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as individuals our central and very human desire is to lead a happy life. we aim to function from day to day in a happy manner and enjoy being able to exercise our personal capacities whilst fitting into a social context. in terms of the collective, how can a mass of people all enjoy happiness without upsetting any individual? it has been through morals that people have tried to come to some sort of resolution of the problem! ethics good and evil / right and wrong; these are fairly obscure constructs, each with wavering boundaries that set them apart. their definitions, however, are important in the pursuit of self interest and have an establishment that goes back to the earliest times of human society. we can all agree that 'good' brings about beneficial results and that 'bad' brings about negative results. this the basis of a universal standard of judgement. ethics are primarily concerned with principles of right and wrong and how they govern behaviour of the human character. ethics are thus internally defined and adopted, whilst morals tend to be externally imposed on other people. there is a long tradition in ethics that places great importance on the ‘kind of person one is’. we not only want those around us to ‘tell the truth’ but also to be honest. both aristotle and aquinas emphasized this aspect of ethics by highlighting the role of what we would today call ‘character’ in their discussions of ethics. a practical consequence of this view is that the education of, for example medical doctors, should include the cultivation of virtues such as compassion, discernment, trustworthiness, integrity, conscientiousness as well as benevolence (desire to help) and nonmalevolence (desire to avoid harm).
morals there is a distinction between ‘morals’ and ‘mores’ - the latter can be defined as ‘harmless customs’, the former as ‘treatment of others’. we thus judge others more strongly on morals than erthics. a code of interpersonal behaviour which is considered correct and right in a particular society, these are morals. however the principles of proper conduct differ between countries and belief systems. moralities are relative what one society considers right, another society considers wrong. therefore, RIGHT AND WRONG here are RELATIVE to a PARTICULAR SOCIETY. YOU, as individual, have no morality, except on the one hand the morality that society which you have built tells you, and on the other hand what you want to do, and neither has anything whatsoever to do with virtue. most people believe that history proceeds in progressive steps: through enlightenment and rationality, and particularly through science and technology, humanity is on the road towards harmony and peace. this myth of moral progress in modernity was however exposed by auschwitz and hiroshima. these events confirmed that there is no linear progressive process and thus the suggestion of moral progress is misleading. a short excurse on philosophical systems aristotle spoke of the 'golden mean', a midway point between extreme behaviours. these virtues aimed to create a balanced personality that when used throughout a community would produce a reasonable state of group happiness. this is a doctrine of moderation, encouraging qualities of courage, modesty and generosity. this idea was later fortified by the stoics: live a life of moderation, self discipline and altruism, and you are more likely to lead to a life of practical happiness. they believed that there must be an indifference to pain for collective happiness to exist. it is this line of thought that laid foundation to the judaeo-christian value systems.
immanuel kant believed that everything that we know and understand is down to science, and whilst we may not know and understand everything in our physical world now science will, in the end, provide us with answers. what can't be explained with science is the reasons why the material human being, which moves in space and time, is governed by something other than scientific laws. the explanation kant came up with is 'free will' and a plain of reality that does not exist in the physical, phenomenal world but in the noumenal world. what this means is that concepts of 'good' and 'right' only have content when there is the ability to choose to against them. if there is no ability to choose (no free will) then these concepts do not exist and there is no such thing as duty. if, with out free will, there is no notions of 'bad' and 'wrong' then there can never be any feelings of injustice or complaint and morality becomes an illusion. determinism, however, is impossible. even the most genuine believer, whether a criminal or psychopath, will still have feelings of injustice and believe that someone else should not have acted in a certain way, which immediately disproves any idea no free choice. kant believed that the knowledge of moral duty meant that rational humans were bound to obey the categorical imperative to respect other rational beings. arthur schopenhauer, an avid follower of kant, disagreed with this theory and took the idea of free will further. shopenhauer stated that the foundation of ethics and interpersonal relationships is universal compassion beyond a physical or rational reality. his view was that if we are individuals in the physical world then we are one and undifferentiated in the noumenal world. this then explains compassion, the sharing of sufferings; ‘if I hurt you I am damaging my own ultimate being’. the foundation of many of the morals that have influenced modern societies began in the roman and judaeo-christian eras and simultaniously ancient eastern philosophies. this is something that friedrich nietzsche objected to, saying that in
light of a modern godless world these morals should be reassessed as they were first made in societies that were very unlike the ones today. he believed that the current value systems were only to make the natural leaders on the same footing as the weak, leading to a life of self denial, self sacrifice and service to others for all. therefore, if these morals are not passed on to us by a god they are not transcendental and so they must be man made. this means that man is free to choose the set of values he wishes to live by. this led to nietzsche's theory of life assertion - saying yes to life and that 'one must dare to become what you are'. nietzsche’s ideas were ruthless and machiavellian but this theory of self satisfaction is not restrained to his beliefs alone. the state as a moral governance today we find ourselves more and more often constructing moral conduct on humane values rather than models of god or the commands of religious institutions. the other strong influence on morals and ethics are the state laws by which we live under in each country. these legal guidlines, and the police that proct them, are the basis for moral conduct within a certain culture, some are created with a religious ideology, and others without divine help. in 4th century china, a group call the legalists suggested that laws were irrelavent, it was the adhereing to them that was really important. ethis to them was something that destroyed the state. this was the complete opposite of most thinking which sought to bring man made law more in in line with divine and natural laws. but no political or moral set of laws has successfully provided the answer to balancing freedom and force of free will for all. moral authority and dogma to study the various systems, philosophic as well as economic, to study them all thoroughly so as to be able to compare, requires great effort, and few have the time, the capacity, or the inclination, to penetrate through their complicated reasoning and theories. and what happens when you haven't time to inquire into the explanations of innumerable competing experts? you choose one whom you like, who you think is reasonable; and as you haven't the time to go into his system thoroughly, you merely accept his authority. greater the expert, greater the authority, greater the following. so, gradually the followers became blind and merely accept dogmas, and the leaders destroy the followers and the followers in turn destroy the leaders. gradually we create another set of stupidities based on a new set of dogmas which were originally theories and we become slaves to them. the whole process of living, which should be a continual fulfillment and therefore a continual penetration into reality, into what is true, is completely destroyed through this worship of authority, of specialists, of creeds, of theories. the whole process is to make the individual subservient, to make him obey and follow. thus he gradually becomes unconscious of everything but the pattern, and he exists as much as he can within the edicts of that pattern, and he calls that living. environment becomes only the mould to shape him. systems are but the crystallization of thought, and the group is but the expression of that thought. can they, these crystallized thoughts, by your following them, awaken intelligence? or have you to begin, not considering yourself as an
individual, or as a group, to discern for yourself the stupidities created through the false division of the group and the individual; that is, not considering yourself as an individual, or as a group, to think anew, to think from the very beginning so as to be able to grasp the true significance of each environment, each limitation? because, if we cannot be so active emotionally and mentally, apart from a system, the mere following of a system and being active in it does not awaken intelligence. intelligence is not book knowledge. you may be very learned and yet be stupid. you may read many philosophies and yet not know the bliss of creative thinking, which can exist only when the mind and heart begin to free themselves through conflict, through constant awareness, from the stupidities of the past and from those that are being built up.
freedom and choice in most cultures the emphasis is on freedom of the outer aspect of life, freedom of choice and action. in order to function in the society, the individual must give up his identity, conform to anonymous authorities and adopt successful roles. so then, the individual does not know what he wants, what he thinks or what he feels. usually freedom of thought is not encouraged. in our modern societies people are given choices and made to think they are 'free' to choose. complete human development leads to inner freedom and the accurate perception of reality which is free from distortion. inner freedom comes from the
knowledge that one is connected with the world and other beings in the world. no one is more enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free but their values are 'borrowed' introjected values conceived on the basis of cultural beliefs. to solve the world’s most pressing problems, people do not need more volumes of information and knowledge, they need to acquire the capacity to talk to each other across boundaries of culture, religion and language. the plea for dialogue sounds obvious and facile. in reality, however, in many societies people have neither time nor patience for dialogical communication. (and the mass media are not particularly helpful in teaching societies the art of conversation. much of their content is babbling (endless talking without saying anything), hate speech, advertising blurbs, sound bites or polemical debate). the requirements for a meaningful discussion begin with the need for internal dialogue. security man has built in himself images as a fence of security - religious, political, personal morals. these manifest as symbols, ideas, beliefs. the burden of these images dominates man's thinking, his relationships and his daily life. these images are the causes of our problems for they divide man from man. the internal dialog implies that all participants question their judgments and assumptions independent of their cultural background (morals)... and difficult is the suspension of judgment since we are strongly attached to our opinions and assessments and prefer them to uncertainties. like the past generation, young people want security, certainty. they want jobs, they want food, clothing and shelter, they don't want to disagree with their parents because it means going against society. therefore, they fall in line, they accept the authority of older people. so, what happens? the discontent which is the very flame of inquiry, of search, of understanding - that discontent is made mediocre, it becomes merely a desire for a better job, or a rich marriage, or a degree. they want security, they want permanency, either in their jobs or in their souls. they want certainty in ideas, in relationship, or in property. you see, there are very few people who want to live completely. because to live fully and completely, there must be freedom, not an acceptance of authority; and there can be freedom only when there is virtue. virtue is not imitation; virtue is creative living. either you are virtuous and free now, or you are not. and to find out why you are not free, you must have discontent, you must have the intention, the drive, the energy to encore.