Monday 3 January 2011
I always felt there was something wrong about the question "Why should we be moral?" or "Why should we care about others?" and I realized today what that is. The question assumes that any valid answer would have to phrase morality in terms of individual self-interest or otherwise the question would remain unanswered. And that is precisely where the flaw is: morality cannot be reduced to self-interest, and the moment it is phrased in terms of self-interest, it ceases to be morality and disintegrates into something low and base. The more we engage in the question, the more we validate the underlying assumption. I believe there is no answer to this question, or if an answer exists, it is of this sort: we ought to be moral because morality is a compelling reason itself for moral beings.
Now, it is true that morality does have certain advantages for an individual. For example, a moral life leads to psychological and spiritual well-being (as claimed by virtue ethics and mysticism, something which I believe myself). But these benefits are not the reasons to be moral; they are not the answer to the question "Why be moral?"; they do not reduce morality to self-interest. It is clear to me that any person who tries to be moral in the spirit of self-interest can only pretend to be moral; genuine morality will always evade him. The fruits of morality for an individual can only be tasted if you act morally regardless of self-interest, if you are moral because you find morality a compelling reason in itself.
Morality has nothing to offer to a selfish soul.