We Were Made for Each Other: Why Morality isn't Subjective
Morality is a force woven into our existence.
In one of my favorite blog posts, The Egg by Andy Weir, I talk about how we are all more similar than we are different, and that the "golden rule" we learned in elementary school is actually more of a universal phenomenon. This concept, the notion that all humans share a strong interconnectedness, comes up in ancient philosophy as sympatheia.
"Sympatheia" literally translates to "sympathy, or affinity of parts to the organic whole, mutual interdependence" according to dailystoic.com. Marcus Aurelius (and many other philosophers) talked about this phenomenon in ways that encourage us to see the beauty of humankind. In Meditations, Aurelius says, "All things are implicated in one another and in sympathy with each other. This event is the consequence of some other one. Things push and pull on each other and breathe together, and are one."
Sympatheia is something I really believe in and I realized it could answer some questions about morality.
Many iconic philosophers sought to find the nature of morality as well as its foundations. Some might say that morality -- our sense of right and wrong -- comes from God. Others might say that it's in our design, while some suggest that it is entirely subjective. I want to refute that last point.
Let's imagine a world where morality truly was subjective. Firstly, Anytime we as humans came to a disagreement, we'd be forced to chalk it up to "to each their own", we wouldn't be able to hold people accountable for immoral actions because our definitions of immoral could be vastly different or even contradictory. In other words, there would be no standard to hold people to.
How do people solve problems when they don't have agreed-upon rules and consequences? History suggests we resort to very bad things, like brute force for example. And through history, we already know that in a world in which manpower determines righteousness; crime, disenfranchisement, and suffering arise. This is how we know there must be shared morality; the alternative is not conducive to a flourishing society.
It is also through this line of thinking that we can test moral questions. It proves that there are some things that we know are objectively right or objectively wrong because they've been woven into our own existence. Killing is wrong because, in a world where we all killed each other to solve our problems, humanity would cease to exist. Lying is wrong because, in a world where we all lied, nothing would get done, and no one would be trustworthy.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The real moral questions lie in the hairiness of actual societal problems. For example, is lying excusable if it spares the feelings of others? Is there any situation in which killing, or letting someone die, is actually good for humanity? The answers to these questions are not so black and white.
Thanks for reading through this very short post on some of my thoughts! This topic of morality is very wide in philosophy and I encourage you to explore it more if you like this post! Try googling moral relativism, utilitarianism, or virtue ethics if you want some more reading about morality. You can also check out some of my other posts below!
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