Part I | Part II
I believe there can be a universal morality. All humans have an inbuilt sense of right and wrong that I don’t think is totally a result of culture. Almost all societies have laws against murder and stealing for example. Although, we can’t just trust human feelings to give us our moral values.
A simple way to determine right and wrong is to look at the harm that a particular action causes or might cause. The harm being done needs to be quantifiable. That is measurable harm against individuals. You also can’t harm to abstractions such as “society” - if you can’t show actual harm being done to actual individuals it is not covered by this moral code. Choice is also part of this moral code. Women who by choice wear a buka potentially resulting in vitamin D deficiency and social isolation should not be forced to stop. People who choose to hurt themselves without hurting others should be allowed to continue within reason. It is also important to remember that sometimes you will do more harm trying to stop somebody committing harmful acts to themselves than the act itself.
Now let’s give this idea a test run. Opponents of gay marriage are continuously saying how it devalues marriage, that it could damage society or it will confuse children. No opponent of gay marriage has ever been able to show that any physical or psychological harm has ever been done to an individual because of the passage of gay marriage legislation. On the other hand gay people who have got married are very pleased that they were able to do so. According to my moral code gay marriage is okay.
Another example could be female genital mutilation. This practice has one thing going for it – it’s an ancient cultural practice. Girls don’t choose to have this done to them it is extremely painful and results in permanent damage. No choice, permanent harm and in all likelihood it would not start a civil war if it was forcibly stopped. My moral code says this is wrong and should be stopped ASAP.
The so called anti-headscarf legislation in France prevents students in French public schools from wearing conspicuous religious symbols. Many people accuse this law as unfairly targeting girls of the Muslim faith as headscarfs are particularly conspicuous. Others have also accused it of being sexist and/or racist, but these are just really labels. The real problem with this law is that it infringes the choice of people to wear what they like. Headscarfs are not obscene or offensive - no one has ever been damaged by seeing a women in a headscarf. You can predict what my moral code says about this one.
Some people might like to think that all these examples conveniently fit into a particular political view, but let us consider…the invasion of Afghanistan by NATO. America’s excuse for going to war with Afghanistan was because the Taliban were harbouring Osama Bin Laden and refused to give him up - a very poor reason to go to war. The steadily worsening situation in Afghanistan had been all over the media for many years before September 11, 2001. Public executions were commonplace women were prevented from attending education and receiving medical treatment from male doctors. Women that attempted to receive an education were severely beaten, killed or had acid splashed in their faces. Technology was forcibly stripped from Afghanistan sending it back to the Stone Age. A civil war had also been raging for over 25 years.
Afghanistan was already at war its citizens were being tortured, killed and had zero rights. I had personally been hoping for years that somebody would step in and prevent what was happening. Many of the people of Afghanistan had no say in what was going on the country. It was completely devastated and an invasion would probably not make things that much worse. I believe an invasion with humanitarian goals was justified in this case - well that’s what my moral code says anyway.
Afghanistan still isn’t perfect, but I think it is on the mend as this latest democratic vote helps to prove.
This moral code can be applied in almost any situation. The most important part of this is the harm must be measurable - if you don’t have this information you should not be making a moral decision. Sometimes things are just grey and we all have to find a way to live with that.
Part I | Part II
Friday, 11 April 2014
The Morality of Chris: Part II, Universal Morality
Part I | Part II