Morality is essentially about coercion. It can be mild, moderate, or violent. There is good coercion and bad with positive or negative outcome. Non-human nature being stark and brutal has no morality. Each entity brings to bear upon the other and the strongest wins. Humans as natural forms can also be subject to brutality both from each other and from those other natural forms. In this respect they are exposed to all the coercion of nature. Morality, being a type of coercion, conforms to natural functions.
One person or one group's set of moral values takes precedence over others. The moral law forces people to behave in particular ways consistent with imperatives. Enforcement can be as violent as necessary although the defining character of morality is that it is psychological. Instead of physical force words are used. The simple formulation of words and their understood meanings, said in particular ways, has the effect of commanding. “You will do what you are told” is a command from parent to child. Subtler reasoning (more words) can be employed by a subtler parent with the same intent: that the child will conform. Though not encouraged these days, if words fail then a physical solution is always an option at which point the commander resorts to nature's traditional way.
Morality is the civilised way humans enforce their will one to the other. The stories told around morals all serve the relatively simple function of commanding. The leader of a dog pack works with bites. Humans use words, reasonings and imperatives. This concept of morality assumes humans to be part of nature along with all else. Morality is not a set of divine commands given by some external authority. It is the enforcing of rules, a process invented by people for people. It is the way humans work. It is what they do. I think it serves them better than the crudity of the might-being-right approach where physical strength dominates although they are capable of playing by these rules too when necessary.
Religious morality down the ages was circulated using sacred texts. These were books of stories with rules embedded written by men of antiquity. Their effect was to command. I think that was fair enough. There has to be a rule book. But the rule book needs to reach across all humanity with intelligence. Its shades and colours might vary from place to place and time to time but the general principles should be solid. This has never yet been achieved. The book of rules should arise from knowledge before belief but knowledge has been historically scant. The old commandments were on the right track with their tablets of stone but without sound knowledge they had to rely too heavily on myth and story-telling. The mythology had to come apart at some point and I think we are living through that long and complex process currently. This is Nietzsche's theme.
What would an optimum set of rules look like? What would it derive from? My contention is that it would arise from the understanding of human nature as a material entity along with other natural forms and not as a metaphysical being. The human is flesh, blood and bone. Spirituality is an amalgam term which could have its meaning altered to cover the emotional, the psychological and the intellectual aspects of experience. Nothing more. Spirituality is not transcendent. The spiritual is material and is within the person. The understanding of human nature required is its psychological nature. There is a need to be exhaustive about what nurtures and what harms the psyche and evolve structures around that kind of knowledge, structures which promote the maximum benevolence and the minimum damage.
Adherence to such a philosophy requires intellectual development. Otherwise its high value is lost. The more basic and instinctual animal being can't rise to the full validity of an idea. The education of such a set of values would need to be instilled at an early age just as religion used to be. In a way this morality would be a single tablet of stone with psychological make-up at its base such that every action and every initiative was informed by the tablet.
Again, it is about knowledge before belief because knowledge is subject to scrutiny and better facilitates action whereas belief can be anything it wants to be. It is not about the good and the true. It is not about right and wrong. In such a world these words would have little purchase. It is about what works best and it is based on universal feeling, an aesthetic philosophy for aesthetic beings. It is empirical in that its knowledge comes from what can be sensed, what can be felt. It is utilitarian in that it is concerned with what works.
In the current era the general principles around morality, the stories, myths and reasonings, have become fuzzy. Moral values from one generation to the next have always moved around but sometimes the deeper strains that inform the base morals change. We are living through such a time. The old stories aren't working. Updates are urgently required.
morality is the civilised way humans
enforce their will one to the other
philosophy • 31.05.08