For the longest time morality has been viewed through different lenses. Some posite that morality is subjective, others posit that morality is objective. I posit that the standard – that we judge any action based on whether or not it’s positive to our society as a whole – is objective, but the judgement itself is relative, or subjective to the culture/historical time that judgement is being made.
The standard for morality I’m asserting is simply this – morality is just what behavior has a positive or negative impact on the society at the time. I define impact as – an effect in a substantial way that has presence over time. The larger the presence/duration of time the larger the impact and the bigger test of morality it is.
I believe we need to stop thinking of actions in terms of “good” or “bad”. This standard isn’t what we “should” or “Shouldn’t” have, it’s just the reality of our situation. I believe this system for morality is a net positive and should be the standard by which we judge actions.
When we’re growing up our parents teach us what behaviors are acceptable in our society, don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t murder your neighbor etc. The reason acceptable behaviors are important is because they add value to society thus are a positive. On the flip side negative behaviors detract from society and therefore should be discouraged as they’re “wrong”. This makes the action of teaching children morally positive actions the “right” thing to do and should be done, an example would be disciplining and rewarding children.
Nature doesn’t have any objective morality system then what happens to be positive or negative during that time period. This is the morality of nature and evolution. When a hungry lion kills a running gazelle is it wrong? It’s negative for the gazelle sure, as it detracts from the gazelle society, sure. But it’s a positive for the lion who ends up the victor, and gets to live another day.
A criticism of this morality system may be it allows a defense of regimes like that of Adolf hitlers nazi germany. This may sound satirical, but bear with me – from his perspective Adolf thought he was adding value to society and thus thought his actions to be morally justified, however when we evaluate this question using our rule that morality is a series of positives a negatives for society – we ask what was his overall impact and the answer is clear – the deaths of millions, the rise of totalitarian regimes in Asia and the setback of Europe and Asia for decades. This seems to be a very large negative for society as a whole.
It’s the future and the victors that determine which behaviors end up having a positive/negative impact on society. If nazi germany had won perhaps there would be a different set of standards for what is “good” and “bad”. Everything fades into nothingness, and people are blessed with the capacity to learn from past mistakes, which is why the future will always determine morality – because we’ve already attempted and have experience in evaluating a situation, so this standard for morality could be seen as a net negative some day, but for now I believe it’s a net positive.
How does this apply to the life of the individual? Is it more important to provide a positive to yourself or your society as a whole? Perhaps you undertake an action that’s positive for you and vice versa. Your ultimate aim should be to do something that has a positive effect on both you and the society as a whole. Just because someone doesn’t like something doesn’t mean that something is negative. A child may not like a spanking, but spanking is positive if it’s curbing negative behavior. Ultimately some things come down to a judgement call, on the rule of maximizing positives and minimizing negatives.