Friday, September 01, 2017

Objective Morality vs. My Personal Ethics

On Twitter, someone was going on about objective morals.

Sorry, my friend, but there are no such animals.

Morals are determined by the society in which they are formed. And what may be acceptable to one society may be abhorrent to another.

Consider the Yanomami people of the South American rainforests. They practice female infanticide. It's a form of population control. They know that females are the key to a society's population. Simply put, if you have 10 fertile females and 1 fertile male, you can wind up with 10 pregnant females. On the other hand, if you have 1 fertile female and 10 fertile males, you can have no more than 1 pregnant female (this is the same reason that neutering a male cat is far less effective than spaying a female cat).

It's vitally important that they keep their population in check because they have limited resources. Too many mouths to feed threatens the entire tribe.

A larger number of males also means a larger number of warriors because these folks wage war against neighboring tribes the way Americans have barbecues... just something to do on the weekend.

A Yanomami man will let his wife know how much he loves her by smacking her on the head with a small club. The knots on her head are an indication of love and worn as a matter of pride.

To our western sensibilities, these are horrible practices but among the Yanomami, they are a part of their society. They'd see the unchecked reproduction of our society and its effects on the environment as immoral. And a woman with a smooth skull must be unloved.

There is no objective morality.

So that brings me to the subject of ethics.

Ethics are my personal gauge of what is right and wrong. Some of it was imposed from without (societal indoctrination, parental influence, peer pressure, etc.). But at some point, I had to sit and seriously consider what I thought of as right and wrong.

I can't list them all in this space. I'm not sure I can put all of them into words. But here are a few of my ethical guidelines:
  1. Don't hurt anyone unless absolutely necessary and unavoidable.
  2. Don't cheat anyone in business or other dealings.
  3. Speak your mind honestly. 
  4. Consider the feelings and needs of others. Go back to rule 1.
  5. If it doesn't hurt yourself or others, don't worry about it.
  6. Help whenever you can. 
  7. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
  8. The person who raises his voice or his fists has run out of ideas.
  9. Don't be a doormat. Take a stand when necessary and be prepared to show the strength of your convictions.
  10. When making a statement, be prepared to back it up with evidence.
Pretty simple. And I don't need the promise of reward or the threat of punishment to abide by these rules I've established for myself. I do them because I know they reflect how I want others to treat me.

It's called empathy and it doesn't spring from a book, a preacher or a god. It's just what good humans feel towards one another.


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