music, opinion and technology

a few words on morality

with 3 comments

What is “morality” but a set of behavioural codes handed down by “authority”? Since people throughout history have shown themselves incapable of making reasoned judgements for themselves, I don’t dispute the need for religion in the past. “Don’t Eat Pork” was the classic example – there were no “public health” regulations, so all the tribal leaders could do was invoke divine law to avoid the health risks that existed before we learned how to handle Pork safely.

But now, and in the future? Is there a model for acceptable behaviour that can break the old model, with its guilt and threats of divine retribution? I would look to an Ethics-based model, where you agree to follow standards set by your peers, as part of the bargain for belonging to a society. For example, the medical profession is pretty much self-regulating, except in extreme cases – because it offers benefits to its members, starting with the pride you get from doing good work. This “Enlightenment” model can extend to society as a whole, if you are prepared to work at it, and not take the easy dogma-based way out. Blind faith saves you from thinking for yourself.

If you’ve been brought up in a strong religion, it’s hard to understand that it IS possible to live and be good without it, just by using your brain. Start with Confucius, 500BC: “Do not do to others that which you would not want done to yourself”. (Jesus got it back-to-front, 500 years later!)

Written by brian t

September 25, 2006 at 9:42 pm

3 Responses

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  1. While I agree with you that religion is not needed (and it never was, despite what some might say), it’s always a good idea to know WHY I should/shouldn’t do something. Saying ‘use your brain’ doesn’t tell me anything, because it’s too easy to fall into relativism.

    However, it’s completely possible to have a moral system, based on universal precepts, that doesn’t rely on religion. I posted a thesis on my blog recently, dealing with just that, so please let me know what you think if you have a chance:




    September 26, 2006 at 7:59 pm

  2. Morality is based, more or less, on biological imperatives that are sort of hard wired into us. One of our main directives is the propogation of our own species and any act with hinders that process, such as murder or theft, is quickly catergorised as immoral.

    brian t says: Thanks for the comment! One important point, though: even if that is true today, was it always that way, or is our “morality” an evolutionary adapation, like our other behaviours? I think the latter, as you probably guess, and therefore do not consider it to be fixed or immutable. We can rebuild it: we have the technology..!


    September 30, 2006 at 4:49 am

  3. I don’t know about this handed down morality. Seems a bit insitutionalised to me, Isn’t this just what the church does? There is value in the accumulated wisdom but it seems all institutions become rotten over time without refreshed public accountability driven often by a a pioneering few demanding new standards and not willing to accept convention


    November 14, 2006 at 10:26 pm

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