The old idealistic way of thinking – of the good in itself, of duty in itself, of absolute virtues – this impersonal and non-human (or perhaps all too human) way of seeing and judging things is slowly eroding. However, this erosion is more subconscious than conscious, for this old way is so ingrained in our societies that we still think that we live in terms of such concepts, even if it is clear we do not in all but words. There is no morality, only what one feels is right – there is no essence of virtue, only what one feels is virtuous.
There is a conflict between these abstract concepts and our honest beliefs – and in an age where we have so little insight into what comes from emotion, reason, intuition and inheritance, it is the strongest source, that is, the most animalistic, that triumphs. The abstract notions are an inheritance, a relic of the past, but in modern society where the expectations of values and mindset are not as rigid, dogmatic and strict as before, inheritance, which is a strong force, does not carry the same weight as before in this regard. And so it is our intuition and emotion that wins the conflict (reason is more a tool than a source, and it is the weakest if not trained), but we cannot so easily rid ourselves of these anachronisms. Thus, where conflict occurs, or rather where it is observed or pointed out, our reason comes into play in its only role in this stupefying game: to bridge the gap between the abstract idea and what we feel. These abstract notions are not as clearly defined and rigid as they once may have been, so we make slight adjustments to definitions, concepts etc. until the gap is filled – “philosophy of the gaps”.
It is not the goal of our reason to find flaws with dearly held beliefs, so it is easily satisfied in this endeavour. We have this principle, or idea, that murder is always wrong. On the other hand, we feel that for example abortion should be allowed; having a child is such a life changing experience – and we are quite obsessed with the freedom to control our lives. These two concepts quite clearly collide, but Man is capable of handling contradictions quite well – by cheating its way out. We simply redefine what life is: it is when you consist of so and so many cells, and have a nervous system developed like this and that – and voilá, abortion is not murder!
The co-existence of the old and new mindset is both absurd and ridiculous, and perhaps even unhealthy. The more open society of today, at least in terms of values and beliefs, has allowed our intuition and emotion come to the forefront – before inheritance – but these are unchecked and untamed. Our uncritical belief in ourselves as rational beings does not only hinder the proper development of our intuition and emotion, but it has also left our reason impotent. Without acknowledging the order, place and limitation of each of these, one cannot hope to understand them – and thereby learn to use them.