Monday, November 5, 2012

Ethics and Morality

Morality is knowing right from wrong.
As put forward by the Definition of Morality, by the Oxford Dictionary on line, "Morality" -mass noun - principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behaviour"
- count now - " particular system of values and principles of conduct of a bourgeois morality"
- "the extent to which an action is right or wrong.

Bill Cosby, the great American comedian did a particularly funny sketch about a couple of cavemen eating bushes. One day these vegetarians decide to eat meat. Bill Cosby has them starting by trying to eat a saber tooth tiger. This begins the long search of 'trial and error' that has lead to the 'morality' of our cuisine today.

"thou shalt not kill" or as the Evolution of God writer said, given the understanding of the day, "thou shalt not kill Jews or members of your tribe." At the other end of the spectrum is the great African Christian physician Albert Schweitzer who took this to mean thou shalt not kill living creatures until he understood that even as he stepped in the woods he was killing countless bacteria and other beings of the microscopic world.

Society collectively espouses a morality, the laws of the land decided by the parliaments and congresses as practiced by the courts of the day and undertaken by the police and citizens of a community. Individual morality may be that of my Baptist Aunt, once executive assistant to Canada's ambassador in Washington during WWII. She said she never thought you should say bad about another. And frankly I and the family would be hard pressed to cite an example of her doing this which she called 'back talk' and saw as a grave sin of the very first order. Trungpa, the great Buddhist philosopher said that North Americans had great difficulty with 'systems' of 'law' and 'conduct' as they were forever treating all collections of laws, including spiritual laws, as a smorgasboard where one picked or chose.

90% of the world's lawyers are congregated in North America and at the core of the Christian religion Jesus is seen as an advocate. In the rest of the world by contrast a person speeding pays a penalty when caught. It is not open to dispute. There is no court of appeal where lawyers can get a person 'off' yet another drunken and driving charge. There is a law and the mitigating circumstances are few. Of course laws can be broken especially by the powerful but the charade of the legal proceedings is to a large extent circumnavigated and costly child's play. Judges take bribes of course but they do that in North America as well. The laws are more etched in stone perhaps than written in sand on a beach at low tide.

Ethics, for contrast and comparison is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as
1. " moral principles that govern a person's behaviour or the conducting of an activity" eg 'medical ethics also enter into the question'
2. "the branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles" eg 'neither metaphysics nor ethics is the home of religion'

It seems hard to consider a person having morally correct behaviour without at the same time being ethically correct. However, this is the present day problem of wearing many hats in a rapidly transforming society. In a person's personal life they may have a high standard of morality and yet feel compelled to work in a government position where there is a low standard of ethical conduct. Sober, non drinking and non drug using, pro life physicians had the misfortune of practicing in a community where the majority of their colleagues had serious problems with addiction and ascribed to a pro abortion stance. Having taken a Hippocratic oath these physicians were faced with increasing encouragement to include euthanasia as part of their practice, covertly rather than overtly. Much of the dialogue was derailed from the matter of 'ethics and morality' to 'budgetary constraints while the administration in these communities were "fat cats" and personally saw 'altruism' as evidence of weakness and immaturity.

Where religion and ethics were closely bound throughout history, morality was internalized as part of this quasi religious background. In Communist Regimes, the first and most prevalent of the 'areligious' and 'aetheistic' political systems, mass murder on a scale grander than ever known throughout history, beyond any religious based killings through out time, more individuals killed by Communist Russia, Communist China and the Pol Pot than killed in the history of all religious wars in a matter of decades.

This 'failed experiment' continues to plague society globally. In contrast Western worlds did not deny religion by according to Jeffersonian principles separated religion from state. However this was before "multi culturalism" and "culture" contains elements of relgion as central to the morality and ethics of the individuals who share in this experience. That said, 'multiculturalism' has only known a few decades of 'trial' and the leading countries of the western world who espouced it as an ethical principle have rejected it because of it's failure. It remains smouldering but has given rise to the realization that a 'culture of religion' is comparable to a 'culture of secularism.'

This idea is explored in the New York Times Bestseller novel "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman. He creates a combat scenario between the old gods of the old religions carried over by American immigrants to the new lands from all their original destinations with the new 'gods of america' which he describes as the 'television' , 'casino' , 'mall' , 'radio' , etc. He sees us praying to these and imbuing the ideas of them into mythical possibilities with powers and magic.

Indeed today it's recognised that Americans, though political, are not particularly well educated as a group in sciences or mathematics.

In Celtic Religion the morality derives from the earth sciences and the spiritual insights and cultural traditions. It is a mind, body soul religion that encompassed the whole individual and demanded a scientific approach to matters of traditionally considered religion.

It is morally and ethically celebrated today by the quantum physicists who saw that at the 'nano' world of 'cosmic uncertainty' religion and secular belief overlapped. In this regard the new ideas of science suggest the nano reality, the quantum phenomena seen previously at the edges of reality indeed shape the reality.

Deconstructionism before it was deconstructed as merely negative criticism of the Occam's Razor sort did make mockery of all western morality and ethical pretention. It was to some exent merely bourgeoisie but lingers in the desire many of the leaders have for the golden era of leadership 'pre magna carta'. Then there was a two tier moral and ethical system, one for the masses and another for the leaders.

Out of this came the notion that 'power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely".

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