Morals. Ethics. Standards of conduct. Corruption. Sexual harassment. Bullying at all levels of society. Open sex on television and in movies. Pornography. Unwed mothers and single Moms. These are all variations of moral and ethical depravity that have lowered the moral standard of societies around the world, especially in the United States of America.
Does situational moral and ethics mean the same thing as a Natural Law standard of morals and ethics? Who sets your moral standard? How does the Golden Rule apply to moral conduct and behaviors?
So what is the “Moral Standard” that governs societies? Is it whatever society will believe and tolerate? Does the concept of “Liberty” that permits and/or tolerates amoral and immoral behaviors set a lower moral and ethical standard? Is there an acceptable moral and ethical Natural Law of humanity that governs how we demonstrate how we act morally and ethically?
Or, do moral and ethical standards become a “living code” of which individual members of a nation’s society can change according to their own maturing value system that results in a lessening of these standards according to the will and pleasures of individuals regardless of the consequences and health of civilization; such as has happened in America and other countries.
Is the increase in – at least 25 exist today – sexually transmitted diseases (STD)(oral, anal and intercourse), deformed infants worldwide, and HIV/Aids a result of the decrease in moral and ethical standards and behaviors? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that Gay, Bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) have higher rates of STD, and that adolescents and young adults, 15-24 years old, account for half of all new STD infections.¹
Is this due to an increase in population or a decline in the moral standards of behaviors among people? A look at the historical value system of moral and ethical standards indicates the latter more true than a mere increase in populations.
Natural Law set the standards of moral conduct among humankind. Aristotle, Plato, Hobbs, Saint Thomas Aquinas, The Stoics, Immanuel Kant and Jesus discussed and proclaimed acceptable moral and ethical standards. Societies down through history have functioned under a standard of morals, ethics, and acceptable civil behaviors. When a societal standard of morality and ethics began to decline, Roman Empire is the most common example, that society eventually ceases to exist.
When discussing morals and ethics, there is much philosophical thought and writing around the “good” versus “evil” (or bad, or others, if you will) as it relates to human beings, their thoughts, actions, beliefs, values and ideals that results in their behaviors as it relates to the good of mankind in general; which includes men and women. A short review shows that “good” behaviors that benefit, improve, or interact between individuals is the preferred behavior. That “evil, bad, other behaviors do not lead to the preservation of societal good for everyone. In each case the argument of subjectivism – i.e. the doctrine that there are no absolute moral values but those that are variable in the same was as taste, or being subjective to some desire or situation or result.
Natural Law is a moral theory of jurisprudence, or justice, which maintains that law should be based on morality and ethics. Natural Law holds that the law is based on what is “correct.” Natural Law is discovered, or reasoned, through the conscious use of reason, and the resultant choice between good and evil. Therefore, Natural Law finds its power in discovering certain universal standards of morality and ethics.²
♦ Plato was one of the founders of the theories of Natural Law, which for him was based on law of reason because the law of reason is the ideal law. Therefore, Plato reasoned that the law of reason is the law of nature.³
Plato rejected the idea of subjectivism about the good. He held that it related more to the possibilities of human achievement. This position would lead one to adhere to the idea that amoral activity that prevented personal achievement would be considered as against human nature.4
♦ Aristotle rejected the subjectivism about the good, holding that what makes it true or good is not that there is a relation to desire, but that it relates to the wholeness or completeness of a being, which depended on that being’s nature.5
Aristotle, in using the law of reason, wrote that Natural Law is nothing else than the “intention” of nature of things expressed through the natural tendency of things.6
♦ Hobbs’ view, while not to reject the subjectivism ideal because humans have common desires, which can include a wide and diverse variety of thoughts and behaviors. However, of these desires, the single most important was about self-preservation, which was his single natural law of good. One can see here that the many pitfalls of amoral activity or behaviors would run counter to the self-preservation principle.7
♦ Saint Thomas Aquinas thoughts and writing on Natural Law developed through his studies of scholars before him, including Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, and even other Christian mediaeval scholars. He believes that natural law results from reason that is directed toward the common good.
Aquinas’ idea of Natural Law evolved from the eternal law, which came from divine law. He described Natural Law as “nothing else but a participation of the eternal law in a rational creature.” For him, the most fundamental principle of Natural Law is to do good and avoid evil.8
♦ The Stoics believed that the Natural Law indifferent to the divine or natural source of the law. To them, there was a rational and purposeful order of the universe, i.e. a divine or eternal law. Therefore, rational human beings lived in accordance with the divine law, what in turn was the Natural Law. This stated that actions resulted by virtues.** These virtues were the “good” of society.9
♦ Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative states that one “acts only on the maxim which you can at the same time will to be a universal law”, i.e. a Natural Law (Oxford Guide to Philosophy, 2005, p. 468). Hence, any desire, action, or will to be moral must be in accordance to the Natural Law.10
♦ Jesus and the Golden Rule directs that “We do unto others as they would that you do unto you.” As such, we do morally toward everyone as we would want them morally to treat us. Therefore, ethical behavior is a reciprocal behavior one to another, which deals with “right” or “ethical behavior to and from each other.
As mankind has evolved over the centuries, free will has further expanded to include many thoughts, that, on the one hand, have loosened the boundaries of what is believed to be good, largely justified through the ideal of pleasure, often times negligent in thought of benefit, consequence and good. On the other hand, technology and social materialism has certainly enabled the relaxation of values and the practical application of a virtuous life of good, especially good for all others in the world. These changes in individual thought have come about largely through these technological advances, the entertainment media being a major transporter and justification for behavioral changes, to the point that society today believes that morals and ethical behaviors are right and good if I believe that they are in my pleasurable favor, and I see nothing wrong with such behaviors.
This belief system has further deviated from the moral and ethical value system professed since early times by the great philosophers, which have contributed to the longevity of nations of the world. Furthermore, this deviance has resulted in the increase of health issues, including those cited above, that can only be classified as evil and not for the good of mankind.
In her article of May 24, 2014, Hanne Nabintu Herland: The Moral Deconstruction of the West, Hanne cites several instances where the decline of morals and ethics have contributed to the destruction of societies throughout history. She states, “Decline begins when a civilization ceases to emphasize the very ideals that initially resulted in expansion and productivity. These are commonly replaced by alternative values that focus on enjoyment, rest and relaxation.” In other words, moral values lead to the destruction of the society.11
The challenge for us today is to determine which moral and ethical value system of virtues is best for society as a whole, and thereby, adopt them as our personal behaviors toward all mankind, just as we would expect all mankind to adopt toward us. All of which leads me to the foundation of my original question:
“Who sets your moral and ethical standards of behavior.”
Will it be standards of morals and ethics identified as the best for you personally and for mankind as a whole? Or, will you follow the current trend and practice demonstrated and modeled by today’s technologically advanced principles of pleasure, open and tolerant belief systems that inevitably lead to the destruction of our society. The choice is yours.
As for me, I prefer the foundational ideals upon which our Country, the United States of America were propounded and established. Of which we must “Keep the Quest Alive.”
10. The Oxford Guide To Philosophy (2005); Ted Honderich, Editor.