How Do We Construct Moral Codes?
A moral code is a series of agreements that guide the actions of a group of people to guarantee their survival. The agreements define the right and wrong behavior or conduct approved or disapproved by a group. Morality is the act of being accord with the already set good conduct. Moral codes are created in any institution setting like society, country, and family or at a workplace. Moral codes are what the public and community approve as good. Morality is greatly concerned with human nature and without moral norms humanity would perish. The moral codes are what control a person conduct on what is accepted by the group he or she belongs.
Moral values are created based on aspects such as cultural beliefs, religion and the existing concepts of right and morality. These elements form the foundations that describe the acceptable code of behavior of an individual or institution in interacting with others. These foundations specify the penalties to the default of the moral codes. People in different groups will adopt and practice the acceptable behavior to avoid being penalized. First, various cultural societies differ on individual moral conduct but they all similarly recognize the existence of morality.
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Different cultures at times value different moral behaviors. For example, a community in the American Indian culture may associate theft from an enemy with bravery and skill, hence encourage theft in the culture. Another culture may dislike and discourage theft from anyone and value the sanctity of personal property like those in industrial Western countries. When differences are experienced, the moral idea that gives or encourages the right action is created. Each community or culture gives preference to its beliefs and constructs moral codes. A cultural set up will also outline the penalties to bleaching of moral codes; these penalties differ from one culture to another. For example, in a murder incidence in African cultural community, the murderer is subjected to death or disownment while in the Western world the murderer is subjected to imprisonment.
Secondly, the guidance from religion helps construct moral codes. The religion observed by a particular culture influence the way the morality is perceived by the people in the community. Most religion guides the culture to morality as something decreed by a greater force than humanity. The supernatural being that they worship has dictated and communicated His will on the right deeds through prophets and has been documented to guide generations on their journey of life morality. The Christian, Muslim, Hinduism, Buddhism or other religions are all governed by their Holy doctrine on the right deeds that are accepted by their supernatural creator. Penalties of bleaching the moral codes on different occasions and incidences are outlined in the doctrines and are well followed by the worshippers. Moral codes are created based on the religion beliefs, what is approved by an individual religion as right is valued and what is disapproved is penalized if conducted.
Another aspect is the existence of right and morality in the humanitarian nature. The human nature has adopted some values and moral codes instincts naturally. Humanity has considered some conducts good or wrong unlike other earthly creatures in existence. A natural human notion distinguishes between the right and the wrong actions. Morality is a natural necessity for all humans; we believe it, we seek it, and we always feel we need it. Through this human intuition, people can create acceptable agreements on the code of conduct in their relationship or interaction with others and general creatures generally. According to a social psychological moral foundation theory, fairness, harm, loyalty, liberty, purity and authority are natural notions of humanity. The entire humanity observes these moral values even without the influence of any other existing factors.
What Makes People Break Moral Codes?
Moral codes are what create understanding and significant interaction between people of different culture, ethnicity, religion and regions. People can unite based on the acceptable code of behavior because most of the approved morals to one group are mostly similar to that of another. For the different morals that exist between diverse groups, other groups have learned of them and respect their stand. For example, a Christian individual is aware of the dos and don’ts of a Muslim. In a situation where people of the two different religions have to work together, a neutral moral set up is mostly adapted. A neutral setup will simply not affect the other part negatively but work best for the two religions. It is crucial to live observing the set agreements on moral codes for good living with other people. Incorporating everyone’s beliefs on morality ensure and promotes unity.
However, at times the moral codes are broken with different reasons; for example, in search for a means to self-interest or good life. On self-interest, the general assumption is that people can pursue their self-interest without considering what is thought to be right or wrong. Individuals go out of the way by making agreements with other persons that help them achieve their personal interest. In this case, the agreement made is the base for morality and is dependent to the means of achieving the end interest and not on what is considered right or wrong. When morality is used as a means to self-interest, some moral codes may be broken for it becomes difficult to find other people’s opinion. For example, a businessperson’s primary interest is to maximize profits and minimize costs with the available resources. If the entrepreneur exploits his customers by hiking prices for his products, this act is considered unfair. This conduct would be described immoral but according to him that is a right means to achieve his goal. The society may not accept such deeds, but they do not have control over them as well because it is out of their authoritative concern. The business person breaks the moral codes of fairness to ensure the survival of the enterprise and the achievement of his personal good living standards.
Other times people break moral codes at times to bring honor and satisfaction. For example, even if morality describes truthfulness as a requirement for everyone that does not mean that the Prime Minister of U.S.A should speak the whole truth about the US Defense forces to everyone. The reports to some entities are precise to protect the confidentiality of the Defense forces that ultimately protects the citizens. In another case, it would be unprofessional for a doctor to disclose the facts to a patient that she will not survive. Despite the fact, it would be uncouth and improper to strip out the hopes for survival from a patient. Additionally, one cannot disclose the truth about all where his or her treasures are to a thief. In general, the observation of truthfulness in this aspect would cause more harm than good if observed. The breaking of moral codes sometimes is dictated by the situations and circumstances. In making an ethical decision on existing conflicts moral codes can be broken. A typical conflict is caused by the desiring and rational part of humanity. This conflict is based on that we instinctively desire to do and what we think is right, on the consideration of what would be the right thing to do. To resolve such conflict, reason has to take charge. The decisions made must be based not only on what is approved right but on the repercussion of the actions taken. The most beneficial or less harmful actions are preferred of such an incidence.
Are Moral Codes Relative or Absolute?
The debate on the existence of moral absolutes has been ongoing; depends on one’s views. Arguably, anything that is absolute implies that there are no exceptions to what has been stated at any time, place, or situation. For instance, if a rule has been set, there are no go-betweens. Immanuel Kant’s philosophical concept of the categorical imperative affirms moral values as absolute. However, it is impossible to incorporate all the possibilities in a situation, making his claim invalid. Additionally, various factors contribute to the decision-making. Hence, there are no moral absolutes.
Culture has a great input on the moral values that individuals uphold. However, there are instances when an individual’s cultural beliefs conflict with one’s will. For example, in most Christian societies, abortion is unacceptable. However, exceptions arise in cases whereby the lives of the mother and unborn child are in danger. In such cases, doctors advice mothers to abort to save themselves. Despite their moral values on abortion, circumstances force mothers to take the doctor’s advice. Similarly, a young woman may have an abortion on grounds that she is not ready to become a mother. These scenarios are indications that there are no moral absolutes because of the circumstantial conflicts.
Different societies have different cultures. Moral values are derived from cultural beliefs and practices. For example, the Western Culture’s mode of dressing is vibrant with no restrictions Young women walk on the streets dressed in skimpy clothes without scrutiny from the public because it is morally accepted. However, in Islam-dominated countries, women are expected to cover the entire body apart from their faces. Dressing in any other manner is considered disrespectful and a violation of moral values. Evidently, there are no absolutes because there are no two cultures that have similar beliefs and practices.
In his work, Kant claims that it is possible to work out moral absolutes using universalism and reason. He proceeds to note it would help to point out any contradiction of the will. Unfortunately, different people have different wills. Therefore, the moral absolutes setup would be unsatisfactory because not everyone would agree. Besides, the need to do something as an individual does not imply that everyone else should do the same. For example, an abandoned child may be resentful towards his or her parents. However, it does not mean that all children should be resentful to their parents. The situations are different warranting different reactions. Hence, there are no moral absolutes.
Critics may argue that moral absolutes help in decision-making. While this perception may be true, some people’s wills must be disregarded. For example, medical practitioners operate under strict moral absolutes such as “do not kill”. When faced with such decisions, they can easily choose to keep a patient alive on a life support machine. However, they have to disregard the mental torture a patient suffers while on the life support machine. In cases where the patient’s family members would prefer to let go of the patient as opposed to the mental torture, the doctors have to forego these preferences and follow the moral absolutes. Therefore, the only time that moral absolutes stand is while overlooking the will of the some of the parties. Evidently, the argument goes back to the fact that no moral absolutes exist.
In conclusion, circumstantial conflicts, cultural differences, and differences in individual will prove there are no moral absolutes. Immanuel Kant’s theory has been challenged on these grounds. Unless, wholly proven, it is impossible to come up with moral absolutes without overlooking some of the parties.