Humans are animals.
We are not inherently “moral,” but rather we are self-interested organisms that
have ‘achieved’ a level of capacity to affix ‘morality’ to actions we perceive either
align or do not align with our own self-interests.
We can NEVER act against our self-interest. It is a metaphysical and logical
Facing this reality is perhaps one of the most difficult
realities to face for those of us who stand rooted in morality, as opposed to
being rooted in an understanding of our own self-interest, our own preferences.
Unless someone or some thing is controlling your thoughts
and your actions, you can only act by your own choice, even if that choice is
instinctive, and, in some instances, rooted not so much in preference as it is
in conditioned, uncritical habit.
The degree to which you are aware of what compels you to act
is irrelevant if you consider this; the processes beneath the surface of your
awareness have been created and maintained by aspects of you that are still,
wait for it……you.
While the jury is still out regarding the degree to which humans
can master what some call self-awareness, self-ownership, self-direction,
humans have seen enough from other humans to understand that expanding your
self-aware territory from within is fecund with potential growth and
Ask any individual who has excelled in any field that
requires copious amounts of directed and timed actions with finite deadlines
and they will tell you that controlling the patterns of your actions in ways
that satisfy a preference (a goal) is essential to achieving the goal.
Let me put this more plainly, disciplined action in a
competitive field beats undisciplined action.
Replace the word discipline with self-aware, and replace the word
undisciplined with impulse-driven.
The degree to which you choose to act or not act on
mastering your own mind, so to speak, is part of the process of serving the
self. Your choice not to act is a choice
to act alternatively in that space that could have been occupied by intentional
development of self-awareness.
Instead of spending time studying logical fallacies, you
chose to watch a football game.
You are the only owner of your actions. Your actions are always rooted in serving
yourself. The very ability to choose to act is the self-evident proof that you
only serve your self-interest. You
cannot act unless you choose to act. You
cannot choose to act ‘badly.’ The best
you can choose is to act less ‘badly.’
A firefighter chooses to go into a burning building knowing
he will not get out alive. Is he serving
his self-interest? After all, how can
you serve your self-interest by offering up your life?
This assumption is one of the most common of assumptions
made by people who reject the notion that individuals only act in our
self-interests. There is a subjective
valuation assigned to the preference of wanting to continue to exist, or,
simply put, ‘the instinct to live.’
For most of us, for most of our lives, the ‘instinct to live’
is, perhaps, the core preference in instances in which our lives might be in
what we might deem ‘undo’ risk. But are
we capable of serving preferences that are even deeper than continued
existence, than life?
And in so doing, are we still ‘only’ serving ourselves?
Yes, of course we are, because, again, it’s metaphysically
and physically impossible for us to act on at least an assumption that we are choosing
the less bad option, a value that can only be subjectively, self-directedly,
Some of the core preferences I have, for instance, override
my desire to preserve my own life, at least theoretically (one never knows
until one faces such an existential choice exactly how they’ll respond).
One such preference is to preserve my ideas over my life, if
I had to make that choice. Why? What preference do I stand on? For me, I am driven to a certain type of
affirmation of my own suspicions. If my
suspicions are wrong, then the foundation for many of the decisions I have made
in my life, especially the ones that affect the people I am emotionally
connected to, might be unfounded, and the work I spent building up many of
these relationships, and many of the work I have crated, would be for dust.
The root, as close as I can get to it, then, is this, a core
desire to be, plainly, important, a significant contributor to the socio-cultural
progress (hopefully, subjectively speaking, of course) of humanity. This core preference stands on an impulse
which may be the fruit of human biological drivers that are stronger and lesser
in other humans based mostly on genetic lotteries. My root might, theoretically, be an as-yet un-explorable
zone of human instinct that is difficult, socio-culturally, to overcome.
There’s a lot of difficult things (based on the
socio-cultural mores of current year) I would have to face about myself to explore
just this particular preference. It
would be much better, though not true, for me to simply say, “ideas are bigger
than all of us, and even if my ideas ultimately are not ‘right,’ they can still
be a key part of the process of conversations that ultimately do contribute to
the progress of human socio-cultural expressions. You can kill a man, but you can’t kill an
idea, and for that, I stand, willing to die.”
The moral claim here is that it is good to be part of advancing
the socio-cultural awesomeness of humanity and that somehow I know what
connotes awesomeness and what connotes something else.
It is better to stand
on that moral foundation than it is to face your own insecurities, your own
vanities, your own ‘qualities’ that are not harmonious with the very types of
socio-cultural expressions you’re claiming to represent (selflessness is almost
always one of the core values of most of these advocations).
Morality in and of itself is a permission slip to violate
standards which are beneficial to other core preferences. One of the key tools morality gives us is the
ability to assign different standards of human action according to claimed
objective superiority or inferiority qualities of groups of people.
When individuals meet other individuals that are associated
with these groups (be it real or perceived), they then choose to act negatively
or positively towards this individual based solely on their valuation, their
certain valuation, of the quality of that group.
The greater the size of the permission slip within them (the
degree to which their morality limits or compels them to act in coercive ways
to individuals who have not, perceptively, initiated such actions first), the
greater the chance that the individual will feel empowered (perhaps even accountable
morally for refusing) to initiate coercion against individuals based on their perceived
association with groups deemed morally unredeemable.
But, we are only human.
We are neither good or bad. We are. Good and bad emerge only within frameworks of
preference, and preference is almost certainly always…….self-serving.