Quora Question: What do you wish others understood better about morals/beliefs?
That their morals are the same and their beliefs are motivated by pretty much the same things as everyone else’s are.
People often look at others with different behaviors, and right away seem to assume that everyone has different morals. This is, most often, simply not the case.
People look at others with different beliefs and conclude that those beliefs are based on emotion, superstition, and ignorance. Whereas almost everyone thinks that their own beliefs are well-reasoned and evidence based. This is what psychologists call the attribution bias. It is, in most cases, false that we arrive at our beliefs in a different way than others.
But, seeing differences is easy. And, it’s probably even adaptive. Humans evolved to live in small groups and protect those groups. Any differences would mean threats to that and so seeing differences was a benefit. Today, things are quite different. Everyone is connected to everyone else is a myriad of ways. In the world we live in, we can no longer afford to focus on differences. We have to see the fundamental similarities that do exist below the surface. We have to find these and work to cultivate an attitude of commonality.
Doing this means looking for the underlying reasons why people believe and act they way they do. It also involves the willingness to reflect on our own beliefs and actions and reevaluate them in light of new evidence if necessary. These are difficult thing s to do but are the most important skills to learn from a course in ethics.
One problem with finding the answers to these questions is that our brains are not evolved to understand or answer these questions. We evolved to survive in small fairly isolated groups and not to see fundamental similarities among all humans. But, we don’t live in isolation any more. We act in ways that affect others in many ways; some seen and some unseen. We simply cannot afford to believe that we each as individuals create our own morality or that others arrive at their beliefs in ways that are worse or less reasoned than us. These fundamentally narcissistic beliefs will only further isolate us from one another and perpetuate the surface differences that already cause so many problems in the world.
Philosophy in general and morality in particular should be about the examination of something deeper than these surface differences. It is about seeing down to what binds us all together as human beings. We all value truth telling, we all value caring for our young, we all value safety and security and wish to avoid a situation where indiscriminate killing is the norm. Yes, how we implement these moral principles varies from culture to culture. But, we are already seeing a convergence among various peoples on a common view of morality. If all goes well, this convergence will continue to grow and strengthen the connection we share with every other human being on the planet.
We decide as a community of fundamentally similar human beings what counts as right and wrong. We recognize together that an action is wrong for fundamental reasons of intent and harm. We share a fundamental core of moral beliefs because of who we are on a fundamental level. We are all wired up the same in terms of what makes us conscious beings. That doesn't mean we are identical and it doesn't mean variation won’t continue. But, variations do not define us and do not define our morality.
So, while we may believe different things we are fundamentally the same in many important respects. If we weren’t this kind of dialogue would be impossible.
KEVIN J. BROWNE
Philosopher / Educator