The Price

Taken from an email conversation.

Me: The issue [can moral acts be selfish, with the agreement being on yes] becomes a problem for me in practice because the freedoms that I recognize to be my moral rights are not recognized so by the people around me. To take one example, for my parents, 'obedience to parents' is still a virtue, and they see my attempts to get out of their influence as a disregard of that virtue. While I am perfect aware that it is my moral right to live my life as I see fit, I am also perfectly aware that my parents (and other people, like my girlfriend) are getting hurt in the process and would get hurt even more in future. As a somewhat empathetic being, I am affected by their pain, and if I am to live my life inspite of that, it requires a certain "hardening" of character, a certain blunting of empathy. It no longer remains a simple question of whether this or that is a moral act, but becomes associated with the question of what sort of a person I am turning into. I am becoming "selfish" "cold" "indifferent" as I have been told sometimes, and this is the price of moral character that I am paying for my moral rights.


Komal said…
Very interesting and well-put. I went through similar reasoning, which is part of what led me to virtue ethics.
Komal said…
Btw, you're doing the right thing maintaining your integrity.

May the Grace be with you.
Ayesha Noor said…

An additional point i observed: The more empathetic i become towards them, the more guilty i feel of "disobeying" and the more i conform to their desires and demands, the more my sincere love and good will towards them decreases, the lesser regard i have for all that they have done for me ...eventually turning me into a selfish person anyways.

I guess it's a question of who you want to be selfish for.
Sakib Ahmad said…
Not sure where you are coming from. If you are writing as a Muslim then I do not see how this mythical 'obedience to parents' is a problem. Certainly, it is a Quranic injunction to respect parents but we are also told not to follow the ways of our ancestors thoughtlessly. Ultimately, we are responsible for our own actions. Our parents may disagree with us strongly but we must, at all times, speak to them with respect and explain to them why we cannot follow their wishes in any particular matter.

If you are an agnostic and you are troubled by the traditions in your particular family then, yes, you have a point. I do think, though, that you are exaggerating the issue when you refer to obedience to parents being a "virtue". Made me laugh. I would have thought unthinking obedience to parents was more a vice than a virtue.

Where interaction with other human beings is concerned, it is our feelings and emotions which should be primarily involved. I may be wrong, and I apologise, but you do come across as a cold intellectual type, forever using the cleverness of the mind to solve problems for which the mind is an inappropriate tool.
Komal said…
Sakib, don't talk about things you don't know about.