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Where Does Morality Reside?

February 16, 2016

This is a short paper I wrote for an ethics class.
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Humans are born into a difficult situation.  We all want live happy, fulfilled, joyful lives, with depth and richness in our experiences, but we all know that life often does not go the way we would like it to.  This is because human life is like navigating a giant hallway of doors, where each door leads to a different outcome, some good and some bad.  Once you enter a particular door, you have to deal with whatever is in that room and then once again, choose another door.  Our personal journey consists of the experiences we encounter in each of these doors; the problem is that we do not know what we will encounter in each doorway.

Each human wants to feel alive, to be loved, accepted, appreciated, to have a chance to exercise his unique talents and abilities, to find friendship, and many other things like this.  A person’s chance of succeeding really depends on the environment they’re placed in.  Regardless, we are all fractured, incomplete beings, hoping to find some sort of satiation to all the different longings which our very nature stirs within us.  We find ourselves in this sea of time, forced to open these doors and experience whatever lies in each room.

To deal with this situation, humans have devised a wide myriad of strategies for navigating this maze of life.  Few people create their own strategy from scratch.  Most folks sort of absorb a life strategy from the world around them and go with it, but others are a bit more thoughtful and carefully choose a strategy which they hope will lead them to the best possible life.  For example, some will subordinate themselves to a value system, such a religion.  This religion will have a series of commandments and rules, which adherents believe originate from a divine source, and if a devout soul will follow them to the letter, they hope they will live the best possible life they could have lived on Earth.  Others will search for adventure, sort of charging through life’s hallways with bravado, reveling in the entire process.  Yet another popular strategy for westerners is to try to figure their own personal nature and then try to navigate their way to environments which best accommodate this nature.  These people are always trying to find out who they “really” are.  In the east, a common strategy is to try to ignore these inner longings, calming them through something like meditation.   They see the mind like a muddy pool of water; if they can meditate and calm their inner thoughts and desires, the water will clear and they can be at peace. The possible strategies are endless and life is very complicated.

Morality is just a particular strategy humans have devised for dealing with life.  A lot of it consists of rules of thumb, passed down generation to generation, leaving behind successful life strategies people have found by trial and error.  When people talk about duty, honor, good and evil, wisdom, prudence, judgment, and other things like this, it is all life strategies.  These systems will tell a “wise” man how to deal with a particular situation, how a person of integrity handles another situation, and so on.  All of these systems of thought are like books lying in the door filled hallways.  The problem is, there are so many books, so many ideas, and so many varying circumstances that you can never be fully prepared for what any door may hold.  There is a lot of guessing and crossing fingers and there are no full proof strategies.  Some are obviously better than others, but as we all know, good things happen to bad people and awful things happen to the best people.

Life is not fair or just, it just is.  Morality does not reside anywhere in particular, it’s just an approach to life us sentient human beings use to navigate through the hallways of life.  Morality is really a symptom of our fractured, incomplete existence.  If we knew the end from the beginning, morality wouldn’t need to exist, but for now, people are condemned to be free.

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