A Dialogue on Morality
In a tranquil field far removed from the rest of the world sat two silent souls. They were two men; one withered away by age and the other invigorated with the wonders of youth. The older man, known simply as Mentor, was not blind to the fact that he was living his last days. Thus, he had called his most valued student down to sit and speak with him in the field for one final revelation.
They sat in silence at first, each quietly calming their own soul and allowing the other to do the same. The only sound they made was that of their breathing. A cool breeze gently kept them cool in the heat of the midday sun. The muted meditations of the two men then suddenly came to an end. Mentor lightly tapped on his student’s shoulder, eager to speak with him about that which had come to mind.
Importance of Morality
“I’m sure it has come to your attention that I do not have the lengthy days left in me that you do,” Mentor softly said. His student simply nodded silently. “And as such, I thought it would be prudent of me to pass on that which I still can with the time I have left."
“But is there any one subject that could even hope to encompass all the wisdom you have not yet shared with the world?” the student eagerly asked.
“There most certainly is. Even if all the conclusions I have reached about all the topics of my contemplation cannot be handed down anymore, there is one that can lead anyone to these conclusions themselves. It is as follows: the shame-ridden masses of our world usually live by the moral systems of others. This is a mistake, I say, for the individual discovery of morality is the greatest gateway to fulfillment.”
Morality of the Infinity
“Now,” he continued, “little can be objectively said on what morality really is. We are not gods, as unfortunate as that may be. We are mere men, and as such, we can glimpse only tiny iotas of the infinity that we are a part of. However, we can know our own little parts of this infinity quite well. Thus, we can, through whichever methods of reflection work best, discover what we individually believe to be moral. We are our own rulers. The masses may have forgotten this fact long ago, but those who still know it also know another critical idea to be true. That which is wonderful to one man may be abominable to another, and vice versa. Yet, both men may be equally right, for we are too puny of beings to be able to pass definitive judgement on one another. Any attempts at defining morality by man are inherently flawed, just as man himself is.”
“But then how can we know if morality is even real or just a construct of our minds? How can we be sure that it exists in the eyes of the infinity?”
“We cannot. We can, however, know that moral principles guide everyone’s lives. Without morality, man has no purpose, and without purpose, he has nothing. Thus, morality can be explored as fact, but in the realm of man alone.”
Morality of Humanity
“And in the realm of man,” his student inquired, “what can we say to be universally true about morality? What moral principles can be accepted as truth for all mankind, since so much of it is greatly debatable?”
“There is very little that one can definitively say about the nature of true morality, as we have just discussed. Thus, there is little I can say for sure to be moral, for there are very few things that all of mankind can agree on. Really only one thing can be said for certain about any of the ways we conduct ourselves, and that is the following. As stated by Carl Jung long ago, ‘the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.’ We are supposed to be something. We are supposed to achieve new heights and discover new wonders, for our insatiable and primal drives urge us to do so. Every person on Earth feels this irresistible pull towards greatness, and so there is only one fundamental truth about morality.”
“To live a moral life is to live life for a purpose. We all feel as if we have some higher purpose; some frustratingly unattainable goal that all mankind must eventually reach. I propose that this perceived goal is indeed real, and that the inimitability of every individual on Earth means we all have something wonderfully unique to contribute. Morality means living one’s life in the most meaningful way one can, and by extension, not allowing themselves to be bogged down by external forces. To do this, of course, we must be in touch with our full psyches and be the rulers of our own beings. We must know our limits, but at the same time, know our limitlessness. In other words, know thyself, and greatness shall inevitably follow.”
“So you claim that the only universal way to live righteously is to live meaningfully?”
“Indeed I do. There are far too many differences between the countless individuals and many societies of the world to make our definition of morality any narrower.”
“But wouldn’t a world where morality is so vaguely defined descend into chaos?”
“Be patient, and I shall reveal the follies of this thought."
Morality of the Individual
“We have thus far discussed morality in terms of great collectives, those being the infinity and humanity. But we have only barely discussed how it can be applied in individual terms.” Mentor paused for a moment, letting the beauty of the surrounding landscape momentarily sweep him away. "This is perhaps the most important piece of the whole moral puzzle we have been investigating, for it has the most practical applications.”
“But can we even discuss it at all? You claim that the only way we can all be moral is to do our best to grasp the infinity. If this is true, is it not also true that there are no other moral principles we can all be expected to follow?” asked his student.
“The world of my morality that you envision is one of absolute madness, is it not?”
“It certainly is, and that is why I am so hesitant to think of it as a better alternative to living by the laws of others.”
“Then allow me to explain this hypothetical world’s true nature. Since morality in nearly all normal interactions is subjective, it would be inherently foolish to want to constantly obey foreign moral systems. The only morality is that which exists in the individual’s mind, and the only reason that pursuit of the infinity is considered universally moral is because it exists in all individuals’ minds. Thus, the only true good is that which is good to you, and evil follows the same law. To live a moral life simply means to do what you believe is right and resist that which you believe is wrong. The moral life I described before still rings true, for it is thought of as good by the deepest parts of our collective consciousness. However, it was described very vaguely for a reason. It is up for individual interpretation, as it is meant to be interpreted in any way the individual thinks it should be.”
“And this is where the issue that I see arises. Do some people not consider to be good that which the rest of us consider to be unspeakably evil? How can humanity live and progress in peace when fundamental problems of morality are up to anyone’s interpretation?”
"Hence resisting that which we believe to be wrong. Remember from earlier that no individual moral system can correctly claim to be any more valid than any other. We can only claim that one who is working to know themselves and fulfill their individual purpose is on the right path. In this assertion lies an obvious assumption that lays your worries to rest. If no one moral system is any more correct than any others, then another fundamental moral law is revealed. This law is that, according to our logic, for one moral system to try to tyrannize over another must be unjust. If no one can know which moral systems are truly superior, then for these systems to clash is meaningless and inhibits mankind from achieving its true destiny. Good can never prevail over evil if no one knows which side is good and which is evil. Thus, it can be asserted that the only evil we can ever know is the evil of the tyrant. The world I envision would be one of peace because no one would attempt to tyrannize over anyone else. Doing so would inhibit their victim’s voyage to infinity, as it may be called. And so, if someone attempted tyranny, everyone would surely do their best to defend the victim and keep all moral systems confined to the individual who created them.”
Morality of a Better World
“I can see a bit of a utopian vision appearing,” his pupil observed. “But in this utopia of yours, how can we be sure tyranny would not arise regardless of its immorality? One must only look to history to see examples of mankind being led down very immoral paths by charisma and manipulation alone.”
“I am not saying it would be an easy thing to transition humanity from an existence of servitude to one of absolute freedom. And, of course, there shall always be those who do their best to extort and oppress others. However, if all our world is taught the lesson I am teaching you, then I maintain that we would need not fear tyranny ever again. We are inherently social animals. It is nigh impossible for someone to hide something as momentous as forcing servitude upon another person. In the case that tyranny did arise, the aid of strangers to free people from their slavery would be enough to keep the Earth free.”
“So, in this world, you envision the only law being not to impose any sort of tyranny upon others?”
“That is correct,” Mentor confidently replied.
“But not all unjust things can be boiled down to being matters of tyranny. Poisoning someone is not oppressing them. Laying ruin upon the environment is also not oppression. And how would we deal with those who do show tyrannical behavior?”
“You display a very narrow view of what tyranny is. Poisoning someone is tyranny, for it inhibits them from being able to live their own lives as they wish. Laying ruin upon the environment is tyrannizing over both man’s and Earth’s natural opportunity to live freely and prosperously. To take what one needs from the environment is, of course, necessary. However, those who take consumption to the extreme should have great shame placed upon them by society. Now, it may seem like I am advocating for no sort of interaction between anyone at all, but I assure you that this is not the case. I am merely advocating for all interactions between anyone and everyone to be completely voluntary. And, as for your last question, one must first recognize that our current methods of administering ‘justice’ to criminals is one of unbridled subjugation. A method that would not be imposing any tyranny at them, yet would be quite effective, would be to exclude them from all interactions. The society in which these criminals live would be practically banishing them without ever even having to lay a finger upon them.”
“I see. We have gone far into the depths of morality, and you have outlined for me what we can be sure true morality is. Now you have conjured for me an image of a world without the tyranny of some moral systems over others. I only ask you to finish that image.”
“Finish it I shall, then, and joyfully so. We have decided that morality is something no modern man can ever know the full extent of. We have discovered the only three facts about a moral life that we may know. These are that to live a moral life means to know oneself so one’s destiny can be discovered, to pursue this destiny as best as one can, and to not hinder anyone else from doing the same. Look around you for a moment.” His pupil did so immediately.
“It is undeniably a gorgeous field we find ourselves in. I must ask what this has to do with morality, though.”
“Nature is beautiful because nature was born from millennia of a carefully curated balance. The trees take only what they need from the world and use it to pursue their simply destiny of growth and reproduction. The grass does the same, as do the chattering birds and scampering critters that surround us. Humanity can do the same. We can take only what we need from the Earth and each other and use these resources to pursue our own destinies even more vigorously than before. Without the restraints we have placed upon ourselves, we can live more harmoniously and far more rewardingly. We can dedicate ourselves solely to the practices which we believe shall benefit the world the most. Already, many men have written about how to make our communities self-sustaining and not dependent on the iron fist of foreign rulers. Of course, I do not mean to say that mankind should be relegated to small, insignificant pockets of civilization that enjoy only their own advances. Trade would play an important role, as it can cultivate greatness wherever it arises.”
“But this does not sound like a world that would cultivate the ascension of man towards his ultimate goal. Would the lack of cohesiveness and interconnectedness not lead to a slowing of global progress?”
“Certainly not, because I have just one more thing to explain. The individual is important, but collectives are certainly important as well. I envision the greatest minds and most revolutionary ideas forming a wide array of voluntary societies in this new world. And, with the new knowledge these collectives would constantly create, they would be able to improve all of humanity. Connectivity without a loss of individuality is important. The internet is a prime example of this. Although I cannot say what collectives would arise, I can say that the art of assembly, even globally, would not die out. The rest I shall leave to minds far greater than my own.”
With that, Mentor returned to his meditation. His student was free to go, and so he walked off with a heightened understanding he swore he would never forget. As he commenced his return to the daily mundanity of the modern world, he still found himself in disagreement with some of what Mentor had told him. Yet, this was not by any means a tragedy. His ability to disagree meant he was one step closer to achieving the vision that Mentor knew in his wearying mind to be the hidden vision of all mankind.