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Transcultural Friendship: Our Political Future

Chapter Six: The Future Human

Section 5: Morality


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San Jose Taiko introductory item at Cupertino Cherry Blossom Festival, 1998.


Morality is an aspect of cognition applied to the social realm. This chapter, and, in fact, this whole paper deal with moral concerns -- the right courses of action. Moral action, using Fromm's approach discussed in chapter one, requires knowing or being able to predict the physical and social consequences of actions and the effects of these consequences on human potentials and feelings. A moral judgment is a high-level cognitive task requiring the coordination of highly refined bits of physical and social knowledge.



"Authoritarian ethics", as the concept is used by Fromm, are less functional in a world of change. Ethics based upon commandments rather than upon reason based on consequences lead to awkward actions or self-contradictions. Since such ethical systems are not well tuned to reality, they often prove unworkable -- leading to a cleavage between what one believes is right and what one wants to do. People with authoritarian ethics are always trying to fight or deny their desires. Since commandments are accepted on the basis of authority rather than reason, it is difficult for the recipient to systematize their morals so that they can be situationally prioritized. When values conflict, the person may be stuck with guilt feelings (self-punishment) no matter what course of action is chosen.



A well-integrated, refined value system based upon predicted consequences is much more functional. Values are better understood when they are accepted according to reason rather than authority. Because they are understood, it is easier to determine when circumstances require their qualification or modification. Thus, the values become situationally refined. The better individual values are understood, the more completely they can be integrated into a moral system that will allow prioritizing.



Furthermore, because such a system is tied to consequences, it can be integrated with one's personality, so that there is no mismatch between moral reasoning and action. For example, one may steal a gun from another who was intending to kill a third person. Since values of life and property are prioritized, the subject can determine the correct course of action and carry it out without persisting doubts. "No guilt will result from the breaking of a commandment, because one would not be punished for doing the best that could be done under the circumstances.



Moreover, since the values are well comprehended, they will be more difficult to threaten, and such a person will be more accepting of those who have different value systems. Such a person will choose to act out of concern for others rather than feel compelled to act out of a sense of righteousness. Righteousness is a result of the suffering one endures trying to abide by rules that run counter to one's nature. Such people are easily threatened by those who violate these rules, and so are intolerant and condemnatory.



Thus, those with "humanistic" values will be better able to harmonize moral thought and action. They will be more secure in their judgments and less at odds with themselves. They will be more accepting of themselves and those different from themselves -- and this is especially important for cross-cultural relations. Their focus on consequences will best ensure that their actions will benefit everyone.







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Transcultural Friendship: Our Political Future


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The Future Human

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