Morality: How it Works
As I have watched discussions on forums and in debates about morals I have made what I think is a unique discovery since I have not yet seen it expressed anywhere else. Since I have watched or listened to hundreds of debates and been involved in studying apologetics which has lead me to study just about every moral explanation I could find, I am really curious to see if I have missed something. As such, please enlighten me if I am simply making an explanation of morality that has already been covered by someone else.
I want to start with a few premises and definitions:
- value: perception of an item, idea, or concept directly related to the work it takes to obtain or maintain it and directly related to the comfort the item brings. The more rare something is, the greater its value. If an item is not rare but difficult to maintain, its perceived value goes up. Capitalism is based on this simple principle.
- benefit: an increase in value.
- harm: a reduction in value. This is not to be confused with pain because a painful thing can be perceived to be beneficial.
- suffering: harmful pain.
Now then, I confess it is extremely difficult to continue and explain how morality works because in doing so I am actually applying the principle I am explaining. The principle is extremely simple at its core, but can lead to such complex nuances so quickly that it is hard for me to focus on the simplicity of the principle and not get caught up in tertiary thought processes. As such, at the end of explaining the principle, I plan on demonstrating the principles validity by showing how writing this paper demonstrates the principle in action. I hope that for most people that will be good evidence I have deeply thought this through.
The human mind processes information to reach conclusions and these conclusions extend in ones mind on a continuum from uncertainty to certainty. Certainty means the individual has no piece of information that contradicts their conclusion. Uncertainty stems from doubt, and doubt stems from information that contradicts the present conclusion.
However, it is important to keep in mind that here is no direct correlation between that which is objectively true and ones certainty level because our knowledge is by nature limited. As such, we could always potentially encounter new information that could alter our certainty level.
Given the accuracy of all of that is stated above, our value system changes regularly. As we gather new information about things in our lives our certainty level about whether those things will cause harm or bring benefit changes. This can occur in jobs, in families, in relationships, and even in our own ideas. Since every person is constantly getting a stream of information from our senses, it is inevitable that our value systems will change over time.
I hope everyone reading can appreciate the depth of this theory and how complex it can get in such a rapid way. The reason for this is that our reception of new information is based on whether we perceive the source of the information to be harmful or beneficial. And we build this perception based on our current set of information. As such, our knowledge about the world builds in a self-referential fashion.
Most of the complexity of increasing intellectual knowledge in the human race extends from this simple principle: we refer to our current value system to inform us as to the value to ascribe to new information.
Morality (as far as I can perceive at this point given my current knowledge) extends entirely from our human ability to ascribe value to the actions and beliefs of perceived persons. Therefore, an immoral person is a person I perceive to be harmful. An immoral action is an action by another person that I perceive to be harmful. An immoral belief is a belief that I perceive to be harmful. [From the latter extends the human conception of blasphemy and heresy.]
All humans do that which they perceive to be the least harmful, therefore all humans are – in their own eyes – doing the most “moral” thing.
As such, we do not have any right to judge our fellow man. All we can do is dialogue with the goal of bringing new information in a trustworthy way so as to potentially change the value system of another man and make their moral inclinations more in line with our own.
From this principle follows the base moral inclinations that all humans can agree upon. Murder is the killing of another man where the perceived value of the other man’s life is greater than the reason for which the man was killed. Lying is the perceived willful dissemination of false information with an intention to harm. Adultery is unfaithfulness to a promised sexual partner, thus causing harm to the person’s trustworthiness. Unfaithfulness is an action that break an expected pattern of behavior, thus causing a reduction in the value of the person’s trustworthiness, thus causing harm. Notice that all of these things are based upon the other man’s perception. This is why all men can agree that murder, adultery, and unfaithfulness are wrong but can disagree so adamantly on whether it is wrong in a particular scenario (e.g. abortion, a comatose partner, or spying).
So then, morality is absolute, but information is limited and value systems differ. As a result, the perception as to whether a moral absolute has been breached is always relative to the individuals current knowledge.
Let me give an example. If I were to say lying is wrong everyone would agree that it is. But everyone would differ on whether it is a lie to tell a falsehood in order to save an individual from hearing about their surprise birthday party. The reason for this is that lying is not just disseminating false information: lying is disseminating false information that could cause a perceived harm. When I was a Christian, I thought all lying was wrong. The reason for this is that I thought that even if no harm was caused to another human, I had – in a way – caused a reduction of my value in the eyes of God. Since the highest valued thing in my life was my reputation with God, I chose not to lie about anything so as to avoid harming my reputation with Him. Therefore, lying was always harmful in my mind no matter what.
This is why theistic systems can result in the strangest displays of morality. Every theistic individual has their own perceived reputation with God that is valued above all other things. By making this reputation with God the highest valued thing, the theist will always do that which they think will cause the least amount of harm in the eyes of their God. As a result, a theist can without a qualm of conscience justify every action if they believe that God desires them to do so, because that action is the action which causes the least amount of harm in their mind.
This is why theism is potentially the most harmful idea. Theism can turn the most debase, strange, and repulsive behavior into good with a simple perception of God’s approval since God’s approval is the highest valued thing.
Haha, does that make sense?
So let’s get back to this post. Why did I write this post? I wrote it because I perceived that in many conversations and human behaviors the lack of this information has caused a perceived reduction in the value of relationships. As such, being a human who seeks to reduce harm in the world, I see disseminating this information as important to changing the value systems of others to achieve the end of a reduction in harm. Therefore, from my perspective writing this post was the most moral thing to do given the current information that I have.
Cheers all! May you understand the world better. I sure hope this is now as simple in your mind as it is in mine… but if not, please ask questions so that I can hopefully communicate the information better. Also, please point out if I had said anything inaccurate or incomplete so that I can update the information contained in this post so that it will not be perceived by anyone as willful dissemination of false information that leads to a perceived harm.
Nobody wants that.
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