What about Fixed Morality?

Welcome reader to another “impossible to prove conjecture Tuesday”. Today I’ll be looking at the grievously problematic notions of modern morality.

The Christian church; that would be the catholic one, not the Orthodox, Church of England or any of the Eastern Churches. They believe that morality comes from God and we learn about his morality through his words which are documented in the Bible. Everything from thou shall not kill (Deuteronomy 5:17) to no buggery (Timothy 1:10). There is a golden rule theme running through the Bible’s moral thinking which is especially evident in the new testament.

But ultimately the important thing about the authority of the Bible and God for Christians is that the morality is fixed. It’s not relative to the times you live or person you happen to be interacting with, nor relative to your position in society or attributes therein. It’s something that applies to everyone and it brings Christians a sense of stability.

But I am not a Christian, to me the Bible is a 1,500 year old unaccountable narrative of man’s accent from chaos and into a more ordered society. So I can not use it as an anchor to say what should be moral and what be immoral. But I can use it as a set of good ideas, thinking which was done long before I was born which I can incorporate.

As the modern world progresses and we unshackle ourselves from old religious dogma, there is a tendency to think that everything is relative, even morality. Somehow morality itself is in doubt if it’s possible to show situations where it would be considered the other way about. The best example is murder in self defence, by accident or deliberate? with a weapon or without? all these complicating factors which would suggest the morality is simply a weakened with complexities.

But, that’s over thinking things. Murder is immoral because you intend to do harm to someone else, murdering yourself isn’t immoral in itself because you’re doing yourself harm (however it can be said that you are harming others, especially if you don’t tell them or don’t have their support). As the buda would say: killing things for a reason doesn’t remove the fundamental wrongful truth, it just provides motivation.

So my conjecture today is: The fundamental property of morality is causing harm to other people. The most basic tool to avoid causing harm is the golden rule philosophy. The best way to deal with causing harm is to find ways to undo or make up for what you’ve done and hope for understanding and forgiveness from others.

What are your thoughts?

What to do about Moral Uncertainty

We human beings can be wrong; in fact we’re more likely to be wrong than right because we do not have the ability to know everything. The problems we have with this limited knowledge is that it leads us to think we’re mostly right almost all of the time. (go watch the video linked, it’s really good)

And as Kathryn explains in the video above, even when we’re wrong, it feels just like we are right until we have the realisation of being wrong and then the shame and emotional trauma begins… So what to do with morality? That most important of personal philosophies that helps us decide how to treat our fellow human beings. The very ether that bases interaction and decider of trust and reciprocation?

I attempt to accept the fallibility of the data I have available. I do my best with what I know so far and attempt in every way to be defensive about causing harm. This defensive stance requires that I trust a set of moral beliefs which I may not be able to thoroughly prove before I act on them.

For example I support Free Software. For me it’s a moral choice, to deny users ownership is morally bankrupt in my current world view. Of course I could be wrong; it may be that denying users ownership doesn’t actually harm them in any significant way. At which point my assumptions about the moral vanguard of Free Software would in and of itself be wrong and wasteful.

I have some data to guide me in making my decision though, it’s not all guesswork. Personally experiences have shaped how I see code, my socialist roots teach me that the working-class should politically resist further rents and propriety, whether from housing, tools or software. My views on liberty push me towards any system that breaks down large centralised organisation and authoritisation and towards distributism.

With those feelings I can make my conclusions, but of course these are not the kind of experiences that most people have to guide them. So what do I conclude? If you’ve watched the video you should see that assuming other people who come to different conclusions are ignorant, stupid or malevolent isn’t quite the best way to approach interaction with other human beings.

So talking more about Free and Open Source with most people really allows me to challenge my own conclusions as much s I try and educate and help other people further their understanding.

Your thoughts?