Any citizen philosopher must keep their minds going, and that means they always need new topics, myself included. This of course, is a thought in and of itself, but I’d like you to consider a different topic, one which was presented to me the other day by an acquaintance from Washington. We were to begin a new dialogue and thus, I said; “pick a topic!”
And she said; “Want a topic – how about morality? How much is biological vs. environmental (by the framing of the question, you can see I think it’s a bit of both).”
Okay so, let’s talk about this, is morality both a biological (nature) and an environmental (nurture) issue, is it a combination? We know that amoral behavior has a lot to do with your group of friends, such as kids in gangs in the inner cities of the US. We also realize that the people you associate with will change your level of integrity, and what is acceptable behavior in your life.
Now then, with that said, and when we put forth the concept and question of Nature VS. Nurture, we get into a challenge right away. It is human nature to do less and get more, using that large brain (comparatively speaking in relation to other Earth Mammals) to strategize to fulfill its needs (Maslow for instance). It could be considered amoral in human terms for a person to allow their pet cat to climb a tree and eat baby birds or eat the eggs. And yet, this is their innate nature, we should expect it.
If one species steals the eggs of another, it is stealing, that is what it is right? If you take someone’s property you are stealing. Yet, humans have been taking what they will for their entire evolutionary process. Again, this is philosophy, not justification for stealing, just attempting to show how nature plays a part in human ethics and behavior.
On another nature issue, humans are competitive, many look for the sound and fury, challenge, and as Vince Lombardi says the most competitive folks seek out the most competitive games. Such as, unfortunately, politics, stock market, war, etc. This causes the morality thing to lose its checks and balances in our society (what we accept as ethical behavior), especially when folks are rewarded for being amoral and taking risks, such as not getting caught.
Everything from risk taking with Tiger Woods, John Edwards, and Elliot Spitzer to the questionable practices on Wall Street – risk taking is human nature too, and so is competitiveness. These issues can cause challenges with morality. Again, we are not attempting to excuse amoral behavior, but we ought to understand that there are naturistic human drivers, that are definitely part of the human make-up.
Sometimes when nature and nurture combine, humans can do some of the most cruel, ruthless, and amoral activities under certain circumstances, history proves this. My question is what will you do to check your own morality when such time comes in your life?