How Do You Decide What is “Bad” and “Good?”

Ethics come from a variety of different places. Here are my thoughts about some of them.

Si Vales, Valeo

Thank you for your kind mail.

You are asking about the source of my ethics?

There are two sources (probably more). The most popular is the “Divine Command Theory.” This is the theory that our ethical conduct is guided by some mystical force.

In Leviticus God tells Moses: “Speak to the entire congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.” Which further drives home the idea that humans were created in God’s image. Not sure this can be considered “moral,” since to me it seems to be an appeal for self-discipline concerning material things… pleasure.

Additionally, there is the “Theory of Forms,” put forward by Plato which is becoming very popular with each discovery of the human brain, evolution, social anthropology, etc… and explains why people who have never had religion still make moral choices that are good for the majority. I have seen way too many atheists (or agnostics) do much good in the world, and even sacrifice themselves for others.

ALL ethics are relative to the individual, his circumstances, and culture. Taken to its logical conclusion, there is no such thing as ethics at all.

If you ask me MY opinion, we are all born with the ethics of our culture and race. They are a mishmash of upbringing, life experience, religious beliefs (or disbelief), and empathy with others. The psychopath is devoid of ethics because they are unable to empathize with the suffering of others, for example… or chooses his or her ethics according to his or her desires… but in a way, don’t we all?

So, the authority of what I will or will not do: The choice; the decision to what my action should be in any given situation is my own. That is the authority. It is the connection between myself and other human beings that makes me an ethical person. The religionist would say that authority comes from God. I don’t argue with that. But while that influence is most often treated as an external influence, I treat it as an internal one.

My morals come from the god in me. Generally speaking anything or anyone that stands between me and my Will is “bad.” Likewise for anyone that forces a person, animal or heck… even an insect, to perform in a manner for which it was not designed, I consider “bad.” The opposite of this is, in my opinion “good.” There is no sense in muddying up the waters for something so simple.

People follow societal baseline rules in order to function within the society they have chosen. All of us give up much of our freedoms to participate in a place where we can live without violence, job security, etc…

Therefore, if a society decides what moral standards are, how do we judge one society over another? Was Nazi Germany morally evil? Because the society had chosen a moral rationalization of racial extermination of Jews were their actions good? You already know the answer.

The drive to act ethically is rooted in empathy. The human ability to feel, think, and free will. We are weird to “put our selves in the shoes” of people who are oppressed or suffer. Weird, and a wonderful way to achieve survival of our species.

Our brain rewards us for doing something “good” for some one else. Guilt works to reinforce our ethical treatment of others.

REASON is what causes us to imagine what our actions will be positive or negative. Free will comes into play when we make a choice: a course of action that expresses our ethics. Free will is like a muscle, the more one uses it, the stronger it becomes.