WHAT IS "MORALITY"?
The LiveReal Quiz
. . . can you take it?
beings, all over the earth,
have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way,
and cannot really get rid of it."
- C. S. Lewis
"Blake the Clean"
"The most important human
is the striving for morality in our actions.
Our inner balance, and even our very existence depends on it.
Only morality in our actions
can give beauty and dignity to our lives."
- Albert Einstein
The word "morality"
often seems like a
word that's "wrong" to even bring up nowadays.
So why is that?
Well, maybe the way things are in modern
times, the whole issue of "morality" is as confusing
as it ever has been in the history of the planet . . . not that
we're (gasp) JUDGING it or anything . . .
"Similar to the concepts of virtue
[justice and injustice] are purely local and geographical;
that which is vicious in Paris turns up, as we know,
a virtue in Peking, and it is quite the same thing here;
that which is just in Isfahan
they call unjust in Copenhagen.
Amidst these manifold variations
do we discover anything constant?"
- Marquis de Sade
But still . .. .
What is it in movies that makes the good guys, "good"?
And what is it in movies that makes the bad guys, "bad"?
Maybe asking questions like this are wrong .. . .
(- well, we weren't really sure if it was or not.)
So the key question is still sitting there way in the
back corner of our brains, quietly asking: how should we live? And
These days, the most "simple" and "obvious"
questions often seem to get harder and harder to answer. In America
today, hundreds of cultures and moral codes are colliding into a
kind of moral casserole, and many of us disagree on such fundamental
things as "how to act" and "how to treat each other"
. . . almost to the point that almost everyone almost needs a daily
class in diplomacy to keep up with it all. Still, few people seem
to be aware of the extent and depth of confusion and disagreement
on these basic issues.
Here at LiveReal, ever searching for the big-burrito
answers, we're just trying to get to the root of the matter: What
is the best way to live? When we disagree on fundamentals, how should
we treat each other?
So here is the quiz, and if we're wrong for doing this
kind of thing . . . well . . .
Talk about it
What Is "Morality"?
(multiple choice format)
A) The opposite of "fun".
B) Morality is the way everyone else thinks we should be
is the way we think everyone else should be
D) Something few people really speak about with much confidence any more, except when they're saying nobody should judge anybody.
You must conquer
your animal nature. |
E) Morality is a way that unhappy old folks enjoy making young folks unhappy too.
F) Whatever I do, or have done in the past, is what is "right" . . . and whatever you or anybody else does - or has done - that ticks me off, is "wrong."
G) Morality is a set
of rules given by a higher authority; if you conform to them, you
will be rewarded; if you don't conform to them, you will be punished.
H) "Who are you
to judge me?" - It's something that inherently implies "judging"
other people . . . and judging other people is immoral . . . so
therefore, morality is . . . immoral.
I) It's whatever or
whoever we "would" be, if we could ever just summon up
J) It doesn't matter
what it is, because we're all going to do whatever we feel like
K) It's something none
of us equally know anything about, a.k.a. Moral Flatland.
L) Whatever it is,
just don't "impose" it on someone else, or you're accused
of being evil (a.k.a. really immoral).
M) A description for
the way we learn to act, usually learned from television, movies,
peers, songs, and commercials.
N) What a prude uses to rationalize being a prude.
O) An arbitrary set
of rules which act as the glue of a community, a.k.a., a social
contract where different parties, human or animal, agree on.
P) Morality is the
effort to make yourself into what you are not, and failing.
Q) Morality is the
systematic imposition, by political leaders and parents, of their
own agenda to which you either conform or rebel.
R) Morality is the
ritual suppression of pleasure.
S) A predictable way
for one person or group of people to regularly feel superior to
another person or group of people.
T) H. G. Wells: "Jealousy
with a halo."
U) Morality is the
inner battle between the self (interest/indulgence) and duty - and
V) It's Moral Flatland, or everyone pretending
not to judge or even have an opinion of anyone else. (In other words,
all human beings are equally ignorant regarding moral absolutes,
and therefore have no right to comment upon the process for others
(i.e. Mother Theresa is equal to Adolf Hitler).
W) It's an illusion. a.k.a., just do whatever you
please. If it turns out you did something wrong, you can get off
the hook by pleading ignorance, claiming to be a victim, or denying
it ever happened. If none of that works, hey, just ask for forgiveness.
X) It's essentially a kind of cosmic economic model,
a.k.a., Blockbuster Morality: you're free to keep the movie an extra
day or two, but you have to pay the late fee.
Y) Morality is the process of internalizing and
identifying with the prohibitions, rules, values, and preferences
of one's parents and of society at large.
Z) Morality is a way
for one person or set of persons to control another person or set
of persons through skillful tactics of inducing fear, peer pressure,
confusion, dependency, helplessness, or guilt.
AAZ) Bertrand Russell:
"The infliction of cruelty with a good conscience."
BB) Morality is having
a map of various debaucheries and stupidities that people get into,
and delighting in pointing such foibles out to them.
CC) Morality is the enforcement of conduct through
a type of coercive agency or police force, whether that force is
physical and external or is a force inside oneself.
DD) Morality is a host
of various actions we pursue in order to become more intelligent
and aware, or at least, less unconscious and ignorant, than we presently
EE) Morality is "the
rules" as decided by whichever authority, human or otherwise,
is currently in power.
FF) Morality is the
theory that whatever you do, whether through nature, karma, divine
authority, or some other means, eventually catches up to you.
GG) Morality is knowing
which side of a temptation is wrong, and resisting it.
HH) Ernest Hemingway:
"I only know that what is moral is what you feel good after
and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."
II) An inner quality
of heart and character that emerges by aligning your character with
JJ) H. L. Mencken:
". . . the theory that every human act must be either right
or wrong, and that 99 percent of them are wrong."
KK) It's much less
a matter of what you do as it is of what you become; meaning, become
a "good person," and everything else takes care of itself.
LL) George Bernard
Shaw: "I never resist temptation because I have found that
things that are bad for me never tempt me."
MM) It's a natural
way of acting for those who understand the principles of psychological
NN) Kohlberg: a series
of predictable stages of growth and maturity that, given proper
conditions, we naturally and sequentially evolve through.
OO) It's treating other
people the same way you would want to be treated, assuming that
you want to be treated in a certain way, because that's the rules.
PP) It's the rationalization
for a habit of attacking and feeling superior to any other person
who judges, criticizes, comments upon, or even perceives certain
differences between people.
QQ) It's treating other
people the same way you would want to be treated, because when you
really examine it closely, you sense, or even perceive, that other
people actually are "yourself."
RR) A quality of character
that emerges naturally when you've got your head screwed on right
and your heart in the right place.
SS) Doing the greatest
good for the greatest number, whatever that is.
TT) It's a style of
living in a way that makes your soul grow, thrive, and blossom,
or at the very least, a style of living that keeps your soul intact.
UU) A systematic, reliable
method or formula for living the best life possible.
VV) A continual practice
of rising above one's animal, selfish, or "lower" nature.
WW) We always worry
about keeping our body clean; what about doing the same for our
emotions, thoughts, and actions?
XX) An Absolute Law,
which just happened to originate somewhere near your hometown.
YY) Confucius: "Rare
are those who understand virtue."
ZZ) We naturally avoid,
whenever we can, breathing polluted air, and eating rotten, stinky,
moldy food . . . why would it be any different for our thoughts
AAA) A saying that basically
refers to keeping your nose clean.
BBB) Daniel Patrick
Moynihan: "What we use to justify what we are doing anyway."
CCC) It's a practice
of discrimination that is practiced in one form or another at all
levels of nature: every animal prefers certain food over other food;
your stomach accepts some food and rejects some; every businessman
considers many different courses of action and picks one; every
person decides to wear certain clothes instead of others, etc, etc.
DDD) A practice of
responding perfectly to imperfect situations.
EEE) Sandor Minab:
"Nothing determines who we will become so much as those things
we choose to ignore."
FFF) It's something
people ordinarily don't take too seriously, until they have kids.
GGG) Living in such
a way that you are in harmony with your "conscience."
Or in other words, living in such a way that cultivates freedom
from inner conflict. (See also UUU)
HHH) Morality is a
habit of refusing to settle for any of the booby prizes that life
is constantly offering you.
III) Living with real
JJJ) It's the most
efficient type of psychotherapy possible: preventing problems and
issues from ever coming up in the first place.
KKK) D.H. Lawrence:
"Supposing, then, that I cannot see this Saviour and Salvation
stuff, supposing that I see the soul as something which must be
developed and fulfilled throughout a life-time, sustained and nourished,
developed and further fulfilled, to the very end; what then?"
LLL) There are people
who give you the creeps, and their "morality" or lack
of it is what made them that way.
MMM) William Blake:
"Jesus was all virtue, and acted from impulse, not from rules."
NNN) It is a scientifically
mathematical system of probabilities (still in the phase of what
might be called a "young discipline") what might which
improve your probability, or increase your chances, of having a
OOO) Henry David Thoreau:
"Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life
so. Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for
PPP) Goethe: "As
soon as you trust yourself you will know how to live."
QQQ) It is a style
of living that starves your false self or ego.
RRR) It is a type of
"intelligence," similar to say, mathematical or emotional
intelligence, where one is more or less "intelligent"
about which activities, acts, and pursuits lead to a "good
life" or a life well lived, verses a wasted one.
SSS) A means to acquire
fulfillment both while alive and after death.
TTT) A fairly radical
(and rarely practiced) notion that, with all the worry and attention
you give to your face, hair, teeth, and body, you should also probably
give at least as much to your mind and heart. (a.k.a. the notion
that we typically spend less of our resources on our souls than
we do on our underwear.)
UUU) ". . . the
question suddenly occurred to him: "What if my whole life has
really been wrong?" It occurred to him that what had appeared
perfectly impossible before, namely that he had not spent his life
as he should have done, might after all be true. It occurred to
him that his scarcely perceptible attempts to struggle against what
was considered good by the most highly placed people, those scarcely
noticeable impulses which he had immediately suppressed, might have
been the real thing, and all the rest false. And his professional
duties and the whole arrangement of his life and of his family,
and all his social and official interests, might all have been false.
He tried to defend all those things to himself and suddenly felt
the weakness of what he was defending. There was nothing to defend."
- Leo Tolstoy, "The Death of Ivan Ilych"
VVV) "...Resolved, never to do anything which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
WWW) It is a matter
of refusing to "sell your soul," or in other words, being
alert and intelligent enough to not get suckered into making a very
bad bargain, of exchanging something extremely valuable (a.k.a.
the "soul") for something that will sooner or later be
XXX) The Morality of
Pac-Man: "To us, the Pac-Man's lives appear short, cheap, and
relatively inconsequential once we discover the overwhelming importance
of sex and money.
But if we perform a thought experiment and try to occupy a Pac-Man's
subjectivity, we will realize that these three short spans are not
so short to him. We must allow that each dot eaten takes on a meaning
for the Pac-Man that we can barely fathom. I suggest that if we,
through force of imagination, were to dilate time to experience
it as the Pac-Man does, and increase the resolution to allow us
to read as much into each pixel are made large, each dot will possess
a snowflake's uniqueness, and the acquisition of each - no, the
experience of each - will bring the Pac-Man a very specific and
distinct joy or sorrow. The dots all rack up points equally, of
course; in retrospect, however, some are revealed as wrong choices,
links in a chain of wrong choices that trace out a wrong path leading
to a withering demise beneath the adorable and utterly unforgiving
eyes of Blinky, Inky, Pinky or Clyde. As anyone who ever played
the game seriously must know, the order in which the dots are experienced
is of great importance. For each labyrinth, there are rigid and
precise patterns through the maze - i.e., specific sequences of
dot acquisition - that, if followed with a samurai's unwavering,
arrow-into-hell certainty, allow the knowing Pac-Man to ascend from
level to level with Zen ease and deliberateness." - D.
YYY) It's a one-word
description encompassing this: You actually know "The
Truth" or Reality; but often, you don't actually know that
you know the truth (or in other words, you're in denial, or just
aren't willing to admit it to yourself. This awareness is typically
unconscious .. . . so it's like there's this objective awareness
that's submerged in your mind, like the way a submarine is submerged
in the ocean. A truly "moral" life, then, is one that
is spent making this unconscious awareness, conscious. (OK, but
ZZZ) "The will of God is not a system of rules established from the outset. It is something new and different in each different situation in life. And for this reason a man must forever re-examine what the will of God may be. The will of God may lie deeply concealed beneath a number of other possibilities." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
in life, we will find that when we are confronted with a problem
or dilemma, we can maintain a balance. In every situation in life,
there are extreme opposites and the good thing is to create a balanced
synthesis of these opposites; not to go this way or that way to
the furthest extreme. The unity of opposites is a great secret,
because that is what reality
is. We are images of reality. Reality is the unity of opposites.
If we want to fulfill
our potential in being an image of the infinite,
we have to synthesize opposites, unify opposites, and become ourselves
a unity of opposites." - Haridas Chaudhuri
B4) It's having something
like "wisdom," or a "bird's eye view" of the
whole arena of life, including all the pitfalls, land mines, booby
traps, buried treasure, diamond mines, snake nests and such, and
seeing clearly the predictable ways that people regularly stumble
into them all, usually while they are occupied with telling you
to keep your nose out of their business.
C4) "Love, and
do what you like." - St. Augustine
D4) "Do everything,
but don't insert yourself into what
you are doing." - Richard
E4) "We are to practice virtue, not possess it." - Meister Eckhart
F4) None of the above.
G4) All of the above.
H4) Other ______________________.
Your Answer(s): ________.
When you finish your quiz, please pass your
papers to the front.
( . . . that's a joke)
This is a quiz that, in a way, you're already really taking,
we're just putting it down on paper here;
You will probably be graded, but may not be;
we're not sure when or even if you'll find out what your grade,
and we might know who will or won't be grading your papers,
but then again, we may be wrong.)
"Community profusion and morality
are actually two sides of the same situation,
different aspects of a single problem to which
we all have to keep improvising daily solutions
as we live our postmodern lives.
We move in and out of different communities,
every community has its own values and beliefs,
and sometimes one community's morality is different from -
even diametrically opposed to - another's.
And each time we move in and out of them, we change.
Periodically we may make a resolution to be more consistent, but
it's not easy.
Most of us simply do not live full-time within a single moral structure
that gives us a set of instructions on how to be,
or even a good clear set of guidelines
on how to figure it out for ourselves . . .
. . . I see no evidence of any shortage,
We hear secular preachers everywhere,
exhorting us to be
nonracist, nonsexist, less individualistic, environmentally responsible,
fiscally responsible, kind to animals.
And meanwhile the more traditional types of preachers are still
hard at work
over the airwaves, in the churches, and sometimes on the street
waving the Bible and telling us to obey the Ten Commandments and
get right with God.
In comparison to our present situation,
the old-times in Salem had it easy:
they got hit over the heads
with only one belief system . . ."
- Walter Truett Anderson
Appendix I: "The
by Kent M. Keith
Appendix II: "Moral Progress"
The majority of folks seem to believe
that there is "progress" is physics, astronomy, chemistry,
biology, and science in general . . .
- but is there such a thing as moral
Could there be such a thing as
a "science" of morality?
- meaning, a "discipline" or school of thought, based
not just on trial and error, but on a systematic and methodological
experimentation with the testing and validation of theories?
are not tired of their way of life."
- Francois, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680
Appendix III: The Extremes:
you are doing is WRONG"
you are doing is Right"
". . . It is hard for man to see
for he is proud of being human and not an animal
and yet regards its happiness with envy
because he wants nothing other
than to live like the animal . . ."
- Fredrich Nietzsche
"Men and women
aren't really dogs;
they only look like it
and behave like it."
- D. H. Lawrence
Appendix IV: "Re-branding
Times have changed. The whole question
of "morality" nowadays often conjures up images of prudes,
Puritans, do-gooders, preachers, phonies, intolerant hypocrites
and just uncool folks who don't have fun, those who are "missing
out" on all the "good stuff" . . . and on and on
and on, etc etc.
In other words, "morality"
in some ways (and for some good reasons) - has gotten a bad rap
- and is often even seen as . . . well, somehow, immoral.
But on the other hand, the LiveReal
Agents all believe (we checked) that there's nothing cool about
wasting your life, sleepwalking through it, or being a general dumbass
when it comes to living it. Being smart about how you live your
life, however you work out the specifics, is always better than
So along this vein, part of our
noble mission at LiveReal is to dig into "morality," both
present and past, and see if we can find some real answers to the
question "How should we live?"
freedom did not create a hoped-for society
of independent yeomen but a regime of mass consumption.
Political freedom did not result in active and enlightened
civic participation but in voter apathy.
In a similar way,
is highly unlikely to produce
a nation of individuals exercising their autonomy
with the serious and dispassionate judgment of Immanuel Kant.
Yet moral freedom is as inevitable as it is impossible.
Critics of America's condition insist on the need to return to the
morality of yesterday,
but it may be better, given its inevitability,
to think of moral freedom as a challenge to be met
rather than as a condition to be cured."
- Alan Wolfe
Appendix V: "Where Morality
- is the tag line for something
we found called The Dennis
Appendix VI: How do you get
people to become more "moral"?
It seems that everyone, regardless
of their own definitions of right and wrong, is trying to get everyone
else to become more "moral." This has been going on for
thousands and thousands of years.
But does it ever actually work?
This is a question taken up in the fresh and explosive, revolutionary
and just really cool article "Why
Preaching Doesn't Work" . . .
Appendix VII: "The death
of the God of theism . . .
. . . therefore, has
removed from our world the traditional basis of ethics. This is
the conclusion we are forced to draw. That is also why ethical issues
are so widely debated in our society.
It is frightening for many when they grasp
the fact that we live in a morally neutral universe. Some respond
with a panicked pursuit of pleasure. Some seek to escape their fears
of moral meaninglessness in
a world of alcohol
and drugs. Some sink to the ultimate level of despair and fall
into depression or even suicide. Some try to shield themselves from
this unsettling sense of emptiness by becoming hysterically religious,
as if shouting certain religious phrases with emotion and a feigned
certainty might convince them that everything is still the way it
has always been. These are but the signs that a loss of meaning
has engulfed our world. We no longer know how to tell right from
wrong, and above all else, our confusion reflects the death
of the theistic God in whom all these things were once grounded.
To build a new basis for ethics, we must learn
to look in a different place. We look, I believe, not outside of
life for some external and objective authenticating authority, but
rather at the very center and core of our humanity. We get to that
core by asking a totally different series series
of questions. These are not God questions but human questions,
such as: What gives us life? What lifts us into wholeness? What
enhances our being? What introduces us to transcendence? What calls
us beyond our limits? What do we ultimately value?
These questions will force us to search, not
the empty heavens, but the depths
of our own being for answers . . ." -
John Shelby Spong
Appendix VIII: So, what is
LiveReal fashion, we're not as much about giving answers (even if
we could) than we are about encouraging good folks to seek answers
At the same time, this question
runs across a lot of different areas. Some see morality as being
merely a random by-product of culture, others see it as being
tied closely to "God" (- and what
is God?), they say it has to do with "love"
or even just plain old sanity.
For others, the whole reason for bringing it up in the first place
has to do with sex.
it "THE answer"? Is there one?
cuddly LiveReal Agents
are on the case,
so stay tuned . . .
". . . it's hard to know where
when the going gets tough,
how to learn the skills
of navigating in a world
that has as many different moral codes
as styles of cooking.
That is the real moral challenge of our time."
- Walter Truett Anderson
Talk about it:
"The highest point a man can attain
is not Knowledge, or Virtue, or Goodness, or Victory,
but something even greater, more heroic and more despairing:
- Nikos Kazantzakis