Maggie Gaster 4/4/08 Eta Draft 4 Morality Question: Where does morality come from? What is its purpose?

Society tries to fix its problems by using religious philosophies to determine moral solutions to things. However, the problem is that most of the religious morals that people are trying to use don’t have relevance in today’s society. The moral values that dictate America’s society today were primarily founded on religious Christian philosophies. But the world has changed significantly since the advent of Christianity, and we need to create new morals to fit our current lifestyles. There is no way to prove a moral or ethic right or wrong, society can’t ever be sure that what it’s doing is the best thing to do. Morals are not strict barriers that separate good and bad and wrong and right. They’re mostly guidelines to help us keep things in perspective. They should not be treated like laws, but for some reason society often treats them that way. Nietzsche believed that the morals we use today were created by ancient societies in order to create balance and harmony. The societies claimed that God created the morals and wanted everyone to abide by them. The fact that god said it, gave the morals esteem, nobody wanted to go against the “words of god.” Unfortunately, the morals stuck around because religions were created around them. “A code of morals was nothing more than a system of customs, law and ideas which had its origin in the distinctive desire of some definite race to live under conditions which best subserved its own” (Mencken, 44). What Nietzsche meant by this was that the morals we’re familiar

with served a purpose when they were created, and that purpose was specifically for the society that created them. The morals were created to suit the needs of that ancient society, but not the needs of our current society. Therefore, the morals should be changed to fit the requirements of today’s society. According to Jewish philosophy, morals and ethics are completely made up. There is no definite right or wrong way to live your life, because you can’t prove morals or ethics with science. They are merely guidelines that people created for certain purposes in society. “Ethical principles are not discovered, but invented. Logical positivism has gone so far as to deny any cognitive significance to ethical beliefs, since, unlike scientific beliefs they are not verifiable by empirical methods” (Wurzburger, 41- 42). Essentially, ethics are made up. The ethics that we live by today, were decided upon by someone or some group of people a long time ago, and we should not treat them as if they were the absolute right way to behave. Unlike some kind of mathematical formula that can be proven correct using calculations. However, people do view ethics and morals as something definite and true, as if the word of some divine being could prove it to be a cold hard fact. Nietzsche proposed that instead of living by a moral code created thousands of years ago, we should create our own individual moralities to suit ourselves, and the society we live in, unfortunately, he forgot to think about caring for people other than ourselves. His opinion was that we needed to protect ourselves first and foremost in order to survive and that we needed as much personal gain as possible. “In a word, he should put behind him the morality invented by some dead race to make its own progress easy and pleasant, and credited to some man-made god to give it authority, and put in the place

of this a workable personal morality based upon his own power of distinguishing between the things which will benefit him, and the things that will injure him” (Mencken, 55). He believed that we should create our morals strictly to keep ourselves from being injured, and to make our individual lives abundant regardless of how that impacts other people. Sadly, if everyone did that and only looked out for their own lives, people would only help each other if it was convenient or in some way beneficial to them. People wouldn’t think about the effect that their actions had on others if those actions were for their own benefit. A lot of people don’t think about others when they make decisions for their own benefits, and that’s why there is so much crime and corruption in today’s society. So, Nietzsche’s idea is a rather selfish, and inconsiderate one. The Dalai Lama says that people can’t help but want the best for themselves. It’s something that we can’t control for some reason and it’s natural. He says that we shouldn’t be ashamed of it because it’s part of being human. “I think that every human being has an innate sense of “I.” We cannot explain why that feeling is there, but it is. Along with it comes a desire for happiness and a wish to overcome suffering. This is quite justified” (Lama, 20). Nietzsche would argue that the feeling of “I” comes from the underlying will to survive and to be the best. “In all the complex whirlpool of the phenomena we call human life, the mere will to survive is at the bottom of everything” (Mencken, 36). Nietzsche claims that every human action is a survival instinct. He would argue that to attain happiness, one must meet their basic needs, but they must also feel superior to other people. The more power people feel like they have, the happier they are. Because power makes people feel like they have control over the happiness they can generate for themselves. When people have the ability to generate more happiness for

themselves, it makes them feel superior and powerful, which in turn brings them more happiness. That feeling of superiority makes people feel really good, Nietzsche claims that feeling superior is the only way to be truly happy. But if we built our individual moralities around that concept, it wouldn’t bring anyone happiness. People would constantly be putting each other down and trying to have the best of everything before anyone else could have it. In a way, that’s how the capitalist American society functions, but that behavior and ideology is rather immoral. Morals should have to do with compassion for others as well as preservation of ones self, and how is anyone going to achieve happiness if they can’t be satisfied what they have because it has to be better then what everyone else has? Jewish philosophy approaches morals and ethics differently from Nietzsche. It states that, although you should strive to survive and be happy, you shouldn’t do so at the expense of others. “Murder acts of sexual immorality or idolatry may not be committed even if the perpetration of these crimes is deemed indispensable to the saving of one’s life.” According to Talmudic opinion, “It is preferable to throw oneself into a burning furnace than embarrass another person publicly”(Wurzburger, 10). If people approached morals in this way, there would probably be a lot less crime and corruption, because people would be thinking of something beside themselves. Unfortunately, people are not approaching morals in that way. People are thinking less and less about what’s good for others and more and more about what’s good for them, just like Nietzsche’s philosophy about feeling superior to others and taking care of yourself. This idea is being endorsed by the capitalist system in out country. Cornell West describes this phenomenon in his book, Democracy Matters. He talks about three “dogmas” that are leading to the demise

of democracy. One of them is about the fact that consumerism is eating away at our compassion for others, and the democracy in our government. “In short, the dangerous Dogma of Free-Market Fundamentalism turns our attention away from schools to prisons, from workers’ conditions to profit margins, from health clinics to high-tech facial surgeries, from civic associations to pornographic internet sites, and from children’s care to strip clubs. The fundamentalism of the market puts a premium on the activities of buying and selling, consuming and taking, promoting and advertising, and devalues community, compassionate charity, and improvement of the general quality of life”(West, 5). Cornell West comments on the selfishness that is being promoted by the United States government and how people are changing their focus from things that will benefit the citizens of the United States, to the things which will benefit the individual. But that it needs to change, and we need to start thinking as a people instead of thinking as individual citizens. In order to create a new morality we have to keep things in perspective and think logically. For example, why isn’t it illegal to lie, when it’s illegal to have people of the same sex marry? “Deviations from the truth, which are prompted by considerations of self-interest, are unequivocally condemned” (Wurzburger, 88). Lying is an example of something that is completely for the benefit of the individual, and it doesn’t do anybody else any good. In fact, lying can really hurt people. There are no cases of lying that are not for the benefit of oneself. For example if you lie to your friend, and tell her that she looks good in a really hideous dress; It doesn’t do her any good for you to lie and let her walk around all day looking foolish. But it’s easier to make yourself seem kind by not criticizing her. Also, it’s easier for you not to have to deal with making her feel bad.

Logically, it makes sense not to lie when you think about the way it makes people feel. The problem of lying is still relevant to our society, just like it has been relevant to many previous ones. For example if a witness lied in court it wouldn’t help the case because it wouldn’t be reliable evidence, and it would be for their own personal gain. But condemning things like gay marriage doesn’t make any sense today. People wouldn’t do things to benefit themselves at the expense of others, if they had compassion for each other. The Dalai Lama says that we must always take into consideration the feelings of others. Because compassion is as much a part of human nature as our sense of “I.” If we want to get respect, we have to show respect. He also says that compassionate people are a lot more pleasant to be around. They put you at ease and make you feel comfortable. We are all human, and we want the same things, and we all have the same right to be happy. “To be genuine, compassion must be based on respect for the other, and the realization that others deserve to be happy and overcome suffering just as much as you do” (Lama, 22). Nietzsche’s philosophy about creating individual morals didn’t take into consideration the feelings and similarities between human beings. But having compassion for others is just as important as taking care of yourself because in a way, you are taking care of yourself, that is, if everyone treated each other with equal compassion. When we set up individual moralities, we should keep in mind the fact that world doesn’t revolve around the individual. It is the combination of billions of individuals who want the same basic things. We want to be happy, to overcome suffering, and more simply, to survive. The only way that the world can work is if people think about what’s best for them, and if it is for the greater good of society. Religion has become a huge part

of our society. A 2001 survey found that 78.9% of the population of the United States consider themselves Christian (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_United_States#Religious_affiliation, 1/15/08). The government gets a lot of pressure from the Christian population to incorporate their religious morals and values into the laws and legislations made for the country but is that really doing us any good? Logically, it doesn’t make sense to ignore scientific facts, because they don’t fit into your rigid belief system. The only reason that people care so much about it is that religion gives them an easy explanation for the unexplained, and science negates the validity of religious stories. If you think about it, all religion is, is a story created to keep people living by certain morals and having certain values. Scientifically a virgin birth is impossible. The basis of religion sounds like a fictional story. In this book called The Virtual Tourist, Mick Brown quotes a philosophical writing by a man named Anthony Stor. He states, “religious beliefs concretize the scientifically implausible” (Brown, 203). For example, why is there controversy over teaching evolution in science classes? There is a plethora scientific proof to back up Darwin’s theory of evolution. Yet, for some reason, Christians believe that we should be teaching children about Creationism in schools. Creationism has no science to back it up, but because the bible said it happened, people are willing to believe it. Morals are not something to impose on others. They are codes to help us survive and avoid suffering while not causing harm to anybody else. The United States government should not be influenced by Christian morals and values to make decisions about laws and legislations for the country. Because they aren’t taking into account the

great diversity of this country and the fact that people should be allowed to follow their own morals and not have Christian ones imposed on them. The government should instead create new morals, not based on religion, but based on a combination of the morals proposed by the Dalai Lama, Nietzsche, and Talmudic philosophy. That would protect the wellbeing and safety of the country and it’s citizens without causing harm to anyone or any other country. Our government should take into consideration compassion for its citizens and should not lie to make a few powerful people more money than they deserve. Each individual should create morals that keep them alive and don’t hurt other people. Laws should be made for the greater good of the people and should be decided logically based on compassion and understanding of people’s needs. Things like abortion and gay marriage should be legal without any fuss, they are only immoral because somewhere in the bible it says so, and Christians believe that everything the Bible says is right. However they are not looking for proof of any kind. Therefore, Logical reasoning and empirical fact should take the place of religious morals in government; while compassion and healthy concern for the preservation of your life should take the place of religious morals for the individual.

Bibliography 1. Brown, Mick. The Spiritual Tourist. NY, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 1998. 2. Lama, Dali. The Essential Dalai Lama. NY, NY: Penguin Group, 2005. 3. Mencken, HL. The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Tucson, AZ: See Sharp Press, 2000. 4. Wurzburger, Walter, S. The Ethics of Responsibility. Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society, 1994. 5. Demography of the United States. 5 Nov. 2007. 15 Oct. 2007 < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demography_of_the_United_States>. 6. West, Cornell. Democracy Matters. New York, New York: Penguin Group, 2004.

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