Friday, August 24, 2007

Your Morality is Related to Your “Why?” Questions

According to Wikipedia, Morality (from Latin moralitas "manner, character, proper behavior") refers to the concept of human action which pertains to matters of right and wrong – also referred to as "good and evil" – used within three contexts: individual distinction; systems of valued principles – sometimes called conduct morality – shared within a cultural, religious, secular or philosophical community. Personal morals define and distinguish among right and wrong intentions, motivations or actions, as these have been learned, engendered, or otherwise developed within individuals.

In my pop-psych book, Living Life, Anyway, the first paragraph of Chapter Eighteen, entitled “Living Life Morally,” gets right to the heart of the matter:

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What does it mean to live one’s life morally? Good question. Basically, morals address, pertain to, and are concerned with “right conduct and the distinction between right and wrong”. Fittingly, living one’s life morally also pertains to the principles of right and wrong conduct. In my own philosophical approach to life, for example, I do not necessarily care what a person’s religion is, what a person’s political affiliation is, or what kind of car he or she drives. As I might consider and regard you, for instance, I simply would have four questions: (1) How do you treat the world (living and non-living things)? (2) How do you treat other people, in general, as well as the significant others in your life? (3) How do you treat yourself? and, (4) Why do you treat the world, others, and yourself the way you do? The first three questions fundamentally emanate from, and are extensions of, your values (as I discussed in Chapter Thirteen). The fourth question, nonetheless, has to do with your morals. (p. 127)

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As you journey down your road of life, it is important to occasionally glance back over your shoulder or look in the rearview mirror and ask yourself some important questions about your life. What I do? When I do what we do? Where I do what we do? and How I do what I do? are important questions to ponder. Nonetheless, the most difficult and possibly one of the most important question to ask yourself is: Why do I do what I do? And as I say in my book, this primarily has to do with your morals.

Question: What is your experience when you ponder the question, “Why do I do what I do?”



Susan Hatler said...

My hubby read something once that said something like "Every decision you make is based on either Pleasure or Pain, whichever is greater". So, we spent the evening discussing various decisions we make and it was quite interesting to explore. Let's say charity work, for example. I enjoy charity work because the result gives me more "pleasure" than the "pain" of the time/effort it takes. Or, in reverse, I don't skydive because I don't feel the "pleasure" of enjoyment I'd receive would be worth the "pain" if my parachute went kerplunk. Thanks for always keeping me thinking, Bill!

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Susan,
Thanks for the visit and sharing your experience.
Indeed, you and your husband indirectly involve your “values” in your decision-making (as I footnoted in the Post). “Pleasure” and “pain” many times are a function of what’s important to us – I (as well as my children) sit and read with my grandchildren – why? Because it feels good to see the grandchildren get excited about books (and reading). And why does that feel good – because I (and my family) highly value reading and books. I don’t mean to insult you; I’m just anchoring the principle underlying your examples. (I also can see that you are happy with your life – you value it – and do not want it to end… LOL.)
Thanks again, Susan,
P.S. Just for the record, for my son’s 21st Birthday, his present from me was for both of us to parachute out of a plane. We still have the videos, exciting photos donning our walls, and wonderful memories of that day. (Now there's something for you to think about... LOL)

xina said...

It is difficult to discern which is the "more" moral choice; following one's own truth or living up to our commitments if the two are in contrast with one another -- any thoughts? A good example might be; My son told me that he is terrified of me going skydiving, and asked me to please not do it. It is a burning desire I have had for many years and if I die before I get the chance I will feel sad, do you think it is moral to follow my own dream and do it anyway?

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello Xina,

Thanks for stopping by and sharing. I have to tell you, however, that I see your issue more of a philosophical issue than a moral issue. You indeed describe one of life’s real philosophical dilemmas. Interestingly, my Thursday, December 28, 2006 Post entitled “Existential Guilt – the Betrayal of Self“ addressed this dilemma. Here is an excerpt from it:

“’Guilt is primarily an emotion experienced by people who believe they have done something wrong’ (wikipedia). Fittingly, if you think you did something wrong (or it was wrong for you to not do something), you may indeed experience some guilt. There is another type of guilt, nonetheless, that also can weigh heavily on us – Existential Guilt. This form of guilt is not necessarily concerned with the betrayal of others – this is concerning the betrayal of self.”

So, basically what you are saying is that if you skydive, you may feel bad because you would see it as betraying your son’s wishes – that would constitute guilt. However, if you don’t skydive, you may feel bad because you would see it as betraying yourself – that would be existential guilt. Tough horns of a dilemma!

Philosophically, I believe that there is only one person who can make that decision: you. (You may want to ask yourself… “Which one would be the toughest to live with?” And, “What kind of philosophy of life do you want to model for your son?”)

I wish I had an answer for you, but I don’t. I can’t (it’s your life, not mine). Sorry.

I hope this is somewhat helpful to you in your decision-making process, Xina, and that you will return again some time.

Thanks again,


Susan Hatler said...

Thanks, Bill. Your thoughts are always insightful. Too cool that you jumped out of a plane! Still a "no go" for me though. ;)

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Thanks, Susan... you're very kind.
Never can tell... someday maybe...
Just before we jumped, my son said, "I can't believe we're jumping out of a perfectly good plane." LOL.
Ciao for now,