I Do NOT Trust My Moral Compass, Do You Trust Yours?

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I Do NOT Trust My Moral Compass, Do You Trust Yours?

Post  Richard on Fri May 21, 2010 11:19 pm

In a recent thread, an argument was put forth - quite respectfuly - that one's inner, instinctive moral compass gave us all gut level reactions to know between right and wrong. I understood that position ... I have gut level instinctive moral reactions to certain acts also. BUT I have learned NOT to trust MY instinctive moral compass, becaue I just do not trust other people's instinctive moral compasses. Let me explain by example.

Americans For Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH) is a certified a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center. AFTAH is on par with neo-Nazis and "white power" racist groups in the USA - it dessiminates false "scientific" bases for homophobia and calls on its followers to act on homophobic judgements.

A recent AFTAH campaigns seeks to punish the Progressive Insurance Company for instituting a non-discrimination corporate policy based on sexual orientation and gender identity. One of their followers canceled his policy with this letter In relevant part (my emphasis):

To Whom It May Concern:

...

The GLBT agenda violates my core fundamental beliefs. Please allow me to clarify this … I am a firm supporter of equality; when it pertains to one’s ethnicity, skin color, natural gender, or age. I adamantly oppose the oppression of any human being, by any individual, or group. I am a man of principle and a man who seeks to bring about peace. In layman’s terms, I am the bigger kid on the playground that pulled the “bully” off the smaller kid.

What I am opposed to in this situation is not a person, nor a group of people, but rather an “Action.” An Action that I find to be repulsive and a shock to the conscience. Not only because of my spiritual beliefs, but by my instinctive and natural human ability to decipher between what is right and what is wrong....

Sincerely,

Jamil J. Adair

I refuse to allow others to define my life or to allow others to discriminate against me. Yet this man's natural human ability to decifer between what is right and what is wrong" tells him that my life ought to be proscribed ,,, that people ought to have a right to discriminate based on my sexual orientation.

If his instinctive moral compass can be so off base ... why then, so can my instinctive moral compass. That is why on moral issues, I tend to follow my Roman Catholic catychism ... I educate myself on what science and theologians and philosophers have to say on the subject, I meditate / pray / think about it ... then I decide what I believe to be the moral choice to make. But I try to educate myself - not base my decisions on MY moral compass. Because our natural human ability to distinguish between right and wrong is often wrong. Take sexists for example, and racists, and those who seek harm to others through theft and violence and murder.

The burgler has an instinctive moral compass that tells him/her they have a right to take what they want. Odd but true. And the sexists actually believe in sexism ... as do racists. And homophobes. Each of their instinctive moral compass guides them to horrendous acts ... such as this letter.

This letter writer has every right to do business with any company he chooses. But he is motivated by an irrational fear and distaste for homosexuals. So his particular moral compass is leading him to oppose any non-discrimination of gays and lesbians and transsexuals. He is free to do so but he is NOT free to impose his morality on me and mine. The tide of history favors human rights. He is wrong and I am right ... my instinctive moral compass tells me so (LOL).

BUT I have been wrong before. Is your instinctive, human moral compass sufficient guidance for moral decisions?

PS: For the record, the homophobes have now switched tactics away from "gay people" to gay sexual activity. They deny the existence of healthy gay men and lesbian women; they deny the possibility of sexual orientation. They concentrate solely on sexual acts ... as though being heterosexual ONLY meant vaginal intercourse. What nonsense. Yet they can sleep better at night as they don't hate people, only people's sexual acts. Nonsense. But this is why the governor of a state with Man-Woman Only marriage laws, recently vetoed a proposed law to allow gay couples to act as next of kin when a partner-spouse dies. Had he signed the bill, he would be admitting that gay people can become loving families. And we can't have THAT now can we?


Last edited by Richard on Sat May 22, 2010 9:41 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Change "Coral" compass to "Moral" compass in the subject line)
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Re: I Do NOT Trust My Moral Compass, Do You Trust Yours?

Post  Johnfd on Sat May 22, 2010 4:41 am

Hi Richard, you always pose the most interesting and thought provoking questions.

I think that whatever culture, doctrines and experiences form the basis for our moral compass we have to be very careful about relying on it alone. As other people's compasses so often appear obviously wrong to me, how can mine so definitely always be right? My gut feeling might lead me to question things but I must not automatically take the stance it suggests.

The important thing, in my view, is to not conform slavishly to the norms of my culture and upbringing but give proper thought and internal argument to the life issues I face. For this to happen I need more information than a gut reaction based on who-knows-what and some sort of mumbo-jumbo from centuries ago. To do anything less makes me susceptible to all those -isms that I find so hateful. That way lies biggotry.

The trouble is, after all that good, well thought out internal dialogue, the gut feelings still sometimes intrude and have to be fought off. That's why, in the other thread, I said the uncomfortable feeling was there despite all the sensible arguments. Perhaps what I didn't make clear was that those overide the gut feelings.
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Re: I Do NOT Trust My Moral Compass, Do You Trust Yours?

Post  Almostangela on Sat May 22, 2010 2:30 pm

I guess there needs to be a definition of 'moral compass'and ''gut instinct''. A burgular'gut instinct is to take stuff, but that is not a moral compass. Of course he/she knows its wrong and will go to jail. His gut instinct overrides his moral compass.

Whereby for you to pray/meditate/educate before you make a decision is your action to override over your gut instinct to confirm your moral compass. I'd say you don't trust your gut instinct, which I think we shouldn't, but rather, you end up using your moral compass in the end.

So is moral compass taught or instinct? Long debate on that one. I think it is both.

I always trust my moral compass after I weight all sides. As I get older and more educated, I trust that I don't know everything and have much to learn. As for my gut instinct, only in danger situations and after a prayer.

Angela
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Re: I Do NOT Trust My Moral Compass, Do You Trust Yours?

Post  Richard on Sat May 22, 2010 5:24 pm

No, the burgler really does believe that "it" belongs to him - "it" by right ought to be his ... it just happens to be under your control at the time he liberates it from you. It truly is warped ... but it IS the criminal thought process. He understands the risk of getting caught ... but morally wrong to steal? Not to him. He is liberating what he has a right to have, not stealing. But God forbid anyone attempt to steal from him - THAT is unacceptable.

It surprised me when I was trained and educated as to the criminal mind set when I worked as a probation officer. I never found morality as a good way to change a criminal's behavior. However, if I pointed out they were bad at being criminals - they got caught - such realization of failure could change behavior. Unless of course, the "heat" of probation was completely tolerable to the probationer and/or he knew he actually WAS successful ... he got caught for 1% of what he actually stole.

Now violence - assault and murder - were crimes of a different nature. I was reading about the SS in World War II recently. Those men and women - and military folks and police personnel today and always - use violence to effect respect and to have others act as they demand. It seems that to be a violent person one must (1) experience violence as a victim, (2) reorganize one's self concept and world view to accept the necessity of violence - often with a mentor (drill sargeant, family member, or buddy), (3) act violently in self defense and see this as a good thing (kill or be killed for soldiers and police), and then (4) have such good feelings from the way others treat you after your violent acts that it goes viral - into offensive violence. An interesting theory having nothing to do with morality.

But for most of the human race, even victims of violence, violent committment in self defense or the defense of loved ones is as far as violent behavior is acceptable. Thank Goodness.

But it does not appear to me that "Thou shalt not commit murder" is an innate moral human trait. There is too much murder and violence in the world - throughout history - for that simple (and to me self-evident) moral concept to be "natural." Ethics and the study of ethics fascinates me.

But the existence of a natural human moral compass shared by all peoples? I just don't see it - so I am trying to see my gut level moral judgements for what they are ... neither natural nor trustworthy.

But WOW! I appreciate other's viewpoints! A lot!
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Re: I Do NOT Trust My Moral Compass, Do You Trust Yours?

Post  hpilgrim on Sat May 22, 2010 8:45 pm

To answer your question: absolutely not...
Holly
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Re: I Do NOT Trust My Moral Compass, Do You Trust Yours?

Post  Almostangela on Sat May 22, 2010 9:36 pm

Richard wrote:

But it does not appear to me that "Thou shalt not commit murder" is an innate moral human trait. There is too much murder and violence in the world - throughout history - for that simple (and to me self-evident) moral concept to be "natural." Ethics and the study of ethics fascinates me.

But the existence of a natural human moral compass shared by all peoples? I just don't see it - so I am trying to see my gut level moral judgements for what they are ... neither natural nor trustworthy.

So too in history, but written about less often is the acts of compassion. The underground railroad comes to mind. Acts of kindness, compassion or general 'decentness' are things that are overlooked because they are expected. Horrible acts shock us because it goes against our moral compass and so we record them in our newspapers and history books and study it and thus bring attention to it.

I just wanted to put that out there because I think it is important to see life from both sides of the coin. I beleive in the goodness of people because I have been close to people who have pulled out of impossible situations and do the right thing, regardless of the pressure of negativity that surrounded them. It may not be clearly black and white, or immediately apparant, or even acted upon right away, but eventually, the moral compass overrules.

A true story: If you just take war as an example and look at the Nazi's taking away your Jewish neighbour and friend. You know something bad is happening because people are disappearing and not returning and you should hide your friend, but, you are terrified, because you are under the occupation too. So what do you do? Do you risk your entire family to the same fate? Moral compass. Save your friend, risk your family? Gut instinct. You do nothing, are you as bad as the Nazi's? You friend is taken away and you live with the horrible guilt. The war goes on for years and you witness killing and fear and starving. Years later the war is over and you find out her likely fate. Inside you always knew. You became a nurse and helped 100's of people in your lifetime and gave freely of your time and charity. You took in foster children. Moral compass. All the killing you witnessed did not make you a killer. Did not make you a hater.

At this junction in my life, I do listen to my moral compass. My gut instinct and need for survival may jump in and try to intercede, but my thought process would be present. If I've made a mistake, I would try to make it right..

I think when push comes to shove, we make the right choice. There is the few that make the headlines in the paper because we just can't imagine that someone would do that, but, most of us, would do the right thing if given the chance
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Re: I Do NOT Trust My Moral Compass, Do You Trust Yours?

Post  Senna on Sun May 23, 2010 4:13 pm

" I have learned NOT to trust MY instinctive moral compass, becaue I just do not trust other people's instinctive moral compasses."

Why should anyone be influneced by other people in matters of moral importance - why should you let yourself be influenced by people that you do not care for, or do not respect. You do not need to. You can dismiss it if you feel it is wrong.

When observed, any small child knows instictively when they do something wrong, they already have a moral judgment built into them, before they are two years old. They know when they have been "naughty", and they know when someone else does something wrong at surpisingly young age.
They have a moral compass, and it is utterly instinctive. What is so strange that this instict is usually spot on. A moral instinct is a built-in human trait, even if some of it gets over-ruled as people grow up.

And it is in all of us - most of us. If we are prepared to listen well to our inner voice, we know that we have such built-in compass inside of us. It is called conscience.
I cannot see how the fact that some people over-ride their own compass needs to influence us, or why this would make us not to trust our feelings of moral instinct.

If you keep an open mind, this will lead you towards the right moral conclusion.


Senna


Last edited by Senna on Mon May 24, 2010 3:53 am; edited 5 times in total

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Re: I Do NOT Trust My Moral Compass, Do You Trust Yours?

Post  Guest on Sun May 23, 2010 6:48 pm

my brain is a bit tired and achey.

i took a bunch of public administration classes regarding moral compass, etc.

i trust my gut and my moral compass.

we all learn things, experiences, etc. throughout our lives that devlop our instincts, "moral compass" and gut.

but, each day we learn something, which can adjust our feelings.

sorry. not a lot of sleep over the last couple days. Sleep

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