Norms of Morality

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A standard to which human acts are compared to determine their goodness or badness. A proximate
norm is immediately applicable to the acts; the ultimate norm guarantees the validity of the
proximate norm.
Human nature is the proximate norm of morality because it is common to everyone, and the rules
derived from it will be applicable to all human beings. Moreover, human nature, while essentially
unchangeable, is flexible enough to admit of varying applications according to circumstances. It is
also constantly present and manifest to all humankind.
The ultimate norm of morality is the divine nature. this assumes that God is the Creator of the
universe and the pattern of all things, that he is Being by essence and the source of all things, so that
whatever either exists or can exist is a reflection and participation of Infinite Being. This
resemblance between God and creatures--including human beings--should be not only in nature
(who God is) but also in action (how God acts). Consequently, the ultimate norm of human morality
is the nature and activity of God. A person is as good as his or her character approximates the
perfections of God; and his or her conduct is as good as it imitates the activity of God.

Continuing a train of thought promulgated by Ben Young in his "Almost Daily Blog," I'd like to
address the question of morality. More specifically, morality today with the caveat of 'has
contemporary humanity lost touch with morality under the guise of pragmatism?' After taking time
to organize my thoughts and concentrate on our current millieu I felt very cynical, and hence my
writing may take such character. Please be advised the following statements are my recollections of
various readings touching upon morality and should not be construed as definitive truth, but rather
as my interpretations.

Morality is a concept of 'right and wrong,' of ethics that is used within the contexts of (1) individual
conscience (see the aforementioned link for one person's view of morality and the individual); (2)
creation of moral values derived from one's socio-cultural-religious tradition or community; and (3)
codes of conduct.

Individual conscience can be surmised as an internal, personal drive to do 'right.' Historically
individual conscience has been constructed via one's religious views, the values espoused by one's
particular community, or by the general norms and customs of the instant day and age. Be aware
that codified morality is usually differentiated from custom - where a society defines appropriate
activity - versus codified morality, which is generally agreed to derive from some universal principle
such as those precepts fundamental to world religions.

Social morality is constructed based upon more plebian values that a society finds appealing. It can
be influenced by prevalent theories of the instant age, for example how Darwin's 'survival of the
fitest' evolutionary theory was subsumed to be a proper belief during the 19th century. One might
also draw social morality from their religious affiliation, e.g. in the strict Islamic laws perpetuated in
numerous Middle Eastern civilizations since the prophet Muhammed received his 'holy' laws in the
600s CE. Be careful to not confuse Individual morality formation and its elements with the
construction of social morality for while they differ in terms of breadth, they do contain similar
inspirational sources.

Lastly codes of conduct incorporate morality. Here morality is used to articulate socially desireable
and define socially un-desireable behavior. Like individual and social morality, codes of conduct
draw their basis from religion, popular values, et al. Codes of conduct have varied greatly over time,
from medievil times where apostasty was punishable by death to the present where not only is
apostasty not punishable by death, but the right to be an apostate is protected (at least in the U.S.)
by law.

The U.S.' culture today has been influenced by many diverse factors. Our laws attempt to regulate
desireable behavior which may or not be considered moral behavior depending on the viewer. I feel
the Founders created the U.S. Constitution within their temporally-relative, democratic-
minded/anti-authoriarian, Protestant, Christian moral mindset. (Try saying that 5 times fast) The
document hence expounds upon concepts of 'equality,' 'justice,' et al, yet it did not account for the
evil of slavery. My point is that while each culture, in its time, may consider its actions moral, the
overarching historical perspective of said actions may deem them immoral. I believe many in our
culture today have lost touch with their traditional, moral roots (religious morality), supplanting
these former morals with the new values of our interconnected, socio-religious-geopolitical millieu.

What are these new values I refer to? In my present, cynical view I think ambition, material success,
wealth/financial stability, and for lack of better terminology 'conformist tendencies' summarize a
few of the more noticeable socially desireable values. Morals as defined above seem to have largely
disappeared from the fabric of society, religious institutions and their efforts and members aside.
What remains seems to me to be a consequentialist, or as some call it a pragmatic, approach to life.
"I will perform/not perform an action because I can/cannot get away without consequences upon
my self." I feel that many people understand traditional morality and what SHOULD be expected of
them, and generally obey those precepts. But when it suits their purposes, and they can get away
without any other's knowledge/consequences, a person today will rationalize their questionably
immoral behavior in order to obtain the wanted benefit for themselves. Well, let's not make that
declarative; rather let's posit that SOME people may rationalize their questionably immoral actions
in order to obtain the wanted benefit. I'd like to think that our society has retained its moral fiber,
but constantly seeing the aforementioned 'new' values of society reinforced in schools, homes, the
workplace, even penetrating some few religious institutions (although the latter's actual effects in
society may be negligible) makes me doubtful of a wide-spread morality. I am just not convinced
that most people principally act in their own self-interest. Yes self-interest is not necessarily a 'bad'
or 'wrong' quality, but to regularly be self-involved without thought for the community's well-being
leads to disaster.

Although I see many of the developments I've just discussed on a daily basis I still attempt to hold
to the view that humanity is inherently good, more often motivated by traditional morals than by my
loose definition of contemporary values/morality. Hopefully this post has retained some measure of
coherency and dare I assume even addressed the question presented in the beginning. I'd like to end
with a phrase I've heard many times: the world is what we make of it. So then the logical question is:
what do we want the world to be?