Gravity of Morals

Traditionally morality has been defined in terms of rational categories detached from humans. The morality of an action or idea is determined by checking abstract criterias: loyalty, honesty, honour, harm, justice and so on. The important question is, how did we arrive at these terms? If one is to argue that honesty is moral, one shows that it satisfies certain criterias, or lead to certain consequences. Where did these criterias come from? Why these consequences?

The answer does not lie in logic detached from Man. We do not eat because we logically deduce that we will die if not, but because we are drawn to it. Indeed, we can give no reason for living other than a force that draws us. It does not make sense to talk of morality without such a force.

The moral concepts and principles we have made cannot be explained other than as a result of a force – and it is this force that is morality.

Gravity is not a pen falling to the floor; it is a force that makes a pen fall to the floor. Observing one’s surroundings without a knowledge of physics, one could be inclined to label gravity as the force that makes everything fall to earth. Seeing a helium balloon fly of in the air may surprise one then, or lead one to think this is some other force. What is all just one force has now become categorized as two – because the description of gravity did not capture the essence of it, only particular results of it.

Similarly, when one observes an action which does not contradict one’s description of morality, the inner force can still make one feel it as wrong. But here this is the description, and not the inner force, we should distrust. Most people in the west would agree that if one makes something oneself, be it a house, sculpture or picture, one is in charge of it. This is the rational description. Still, internet piracy that obviously contradicts this does not feel wrong. Like the helium balloon, it does not obey the force as we understand it, but the force as it is. Our abstract description does not always capture the essence of the force.

This force is the morality we study. One usually defines the realm of morality through the external – social or divine. In personal choices that do not affect others one does not speak of morality. But the true realm of morality is everything this force responds to – that awakens this force.

Our eyes are only sensitive to a certain frequency of light, and every object reflecting the light we can see is a visual object. In the same way we call a moral object anything – be it a choice, event, idea or image – that the moral “eyesight” is sensitive to. A white paper does not spark any moral reaction in most people, so it is not a moral object for them. Like visible, moral object is therefore a subjective term, dependent not on the properties of the object but on your position and “eyesight”. Due to personal and mythological reasons different people have different levels of moral sensitivity. That is why the same object can have different moral content for different observers.

Standing at different distances from a physical object one will feels its gravitational force differently – and morality so far has been each man feeling the weight of a force and describing the strength. No universal morality has therefore ever been agreed upon, because in the dimension of morality we do not only have different sensitivity, but also a different distance to the moral objects. It does not make sense to talk about the morality of ideas and actions in abstract. “A book” says nothing about its gravitational pull, as no information is given about the property that affects gravity: mass. “To steal” says nothing about the moral force, for it does not contain information about the properties that affect the moral force. We could add “to steal from the poor”, but even then we know that people do not feel and react the same in all cases. The actual properties are not yet known.

Each moral force is in a sense independent. The moral force is internal to each individual, and one can imagine it as not pulling or pushing on moral objects, but rather as pulling or pushing the individual towards them. Therefore, the internal force of an individual does not affect the force of another; how you are pulled towards earth by gravity does not affect how I am pulled towards earth by gravity.

Instead of thinking that earth exerts a gravitational force on us, we can consider it as an internal force that draws us to earth – and this force depends on internal properties: mass of the individual. Similarly the internal force that draws us to moral objects depends on internal properties, and just like we do not all have equal mass, we may not all have these properties in equal measure, whatever they may be. A difference in these properties will naturally lead to a difference in the resultant forces. We may very well say that morality is as absolute as gravity, and this is exactly why it differs from individual to individual.

Morality is an internal force of the individual activated by the perception of moral objects – pulling the individual towards or pushing away.

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One thought on “Gravity of Morals

  1. Pingback: Immorality of Morality | Interactive philosophy

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