Friday, March 6, 2009

What Is Moral?

What is moral? What is immoral? Is morality relevant to different cultures or people? Do we have an obligation to be moral? Is there morality?

For example, there is an accepted practice among Eskimos to leave their children in snow for a period of time so that only the strongest will survive, because there isn't enough resources, such as food, for everybody. This same practice would also be condemned in the Western world.

There are certain generally accepted principles in our society that people believe in, such as:

Stealing is wrong.
Killing is wrong.
Lying is wrong.

Most people believe this is so without questioning their validity. Most people also believe there are exceptions. But I don't know of many people who seriously consider the reasons behind those statements. But I ask why are these things wrong? Or, more fundamentally, what standards should be used to assess the righteousness of an action?

The people whom I asked "why is stealing wrong" laughed, shook their head, and said that stealing is simply wrong, and there is no excuse for it. "But why," I asked again, at which point they got angry and tried to change the topic.

I agree with Aristotle in that "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." So humor me. I'm not trying to play Devil's Advocate to annoy you, but because these--and many other--"obvious" statements have not been properly (or at all) explained in my childhood by my parents and other grownups. So I really, seriously, want to doubt, to find out. The idea of living my life in ignorance is a really disturbing one.

People hold so many beliefs which they can not--or do not want to--justify. Maybe it's because they're afraid of the consequences of finding otherwise from what they previously thought. Maybe they're just really confident in their belief, for whatever reason, and think it's a waste of time reconsidering it... But to honestly evaluate all our beliefs would take so much time, it is so much easier to just accept what seems right to us, what our peers and those in power tell us, and to dismiss any challenges to these beliefs.

Well, what's wrong with that? What's wrong with what? Where was I? Fuck, I'm tired of thinking.

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