So this is going to be an ongoing project, but part of it wants to come out. As I was walking to Target to replace some of the underwear stolen by the last hotel I stayed in, a couple of principals poked out at me. Now, I’ve probably stated these before on that old Facebook page that became too controversial to exist, but the noise they made this morning has led me to believe they should be first principals and that stating them again would be worthwhile.
They are not new to the school of moral thought, and not especially profound. They should be common sense. Yet continually, even first moral principles are violated by vast quantities of people. For this reason, I will later add a few estimated causes for an individual’s diversion, since knowing one’s limitations is the only path to overcoming them.
The first is that in evaluating moral behavior, your perspective should not be given more weight than the perspective of the other persons involved. All parties are to be given exactly equal consideration, including scrutiny that leads to negative evaluations.
You cannot be a slave to your ego, denying whatever causes you regret or remorse, or even self hate. The truth will sometimes fall to the other person, and you will sometimes be the villain. It is true of every one of us. Accept this about humanity and accept it of yourself. Until you do, you cannot moralize reasonably. Complete this step or forget the rest, because you are incapable of moral thought. Leave it to others and do as they say.
The second is that full respect for his predicament must be given. In fact, this is a footnote to rule one, basically that: Every person is fully human and should be treated by other humans as such. A man’s situation is as much a part of him as is his character, if not more. Full consideration for his humanity means respect for his unique sociological position, including his race, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, marital status, parental status, his cultural upbringing, his current system of supports, etc. Every single factor in his life must be considered when evaluating his behavior and deciding whether it was moral, and in decing whether he has been treated fairly.
Number three is that the consequences inflicted for moral transgressions should consider their ripple effect into the world at large. When a person is punished, the punishment is borne in some way by the people around him. If the sum total of the punishment inflicts more harm than the act which inspired the punishment, then the consequence is the evil more so than the original offense. Consequences must not produce more harm than is deserved.
Number four really preceeds number three, but not in importance, hence its position after. The ripple of any behavior into the world at large decides its moral value more than the effect it has on the immediately involved parties. It is easiest to see the meaning of this when the ripple of a consequence, like jail time for posession of drugs, is considered. Children grow up without parents or with parents who are socioeconomically limited by the impact a criminal record has on their earning potential. Friends or family are burdened of their resources in order to support the accused, with support taking the form of bail bonds, lawyers fees, transportation, and often housing and feeding as well. The suffering caused to the accused ought to be enough to show the immorality of this legal policy, but if it weren’t, if you believed that his suffering was deserved, you could not morally inflict it unless the sum total harm caused to the world at large by this punishment were equal to or lesser than the harm the itial transgression caused to society.
It is harder to know whether a specific, amoral behavior will have significant moral implications for the world at large, and for this reason also, consequences are given focus. But all behavior is subject to the same standard: that it’s impact on a grand scale is definitive of it’s moral value, more so than it’s immediate impact on the circumstances which enclose it.
And for now, we conclude. Discussion is welcome on this one, feel free to comment below.