Sunday, March 25, 2012

Thoughts On the Meaning of Morality

Ever since the mind of man developed the ability to reason, he has struggled to define ethical/moral right and wrong. Emperors, philosophers, prophets and priests have all promoted their particular versions of morality. Problems arise when the version promoted by one sect, say Catholicism, conflicts with another, like Protestantism, or when say Islam conflicts with Judaism. Each has its version of what to eat, how to dress, when and how to pray, to whom to pray, the proper use of sex, and the role of government in enacting control over people’s behavior.
For me, the determining of right and wrong behavior is based on one simple principle on which it is difficult to obtain a consensus. This principle is: we are all entitled to life, liberty and the opportunity to pursue happiness. Liberty means the freedom to do anything we wish so long as it does not infringe upon anyone else’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What other basis can there possibly be for imposing any other limits? The challenge would be how to determine when one person’s behavior does, in fact, infringe on another’s rights.
If we can reach some consensus on this question, we could stop criminalizing people who are minding their own business and whose behavior we don’t agree with, e.g. drug users, prostitutes, gamblers, and start being fair to homosexuals who want to marry and to women who want to end a pregnancy. It could be as simple as: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

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At Saturday, May 19, 2012 , Blogger nunchuckington said...

this is the big one isn't it! i'm a little bit sceptical of the harm principle (saying it would be a good idea to interfere in people's business only when they infringe on others' rights/personal integrity) because, unless we were utilitarians (like j.s. mill), how would we make 'harm' an instrumental concept?

we'd certainly want to be scientific with the concept (utilitarianism certainly attempts this) and locate some sort of system of causes and effects with respect to remedying harms, otherwise we wouldn't be able to build a theory through which to construct any kind of public policy. i'm just a little stumped by the harm principle.

i arrived at this website through a link on a friend's social network profile - it's really good to see philosophy being practiced by people all over the world!

keep it up!! i'll give the harm principle some thought.



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