Morality: What Does It Mean to Live Well?

This paper would seek to analyze the concept of beliefs and what it means to live a life that is concentrated on not only doing good deeds on an individual level but also on acting for the welfare of others; on a societal level. This paper would analyze the concept of moral beliefs and values in terms of the different philosophers and their subsequent ideas about religion etc. This paper would seek to provide an understanding that what is meant by morality, good and bad, etc.

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All these questions would be examined in the light of the different philosophies regarding these pertinent issues which remain controversial to date as a result of their highly sensitive nature. Some of the philosophers whose ideas would be Freud, Kant, James, Pascal, Descartes, Plato, Aristotle, etc.

Being one of the most renowned philosophers to date; Sigmund Freud is renowned for his ideas and beliefs regarding Life. According to Freud, man is dictated by his intellectual and emotional functions and the qualities of life which have a moral aspect are in relation to the emotional function of man. While the intellectual side of man does make allowances of the wishes of man, yet there is a vast difference between hisabout knowledge and what are the mere illusions and wishes of men.

According to Freud, while the wishes of people are highly significant such as those witnessed in the creations of art and the systems of religion and philosophy, yet scientific knowledge cannot be overlooked in this regard.

According to Freud, man is free to decide where he takes his convictions from, whether they are from the religious perspective or whether they are inspired by the intellectual capacity of man. However, as he defines truth to be not tolerant and something which cannot admit compromise, then science needs to play a greater role according to Freud to ensure that a critical attitude is adopted towards all aspects which affect man.

According to Freud, religion is considered to be something that is about can have a serious impact on man and a seriously negative effect. According to Freud, since religion has a tremendous influence on man and his thinking methodology, it can have a resounding effect. Religion as defined by Freud dictates the source and origin of the universe, guides the thoughts and actions of man, assures man of protection and final happiness.

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Hence, fulfilling three roles satisfies man’s need for knowledge, removes man’s fear of life, and lastly, religion explains circumstances and events without proof. Hence, according to the philosophy of life propagated by Freud religion should not be relied upon to dictate our behavior and thoughts to a great extent as it cannot pride rationale logic for the occurrence of events, etc.

Freud explains the morality concept as dictates by the father who has outlined a certain behavioral code according to which man is bound to tolerate and like others, expected to behave in a certain way with family, should recognize social duties. There is a system established according to which man would be punished and rewarded as per his behavior.

Hence, the Freudian concept of morality is averse to religion as he places complete faith in science and the power of the intellect to decide what is good and bad for us rather than being bound by certain religious codes. Thus, a man needs to ensure that to live a life truly well, he needs to place his belief and faith in the power of the intellect.

Another philosopher whose ideas regarding life would be analyzed would be that of Plato. Plato insists on a mix of conceptual analysis and critical evaluation of beliefs. According to Plato, any moral activity has to be reevaluated as merely treating others in a manner is insufficient and one needs to understand what is meant by these actions. According to Plato, human beings are fickle beings who need a proper society for their moral system to be monitored and maintained. Hence, the focus according to Plato is on having a democratic system in which the system of law and order can organize the society and regulate the moral activates of the society.

Hence, moral decisions become an issue for the entire society/nation to consider and the individual is bound by a system in which he is bound to operate according to a certain prescribed code of behavior. According to Plato, man’s life could be greatly being improved if he learned to behave in a rational manner and a harmonious sense rather than in line with partisan strife. However, he doesn’t have competed for faith in the democratic system as he strongly believed in the changing ability of prevailing beliefs.

For any individual, he would need to hence ensure that he follows the system in which he is presently living and operating and according to the rule of law.

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Another famous philosopher, Kant’s ideas regarding moral behavior and religious convictions were bound by his dislike of Christianity. He defended path theism, evolution but he was cautious in his approach towards life. Hence, his philosophy regarding religion was bound by his inner sense of caution and also astringent faith in science. Hence, for Kant morals were dictated by man’s choice along with a deep sense of conviction in the scientific practices and code.

As prescribed by Kant, an individual would need to ensure that scientific beliefs are predominant influences in the way that person lives.

Aristotle is one of the finest philosophers whose philosophy regarding life and ethics is well-renowned as they influenced many philosophers to date. Ethical are attempts made by humans to achieve the highest level of goodness and for most can result in the attainment of happiness. Happiness, however, Aristotle, cannot be found in any abstract notion or idea as it varies on each individual’s circumstance and experience. According to Aristotle, happiness is defined by man’s rational and irrational aspects. It is the rational sense which is responsible for the way we behave and for our basic emotions.

The ability to control our basic desires is defined as a moral virtue and here comes the conflict between the emotional sense of the man and the intellectual capability of man. The intellectual capability is responsible for all logical and scientific decisions. Aristotle highlights several points about the nature of the moral virtues such as the ability to regulate desires is bound by teaching and practice which are character traits and then comes the role of the doctrine of the mean.

This doctrine defined moral virtues as those traits of personality which are a division between extreme and not-so-extreme character traits. According to Aristotle, most of the moral virtues fall within the mean of two accompanying vices e.g. cowardice can range from courage and rashness. For Aristotle, morality is governed by the faculty of moral insight as only those who have moral insight would be those who would engage in moral activities and actions. Moral weaknesses on the other hand take place when the person does acts knowing that it could have negative repercussions.

Hence, for any individual, it’s quite important that he realizes the extremities and behaves accordingly.

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According to Karl Marx, religion is merely an opiate of the people and according to him, moral activities are bound by the communal behavior of the entire society. The society operates as one and the way they interact with each other results in the creation of moral order for the entire community to operate in.

According to another famous philosopher James, morality is governed by sentience-without as in fact there are no moral obligations or even any moral claims. According to James, we satisfy as many demands as we can at one time and we all work towards ensuring a better future. This progress is attainable through several experiments which have to be made for us to satisfy our aims and desires and to reach our desired goals. According to this philosophy, the present laws or morality will change as per the laws of nature and due to evolution.

Morality cannot be sustained by any evidence of sensible proof or evidence as it is through the existence of a central force, that we function accordingly. Hence, this philosophy seeks to establish a fine balance between morality and rationality in which each individual is governed by both but at the same time, morality cannot be usurped by the power of the intellectual.

According to the work of Descartes, the passions of men are to be controlled as otherwise, they can result in the eventuality of vicious acts which need to be controlled. Though most of his work was based on scientific matter, some of his work propagated the existence of a creator and the whole realm of morality as dictated by a higher being. Hence, in this sense, the philosophy is bound by the natural laws of order which are constrained by the existence of rational matter.

Pascal’s philosophy so life is dictated by the theological definition of the human condition according to which human nature is essentially corrupt and hence, no sense of hope through natural means of recovery. According to this interpretation, man’s fallen state was given by God and man was not responsible for such a state. For Pascal, there was only a religious code and that was the one of the Roman Catholic, a fact which he was not able to explain through his philosophy left room for the existence of other “mysteries”. Hence, this stringent faith in a moral sense of order which was stringent in its mannerisms was in direct contrast to some aforementioned philosophies as it opposed the notion of morals existing within the realm of rationality.

According to a book by Seneca, nothing is possibly worse than ingratitude which is the sum of all evils, and hence, the more the benefits are provided the greater the ingratitude that could take place since benefits are the way to keep a force committed to the welfare of all. Benefits result in the creation of kindness and are a state of mind and if these are propagated and encouraged, this state of mind can be spread to others. Hence, morality becomes an issue of gratitude and state of mind.

According to an essay by Nancy Fischer” Purity and Pollution”, the meaning of morality and sexuality is questioned as the author sheds light on the society’s organizational culture. This essay presents an overview of a society that is caught in a position of having to defend its own “puritanical” nature and position by accusing others of “pollution”. Hence, this essay brought to light several important notions society prides itself on.

However, these notions project the hypocrisy of society’s values as what is termed to be fair for men is not for women. Additionally, the higher class members might be indulging in the same activities as the lower class members but such “abhorrent” acts are only excusable in the case of the high-class members portraying the narrow-minded vision of the society.

Even in cases where people are convicted by others of being “morally corrupt” represents society’s sense of superiority which is created by making others inferior. Over time puritanical beings such as Victorian women have been replaced by innocent children and pollution is represented by the colored or lower class members who engage in such morally dishonest acts.

The underlying sense of hypocrisy and moral confusion, which this essay shed light on found, in the society, projects the confused state of mind of all individuals who are caught in the position of purity versus pollution. Hence, it becomes a matter of choice for individuals-whether they wish to join the ranks of those who are defined as puritanical or polluted unless the individuals believe in the strict conformity to societal rules.

Hence, all the above ideas propagate different beliefs and ideas in which while certain philosophies dictate certain values, others dictate others. What is important is to understand that morals are intellect does play a role but the power of both cannot be downplayed and in the majority of cases, morality would usurp the power of intellect when it comes to making sensitive decisions.

References

The Oxford Companion to Philosophy edited by Ted Honderich.

The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy by Robert Audi.

The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (10 vols.) edited by Edward Craig, Luciano Floridi .

The Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy edited by Edward Craig (an abridgement).

Encyclopedia of Philosophy (8 vols.) edited by Paul Edwards; in 1996, a ninth supplemental volume appeared which updated the classic 1967 encyclopedia.

Routledge History of Philosophy (10 vols.) edited by John Marenbon.

History of Philosophy (9 vols.) by Frederick Copleston.

A History of Western Philosophy (5 vols.) by W. T. Jones.

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NerdyRoo. (2021, October 27). Morality: What Does It Mean to Live Well? Retrieved from https://nerdyroo.com/morality-what-does-it-mean-to-live-well/

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"Morality: What Does It Mean to Live Well?" NerdyRoo, 27 Oct. 2021, nerdyroo.com/morality-what-does-it-mean-to-live-well/.

1. NerdyRoo. "Morality: What Does It Mean to Live Well?" October 27, 2021. https://nerdyroo.com/morality-what-does-it-mean-to-live-well/.


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