The Only Moral Plumbline

The only efficacious and rational moral question you should be asking yourself, which applies to every instant and instance of your life, is not “What should I be doing?”, or “What have I done?”, but “Is what  I am doing right now a direct violation of another human being (and a simple “cause and effect” concept can be applied here…to wit, is it a lie, a theft, a damage to property or body/mind, a murder)?” If the answer is “no” then you are acting morally; you are being moral.

No other moral question is rational, and therefore no other moral question is relevant. The reason for this is simple: What isn’t–that is, what you are NOT doing–cannot subject you to any moral valuation–because it does not exist.

Now, certainly, what you have done in the past, though it does not exist (as such…without getting into the sticky tentacles of the purely abstract nature of time) can be used as a legal and pragmatic standard. But it cannot be used as a moral standard for the simple reason that it does not necessarily represent your moral nature, which is now (and now is where everyone perpetually exists). Now is where man’s nature resides, and man’s nature is the only rational target of moral judgment. You might judge a past action as “moral” or “immoral”, but the “morality” or “immorality” of a past action does not necessarily have any rational bearing on the moral state of your person, because your person is always now. And the moral state of your person is the only thing that can be valued as moral with respect to morality qua morality. Past actions, which we might judge as moral or immoral can, again, be used for pragmatic or legal reasons, but not to judge one’s root moral state. And there is no rational moral condemnation for anything besides the root state–or the nature–of an individual.

So…unless you are directly violating another human being at the moment, you are not acting immorally. (Certainly and obviously, if you have a history of direct violations of others, reason would instruct you to change, or face the very real legal and practical ramifications of your behavior, which you have earned; also, existential condemnation is the consequence of an evil nature…so, if you are a repeat violator, you are in danger of throwing yourself into everlasting hell. And I’m not kidding. But that’s a topic for another article.)

Further, the reason I stipulate “direct” violations is because indirect violations are by definition subjective violations; they require conditional truth, as opposed to absolute Truth, and hence their innate insufficiency as moral qualifiers. In other words, indirect violations are those which must be qualified by an “if”: IF we assume that behavior X occurres in context Y, THEN we can call behavior X a moral violation. For example, IF we assume that the military is a fundamentally murderous enterprise, THEN we can say that all soldiers who have killed in battle are murderers. Of course, we can see the dubious integrity of such a standard, and the implicit collectivist ideology which undergirds it. The idea of claiming that ALL people who act under the auspices of a given ideology are all individually evil, while it may be true, is not necessarily true. I would argue that since immorality is a violation of individuals, then immorality must be gauged by its specific effects on specific individuals. This makes ideological context fundamentally irrelevant with respect to moral violations; but not “morality” per se…that is, morality as ethics–the ethical gauging of ideas which may lead to specific violations of specific individuals.

I submit that members of every group, no matter what its ideological basis, can be morally judged only according to their specific individual actions. This is why I completely reject armed revolution against governments, for example…it ends up hurting, punishing, or even murdering those who cannot rationally be said to have directly violated another individual. Cops, soldiers, various sundry workers and politicians…people with families who may have never done anything other than live and work within a given sociopolitical context, which, though it may be ideologically false, does not make living and working under it a moral violation. This is because ideologies are by nature collectivist, and collectivism cannot serve as the plumbline for individual acts of immorality (or morality for that matter). And morality qua morality only exists at the level of the individual.

Apropos to this, I believe that to collectivize immorality (and again morality for that matter) means to risk condemning men by nothing more than their group identity. And that is the root of every evil  that has ever existed.

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