I’ve made the case for the importance of morality to the functioning of modern society in my earlier WordPress article (here). However, it is also important to recognise that morality is not subject to relativism. It is not a pick and choose affair. Morality, whatever its originating cultural background, expects universality and consistency – and it operates according to its own internal logic.
In researching morality over the last two years, I have been able to identify a number of rules which invariably apply to or work within morality. I now document these as follows:
i. Morality requires a source of potent authority
Without this, any assertion of duty or moral obligation rings hollow. “Why? Why must I? Why ought I?” A potent authority behind the moral imperative is needed. Intelligent Ethics takes this from life itself – the source of all meaning, the essence of what we are.
ii. Morality applies to all human action
Morality encapsulates all other human activity. It is the primary and ultimate determinant of what we ought or ought not do. Everything sits within the moral context – even if, from within this context, it can then be assigned to the categories of morally insignificant or irrelevant.
iii. Morality is universal
In affirming a moral code you are also affirming that it is universal. Our core moral aims are applicable to all. It is the duty of all humans to be moral, wherever or whomever they are. It is their duty, and it is also their right.
iv. Morality necessitates and requires freedom
If you are not free you are unable to be moral. If you have no choice, if force or threat leave you no alternative, then your actions becomes amoral – devoid of moral content. Moral assessment and judgement then applies to whatever or whomever is coercing or controlling you. There is of course a sliding scale of freedom, and only the totally enslaved will be totally devoid of moral responsibility. If you have even a fraction of freedom then you are to that same degree responsible for your choices and your actions.
v. Morality cannot be enforced
Coercion and morality are inversely proportional: a person’s ability to be moral diminishes in direct proportion to the level of coercion used against them.
vi. The restriction of the freedom to be moral is a sin
If freedom is necessary for morality then the restriction of the freedom to be moral (or immoral) can only be a sin. It is therefore the duty of the ethical to morally enable others – to seek their freedom. To coerce or force others so that they are unable to make choices (even if this is the choice to be immoral) directly conflicts with the logic of morality – for as soon as a person is coerced to be moral they lose ownership of their actions and moral judgement ceases to apply to them. Explanation, education, encouragement and example are the tools of the ethical – not force.
vii. Morality requires an act of commitment
Because humans are free (see IE16 in my book Intelligent Ethics) we are free to be moral or immoral. If we wish to be moral then we must, of our own free will, commit ourselves to the authority of our morality. In doing this we accept that our personal whim and impulse are secondary to the direction and derivations of our moral code. We choose to accept the universality of the moral imperative and to live in accordance with our core moral aims. We choose to become moral beings.
viii. Morality requires consistency
A person cannot choose to be moral as and when it suits them, since this would effectively place their interests from one moment to the next above the authority of their morality – and thus denude their morality of authority or power. Morality without authority ceases to be morality (see IE15 in Intelligent Ethics and i, above). Further, on a purely practical level, a person who is unreliable and inconsistent is likely to be immoral in the sense that they cannot be trusted, particularly not in matters of importance or when it ‘comes to the crunch’.
ix. Morality requires honesty
If we are to know that a person is moral, and that we can trust them to act morally, then they must be honest. Dishonesty is not only immoral in itself (conflicting with our core moral aim to nurture others), it also undermines any claim by the dishonest upon being moral, having moral intentions or having acted morally. As with those who are inconsistent, you cannot trust the dishonest, particularly not in matters that matter.
x. Actions speak louder than words
Actions have greater moral weight than the words that explain or surround them or the protestations of those claiming to be moral.
xi. Actions speak louder than good intentions or motives
Actions have greater moral weight than the motives or intentions behind them. Motive and intention have a bearing in our evaluation of a person’s morality, but the person’s actions are the most important determinant of their moral worth.
xii. Intentions and motives speak louder than words
Accepting xi above, the intentions or motives which lead to an action nevertheless have greater moral weight than the words that excuse, explain or surround the action. Using your ethical intelligence to establish the intentions and motives of others is therefore essential in making moral decisions or determining a moral course.
xiii. Actions speak louder than inclinations
A person’s inclinations may be immoral, but if they are able to override these inclinations and their actions remain moral they can remain a moral person. For example, someone may have an inclination to exploit others which they cannot rid themselves of. However, if they succeed in suppressing that inclination and their actions remain moral, then their moral worth is the same as someone who has acted in a similarly moral way but has never had this inclination.
xiv. Words must always be measured by actions, and actions must always be assessed in relation to motive and intention
As x, xi, xii above.
To demonstrate relationships between the following rules, I include them below as an image:
And continuing in my original format:
xxii. Past immorality must be redressed
As noted above (xx), the immoral can always become moral by undertaking moral action. Yet this does not mean previous immorality can be forgotten. The formerly immoral must still feel shame and regret for their immoral actions and seek to make reparation and restitution for any harm they have done. Only thus do they begin to ‘nurture others’ in accordance with our core moral aims (Intelligent Ethics, 1-xviii.i). Similarly, those who are aware of the past immorality of others may wish, for a period, to treat them with appropriate caution and care. This is pragmatic common sense, and pragmatism and common sense are also tools of the ethical.
xxiii. Moral wrongs are not eclipsed by greater moral wrongs
Because event a is more wicked and bad than event b this does not mean that event b can be discounted or lost from our moral calculations. All immorality must be challenged and addressed by the moral.
xxiv. Attributes are morally neutral
Ethnicity, colour, gender, sexual orientation, educational background or social status, birthplace, intelligence, talent, appearance and all the other attributes applicable to human beings are morally neutral. Your attributes do not determine your moral worth. Your moral worth is determined by the actions you take in furthering the human mission: in enabling your own flourishing; in enabling the flourishing of others, in enhancing the flourishing of humanity as a whole; in ensuring the flourishing of all life; and, to the extent that your capabilities and opportunities permit, in sharing life with the solar system and the stars.
xxv. Inaction equals action
If it is within your power to alter or facilitate the altering of a situation or sequence of events in the world around you, and you decide not to take advantage of this power (i.e. to do nothing), then this is morally equivalent to your exerting this power: the inaction is equal and equivalent to the action. Inaction may indeed be the moral course, but this must be a moral course consciously decided upon with full recognition of its impact. Similarly, to turn a blind eye to an immoral act or decision is as culpable as to knowingly witness and collude with that act or decision. This is because all human activity or inactivity sits within a moral context, and inactivity cannot exclude itself from this.
xxvi. Morality is inclusive
Morality excludes no one. Anyone, anywhere, at any time can be moral or become moral. They merely have to undertake moral action and desist from immoral action… and thus begin a moral life.
In morality there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’; there is only ‘all of us’, and we are all capable of being moral.
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