle was “don’t get caught”).

Self-conceit is often why people specialize their skills and become group leaders.

Most conceited people are severely blind to themselves and don’t realize how silly they look. The only sensible reactions we can have is to be angry at it, ignore it, or have fun with it at their expense.

We tend to justify our moral actions even when we know we’re harming others who don’t deserve it. It may help others imagine that we’re moral, but it doesn’t do anything for our inner wellness.

Living a virtuous life is meaningful in itself, but its evidence will always express itself with others. The only people, therefore, who can tell us if we are living virtuously love us enough to be honest about what they see.

Selflessness can be trained, but it must be sincere. If anyone performs a virtue for someone else, they’re likely trying to gain something from it. Even people trying to please God might be doing it selfishly. The only reason someone should do anything virtuous is because they love others around them.

Loving behavior toward others begins with patience: