And is there a set of absolute morals? Or is it all based on personal
The conversation got cut short, because lunch ended, and I was left feeling as
though the issue was not closed. I discted the issue with Adam, and then let
it simmer in my head for awhile, and here is what I've concluded:
There are a couple of concepts that we think of as "morals". For the sake of
clearity, I am going to call one of the ethics and the other morals, although
by actual definition I believe the two terms could be used interchangably.
The first concept is simply the ability to be non-selfish. When, in a given
situation, you weigh the interests and pain of others as comperable to your
own. This concept I will call ethics.
This can be applied on a small scale, ie to determine that killing myself is
unethical because it would traumatize my children and leave them without a
parent. Or it can be applied on a larger scale - becoming an alchoholic is
unethical because I become a drain on society. In either case, it is a matter
of seeing outside of your own interest, and making a decision based on how
your actions will effect others - either on a personal or societal level.
Humans can not always be relied upon to analize a given situation, weigh the
positive and negative effects to all parties involved, and come up with an
ethical solution. People often do not like to, or know how to put that much
time and energy into thinking things out. Particurlarly when the ethics
involved are at a societal level, people rarely even have the grasp of the
society around them enough to understand the concequences of their actions.
Therefore, society provides simple, clear cut, blanket rules. This is the
concept that I call morals, and this is where things get messy.
For example, in a society lacking reliable means of birth control, pre-marital
sex has a very damaging effect on society. Therfore, in such a society, it
could be considered unethical to have sex outside of marriage. To communicate
this concept to the masses, the society creates a moral: Pre-marital sex is a
sin. This clear cut rule is consumable by the masses, and has a chance of
working out a majority of the time, whereas if your message was, "Pre-marital
sex runs the risk of pregnancy out of wedlock, which results in children that
are unable to be well cared for or educated well, which in turn produces more
uneducated and poor in our society, and is thus not worth the risk" half of
the population would lose interest and wander off after the first three words.
So far, so good.
But now that we have pounded the message home, society has changed. There are
not only reliable means of birth control, but a single parent of today has a
much better chance of raising an educated and healthy child. Now, the
benefits of sex before wedlock far outweigh the risks. But, because people
did not understand the basis behind the moral, they believe that the moral is
in and of itself a valid reason upon which to base action.
So, for the question of, is there such a thing as absolute morals, we would
have to break it up into two questions for each concept of morals:
1. Is it possible to make genral blanket rules that will always be true, the
concept I refer to as "morals"?
No. Between different times, societies, and even situations, blanket rules
may or may not apply.
2. For any given situation, is there an absolute correct and incorrect ethical
I am tempted to say yes, but I think I may be wrong. This question begs
For me it comes down to this though: I do not like talking about things being
moral or imoral, because it is too messy. Calling a thing imoral is like
arguing the validity of a law using the argument, "because it's illegal". A
thing being imoral is not a reason unto itself. It is a simplified name that
we give to the ethics behind it. And understanding the reaons *behind* the
morals is the key.