Morality can be a dangerous word nowadays. The subject is concerned with what is right or wrong, or the goodness or badness of character or behaviour. As an intellectual subject, it is known as ethics.
I’m dipping my mind into the moral maze, offering my basic views on the subject. Agree or disagree, vital to a moral outlook is the importance of debate and the right of any individual to offer their views.
I’ll begin with one important aspect often not appreciated. Morality invariably involves more than one person – one to do and one to judge. After all, can every one of us say that when we’re on our own our behavioural standards are as high as if we were not?
RELIGIOUS OR SECULAR?
Morality, to many, is religion based. Rules are definite, and breaking them risks Divine Retribution. This is a clear cut moral approach. But things changed with the decline of popular religion.
In a more secular world, ethics moved to the philosopher. This involved personal reasoning, the outcome being that definite rules could not be guaranteed. To many, this was the beginning of a moral free-for-all.
Morality often becomes as one with an ideology. In the Industrial Revolution, for instance, laziness was immoral, thus requiring absolute industriousness from people. In all cases, I think this is wrong. It should be the arena for scripture or the philosopher. In other words, people who have influence, but not power. For morality should never be used as a political tool.
Many people believe that the modern liberal ideal of morality is correct. It is proven by the general good order of society. I’d argue that this is not the case. Good order occurs because services are such that people do not have to strive to be ordered. Should those services fail, I think we could quickly revert to barbarism.
A PROBLEM OF SEPARATION
One central moral problem is separation. By this, I mean the failure to separate non-consensual physical acts against the person, society, or property thereof (criminality) from lifestyle. Whilst punishment can be variable, I think attitude towards transgression should be absolute. A crime must be a crime, regardless of the reason.
Lifestyle is different. Nature flourishes because of total diversity. Whatever can be done is done. Hence, society can best flourish by following this same principle. What is done by consenting adults is no one’s business but their own.
There is one proviso to this. Any society reaches a ‘norm’ of behaviour. This is essential for order and manners. Hence, total diversity of behaviour is something to do in private, or clearly accepted public arenas. In the general public, I feel people should always moderate their behaviour.
This is an important point. All too often, morality concerning lifestyle is not morality at all. Rather, it is the furtherance of sensationalism. This is supposed to get a message across concerning lifestyle, but most of the time it is simply about exhibitionism.
One other important aspect of ethics is this. People will always transgress, and this is how it should be. Because if being moral is seen as easy, then our standards are not high enough.
Today, morality is moving in many new directions. Human rights verses the nation state; the morality of science; our moral responsibility towards the planet. It is a subject that I will no doubt return to in the future.