In Let's Get Philosophical part 1, we laid one of the foundations for talking about society by defining the major roles people have in society.
Today, I'd like to stay at the foundation we're building and talk about morality. How do we know right from wrong and how do we convince people they should behave accordingly?
In every society in recorded history, this has been the job of the shepherds and the dogs. The shepherds (priests are an example) teach the spiritual laws, which are almost always focused on morality. The dogs (police are one example) are the enforcers of the political laws, which have a lot to do with morality, and in some cultures are one-in-the-same with the spiritual laws.
But what about morality on an individual basis? How does each person decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong?
Of course, the overwhelming majority simply follow the herd without a second thought. Most of the time, this strategy works out pretty well. But sometimes the dogs and the shepherds are evil. Examples: the Crusades, the Inquisition, colonialism, witch hunts, slavery, Fascism; you get the idea.
So moral authorities really can't be trusted entirely on the issue of morality, can they?
But what about the Ultimate Authority? The Big Guy?
My problem with using God as a moral compass is that everyone has a different idea about what God wants from us (and now we're back to having to trust the word of the shepherds and dogs). And what about the idea that God gives everyone what's coming to them? That doesn't exactly work out in this lifetime, does it? There are far to many evil people prospering and good people suffering for anyone to argue that life on earth is anything close to fair and just.
And if everyone gets what's coming to them when they die, well, that still doesn't have much bearing on or lives here on earth. I mean, it's not like we can see who's being made an example of; we just have to take the shepherd's word for it.
I once found a large wad of cash that had been dropped near my apartment. As easy as it would have been to put it in my pocket and keep walking, I took it to the apartment office. I told them where it was dropped and counted it-- $120. They told me to hang on to it and if no one called about it within a week, it was mine.
When I was a child, I thought that God was watching me and taking notes on everything I did. I could feel him in my brain, judging all my wicked five-year-old thoughts. Shame, shame, shame! But I don't believe that anymore, so with no human or divine eye watching or judging me, why not just keep the money? (I certainly needed it!)
My motivation in making some attempt to return the money was empathy. I know what it feels like to lose money. I don't need to go to church to learn how to behave like a human being. I don't need anyone to scare me with threats of hell or divine judgment. And anyway, if you only do what you're supposed to do because you're afraid of a god, are you really a good person?
So I'd really like to get some feedback here. How does a person know right from wrong? How does a society know right from wrong? More importantly, how do we persuade people to behave for the good of everyone around them if "behaving" conflicts with what they'd rather be doing?