My personal approach to morality is self-centered in that I seek out what is beneficial to myself: love wisely, and do what thou wilt. Join yourself to those things and persons that are beneficial for you, and it should be safe to do as you please. I seek to act in my own self-interests, and that seems to take care of everything else.
For example when considering that I am a member of a cooperative and social species it wouldn’t make sense to go around spending my time being a jerk to everyone. It’s not in my best interests. Even if I could get away with it as a sensitive and empathetic person I enjoy being kind: it gives me a warm glow within. That I enjoy this and that it benefits me is a good enough reason to generally practice kindness.
There might be people and causes for which I’d give my life which is not immediately self-benefiting, but in that case I would have to consider how much pain I’d live with if I didn’t. We all have to die some day, and sometimes it may be preferable to die than to go on living. If it’s a cause or person I really care about that I’m dying for I still have my interests in mind in some sense because I’m defending what I passionately care about and can’t live with the alternative.
I may also choose to die of my own hand if I cannot bear living with an agonizing terminal physical illness and the end of life is fast approaching anyway: it is more desired in this case to avoid pain rather than living a few more months of no quality. Even in these hypothetical situations the desires of the self and what is preferable to it given the alternatives are still key. Is life under any and all circumstances really beneficial? Not in my book.
I don’t know if this moral code would work out for others the same way as it does for me, but then again I’m not concerned with establishing a universal code of morals since I am highly skeptical that there are moral facts.
Morals are based on values that are a given and that I doubt are amenable to rational justification, and even if we assumed that valuing well being was objectively prescriptive and could agree on the precise definition of well being we would still have to ask whose well being matters the most when there are conflicts: that of the individual? of a group? which species?
How would objective morals take into account the behavior of other species? Has a shark done something morally wrong when it consumes a human being? It may have been good for the shark to do so, though not the human person.
It may be that different moral codes or emphases work out better for different individuals. I grew up in an abusive household in which I was subdued and not allowed to speak up for myself without harsh consequences. Standing up for myself even in recent years has caused a chain reaction of pure hysteria in my family whereas it doesn’t cause that kind of reaction when other members do the same. Emphasizing self-benefit as the primary factor in my morality has been healing for me.
But let’s take a hypothetical person as another example. That hypothetical person openly boasts about manipulating other people for short term gain. Let’s say that (s)he actually tells me that (s)he is actively and intentionally manipulative.
(S)he is very focused upon hir self to the point that (s)he can’t accept even constructive criticism. (S)he has often been abusive to others and has shown a lack of empathy to the people you would think (s)he would care the most for. And (s)he is very self preoccupied with little or no ability to take on the perspective of other people.
That particular person may very much benefit from a moral emphasis on other people. It’s not that the benefits to that person’s self wouldn’t apply here. It would probably be in hir long term interests to be more concerned with the important people in hir life and family. But playing up the emphasis on the self may not be healthy for hir given hir self-preoccupation.
For someone like me who finds great benefit in being kind to others but who has also been walked all over in the past it may be more healthy to focus on self-benefit in regard to morality so that while I am a forgiving person I’ll remember to think of my self-benefit before I decide to forgive and accept an abuser back into my life with open arms, and that’s something I had to learn the hard way.
My personal spirituality is self-centered as well. The seasons and holy days revolve around personal associations and personal life history. My spirituality informs my moral code, and my moral code informs my spirituality. Though I did not directly expound on it in this post I do have a conceptualization of the Self with a capital S in which there is very much a blurred edge between self and other.
My questions for others are:
What is the emphasis in your own moral code? Self? Others? Both-and? some other emphasis?
Does your spirituality inform your moral code?
How does your moral code influence your spirituality?
And whatever aspects of your personal morality or morality in general that you would like to share are fine by me for this topic.
Message Board: Join in our discussion.