Sunday, January 31, 2010

Collective Morality

There are modes of normativity that are quite properly compelling but that are grounded neither in moral nor egoistic considerations. A person may legitimately be devoted to ideals─for instance, aesthetic, cultural, or religious ideals─whose authority for him is independent of the desiderata with which moral principles are distinctly concerned; and he may pursue these nonmoral ideals without having his own personal interests in mind at all. Although it is widely presumed that moral claims are necessarily overriding, it is far from clear that assigning a higher authority to some nonmoral mode of normativity must always be in every circumstance and regardless of the pertinent magnitudes─a mistake.

Harry G. Frankfurt is a professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Princeton University. He wrote those thoughts in his 2004 book, Reason for Love. The book tries to answer the question,”How should we live?” That of course is an individual choice, although that fact is forgotten as we travel our self-created road through life. We believe we must adhere to certain principles and laws. Collective morality, as Harry points out in the book, can be described as being concerned with how our attitude and our actions affect the needs, the desires, and the entitlements of other people.

Certainly our relationship with others is important, but it seems we bastardize the self in order to consider our self moral, as well as worthy. It seems we are forever putting the tail in front of the horse. We function as a distorted ego of self-interest, rather than a whole creation of inner morality. Rather than projecting our morality outward, we absorb it from the outside, and then try to stuff in our inner world.

By examining the morality standards set in motion by a collective beliefs system, we can look within and find the nature of morality itself. It exists within the sunderance of our ego and inner consciousness, and it may not conform to those collective beliefs that create the judgments we live by. We begin to realize we are living separately in order to collect the physical reward of conformity. We find that we create another self that desires respect and admiration. We think those rewards only come through collective beliefs, which are physically designed to tell us how to live, but they may not allow us to sense how I want to live.

The collective creates other definitions of morality, but the first definition and the only definition is to be true to the self; to recognize the multiplicity of our consciousness and to listen to it through our inner senses.

As Socrates said:

It is possible for one person to become shorter than another without shrinking in height.


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