04 July, 2008

on the edge

Morality is linked with liberty, that’s the main argument of my girl friend’s recent post on her blog. To strengthen the argument, she pointed out some examples from day-to-day activities which can be categorised as ‘wrong’ or ‘immoral’. Despite mentioning the reason why such acts can be considered ‘wrong’ or ‘immoral’, the argument still appears fairly commonsensical to me, therefore, is worth of question.

In an ideal world, moral authority is supposed to be built on a mutual understanding and common interests. That is to say that one party can not claim to have the ultimate moral authority because, say for example, their set of rules ‘originated’ from the omnipotent, thus, leaving them uncontested and unquestionable. What is considered to be the truth, therefore, has to be based on the shared view – if some people do not share the same view, truth can not be imposed.

In the world we live in, manufacturing consent is an ambitious task, therefore leaving us in a fuzzy realm how to justify right or wrong. It even applies on a daily basis. Stealing can be considered ‘wrong’ or ‘immoral’ because it infringes someone’s right to property, but how can you justify stealing is wrong if a person is stealing a loaf of bread to survive? How about to accidentally murder someone as a self-defense reaction? Things can not be viewed as pure black and white. Even in some ‘heavy’ cases like mass murder, rape, or child abuse, where the verdict from a common sense viewpoint is nothing but ‘wrong’ or ‘immoral’, you can still argue that these cases could have remained undecided (say a person who committed mass murder has a history of schizophrenia). Even if opposing the argument would make me look inhuman and ruthless, so be it, because to me the key is reasoning and contextual.

Don’t get me wrong, as I do not oppose the idea of having a set of morality to follow. It is as a matter of fact a profound idea. However, blatantly following a certain premise to judge a phenomenon without taking any consideration of its broader context is plain absurd to me, even if this was meant to answer the inquiry refusing a prescribed set of morals from religions.

(I am so hungry now. Thinking is a heavy sport and energy consuming)

Oh, and I am still spiritually lost.


Lu said...

Of course circumstances need to be taken into consideration. If someone kills someone then the act can only be considered wrong if the circumstances are known. A soldier killing another soldier for example is not "immoral" - soldiers are trained to kill and being killed by another soldier is part of the job (as sad as this may be). Murder means deliberately killing someone and so is more likely to be wrong (killing in self-defence isn't classed as murder) but again, everything has a context and this plays a part, whatever the act in question.
I think the idea of negative liberty is useful as a moral guide and it explains why certain acts are wrong, but it is not a detailed set of rules that can be followed blindly, ignoring all circumstances. Sets of "rules" as prescribed in many religions are one of the main reasons I disagree with the religions in the first place. Morality is a complex issue and saying things are just black and white is, as you quite rightly point out, not often very helpful. The principle of negative liberty can, however, be applied in lots of everyday cases, most of which are pretty clear, e.g. dropping litter, being drunken and disorderly in public places, etc. etc. and it seems to be a good place to start when thinking about morality.

Becky said...

What about the thought that every action is rooted with a cause. There is a cause and effect for everything. When you think about this, therefore nothing is really given a choice, never mind a moral choice.

Add a little chaos and there you have the pattern of the world we live in. We will never know whether, when putting ourselves in the exact same position, we would do the same thing, whatever the event. It's a scary thought.

All I know is that when you and I figure the answer to this question, everything will suddenly implode, flip and reassemble itself with a different law of physics.

Lu said...

I think determinism is a highly convenient excuse for doing bad things ("it was my destiny, not my choice") or for doing nothing at all ("if I am supposed to do it, I will") and as such, tend to disagree with it on principle.
With regards doing the same thing all over again - I think if we have hindsight we would often make a different choice, but if not, then our judgement/reaction would be based on exactly the same things as in the first situation so I believe our action would also be the same. I haven't really thought this through though, it is an interesting question...

Becky said...

I am not really taking an deterministic point of view, ie it was destiny or fate so to say. I am more thinking that if someone, given the same situation, the same context,the same background, would decide to do the same thing. A pretty simplistic idea....perhaps.

This is an impossible situation, because with chaos so entwined with everything everyone does, there is never exactly the same set of circumstances. It's so unpredictable and one event creates set a change of reactions that no one could foretell. (Or is this what being pyschic is really...being able to read chain reactions...sorry I am WAY off track here...)

Things can be similar, but circumstances can never ever be truly the same again.

This is more an idea I have been throwing around. How can someone have different levels of moral fibre or be able to be judge it objectively, when they have not experienced the same situation themselves.

Then comes the problematic issue of judging the immoral...or was this the question in the first place?

I am not going to be able to sleep tonight. Thanks Ragil and Lu.