Sunday, 22 November 2009


Morality. What is it?
I think I have asked this question many times before – if not in public then at least to myself. Apparently I have still not come to any reasonable conclusion.
Ethics. What’s that all about? Are these personal things or universal necessities for the well being of humans (or animals – I haven’t quite sorted that one in my mind either. Maybe I should just say “living things”)
How can we behave in a moral or ethical manner when some of us – like me – can’t define what either of the words mean? Many questions but very few answers. Perhaps this is the nature of the issue.
With the advancement of technology (and presumably also then the advancement of the human brain) moral situations come upon us faster than we can even create the questions, much less find the answers..
So what is the difference between the two, if any, and does it matter ? Do we naturally understand how to reason about morals and arrive at ethical decisions? Do our values have any effect on our ethical decisions and moral standards?
Some people believe that humans hold a special place in creation, and morality can be summed up in one ultimate “law” of reason – that which all duties and obligations derive from. Kant stated that an imperative such as this is when a certain action, or inaction, is necessary, but in general to basic human life. When we are hungry, we need to eat, when we are thirsty we drink.
But another imperative is that there are no real conditions to it. An act where by the nature of this act asserts authority in any circumstance. An end in itself.
Where you can “will that it become a universal law”. Kant believed that this “law” could never be better or stronger than one that says for example, murder is wrong because it is not good for the greatest number of people. This of course is not relevant to those who are only concerned with maximising benefits only for themselves.

So where is this leading, if anywhere?

Only that my personal morals seem to get eroded every day. Not by me- well not intentionally. Or maybe it is by me-intentionally. There comes a point when the struggle to keep with your own true beliefs (or what you thought were your beliefs) becomes too much of an effort so why not just go along with the untrustworthy, the users in life who appear to benefit and profit from their actions.

Mid life crisis? Too old for that. Cynicism gone too far? Possibly. Total mental break down ? Naaah – some might like that too much !
Just me being me and afraid of losing what I am. Will I let it happen ? I doubt it.


Nick said...

The Animals Issue by Peter Carruthers (ex of Sheffield University) is a good intro to Ethics - very interesting.

Lexia said...

Thanks Nick - I'll take a look at that one.

One for you taht you may find interesting

Ray said...

The Carruthers text is on-line at:
It is very much single-issue. Carruthers is respected but mainly for his work in conciousness/ cognitive science.

A better place to start is with John Rawls, a truly major 20th century thinker

This is a OK intro to him:

... and yes, Baggini is a good guy!