Morality: Societal Dictates vs. Societal Consideration

On Wednesday, I tackled how morality can be influenced both by the advice of deities and the individual’s application of reasoning and consideration.  Today, I’d like to consider how society fits into the development of one’s morals – in this case, my own.

Understanding how society influences morality is primarily understanding the very nature of morality as a matter of relationships.  To put it simply, morality comes into play when my actions affect my relationships to friends, family, my gods, the world in general, and even myself.  If my actions do not affect anyone,[1] then there is no question about morality.

The importance of morality rests on the importance of those relationships.  To put it simply, people need relationships to survive, both individually and collectively.  The Randian notion that a person can be completely self reliant is a quaint fantasy with no basis in reality, as mmy beautifully demonstrated not so long ago.  We all need the support and help of other people from time to time.

At it’s heart, I think morality is a way of developing and strengthening relationships with mutual trust and respect, relationships that ensure that when we – both collectively and individually – need aid and support, we are certain to have some place to turn.  This support might be extreme, such as the case mmy describes in the blog post linked in the previous paragraph.  However, it may just be the knowledge of knowing that other people “have your back,” knowing that you don’t have to spend all your time and energy protecting yourself and what you value.  This social support enables you to take risks, seek new adventures which may lead to new benefits and gains, both for yourself and those around you.

As a devotee of a Norse goddess, I am deeply inspired by the Icelandic sagas, whose heroes often find themselves doing a careful balancing act between the deep-felt call to being a rugged individual of great accomplishment and meeting their obligations to their families and the greater society they find themselves in.  I personally consider learning to find this balance the greatest endeavor and purpose of morality.  For me, it has led to a finely nuanced and carefully considered framework on which to determine what my best and most moral next action in a given situation will be.

Notes:
[1]  Admittedly, if any such actions exist, they are truly few in number.

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