What guides our moral compass? What makes us so sure that something is morally wrong or right?
Morality is what we are suppose to do; what we are ought to do. In religious cultures, holy books and scriptures are filled with moral rules on how we’re suppose to act to align yourself with God. The Quran forbids from killing an innocent, the Torah forbids pork and so on and so forth. Religiosity are felt more strongly in cultures where the community is the central unit and not the individual. Religion is the easy answer to our moral compass. Like many others, I am proud of my own religion and have the opinion of having the superior belief than others. Don’t you? That is something very human. Religion, even my own, is a topic that I ought to leave out though. When I do discuss it, it’s something that I will always try to thread carefully. Abraham Lincoln once said “better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” For now, let’s talk about the individual because the reason I started this blog is to challenge ideas and explore different perspectives of truths. Ultimately, to the best of our abilities, to think philosophically.
Reality is malleable. Reality is alterable and people are persuadable. Glaucon once puts a great question to Socrates. Worded in the popular “would you rather” style: would you rather be an honest person and have everyone believe that you’re a liar or would you rather be a liar but have everyone believe that you’re an honest person? It’s easy to say the former is better than the latter. One can argue that our minds are perfect ‘reasoning devices’ made to find what is to be true despite having to go down as a villain. However, the reality about us is that our minds are less equipped for reasoning than they are for justification. David Hume said “reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions”. Intuitions and emotions rule. We instantaneously react towards our bias (for or against) and investigate for answers not because of the truth but a way to justify of what we have already decided.
Have you ever told someone they’re wrong with a forceful tone? That person senses confrontation and the ‘reasoning devices’ in their heads that works to find the truth, goes to work finding the reason to why you are wrong instead! Human beings are outstandingly adept to finding justifications to our emotions. Let’s use examples to stimulate the brain even more!
Case #1: Vietnam War
Back in the 60’s and 70’s, many were against the Vietnam war. One of them was Noam Chomsky. He gained public attention for his vocal opposition to the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. To summarize, while the U.S. was fighting a war that they categorized as ‘legal’, Chomsky thought otherwise. He strongly believed that the U.S. was ‘illegally’ invading Vietnam. One would argue that the state would have the best of intentions and would guide our moral compass to what is wrong or right. Chomsky challenged this and his reality of what was ‘legal’ was distorted. I read somewhere that patriotism is not necessarily to obey to what the State tells you what is morally correct but instead to uphold principle of what you think the State should see is morally correct.
Case #2: New Shoes
Let me give a more innocuous example: your best friend just bought a new pair of ugly shoes. You should say it looks bad but instead you say it doesn’t because you don’t want to hurt his or her feelings. The moral rule is to don’t tell your best friend that his shoes are ugly. Maybe it’s right to tell your best friend that his or her shoes are unflattering. You value the truth, even if it hurts. Another legitimate moral rule: always be honest.
Case #3: Minions
I just saw the new Minions trailer and it was hilarious. Their experiences with the ‘evil’ Tyrannosaurus, Dracula and Napoleon Bonaparte was utterly ridiculous. But, it made me think. Why do they align themselves with villains? And yet, we love every bit of these cute little creatures. While we can easily hate the Dracula’s and Napoleon’s for being dastardly, we forgive the Minions for following their evil orders. Why do we forgive good looking people or cute little things even when they do something wrong?
Thinking back, perhaps the advantages to being a liar is far more beneficial than being an honest person. Would you think so? Now that we have established the acknowledgement of our intuitive nature to get what we want, we have a better understanding of moral rules. The point of this post is to ask the readers question our everyday moral compass. Our morality is more fluid than we think it is and we see this even through our most mundane actions. There exist flexible realities and fluid moral rules. All of these are real moralities and each foundations are product of millions of years of adaptations. When someone tells you something is wrong or right, question it. The best of people can navigate through sinuous realities. Maybe, we should too?