Ethics or morality can be defined as a set of standard rules or a code of conduct accepted generally by a society or a group of people living in a particular area and are in regular interaction with each other. It is a central component of human existence and is functional as a deciding tool for us as to what is right and what is wrong, or what are the acceptable ways of behavior in a society. Do we steal if we are poor, or do we walk the righteous path by deciding otherwise?
Do we commit adultery and incest, or do we ignore those ‘evil’ thoughts and handle our sexual selves in a more conventionally acceptable manner? Do we lie or do we speak the truth? These questions have been central to human thought and philosophy since the dawn of time, but in reality, we often find ourselves uncomfortable with these rules that were not made by us and are thus not in accordance with out happiness, creating much confusion.
We find in our lives that as soon as a child is born onto a family, his/her parents take up the role of the ‘good parenting’, teaching the child what is right and what is wrong. The child, from the moment he/she starts going to school, interacts with other members of the society and finds out that though their friends are somewhat different from them, they basically share the same values and thinks in much the same manner.
As this child grows up, through puberty, which is generally a hard time for young minds, they are more or less conditioned to follow the same social rules, and even though they try to rebel, these tendencies subside as they grow into ‘maturity. ’ But one may wonder, are these set of rules a way of developing a proper character, or is it just a fashionable way to define and propagate interference?
Are we creating noble minds or robots, all of whom behave and think in much the same manner, with no room for individuality and freedom of thought? What is then the importance of creativity in human evolution? One may safely say that the source of ethics and morality lies in the fabric of prevalent human thought in a particular geographical area at any given point in history, which then eventually develops with time, though much slowly, and often these changes do not oppose the very basic mode of thinking for people of that particular area.
In ourselves, we find a part that tells us that we are doing something wrong, when we are doing so. A boy may steal money to buy cigarettes from his dad’s purse, and may think in the back of his mind what will happen if his dad finds out. If we consider psychology, this part of us that is the moral police, that makes us feel guilty, can be defined as a Super Ego, as was discussed by Sigmund Freud in 1923 in his paper “The Ego and the Id.
” This Super Ego, as stated by Freud, primarily is developed by the father figure in a child’s life, as fathers are generally the dominant, authoritarian figures in the family, and is further aided by the social pressures that a child faces while growing up. The father generally tries to input the same thoughts and values of the prevalent society into the mind of the child, with perhaps a little difference that are negligible while viewing the whole picture.
So we can say that the father and the society are more or less the same, in respect to their thought personality. Often these programming of the mind leads to a great deal of confusion, anxiety and guilt in a child, and a general feeling of lostness. This actually diminishes the potential of the child’s development as his natural way of thought progress is hampered.
It is thus of no surprise that the 18th century French aristocrat Marquis de Sade theorized that the boundaries of morality put up by the society of one’s life, do no more than imprison a Do All People Have Conscience? man and make him a slave of society and true happiness and freedom can only be achieved when one gets rid of all his limitations that are created by his sense of morality and any kind of political, religious, social, economical, legal or obligatory limitations.
It is true that just because something is widely accepted, does not mean that it is true. During the time of Socrates in ancient Greece, it was thought that the Sun revolved round the Earth and not the other way round. But just because he contradicted the popular view of the era, he was poisoned to death. So what is usually accepted as right by many, may not be always right.
It is true also that in many cases we are bound to do certain things as an obligation or as a means of survival, but the moralists would say that we are doing something wrong. For example, we all know that lying is a sin, but in real life, no man or woman can ever survive on Earth if he or she starts telling the truth all the time. Also we may find that in life, many of our actions can have results that are neither good nor bad, and even the best of our intentions can be harmful to some other people.
We can unknowingly hurt somebody, even though we do not want to. Morality and ethics, as a matter of fact, are also somewhat dependant on the particular geographical area that we are taking into account. What is immoral in one country may not even have any remote importance on some other area. What is immoral in India can be very much acceptable in European countries or in United States.
If morality is seen as something of paramount importance in shaping up human personality, and if we understand that human beings, irrespective of their color, caste, creed, language, geographical background and sexual preferences, are basically the same and a humanitarian mind will not disagree, why people are treated differently and are expected to behave in a different manner solely based on their geographical origin?
Plus it is also seen that the sense of morality and ethical issues generally perceived by common people are not always very clear cut and are contradictory to one another. For example, if a common man kills another human being, he is then labeled as a murderer and thus convicted for his crime. But wars and battles between countries where numerous people are killed, are defended with a political cause as a necessity. Both the countries/lands know this by heart that killing is wrong, then why one does that?
Also a parent may teach his children that retaliation leads to no good and forgiveness is equal to being Godly, but when it comes to his own life, he retaliates almost all the time with strong vehemence. Children are normally born with an ethical fabric of their own which helps them to decide right from the wrong, and this inborn sense of morality does not depend on social moulding and is often thus different from that of society. Hence we may say all people are born with a sense of morality.
But we define as morality, something that is derived from society, may not be imbibed on some rare people as they are psychologically able to block those ideas that are not their own and are thus perceived as limiting. These people recognize the prevalent ideas of morality as nothing but a set of illusions as they understand by accepting these ideas, they may lose touch with their true inner selves and be misguided in different areas of life.
With their sub-conscious mind not guiding them, they may lose their path in life and lead a confused existence. Such people can be labeled as immoral by the mundane society, though they are not immoral on their own right. One much ultimately strive to learn the truth of everything, for only the real truth can never be misguiding, and only the real truth can never be immoral. Do All People Have Conscience?
Thinking Critically about Ethical issues by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero Id, Ego, and Super-Ego by Sigmund Freud The Philosophy of the Marquis de Sade by Timo Airaksinen.