Moral (1): Good and Bad – The Human Dimension

Disabled card

Roselyne is an elderly lady who gets tired when walking. She still drives but parking in the shopping area is difficult. She prefers to restock by foot, dragging her shopping cart. One day, exhausted, she collapses on the sidewalk. In the emergency room, the doctor does not diagnose any disorder other than fatigue. He himself fills out an application for a disabled parking card for Roselyne. The old lady pulls out her car, goes down in front of each store, and cheerfully continues to fend for herself.

Renee is Roselyne’s neighbor. A little younger, she suffers from moderate osteoarthritis of the knees. She can walk a kilometre without difficulty if she wishes, but is irritated to feel her joint discomfort at the end of this distance. Seeing that Roselyne had her parking card without difficulty, she asks her doctor for the same one and gets it.

The attribution of the card is the same social measure in both histories, yet the moral justification differs. Why? Roselyne didn’t ask for anything. She does not want to be a burden, has sought to fend for herself on her own until she reaches the end. Collective support, morally just, takes over. On the other hand, Renee claims her card. Her motivation is comfort. The support comes from Renee’s very personal morality, where she has a privileged place. No collective judgment.

Predictive and provisional morality

This example shows that it is not good to have morality managed by texts or algorithms. It is social relationship in a context. The moral sense is directed from the collective to the individual. It is a consensus applied to the person. To be checked, when we take over from collective morality. Isn’t it just mine?

To define the good and the bad is not to extract it from my mind but to trace the thread of its very old birth. An animal already knows what is good or bad for it. Reaction to an event. The good is matched with a prediction. It is good to decide on a way to act, which can go as far as suffering, for example by mutilating oneself to escape a trap. This is how very old, the good is freed from sensations.

How did the human animal add a moral coloration? Obviously these layers were painted by his social life. Without empathy the human is a dangerous psychopath. Morality is the codification of empathy transforming the individual animal into a collective. Particularly complex layers. While the matter of the world has a stereotypical behavior, that of the congeners is unpredictable. Morality requires a more vivid intelligence.

Moral ennoblement

Here appears the common etymology of ‘good’ in most languages. ‘Good’ is the one who rises, who ennobles his spirit. He escapes from the precarious and miserable survivor condition that characterizes the ‘bad’, stupid beast clinging to his existence. The ‘good’ assists lives other than his own, does not hesitate to make personal sacrifice, works resolutely for the collective.

‘Good’ and ‘bad’ are thus part of the foundation of the personality. It is the setting between ‘being oneself’ and ‘being part of’. A lot of being part (generosity) is good, a lot of being oneself (selfishness) is bad. Of course this judgment belongs to the collective itself, is the one that characterizes adherence to society. The judgment of the asocial is reversed. He will define the ‘good’ of his personal morality as the perfect being oneself. In case of conflict he considers that he is forbidden to judge himself, that his morality imposes fidelity to his convictions. It is of course a strictly personal morality that it is about and not “the” morality.

The nobiliary etymology of morality has taken repeated blows with groupism. Dedicating everything to the collective is no longer so magnificent when it is reduced to a privileged caste. Especially when they are designated from birth. Morality does not make up, it is reflected in deeds. When the groupist excesses of the aristocracy make it the gravedigger of a much larger populace, morality changes sides. The destitute becomes the good and the noble the bad. The first and most famous “inversion of the magnetic field of morality” was triggered by the Nazarene prophet. Jesus decreed that the poor were good, the merchants bad.

A historic scandal

The scandal was such that it continues to be talked about all over the world, in buildings dedicated to history. But this morality is no longer practised outside the buildings in question. The poor man is decidedly too stupid, too perfectly docile to endorse the label of ‘bad’. It would be a shame if those who financed their ‘good’ label could not benefit from their investment because of a social engine as old and tired as ethics. It is no longer the one that keeps the courts running. It is advantageously replaced by algorithms. Enter your reference, wait for the printer output. Your moral is there, black and white.

Collective morality at birth, noble in the time of the knights, then computational. Clearly visible when it overlooks the tribe, less clear on the nation, indistinguishable above the world. When it merges too many individual interests, it takes on so much altitude that no one sees it anymore. By default we take back our personal morality, and claim it to be universal.


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