On Morality

Back in August mariner wrote about Mark Boyle, an economist who decided to live without money for three years. A quote from the August post is repeated below:

“. . . surprisingly, over time I found my reasons slowly change. They now have less to do with saving the world, and much more to do with savoring the world. The world needs savoring.”

Boyle’s change in mindset from fixing what is broken to preferring an existential experience has lingered in mariner’s mind. Boyle’s primary point in the book is that the farther the distance between genuine reality and manufactured reality, the more human judgment becomes dysfunctional.

Is Boyle’s philosophical assumption the reason for 7 billion humans around the planet to simultaneously experience political imbalance, diminishing natural resources and an unstable atmosphere?  Do the political and religious trappings of religion prevent savoring the spiritual core of faith?

Mariner is sensitive to Boyle’s assumption on four occasions:

  • Ordering a meal from a kiosk in McDonalds instead of experiencing a very brief subconscious gratification from interpersonal engagement.
  • Similarly, in the supermarket having to be one’s own cashier eliminates brief conversations that engage human awareness and even enjoy a shared accomplishment of the task at hand.
  • Watching individuals of all ages avoid human contact at meals, family time, taking breaks at work and even interacting with the dog they are walking. Why? Smartphone.
  • Institutions of religion – particularly Christianity – behaving in grotesque ways that are in direct violation of Jesus’ mandate to love others by personal commitment.

Even the wonderful experience of purchasing online diminishes the need to do human things like walk, talk, make real-time-on-the-spot decisions, experience the weather, and identify with nature. Avoiding these small experiences denies exercising judgment in existential circumstances – Boyle’s point is that our unpracticed, hands-on judgment becomes warped; our individual liaison with reality is not properly understood.

Mark Boyle’s ‘savory’ experience was his daily connection with an undisturbed Mother Earth devoid of any intrusions by the industrial and technological revolutions. Not having to see the world through steam engines, computers or mechanized destruction of the habitat enabled him to see how ethics and morality are derived from intimacy with one’s surroundings. The purity and simplicity of Boyle’s experience with nature allowed a moral attitude to develop between him and his environment.

The insight is that presumed reality bears presumed morality. As we sit in comfortable chairs at a dinner setting and eat pigs we haven’t watched spend their entire lives in tortuously small cages, our morality about eating pigs is indifferent to a reality we do not know. Building dams on salmon rivers produces massive amounts of electricity for millions of people but having no awareness of salmon reality, there is no moral compunction to deal with the salmon’s world. Consequently, salmon is an endangered species.

On the other hand, the Native American Hupa tribe has a direct relationship with salmon and is aware of the stress on the species. The tribe leads the fight to save the salmon. Their reality shapes their morality.

Agreeing with Boyle, mariner’s assumption also is drawn from a popular college text, ‘Situation Ethics’ published in 1988 by Joseph Fletcher.  Fletcher suggests that certain acts – such as lying, premarital sex, adultery, or even murder–might be morally right, depending on the circumstances. Hotly debated on television, in magazines and newspapers, in churches, and in the classroom, Fletcher’s provocative thesis remains a powerful force in contemporary discussions of morality.

In other words, presumed reality bears presumed morality. Is the world’s problem that we don’t have a common reality? For example, as resources grow scarcer and oligarchs grow wealthier, does that represent two different realities, therefore two different moralities? Does a meta creature have the same reality as a homeless person? Do coral reefs have a different reality than a person driving a car?

Ancient Mariner

2 thoughts on “On Morality

  1. Wow! Wow! This is really deep stuff. Even if I only barely understand everything in this post, I can see how important it is. This lack of interpersonal connections, while easier for an introvert like me, is very worrying. The more I see and learn about this metaverse, the more I dislike it. What to do? I want Anne to read this.

    • Thanks for pondering. Tomorrow mariner will offer some solutions offered by Boyle and other social science authors. As you suggest, correcting a wayward culture is not easy by any measure. For example Boyle had to totally eliminate money from his reality or he would not have had a savory (new culture) experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.