21 October 2008

Moral codes

Brad Hicks, reflecting on why folks vote Republican, makes a more general observation about moral reasoning.
I long ago got my nose rubbed in the fact that there are two competing views in American society of what a code of morality means. For a while, I thought it was a crazy vs. sane thing. When I found out otherwise, I suspected it was a social-class based thing. When I found out I was wrong about that, I concluded that no, it's just a cultural thing, something that runs in families, just as some families are shouters and some are deeply afraid of open displays of anger. Anyway, the divide is this. Some people believe that when you adopt, and state, a code of morality that that code is a sacred promise that you are making to yourself, to your family, to society. They believe that if you fall short of your sworn code of morality, it may be a sin that God can forgive, but it is a sin against yourself that you should never forgive. They (we) believe that you should hold it against yourself for the rest of your life that you knew better, promised better, and did whatever it was anyway. On the other hand, there are people who believe that no matter how high or low you set your moral standards, you're going to break them some of the time. To them, a moral code is not so much a set of promises as a set of aspirations. Which means that to them, it's not really fair to judge someone by how often they fail to live up to their own moral code (or society's). Why not? Because they sincerely believe that everybody breaks their own moral code roughly equally often, that the only thing that conceals this fact is that some people are just lucky enough or sneaky enough to hide it better when they do. Believing this, they judge people, morally, by what they promise to do, by what they say that they're going to do. Why? Because they believe that the people who promise more are the ones who will try harder.

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