The Morality Conundrum: Is Morality Fluid?

Apr 9, 2015 | Mind, Personal Development, Philosophy, Spirit

Today is part three in my series on Misconceived Misconceptions About New Ageism! I’ll touch on philosophy and the various ways people philosophize their morality. 😉

Misconceived Misconceptions About New Ageism

3) There Is No Right And Wrong

A common, widespread misconception is that there is no such thing as right and wrong, and that the concept of right and wrong is “dualistic” and therefore invalid. Furthermore, many who have been convinced that there is no objective right and wrong will often try to convince people (and themselves) that everything is OK.

CORRECTION: This way of thinking is known as moral relativism, and is not only delusional but dangerous. This makes people feel comfortable and justified in failing to take responsibility for their actions (or lack of actions) and the effects that has on others. There most certainly is objective right and wrong, and although we share unity as beings on the same planet or similar spiritual journeys, everything is NOT okay.

We are living in times of great injustice, violence, inequality and preventable suffering. Anyone who tries to convince you that immoral actions can not be proven immoral due to their uncertainty of ‘reality’, or claim that all things that happen are part of a ‘divine plan’ are unfortunately part of the problem.

Morality

It is common for people to twist and re-define what is right and what is wrong based on what is easy for them, what works for them, and what is most comfortable for them. However, right and wrong are not modifiable to your convenience. Immoral actions remain immoral regardless of how you view them.

“There is No Right and Wrong” is the first misconception in this assertion. There is certainly right and wrong. The issue is, what is considered right and wrong tends to vary from person to person, depending on how granular you get.

So let us begin here with the first statement:

“A common, widespread misconception is that there is no such thing as right and wrong, and that the concept of right and wrong is “dualistic” and therefore invalid. Furthermore, many who have been convinced that there is no objective right and wrong will often try to convince people (and themselves) that everything is OK.”

The concept of right and wrong is dualistic. However, the next misconception here occurs a few words later when it is asserted that because it is dualistic, it is invalid. Not so.

We live within a dualistic existence for as long as we’re incarnate, and therefore, dualistic concepts such as right and wrong, good and evil, will always be valid and acknowledged. They exist because we believe they do and we’ve collectively agreed as such. They can’t be ignored because they exist where we are. However, we can, at the same time, recognize that these things are strictly a result of that duality and broaden our perspective to see past them.

The assertion that moral relativism is delusional is, well, delusional. lol

“Moral relativism is the view that moral judgments are true or false only relative to some particular standpoint (for instance, that of a culture or a historical period) and that no standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others.”

In reality, moral relativism is just about the only logical way to account for the differences in morals that individuals and cultures hold.

Example: In the Bible (the guidelines for morality for the majority of people on earth), slavery was perfectly acceptable, and yet today it is considered immoral. Times changed. People changed. As did their views on morality. Most people base their morals on either their religious predispositions or philosophical ones.

Interestingly enough, the author suggests that morality is objective, rather than subjective. But even Ayn Rand’s definition of Objective Morality differs starkly from what is stated as moral according to the chart.

“Objectivism’s central tenets are that reality exists independently of consciousness, that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception, that one can attain objective knowledge from perception through the process of concept formation and inductive logic, that the proper moral purpose of one’s life is the pursuit of one’s own happiness (rational self-interest), that the only social system consistent with this morality is one that displays full respect for individual rights embodied in laissez-faire capitalism, and that the role of art in human life is to transform humans’ metaphysical ideas by selective reproduction of reality into a physical form—a work of art—that one can comprehend and to which one can respond emotionally.”

According to the author’s definition, actions that are truly moral do not result in the harm of another. But how do we define that? In Rand’s version of Objective Morality, rational self-interest is considered moral and capitalism is the system of choice, and yet we know, today, that materialism and rampant capitalism results in harm to the earth, it’s resources, it’s animals, plants and harm to people, albeit that harm is so far removed most people barely think about it – such as the child labor and slave wages used to create certain goods.

Clearly the author’s version objective morality would say that Rand’s version of objective morality is actually immoral.

“Proponents of Objective Morality theory would argue that a statement like “Murder is wrong” can be as objectively true as “1 + 1 = 2.” Most of the time, the alleged source is God, or the Kantian Categorical Imperative; arguably, no objective source of morality has ever been confirmed, nor have any a priori proofs been offered to the effect that morality is anything other than subjective.

The moral principles that people claim to be “objective” usually coincide very well with what they feel subjectively to be true. When pressed to provide justification, the person in question will usually just fail to understand that morality might not be objective, and might consequently grow increasingly doubtful or hysterical as the subjective bases of their arguments are progressively revealed, as has been observed in recent times.”

As you can imagine, right and wrong are not so black white, even under the author’s own moral code. It’s virtually impossible to live a modern life that is not resultant in harm of another – be it human, animal, or plant, for all of these beings have consciousness and all of their lives are of equal value. By cause and effect alone, your actions will result in the harm of another, at the very least on an emotional level, at some point during your life. This standard of morality is virtually impossible to uphold in a human incarnation.

Here’s an example of how sticky this gets: Humane euthanasia. If we are not to harm others, then we are not to aid in self-harm, nor are we to administer anything that would cause harm, even if the individual in question is suffering beyond measure. Is this an exception to the rule? Or are we saying this is “moral” because we are twisting morality to suite our needs?  Self-defense would also fall under this category. Should we not defend our lives because it is immoral?

Fredrich Nietzsche has a slightly different view on morality that incorporates elements of Rand’s philosophy (self-interest) with the acknowledgement that morality is indeed, fluid:

“In any population, you are going to have a group of people who are more talented/gifted/intelligent than average. Let’s call them The Strong. You are also going to have a group of people who are less talented/gifted/intelligent than average. Let’s call them The Weak.

The Strong will naturally accrue the power in society for no other reason than they are more capable and talented than the others.

Because The Strong won their greater power and influence through outsmarting or outperforming others, they will come to adopt ethical beliefs that justify their position: that might makes right, that they are entitled to their privileged position, that they earned what is theirs. Nietzsche calls this “Master Morality.”

Because The Weak lost their power and influence by being outsmarted and outperformed, they will come to adopt ethical beliefs that justify their position: that people deserve aid and charity, that one should give away one’s possessions to the less fortunate, that you should live for others and not yourself. Nietzsche calls this “Slave Morality.”

Master/Slave Moralities have been in a kind of tension in every society for all of recorded history. Many political/social conflicts are side effects of the struggle between Master and Slave Moralities.

Nietzsche believed that the ideas of guilt, punishment and a “bad conscience” are all culturally constructed and used by The Weak to chip away at the dominance and power of The Strong. He also believed that Slave Morality is just as capable of corrupting and oppressing a society as Master Morality. He used Christianity as his primary example of this.

Nietzsche believed that Slave Morality stifled man’s greatest characteristics: creativity, innovation, ambition, and even happiness itself.” [via Mark Manson]

As you can see, there are a lot of different views about what morality is, and all of them make very valid points.

This makes people feel comfortable and justified in failing to take responsibility for their actions (or lack of actions) and the effects that has on others. There most certainly is objective right and wrong, and although we share unity as beings on the same planet or similar spiritual journeys, everything is NOT okay.

And herein lies the faulty logic. The assumption that just because someone acknowledges that there is no objective right or wrong, that they will immediately throw their own morals into the dumpster and begin engaging in hedonistic behavior.

We collectively agree on some moral aspects in order to create a functioning society, but that doesn’t mean that those aspects stand independent of ourselves and our own points of view.

Personally, I find that knowing that morality is utterly dependent on the individual person and their individual situation helps us to better understand that person’s perspective and their motivations for taking the actions that they did. It gives us the opportunity to be compassionate and forgiving, rather than acting like judgmental assholes, which is kind of a big part of being spiritual, eh?

If we must use any sort of guiding compass, my suggestion would be to always (at least try to) act from a place of unconditional love, and don’t worry about whether or not that choice is considered “right” or “wrong”, because morality, like everything else, is a product of what is within you, and it evolves right along with you.

Part 1  |  Part 2  |  Part 3

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2 Comments

  1. “Natural law” is a contradiction in terms. Law is a set of rules composed by humans.

    If you mean “laws of physics”, these are impossible to violate so don’t have a place in the discussion of morality.

    Reply
    • I suppose that depends on the meaning behind the usage of law. If it is meant in terms of scientific principles, then there are certainly natural laws which are observable beyond just physics. Do they have a place in the morality discussion? I think they do, however, they support the argument for moral fluency, so her inclusion of “natural law” in it’s current context is counterproductive to her argument.

      Reply

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