A Study Of Our Decline by Philip Atkinson—The Role Of Morality
The Meaning Of Life
The Observer Supplies Meaning
There is no meaning in events, this is something understanding supplies to what the senses observe. A tasty meal for one creature can be a dreadful death for another; the death of a person may be a vile crime or an accident or an act of justice; it all depends upon the understanding of the observer.
Meaning Rests Upon Morality
The reliance upon understanding for meaning reveals the importance of morality, for this is the foundation of understanding. Meaning is generated from the set of values we adopted during infancy to allow the invoking of reason. This means that our infancy determines our understanding, which in turn determines the meaning of our lives.
Understanding Determines Knowledge
From the almost unlimited number of possible observations of its surroundings an understanding selects only those it considers to be meaningful, and these it accumulates in memory as its experience or knowledge. And this knowledge it employs as the axioms for judging cause and effect.
Morality Determines Reality
Meaning and knowledge are used by an understanding to construct a view of the world —reality. Hence it is the moral foundation of an understanding, as well as experience, that dictates reality. And there can be no reality except that realised by an understanding. Thus:
|Understanding||is the bestowing of meaning upon observations.|
|Meaning||is the recognition of right or wrong determined by the application of a set of axioms; directives to do, or not do, particular acts—a morality.
|A Morality||is the set of axioms that form the necessary foundation of every understanding.|
i. Must occur before understanding can occur.
ii. Dictates the character of the understanding.
iii. Is established by accidental events.
|Axiom||is any claim that may form a base for reasoning. It may be demonstrated to be false by showing it contradicts a previously accepted axiom.|
|Knowledge||is the experience of an understanding; the observations selected by an understanding as meaningful and accumulated in memory as the axioms for judging cause and effect.|
Two Kinds Of Morality
Morality is the essence of understanding and thus life, but there are two kinds of morality:
The FIXED (Rational) type gives a clear meaning to life but it forces its devotees into a constant struggle to control their emotions as they suppress appetites that conflict with the stated code of behaviour. While the VARIABLE (Irrational) type imposes only the restraints of convenience on behaviour, otherwise licensing every animal urge, but it cannot supply any long term meaning to life.
- FIXED (Rational): A code that places the individual second to the needs of the community and leaves no doubt as to right or wrong (like the ten commandments)and supplies the foundation for:
The shared set of values allows a single communal understanding, which allows a group of people to act as one creature, an animal that is much stronger and cleverer than its individual members.
- A Recognition Of Right And Wrong:
The shared set of values reveal right and wrong and allow the development of a broad spectrum of codes that obtain manners, customs, traditions and law. Hence private ideas of fairness are reflected throughout the community in all its aspects.
- Public Order:
Social harmony is not established by the presence of armed agents of the law, but by our individual attitude towards right and wrong, which is enforced by conscience. Knowing right from wrong allows the individual to regulate the constant tides of desires that are generated by our animal natures, supplying direction and control to our private urges, which in turn creates public order.
- The Creation Of Institutions:
The establishment of order allows the development of institutions that further regulate and direct this order in line with the wisdom revealed by communal experience. In this way all the institutions formed by the society first exist in citizens minds, which makes the organisation of society a mental projection of its members.
A sense of right and wrong not only helps us control our impulses and allows us to recognise crime, but gives meaning and purpose to our lives; we pursue those things that are right while we resist those things that are wrong. This gives us the will to resist, along with the determination to prevent, the accidents of life. Famine, pestilence, wars and natural disasters become inspirations for effort and activity, a spur to keep improving our technology and so protect our society.
- A Sense Of Immortality:
Implicit in our personal acceptance of a social code is the notion that we are of secondary importance to the community; this means that we consider our personal well being inferior to the needs of the society. This allows us to face the prospect of death with some equanimity, because even though we know each one of us must eventually die, the most important thing —the community —survives.
- VARIABLE (Irrational): A code that places the individual ahead of the group allows right and wrong to be determined by convenience, which must result in:
- Fracture Of Community:
- Confusion: Understanding varies with mood, which changes depending upon chance. No interpretation can be used for subsequent action because people keep changing their minds as their mood fluctuates.
- Incompatibility: Different understandings are incompatible, which results in the creation of implacably opposed groups of people within the community who subscribe to different beliefs. For the crime of murder some may demand the death penalty, others may demand only a term of imprisonment, while others may believe the victim deserved death and the executioner merits reward. So regardless of the sentence imposed for the crime, an injustice will be seen to be done by all but one of the groups.
- Misunderstanding: There is no clear right or wrong, just differing opinions, which can never be resolved. No one can be sure what is true or false. When bishop Carlos Belos fled to Australia in September 1999, from his troubled See in East Timor, he was feted by the media as a hero, whereas to some people he was a coward who had deserted his flock in their hour of need. Only one of these attitudes could be correct, the other must be false.
- Lack Of Determination: A selfish character immediately retreats in the face of hardship that demands private sacrifice. Without an unselfish perception the individual and community cannot show resolution in the face of hardship.
- Despair: Being concerned only with self and aware of the inevitable approach of their death, must obtain an ultimate feeling of futility and impending doom.