Is Morality A Talent?
One typically wouldn't think of morality when it comes to the nature versus nurture debate about the origin of personality, but after being faced with this issue I have realized that the origin of morality can be debated about all the same. With the classic nature versus nurture debate I myself have come to a conclusion that we are composed of a little bit of both nature and nurture, and I am still finding myself coming to that same conclusion with morality. I believe that morality is not only a talent, but is a learned skill as well. Just like personality, certain environments or events can lead to a manifestation of certain traits within us. I think that morality can exist at different levels amongst different people based on their genetic traits as well as their environmental or cultural experiences. Based on what I learned after reading Sam Harris' “The Moral Landscape,” I have gathered an understanding of moral truth, and how that can apply to morality as being a talent and learned. His disagreement with moral relativism, analysis of psychopaths and the theories behind the nature versus nurture debate have lead me to my conclusions.
Moral truth is the belief that there is a universal code of ethics that has lead us through the ages and has impacted our society's understanding of morals today. I agree with Harris on the subject of moral truth. I think moral truth supports both the nature side and the nurture side because it exposes the universal aspect of morals, which is learned, and shows the natural desire in humans to want to exceed primitive standards through morals in order to promote survival. Many ethical codes truly are universal, such as “don't kill.” If we don't run around killing each other in our day to day lives, we will survive and thrive. That is an example of a known moral truth. By comparing first world civilizations to Western civilizations you will find that yes, we have all survived, but it is quite clear that one civilization is thriving more than the other; Westernized civilizations. They are less primitive, more technologically advanced, have better medicine and are as a whole wealthier. Why are these third world cultures not advancing? Out of many reasons, I think that one could possibly be that their ethical codes are far less developed than those of modern Western culture. This observation has led me to believe that there are cultures that are superior to others. Although moral relativism is a widely accepted theory, it is clearly incorrect. Moral relativism would seem like a pleasant theory to believe wouldn't it? It removes intolerance of other cultures, religions etc. and allows us to “justify” or “understand” certain events based on specific, or relative, codes of ethics. While certain events or behaviors may not be right to one culture, they may be considered normal in another and everyone can go about their lives as if nothing wrong had happened. These assumptions are terrible flaws in the thinking of our society and of the world. Harris uses an example of moral relativism that he encountered in a conversation with a woman after an academic conference. He provided her the scenario of a culture that would pluck the eyes out of every third born child based on their religious beliefs. The woman stuck to her moral relativism, and said that this culture was not wrong since they were doing this for religious reasons (Harris, 33-34). How can this possibly make any sense? Morality and ethics lose all meaning if they are merely “relative” to every culture where horrendous rituals are practiced. If things like ritual murders were allowed in our society, we would not survive, we would not thrive and we would degenerate the human race intellectually, morally and psychologically. This brings meaning back to morality and ethics. There are universal codes that exist in order to promote our survival and happiness, or well being. Based on this understanding of moral truth, I...
Cited: “A Neuroscientist Discovers a Dark Secret.” www.npr.org, Barbara Bradley Hagerty, 29 June 2010. Web. 20 Nov. 2011.
Harris, Sam. The Moral Landscape. New York: Free Press, 2010. Print.
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