Relative thoughts on Morality
Morality is relative. Good and Bad do not exist objectively. Most people have a deep-seated aversion to this idea. Many people feel that their sense of Morality is The Moral Law. I find this extremely interesting because, just like religion, one’s morality, more often than not, is an item of pure circumstance. A function of the accident of being born in a particular culture, in a particular geographic region, of a certain ethnic group, and a certain socio-economic class. These are choices infants do not make. Most people never veer from this set of accidental circumstances. Yet, we take pride in these accidents. We take ownership of the mere chance that one was born to a Christian couple, in an intact household, earning $150,000 per year (for example). Or we, take ownership of being born in a land with no trees, almost no work, where the average annual wages for an entire family are less than a laborer in Atlanta’s single pay check. Each yields its own unique set of consequences, morals, opportunities, which we had no part in.
I digress. Surveys of history, cross-cultures, even within different ethnic sets in the same society, will reveal differing moral codes. What are we to make of this? Some have made the case that, while there are variances, basic principles are universal. I would say that this is the case only in the most general sense. Even within the same moral code, morality becomes relative. Murder is bad. But what is murder? Is all killing bad all the time? What if someone was holding a knife to your daughter’s throat? What if there was a really good, higher purpose for them holding that knife? What if you thought someone was threatening another’s life, but after you killed that person, you found out there was no threat? In all these cases, within the same moral code, the answers become relative. Morality is relative. There is no getting around it.
Why then be moral? Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of moral relativity because they feel that people will not be Good without a rigid clearly defined Law. Where did this idea come from, that people need hard directives? It didn’t come from reality. The jails are full of people who were brought up with delineated ideas of Heaven and Hell. In fact, many people serving life terms in the prisons, did what they did, with the clear understanding that it would get them killed, or locked up for life. Hard moral lines did not prevent them from doing it.
Morality is a set of rules derived by men from observing the behaviors of people walking a Righteous Path, and the resultant benefits. Warrior culture has been developing since the beginning of mankind. The Warrior class developed from the nature of early human hunting practices (see my earlier post). As the Warrior class developed and began to come into conflict with the Warrior groups of competing human groups, they had to address the present fact of death and dying. This eventually lead to certain pragmatic mystical concepts which guided behavior of the Warriors. Warrior culture adopted these pragmatic mystical practices based on centuries of trial and error in terms of their objective benefit. As society become more sophisticated with stratified levels of leadership, the idea of codifying these practices as a means of benefiting the larger society developed. But the members of the larger society did not have the objective reality of death to put everything in perspective. Thus the rules of morality became divorced from their pragmatic applications.
Concurrent, leaders realized that they could control the larger society by implementing and conditioning subjects to a moral code. This opened the door for convenient rules that prevented people from disrupting the standing of the ruling classes. For example, rules of morality that defined classes and made ideas of transcending class immoral (an extremely common rule throughout stratified societies).
Thus morality developed from a practical reality of men and women dealing with the ultimate reality, to an abstract set of rules for an entire society, to a subtle, but powerful means for ruling classes to solidify their power.
Comfortable or Uncomfortable? Warrior or not?