Morality and What Encompasses It

Cuombajj Witches by Seb Mckinnon

Tumbleweed

In nature finds what freedom holds
of long lost thruths and tumble throws.
What ought be right, what ought be told,
Of this, only tumble knows.

On thrones of thorns, toil, and trouble,
Trumble reigns the mighty stublle.
Of leaves that fall, of groves that flow
Tumble catches; with a plough.

Undergrowth been overthrown.
Tumble ruled as shadow’s clone.

Tumble is wicked; tumble is sick,
spewing orchidaic rhetoric.

What he perceives, what he concedes
self proclaimed identity.
WHat oughtness, what intricacy
Natures own ideology.


Whilst I really dislike taking a strong political stance, I still wish to make comments and cast my ideas into a vacuum. One of these ideas that has been rummaging and turmoiling my mind for the last 8 months [or heck, maybe even more…] would be the concept of morality and the assessment thereof. I am well aware that I made several posts drifting around this topic, so maybe regard it as some sort of a series. The recent changes in the world made me think about oughtness. A thoroughly deep, complex and highly important question that has been accompanied humanity throughout its existence. The concept of the social construction of morality comes to mind. The noble quest of the pure essence of the right and wrong and its boundaries within the human nature is indeed a complex one. Why not try to apply some ideas to it. The question that I came up with would roughly be the following:

“How far do we assemble our moral judgments by group mentality and interaction?”

I will of course, as I must, drift away and get lost but allow me to take you with me.

The poem talked about the tumble, here reminding me of the tumbleweeds. I particularly chose this metaphor due to its ever-changing nature. I do believe that the tumbleweed has a self-adapting aspect to it. It is trotting around the surface and composes itself from the outside in. It is within interaction that the internal core of moral oughtness is defined anew by the interaction happening on the outskirts. There is also certain rhythm change I tried to apply to the rhyme scheme. I will not give away too much about the poem, but I do hope that after reading this blog post it might make more sense.

Before plunging heads-on into the question of morality, I would like to tackle the concept of how I believe humans partly assess morality. Whilst I agree that moral adaptation is a must for any given society over a specific timespan, we oughtn’t forget the potential dangers it can hide.

How we assess morality – The new will create the real again.

I would like to introduce the founding concept of my theory. I tend to believe that language, and especially the exchange between two interlocutors, fosters a self-reflective attitude. It is within this interaction that both actors are enabled to evaluate their established concepts of oughtness, compare them, and play them out. It is within interaction that we create essential parameters through which we can compare and contrast our subjective consensus of oughtness.

Morality is a concept which is ever changing. You waddle through life and make moral statements. It seems as it would be an intrinsic reaction to the world. However incremental these statements might be, or not be. I tend to believe that we set our moral compass through a lot of minor, minor things. This would then further lead me to inspect whatever might predispose the idea behind such a concept. What requisite would need to be applied to sort these things into a yes or no; into a morally right or wrong. In essence, what adjusts these filters and how do we choose them? What are they potentially influenced by and why?

To start this fun ride, I would love to open with the following idea.

The case could be made that the innate human self-perception is partly evaluated by assertions made through its social modus operandi. We experience a plethora of social interactions under a variety of forms each and every day. (Well, maybe a bit differently now during these quarantine times).How we create the reigning functions that set our moral compass are discussed here. This theory inevitably led me to reminisce about one of the maybe 3 high-school books I remember, Huis Clos from Sartre. The concept that I remembered would be the often misconceptualized “Hell is other people”, translated from the French: “l’enfer c’est les autres” 1 …I know sounds super rad and emotional for the 16-year-old me who probably also misunderstood it.

To help this article out I will package in some translated comment from the man himself:

“Hell is other people” has always been misunderstood. It has been thought that what I meant by that was that our relations with other people are always poisoned, that they are invariably hellish relations. But what I really mean is something totally different. I mean that if relations with someone else are twisted, vitiated, then that other person can only be hell. Why? Because … when we think about ourselves, when we try to know ourselves … we use the knowledge of us which other people already have. We judge ourselves with the means other people have and have given us for judging ourselves. 2

Jean Paul Sartre comments “Hell is other people”

It was exactly within these ramifications that I tumbled over the following thought. The general level of interaction reached a new all-time high. Whereas we used to rely on direct communication, or partly passive conversation (the likes of television and radio) we found a junction between the illusion of direct and indirect communication. Social media created a platform for ideas and interchange and gave us the illusion of interpersonal conversation.

So, this new social interaction, let’s look a bit at it. The recent movement of socializing within literally a hand’s reach… Odd tone to it.

The new factors – Outside-in

We have instant-feedback social interaction down to a T. We have an amalgamation of different notifications, texts, statuses ,tweets and much more that keep us on our toes. You get real time updates on a million things. Some posts reach maybe a couple of thousand people, some hundred thousand. It goes that far that elections are partly fought over social media and, heck, even politicians use it to project their ideas. Well, arguable how big these impacts are hard to gauge and not something I wanna directly dwell on. I would much rather shine some light on a potentially bothersome part of social media..

Where has the mind left to adapt to all these new inputs?

If we assume that social re-evaluation of the self is partly assessed through self-reflection and thus inevitably tied to the amount of interactions you have, we quickly come to realize that the vast amount surpasses our capacities. It was exactly within these interactions I found a potential source for this whole moral compass dilemma. This, to me, felt like running a magnet past it.

I think the problem lies within these new ways of communication. Having a public online space which allows you to project anything into its sphere will inevitably create interaction. I would further develop this idea with stating that there is an creation of a positive feedback loop. The aforementioned illusion of direct and indirect communication has inherent “magnetic” attributes. (maybe in another blogpost I will argue a bit more about communication)

Judging by the possible factors of interaction found on these mediums, we can find the moralistic dichotomy. Having a system which either validates or revokes your statements creates this exact ambivalence. Social media platforms operate through interactions, the more populatity a post has the more it gets proliferated. The idea that every individual user can interact with a representation of human interaction; whatever it might be. Social media created Mob mentality through numeric simplification. The creation of a comparable factor, the number of interactions, facilitates the emergence of this exact mass moral assertion. (Just the sheer idea that they are widely called “likes” on multiple platforms that hosts around 2 billion people is just baffling to me. )We can see a number of likes and associate it to a mass of people. Moral justice has been extrapolated through instant ratification (I strongly believe that we humans have no real sensation of what a thousand people even looks like ,but a “Like counter” might easily represent that. This is a whole other discussion about how we humans perceive statistics and so on). We can easily be misled to assume that these numeric values support any vision of oughtness or truth. We feel a certain degree of pressure, we as moral human being should abide by. We often find direct statements within the most interacted posts. The stronger the appeal to emotion, the more probable a reaction. Sartre knocks at closed doors asking why we feel judged. This only further enhances the collectives’ sense of morality and fosters this “hellish self-reflection”.

The ambivalence of self-creation is trapped here. Not only is the creation of the self done by assessing values through the lens of others it is in the same breath limited by it.(you could further develop this hypothesis with a look at Renee Girard’s mimetic theory. I recently finished Resurrection from the Underground which tackles the concept of human co-dependence in creating the self. (https://taylorpearson.me/bookreview/mimetic-theory-things-hidden-since-the-foundation-of-the-world/ ). I further read through On the Genealogy of Morality by Nietzsche which might also be interesting for some. But let us be real, bois, if you made it this far you want this to finish at some point. We keep that for the next time.)

The problems of the new moral – Borderline Katamari

“Tyranny is always in the name of “ought” and never in the name of “is.” The Pathos methodology of persuasion appeals to emotion and the Ethos methodology appeals to fairness and ethics. Power never uses logos, which is appeal to logic, because this methodology would expose the truth, leaving people in a rational state of action and thought, not in an emotional state of self congratulation, or what some call social policy. Empathy is not a basis for morality nor is it an act of morality.”

Author: Jim bob. Found this interesting take made by a cartoonist. https://www.facebook.com/madebyjimbob/photos/a.515697548611091/1302943049886533/?type=1&theater )

The harshest tyranny is that which acts under the protection of legality and the banner of justice.

-Montesquieu

The problem is that when morality is based upon strong emotional appeal we inevitably have to assume its logical fallacy. Any an argument from passion should be looked at twice. The „correct assessment of the morally right“ is often supported by numeric values and leveraged by emotional appeal. This made me think about the problems at hand. The extrapolation of these assessments will create a representative token. (Social) media is filled to the brim with these. If we now would add the aforementioned concept of the co-dependence of self-creation and self-reflection through the other, we can synthesize my main point further. We have a plethora of stimuli which are often tainted with an appeal to emotion. I would suggest that the argument could be made that all the given circumstances would inevitably lead to a creation of an echo chamber. The creation of a system which evaluates the moral aspect dependant on interaction. Since the whole concept of oughtness is closely tied to virtue and the signalling thereof, we ought to find it s self-adapting nature. A system was created which compares its moral baseline through a numeric aspect. It has obtained a self-correcting nature within the borders and outline. A self-correcting nature which might hide more danger…

We lost reasoning to the emotional; fearing the judgment of the masses. We try to find guidance and wander and toll, clawing to any hint. The constant pressure reminds us that we ought to take position. Sartre’s gaze proliferated itself amongst us. Hell is other people has transcended the mere look since faces appeared all around us. Birds tweet of our faults whilst we look for instant gratification in grey and red hearts. We stumble and tumble, wondering where the new north lies


To leave you some food for thought… since I never really talked about the borders, the outskirts, the outlines.

Far from any Scarecrows we sowed seeds, hoping for rain…

-“Are borders catch havens for farmers? Fat farmers with the desire for more crows?”


1I would like to inject the thought that imo the translation might be a tad bit of. I would tend to translate it as : “Hell is the other”.

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