The Philosophy on Morality
Am I moral?
Moral is the assertion that many good intended persons claim to be. But what does it mean to be moral?
Does morality really exist?
When we say that we are acting morally we are saying that we are being good and acting according to how society and individuals expect of us to act. But if this is morality, how to we define it so as to know if we are acting in accordance with its’ laws?
What does it mean to be good? It seems that the only thing that is good without the need for qualification is a person’s’ will to do good. This would be the will to do the right thing–whatever that means.
The will to do good is always good. Things like wealth, courage, intelligence, and beauty can be used for good or evil. But the will to do good is not good because of what you can acquire from it. It is good because good will must be in and of itself. But we may not always exercise the practice of good will.
For example, a cashier at the local corner store has a new customer enter the store. A purchase is made and change is returned to the patron. There could have been an opportunity for the cashier to withhold the proper change netting gain in the days’ income.
But the cashier returned the correct change without thinking once of shorting the customer. Why did this happen? Could it have been the fact that if caught he/she could be embarrassed and lose a new customer? Or was this action done because it pleased the cashier in doing so?
If either of these reasons explain the action, they are not motivated by the good will. The motivation was a desire to obtain something; a means to an end. It’s not the consequences of your actions that matter but rather that you have done them for the right reasons.
The only genuinely good actions are the ones that you do purely out of the respect for the moral rules.
But what are the rules?
When we are directed by somebody else telling us what to do or how we should act can’t be good. For instance, whether it’s God, your parents, or whomever, if you are just following orders you are not acting from the good will. Your behavior is out of response to some form of reward or punishment that follows.
The good will must come from you.
Moral reasons are so powerful because they have a strong hold on you. They actually come from you. And by your own agency you place moral rules on yourself.
Respect for these rules comes out of being a member of something; being a citizen of a country, a member of a church, a member of a social club, etc.
Moral rules are a result of us having the capacity to be rational beings. Possessing a mind that is capable of listening to reason and logic. These reasons are relative to everyone and thus, can’t be ignored.
Does it make sense to act badly or be bad? No. You can never escape the laws of logic. Morals and logic ultimately come one and the same place. They are built in restrictions in the manner of ways that make sense for how people should think or act.
So again, what are the rules?
The Categorical Imperative
“I ought never to act except in such a way that I could also will that my maxim should become a universal law”
What we have to do in order to be moral is to do the right thing all the time regardless of circumstances. This is a categorical order.
For example, sometimes you might feel like lying to accomplish an end–whatever that may be. But would it make sense to will this on everybody so that they lie whenever they want to? If everybody lied the very concept of truth and lies would simply break down. Nobody could trust each other for the sake lying would cause you not to want to lie because there would be no usefulness in doing so.
The moral law must come from you, from your will. If you will to tell lies then you have indeed contradicted yourself. It is important that your will remain consistent as this is what the categorical imperative is essentially about. Your will has to make sense.
If you ask yourself, does it make sense to ask that everybody do what I want to do? We are all capable of listening to moral reasoning.
“Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or the person of another, always as an end, and never simply as a means.” Immanuel Kant
Respect for other people’s status as beings of moral worth as well as respecting ourselves as well as cleaving to our inner moral voices.
Some interesting questions can arise from this. For example, when I patronize the corner store I am treating the cashier as a means to and end. I am only interacting with him/her because of what I intend on getting out of the engagement. This can be said with regard to seeing a doctor, calling a taxi, or basically, anybody I encounter where there is something to be gained from the contact.
But we must remember that the people who would fall into this category also have their own ends and that we would not be mistreating them. In fact, we are not performing any ill treatment to them because they are producing a product or service voluntarily. Otherwise, this would contradict the categorical imperative.
“Act as though through your maxims you could become a legislator of universal laws.” Immanuel Kant
It is important to be mindful that we are constantly setting forth an example for others who observe. The way we behave contributes to what can be perceived as normal human behavior. The question is whether to make that normal behavior good or bad.
The moral law has to come from you. We must place it in ourselves and sometimes we might have to do that against what our desires are.
Moral philosophy really depends on free will. If we can’t freely place the moral law on ourselves than moral laws don’t really exist.
Moral will, by necessity, comes from within you and its’ chief command is: thy will shalt make sense.