Rebirth of Reason

Morality is a Guide to Living

Choosing to live is a pre-moral choice, after which, the question becomes "How?" This is the same as "What do I do?" One can either go about it randomly or with a methodology designed for success. That methodology is called morality.

An explicit morality allows one to choose rationally among values. It makes the selection of values rational by providing a method to evaluate them. Values are compared to a moral standard, and prioritized according to how well they promote that standard. To make decisions easier, we develop virtues which are moral habits which tend to help gain values.

Historically, the concept of morality has often been used negatively as a list of thou shall not's in check against ones actions. The stance taken is often that it doesn't matter what you do, as long as you don't violate any moral edicts; but the source of these moral edicts is often mystical or arbitrary. This is a sort of restricted subjectivism.

A list of prohibitions, even if founded in reason rather than mysticism, is not a sufficient outline for success. Morality should be positive rather than negative. Not What shouldn't I do? but What should I do?. The problem with defining morality negatively is that pretty much anything goes provided one avoids a few problem areas. This is not useful because within the sphere of pretty much anything goes, there is no methodical way to choose which action is best, whereas positive morality sets forth habits, i.e. virtues, which lead to the achievement of values and methods for choosing what to value which is the way to live and thrive.

With one's own life as the standard of value, morality is not a burden to bear, it is no unfortunate duty, but a prudent and effective guide which furthers life and success. With one's life as the standard of value, morality is transformed from an arbitrary mystical set of duties into a useful set of guidelines for how to live and flourish and achieve the best possible life (eudaimonia, as Aristotle called it.)

(This page mirrored from Importance of Philosophy.com)