Introduction to Philosophy
The Swiss Cheese
Henry David Thoreau stated, “Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life so. Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.” To me, this quotes means one should not focus so much on living “morally”. It is far better, that is, being above morality, to live for something, something that one sees to be above all. I say screw one definitive moral system! Live the way you see fit. The problem I see with any definitive system of morality is that there is always an exception to every rule. How can one say that a model will guarantee a result that is right if there is an exception. That is not to say I see no value in a moral system. They are perfectly fine for those who don’t seem to have the mental capacity to think about such pros and cons without the use of a simply laid out model. I see the use of one moral system as a child’s training wheels on their first bike of moral distinction. It is just a startup to get one going and used to such critical thinking before they can surpass, or grow out of, the use of one and move on to incorporating many moral systems into an individual moral code that will hopefully give the best decision. I have my own preferences when it comes to morals, and these will be expressed in the following paragraphs. However, this is no attempt at persuading anyone to follow my moral code, it is just the expression of my own views to satisfy an academic assignment given to me by a teacher whom I respect enough to listen to him by completing said assignment. There certainly must be some value in examining one’s own views.
The first distinction I must make is whether or not I prefer a Duty-defined moral code or Utilitarian. From my statement earlier in which I expressed my grievance with any one moral code, anyone should be able to determine my views on this conflict. I obviously prefer a Utilitarian model over duty-defined seeing as I have a problem with moral codes that have exceptions. A duty-defined moral code consists of imperatives that one must always follow. I have a problem with this because one cannot state with confidence that one rule or a set of rules can always give the best result. For this reason, I prefer a Utilitarian model. That is not to say I would always use a Utilitarian model. The Utility Principle states that one should always act for the greatest good for the greatest number of people (Solomon & Higgins pg. 263). This sounds nice in theory but obviously there are situation in which one needs to act selfishly. Ayn Rand would argue that one should always act in accordance with their own self-interest. She argues in The Virtue of Selfishness that to live altruistically, the opposite of selfishly, is give in to the view that men are simply sacrificial animals and profiteers-on-sacrifice, as victims and parasites (Rand in Solomon & Higgins pg. 263). My criticisms of both duty-defined and utilitarian principle are perhaps cynical in the sense that I am never satisfied with a single answer to what is morally right, but I see validity is acknowledging that neither principle is truly sufficient to live by. One can always find holes in any moral system. Morality is the swiss cheese of philosophy.
The next issue and my answer to the issue borders on redundancy. Questioning whether morals are universal or should they differ from culture to culture is one step away from being the same question asked previously, and therefore, my views will be similar. Yes, obviously some morals should be universal. A prohibition against genocide seems to be something we can all agree is immoral. However, some issues should be left to the people of that culture to decide. For example, the Indian practice of sati, in which the wife of the deceased husband jumps on his burning casket to die with him. Just as a side note, I find it humorous that people refer to it as a “practice”, as if the night before the