Always let your conscience be your guide? (Exploring Objective Morality)
Today’s topic was objective truth and morality.
Week on week we dig and dig through the depths of the sandbox, and many of our ponderings lead us back to the idea of Objective Truth – does it exist? And how does it relate to morality? This week’s topic dove straight into this ever-emergent theme, dubbed the ‘Avengers Endgame’ of topics. So let’s dive in!
Avengers – assemble!!
As ever, our loyal rabbits dug through a whole host of particularly mind-expanding questions this week. With many topics to choose from, we’ve narrowed down to 3 key insights we found beneath the sand…
1) Morality is both extrinsic and intrinsic
Morality can be split up and divided into many categories, but broadly all of them fit into two camps – nature and nurture.
Nature – Carl Jung described humans as having a collective unconscious – sometimes referred to as the objective psyche. This is an inherited part of our minds, that is passed down without being learned, perhaps evolving from us being a social species. Many of our morals seem to emanate from this internal framework of right and wrong. Whether this is instinctive – (aversion to seeing someone cry, the warmth of a hug, etc.) or psychological – (the inner voice of your conscience) – there seems to be a part of morality which exists within us from day one.
Nurture – Other morals are passed down or learned throughout life, be it through teachings, fables, scriptures, books, observation, folklore, media, or the norms in your community. These morals are much more specific and situational and seem to evolve with us over time as we gain experiences.
2) Pizza – Self care or self harm? Internal morality and the necessity of the ‘other’
Many of our discussions around morality centered around ways of treating other people, or ways of acting in one on one or group settings. But what about when you remove other people or beings from the equation entirely?
If you lived alone on a dessert island with no other lifeforms… does morality even exist anymore?
You could be ‘immoral’ by, for instance, destroying a valued ancient artifact – but does the value of this object only exist in the eye of the beholder(s)? In the absence of those people – is this act just... neutral?
If you were completely alone, the only person you could be immoral towards is yourself. Would this make self-harm an immoral act? And how would you define it – if you chose to do it, then can it be immoral? It seems for the concept to exist in this framework requires another version of you to exist. Eating pizza in this reality could be considered an immoral act of pleasure for your present self, at the expense of the health to your future self.
Whether it's another being, another animal, or another version yourself, morality always requires an ‘other’ to be acted on, to exist.
3) Morality is compromised in moments of scarcity
If you knew the location of the last seat on the last lifeboat of the titanic, and someone asked you where it was, would you tell them?
It seems in moments of chaos or scarcity, our sense of morality goes out the window. This can be seen in 'every man for himself' scenarios - such as humans resorting to cannibalism when there is no food left. Can morality ever emerge in these scenarios?
Senicide is the term for when cultures ritually kill their elderly. The Derbiccae culture for example murdered males at age 70 and ate them. This was routine and agreed upon by the tribe. It seems that even in the most extreme scenarios - it is possible to apply a moral code, and to think at a higher group level to determine right from wrong in dealing with scarcity.
In the Titanic example for instance, the decided procedure was that women and children would be prioritized. This became the moral code of that situation. So, if the person asking for your seat was a single mother with a young child... could it be conceivably moral to have deceived her?
An interesting find ... The Platinum Rule
The Golden rule was a common theme for morality – ‘do onto others as you would have them do unto you’. However this rule suffers from being focused on your self and your own paradigms as objective morality.
A better alternative could be the ‘platinum rule’ – 'do unto others as they would want done unto them.'
In life, we know there are several personality types, with different cognitive functions, sensitivities, and preferred ways of dealing with the world. Just because you might be someone who likes to be slapped by a radical truth on a Sunday night, for instance, doesn’t mean that doing this to Wendy from Ohio on a Facebook comment thread next Wednesday is an act of moral virtue.
The Platinum Rule comes from Dave Kerpen, author of The Art of People.
However the best book we can recommend on the topic of objective morality is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. This NTP-friendly book will help you expand your ways of working with people, and move beyond the Golden Rule and The Platinum rule into effective and co-creative interdependence with yourself and others.
As always, good existence!