On the Nature of Morality

moral

Is it not so that all acts are followed by a consequence? Even if causation is but a product of the rational mind the world nevertheless appears to follow this law and I have yet to see an exception to it, thus the notion of cause and effect is a part of the way in which we view the world, its objective truth does not matter when we are considering morality.

It must also be so that no act could ever possibly be moral unless it was followed by either a good or bad consequence, and by good in this context I refer to it in the sense of progression and the pleasures. Repeat an act often enough and it will be remembered, the same goes to the consequence that follows. If the act of shooting citizens is repeated often enough the consequence that follows (the death of citizens) will become remembered as being directly associated with the act of shooting. Now I ask, does a child who has never fired a gun before, nor has been told of the implications, know that the act of firing will be directly followed by death? He will not (for the sake of the example we shall say that the child also has no foreknowledge of the affect that sharp moving objects have on people). It must be the case then that the child learns to associate act with consequence. The approach is inductive and such a relationship cannot be known a priori.

We can apply this approach to the whole of ethics, indeed it soon becomes clear (under this idea) that the raw act in itself is nothing to do with morality, it is the association of the act with a good or bad consequence. Of course there are cases where acts are difficult to distinguish from consequences. Murder is now called an act, one commits the act of murder, but the ‘act’ of murder can, as we have seen, be separated into the act of shooting (or whatever method is used) and the resulting consequence of the victim dying. It is the same with all ethical dilemmas.

This relationship between act and consequence I have called Moral Induction and leads to the formulation of a moral act (that which is a synthesis between act and consequence).

Moral Induction leads to the formation of universal maxims that are regarded as unchanging and objective. Over the course of a finite number of examples the act of murder is created, due to the negative consequence of the act there becomes something inherently wrong with murder, it is seen as a bad thing. However, this law is formed by an inductive method and hence it can never be proved beyond a doubt that it is objective. To do this we would need to see if the act of shooting was always associated with the consequence of death (or something equally bad), but this is impractical not to mention wrong. There is a much easier method to test the objectivity of such a moral law. We need only ask: are there ever any examples where the act of shooting (or something equally violent) do not lead to a bad consequence? Indeed it is possible to think of some, and from a utilitarian perspective pleasure need only outweigh pain for it to be so. If there are examples that disprove the objective law that a moral act is good or bad then the moral act is not objective and must be inductive. This is the case with all ethical dilemmas and hence morality is based on a finite number of observations and outcomes. Even though some circumstances disprove the law we will begin to associate act and consequence (and hence the goodness of the consequence with the act) if it happens enough times and is overall seen as good or bad.

It must be so then that things are only good or bad in relation to their effect on sentient beings. There is no moral worth in doing an act if it does not relate to the pain or pleasure of sentient beings. In saying this it appears that morality is a flexible thing, dependant on personal experience and circumstances. The innate sense of morality we feel when considering or doing a moral act arises from Moral Induction and is simply related to pain and pleasure – there is nothing objective in such morality. This being the case, might it not be possible to create a perfect society through tools such as education and psychology? Ethics does not have to be about the way the world ought to be, it could equally be about the way we want the world to be.

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