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  • George Wang

My views on morality

Updated: Apr 7

This is an updated, expanded, and more accurately phrased excerpt from my book.


In different places, in different time periods, and in different moral frameworks, what is considered to be “good”, “bad”, "evil", “right”, or “wrong” would change and could differ drastically. Different societies and cultures consider what is acceptable differently. Different places’ laws would also make different judgements. What is deemed acceptable by a society/culture and by that same place’s laws tend to differ. Within a society or even a judicial system, there are different interpretations of morality and different definitions of those labels. Moreover, what is acceptable has changed, changed again, and will continue to change—I could not stress this enough. Seeing all the different interpretations, the discrepancies between them, and the polarizing effects of them, I think the concept of things, actions, or people being “good”, “bad”, "evil", “right”, or “wrong” is subjective and not particularly meaningful nor effective.


To me, it feels arrogant and lacking in perspective to label something as "good", "bad", "evil", "right", or "wrong". Who do I think I am to act like my labels and my judgements are more correct than those of others? I think the feeling or sense of moral superiority is disgusting. Why should a society believe that what is accepted and prohibited by their social norms and/or their laws are more morally correct than those of other societies from other regions and/or other time periods? I do not like how societies, religions, or groups in general tend to think that they are better judges of morality, that they are more virtuous, or that they are more civilized, when they simply have a different subjective perspective. The fact of the matter is that even if the vast majority of people agree on a moral stance on a topic, it does not make it true. The subjective nature of the opinion remains.


Morality is very clearly subjective, being interpreted and defined differently by each of the many schools of thoughts and beliefs.

Instead of picking one school of thought, buying into one definition, or even coming up with my own definition, I choose to accept the subjectivity of morality and stay away from the typical labels altogether. I would provide a complete and nuanced description of my subjective opinion. If that matches your definition of "good", "bad", "evil", "right", or "wrong", you can put that subjective label on it yourself. I would use subjective phrases and words such as "I like", "I don't like", "I support", or "I am against", as well as providing reasons: what happened, what were the consequences, what were the likely intentions, other relevant factors of the context, and most importantly, how I feel about those aspects.


For example, somebody might label something as "bad", "evil", or "wrong". I would say that I don't like it and I am against it because they did this with this intention, which caused that, and I find that to be malicious and cause harm. I don't like maliciousness, hate, and harmfulness. Perhaps, I would instead say that I wouldn't label it as "good" or "right" but I actually like it because of various reasons relating to intentions, consequences, and the overall context; I might even say that I support it. Most likely, I would say both what I like and what I don't like about it, even if it is a controversial or taboo topic. However, it is also important to note that I am indifferent, nonchalant, and unbothered, meaning that I am never that invested in any issue; it is merely an opinion in a discussion. I could be very interested in things, but I would not be angry, triggered, or irritated. My level of passion would also be questionable.

 

Most importantly, I don't think individuals nor societies benefit from seeing morality in conventional ways with the typical labels. This is why I stated that they are "not particularly meaningful nor effective." So many issues are being argued from the perspective of whether it is "right" or "wrong", when it is much easier to make a decision and come to an agreement if the opinions are examined without the labels. At the end of the day, a decision would be made and actions would be taken. We could simply look at what people want and why they want it. We could look at the facts and the potential consequences. These aspects have much more substance and nuance. Additionally, people tend to attack with labels and people tend to get defensive about labels; they contribute to virtue signaling and polarization. Lastly, without the conscious and subconscious constraints of those typical labels, people are able to think and express themselves more freely, more clearly, and more completely. However, I will point out here that I have doubts about the extent of this benefit, as I have seen how heated people could get over someone's clearly subjective opinion of liking or disliking something as inconsequential as a song, a movie, or a drink.



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