Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Mortality of Morality

In recent days I have been in cyber discussions around the topic of "morality", including on my own blog. Discussion has ranged in issues including the Canadian Correctional Service, Steroids, War and Politics. Further to this, I explore the issue of morality in my novella, The Peace We Really Seek, whose link can be found on the side bar here to your right. The general consensus is that morality is a contencious and very personal/subjective on one level, but on the other hand it is much like Friedrich Nietzsche wrote in The Gay Science: "Morality is the herd-instinct in individuals."

I guess the question isn't so much "what is morality" as that is defined as the morales one holds in which various matters of ethics, right and wrong are defined. The real question, I believe, is "can there be an absolute morality?" and, more importantly, are human beings, given our subjective nature and social conditioning ever able to truly see this absolute?

Personally, I believe that morality is an integral part of the social contract and necessary for human beings to co-exist somewhat peacfully, but I also believe that morality is utterly and completely a human fabrication. I don't really believe in G(g)od or religion, though somewhat contrary to this I do try to live according to the tennants of Buddhism. Secondly, morality is very much a product of linguistics and cultural perspective. As much as we try to create a black and white version of the world, it still remains several shades of grey. Without creating a set of values and morals, we are very much in danger of returning to the natural state of being described by Thomas Hobbes. In Leviathan Hobbes writes: "During the time men live without a common power to keep them in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man".

It is interesting when one contrasts different takes on morality. I was raised in a Christian-Judeo Western culture in which one practices hetrosexual monogamy, considers killing and suicide wrong, etc., and this is very much how I live my life. Contrast that to 16th Century Japan (I'm just finishing Shogun) where pillowing is a liberally enjoyed pleasure, killing a part of life and seppuku (suicide) desired by many. Are there any true absolutes which can be derrived, or one proven more right than the other?

I'd be interested to hear what folks think about this topic. Is there truly an absolute morality or is morality and its quest merely a subjective direction of the masses?


  • At 10:49 p.m. , Blogger Marie Starr said...

    Hmmm. . .I'd have to say I don't believe in absolutes - absolute truth , absolute good, absolute vodka . . . no, I take that last one back. . . I do believe in absolute vodka - I can go to the store and buy it, mix in in with my oj and peach schnapps and make a very fuzzy navel manifest itself in my greedy little hands. . . but any other absolute is hard to quantify in such a direct way.

    The problem with absolutes of any kind is that there are no certainties in life. I mean, who gets to decide what the right and wrong of a thing is. Even the most (seemingly) harmless morals become nothing more than prisons when we haphazardly apply them to all with no recognition of the individuality of every case, every circumstance, every decision, every person. And even in these cases where the so-called absolutes stand, they are really only absolute as long as the opposite cannot be justified.

    Like with the whole Judeo-Christian bible-based commandments heading it up with Thou Shalt Not Kill, yet the entirety of the religion revolves around such blatant misuse of the "word" as the Crusades, the Inquisitions - the deeming of lands as empty because they held no Christians - of mass genocide and slavery and the burning of witches. All these things found support under a tenant as strong as Christianity - which clearly states Thou Shalt Not Kill. So, no. No absolutes. Unless we're talking about vodka - and then I might be persuaded.

    good question Real-E. . .Namaste

  • At 6:42 a.m. , Blogger Real-E said...

    Thanks for your comments Marie!

    "Thou shalt not kill" is an excellent example. Again, what can be taken as an absolute from the Christian perspective is more grey than black and white. There are blatant contradictions of this Commandment, as you state with the Crusades or Inquisition. Those aside, this Commandment appears to pertain to murder. However, one might ask, could this mean we shouldn't kill to eat- animal or plant? Can we kill in self-defence? Jesus teaches "love thy enemy", but if it is a case of "kill or be killed" are we justified in doing so? What about showering - that's killing bacteria! There are some Buddhist monks who walk with small brooms to whisk away bugs in their path so as to not step on them - not Christians, but adhering stringently to this Commandment... think I'd better nip in to my wife's bottle of Absolute Vodka!!!

  • At 12:27 p.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    From a believer in the "Absolute" of God the person, please refer back to your Aquinas. From nothing would come nothing. From One, everything. Not to judge, but to experience, yet exercise discretion. No Person, no persons, no maorals. From a personal point of view the Absolute is far away and at the same time immanent, present. The morals about killing seem contradictory if, it seems, God kills AND creates. For those who think they must kill for God's sake, why believe God cannot do the killing without you? Wait peacefully for clearer instructions, please. I choose not to kill, use the lash, sodomize or drink rum until I get a written order from God, maybe typed. My eyesight is worsening.
    So, time away from discipline leads to rambling jack-state-of-mind. Last saw Rambling Jack he was too drunk to play, so we went to the car and got a bottle and became too drunk to listen. 1976!

  • At 9:44 a.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Has anyone here actually read the bible? As for the Crusades or Inquisition, where in the bible did it say go and convert and kill if they don't. Spreading the gospel has always been about free will, that's clearly in the Bible. The Bible says follow me, but you don't have to, and if they outcome is bad then deal with it. Inmates make awful choices all the time, even when there are expressed written rules against doing so, and even when they know the outcome will be bad. Kind of like the bible and the human race. What I find interesting is that if humans were actually to follow the commandments then there would be no discussions of "Thou shalt not kill", and under what circumstances could you do so. However, we don't live in a perfect world and Jesus understood that religion and the state did not always mix. In Mathew 22. he said "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." Although he was referring to the Jews paying taxes to the Romans I think that applies to most written secular laws. If you kill and it's the law of the land says that you are subject to capital punishment, you knew that going in, so suck it up. If the law says gays can marry then great let them marry, if you are not gay then I guess that doesn't apply to you, so don't worry about it. If the law requires you to do something contrary to your belief system then you take a stand. Like Marriage Commissionaires who choose to quit. That's call sacrifice for your faith.

    I think the Bible is a fairly simple book, but we make it complicated because it's much too difficult to live your life in black and white because grey gives you a lot more leeway to do as you please, then justify it. Truth is absolute, but can you imagine the self sacrifice, too difficult, so say that truth is flexible, that's easier to live with. People use the Bible for all sorts of things, but the one thing they forget is that the Bible should be used as a guide for your own life, not for you to tell others what to do, because they can read it for themselves, and can choose to believe or not.

    Is the word morality ever used in the bibe? I would say not, it's a social creation based upon the flexible truth of the group in power.

  • At 5:12 p.m. , Blogger Real-E said...

    I've read the Bible and studied parts of it, but am far from being an authority on the subject. I agree with Anonymous in his/her approach to the Bible and wish more folks would approach it in such a manner.

    I guess my problem with the Bible lies in the fact that it is comprised of several books written by men and translated by other men, many of whom had political agendas. The tone between the Old and New Testaments also seems contradictory at times, going from harsh re-percussions to turning the other cheek. I do like the comments that you have made regarding how to approach several contenscious issues.

    Would morality not be a Biblical issue in that it often talks of things that are "immoral" and "sinful"?

  • At 6:27 p.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Pople often confuse Moses Law (an eye for and eye), with the 10 Commandment law, but they are very different. Moses' law was the temporary, ceremonial law of the Old Testament. It regulated the priesthood, sacrifices, rituals, meat and drink offerings, etc. The turn the other cheek (found in the New Testement)is not a commandment either. The bible says here are 10 commands don't break them, the way morality is used says here are 10 commands, and this is the way our group says you keep them.

  • At 7:00 p.m. , Blogger Real-E said...

    I understand that the Bible is largely a history book with allegories, etc. So are you saying that the 10 Commandments are, ultimately, Christian doctrine condensed and representative of the entire body of the religion?

    A major part has to do with believing in God - how does that happen? I often look, see beauty and the miracle of creation, but can't make that leap say that beauty and miracle is God. In an earlier blog entry I wrote an article on the Psychology of the Theist (see my December or November archive). I've read lots of stuff in regards to numerous religions, but could never profess a belief that would make me worthy of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, etc. I have tried to see life through all of those lenses, but could not believe...

  • At 10:00 a.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    That's the problem. No matter what religious course you follow some of it boils down to pure belief and faith. Belief in a power greater than us all, that there are things which are beyond our understanding. The reason I don't go to church is a complete lack of faith. I think the bible, is an excellent guide to life, but it comes down to faith and self-sacrifice, neither of which most people have, including the ones that park their butts in pews every weekend. Having a real faith in God means that we have to admit our insignificant in this universe, and that we probably know very little. All religions teach we should have good will towards each other, and if everyone lived up to what they believed we would be able to live peaceably. However, religions of all kinds are mangled to accomadate greed and hate and excuse bad behavior.

  • At 7:34 p.m. , Blogger firedawg said...

    No absolutes. Morality is social. The more enlightened the society, hopefully the more enlightened morality. Methinks anywho.


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