Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Morality by Aphorisms

Dr Shermer posted a blog yesterday on the Ask-First principle, his take on the Golden Rule. He thinks one should go beyond just "do unto others," because sometimes the "others" wouldn't want to be done unto like you would. The Ask-First principle is that you should ask yourself, will the recipient of this action like it as much as I would? Said another way, don't do things to people you wouldn't want them to do to you.

Now while I agree we do have some moral obligations to one another, and of course its in every one's best interest to live utilizing the highest moral principles one has understanding of, lately I'm finding essays like this tiring. I'm tired of moral aphorisms.

I'm tired of thinking about every little thing I do or say... and according to what I've learned from Dr S, I shouldn't have to.

Every action we do either affects someone, or is dealing with how someone has affected us, (and oftentimes both). Our actions are driven by our beliefs, and our beliefs are driven by the patterns we draw --the values we learn-- from our experiences. So if we're driven by the patterns, and we're relatively intelligent, our guts should do the moralizing for us.

All opinion is subjective: there is no objective morality. So to make these rules for morality is nothing but mental exercise, intellectual masturbation. One must work from one's own experience base when making decisions. The patterns, not the aphorisms will always win out.

That being said, we are the animals that have knowledge of good & evil, we experience both. We find ourselves alive, and with the right to do anything no one else can stop us from doing. While we know that our actions have consequences, we are free to do as we chose.

As social animals, we've evolved to instinctively know that we should do good by one another. We generally, unconsciously, don't do what we know to be wrong. If we do something we know is wrong --that will have negative impacts on ourselves or others -- most people feel guilty, like they're accruing a debt to society that sooner or later will be paid back.

As Dr S's blog, Catch 22, the book of Genesis & the law of karma show, the sticky-wicket is knowledge. If we don't know an act is wrong, and we do it, and the consequences of our actions do indeed have a negative effect on ourselves or another, then we learn a new pattern. We learn something about our environment from which we can make predictions that will aid in our (in this case, social) survival, and that's a good thing. That's natural selection in action.

Therefore its crucial to our personal evolution that we sometimes experience evil. I'm done pre-analyzing every thought I want to verbalize. Sometimes the lines you let rip are "wrong" and yet are just what that person needs to hear. One might even say that taking on the challenge of saying the "wrong" thing at the "right" moment is far more noble a deed than taking the moral high-road as it will give the other person reason to stop and think. If the unexamined life is not worth living, being a bitch once in a while might just save some one from intellectual death.

This is what I'm going to call the Suzy Brown principle: sometimes you have to be bad just so you know you're alive.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Well, well — I'd say you're reminded you're alive quite often! ;-)

  3. Ah-ha! You STOLE 'your' principle from a TV show! That's 'BAD'!

    ... he said "people got to be reminded that the world is an unpredictable place, and that chaos is always there, lurking just beyond the horizon." And then he told me something I'll never forget. He said "Ed, sometimes you gotta do something bad just to know you're alive."