A Trip Down The Philosophical Lane

The Relevance Of Morality

To understand the relevance of morality, we first need to understand the very essence of the word per se. Morality is quite a relative term just like the state of rest or motion. Just as absolute rest or absolute motion cannot be defined similarly there is no such thing known as absolute morality. The word morality has relevance as long as it has a concrete reference. So when someone is normatively judged of being moral or immoral, the question that must immediately follow this judgement should be, “with respect to whom or what?”.

The term “morality” has been defined by the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy:

1.     Descriptively as to refer to some codes of conduct put forward by a   society or,

a.     some other group, such as a religion, or

b.     accepted by an individual for his/her own behaviour or

2.     Normatively as to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.

But here is the problem with some of the morality references mentioned above. Firstly, the reference used to define morality is a society, group or a religion. There are quite a lot of distinct groups and faiths in the world and the ideologies that form the basis of these groups and faiths are so diverse that the same act is called manslaughter by one faith and human sacrifice by other. While one faith cherishes non-vegetarian feasts, the other extends the doctrine of non-violence even to inanimate objects like stones. As such, it is nearly impossible to come up with a complete moral code that can appease all the members of a community as diverse as ours.

Secondly, all these faiths and groups were initially started and practised by a handful (or sometimes just one person) of like-minded individuals which over the course of time acquired many aficionados. So actually when we say that we are adhering to the views of different groups, we are actually adhering to the views of different individuals whose only edge over us is that they happened to exist long before us.

Lastly, the course of action a person takes is decided by innumerable complicated circumstances, fuelled by a plethora of conflicting emotions. So something as simple as sheer rationality or logic is not enough to judge whether a person is immoral or moral.

So ultimately, a person himself is the best judge of his morality. A word like ‘Morality’ has borne into existence only due to the fact that since time immemorial, the deeds of men bolstered by various causes like self-interest, religion or sometimes even utilitarianism has been conflicting with his conscience. We all have our moral compasses and its range varies a lot from person to person. The moment you have second doubts about something you did, that is when you hit the limit of your morality. Essentially, the moment you think that there is a need to convince yourself to justify the course of action you took, that’s when you should realise that you did something that is immoral even in your eyes. A very easy way of testing your own moral compass is observing your behaviour when you encounter a financial error in your favour. You go and have lunch at a restaurant and when you ask for the bill, you find that the amount is considerably less than it should have been, clearly a result of an accounting error. Do you get the error corrected or do you thank your lucky stars and walk away? Now there can be four outcomes to the above situation:

  1. You get the error corrected and feel good about it later.
  2. You have this momentary urge of doing the right thing and so you get the error corrected but later you feel that you should have pocketed the extra cash instead.
  3. You don’t get the error corrected and you don’t have second doubts about it.
  4. You don’t get the error corrected but later you feel bad about your actions.

The importance of morality can clearly be seen above. Person A is an idealist whose moral compass points due north. He did the right thing and he is happy with what he did. Person D comes next in the race of high sense of morality. Though he didn’t do the right thing, his morality fills him with a sense of guilt that to some extent will prevent him from doing it again. Now one might argue that Person C has the least sense of morality but it’s actually Person B. For Person C, it was wishful coincidence coupled with a low sense of morality. But Person B is actually having second thoughts about doing something right. The next time something like this happens to him, he is bound to take advantage of it. If it doesn’t happen then there is little chance that he may even try something immoral to make up for the last time. Difference in the morality of individuals is what caused different outcomes and shaped future outcomes in the event of such a thing happening.

To sum it all up, consider a person’s mind as the king and his morality as an advisor to the king. The advisor will always offer an opinion, which he thinks is fit, to the king but eventually it is up to the king to decide how far is he willing to go forth with the advisor’s opinion. He may choose to take his advice to the core or he may neglect it outright. There are people whose morality will cause them to feel remorseful even if they hurt a dog by accident and then there are those who have flipped the switch and turned off their morality which enables them to engage in serial killings and cannibalism and still not feel a thing.

So the answer to the question posed above, “How relevant is morality?” is that it can change lives on some occasions and prove to be worthless on others. In other words, it is as relevant as we allow it to be.


The Pursuit of the Door of Happiness

A couple of days ago, someone posted this quote, by Helen Keller, on Facebook:

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.

Personally, I have immense respect for her. She has always been a great source of inspiration for the entire mankind (and if they exist and know about her, then Aliens too); and will continue to be till eternity.
People generally interpret these metaphorical ‘doors’ as a way of ‘thinking positive’ – to ‘look on the bright side’ or, ‘to find the silver lining…’ when something we interpret as bad, or negative, ‘happens’ to us.

Now, I may be stepping on pins and needles here but to me, something about this quote does not seem right. I mean alternately, doesn’t this quote give you a sort of ‘Move On’ vibe. It’s like, “Yeah man, it’s not your cup of tea, try something else….”or “Dude there is no use beating the dead horse”.

Doesn’t it strike you as something that contradicts the good ol’ Never Say Die? I mean Dead horses apart, there’s a reason why we look at the closed door in the first place. That was the first door of happiness. It certainly is highly valued in your life. Are you supposed to just let it go and not determine why it got closed….And this second door that is talked of….I was never a fan of second rate stuff anyway and if I don’t know why the first door got closed, who’s to say that the second one won’t , should I choose it.

Even if I pass the “moving on” aspect of this quote, there something else about it that bugs me. It reflects the attitude of an opportunist or simply fickle mindedness. It’s like “Oh it didn’t pan out as I expected, let’s rush to something else. In life, it is ok to adjust compromise or be a little flexible. But you know what happens when you are too compromising or flexible, you lose your spine!

So here is a rephrased version of the quote stating what I believe in:

When a door of happiness closes, you break down that door so that it can never close again and should you come by the reason which got it closed, you choke the bloody life out of it!!

Though considering the personality Helen Keller was, I am pretty sure that she meant the silver lining and the positive thinking . So take a stand and fight for your happiness……… Ciao!

Total Anguish To Pure Serenity!!

A Very Special Experience

Two days prior to the orientation programme of the freshers of our IIT….ummm… how shall I put it, well lets just say I was a genuinely pissed person. Apparently being listed as a contact in the info brochure doesnt do much good to your sleep. And 92 horribly annoying calls later(and most of them came during the wee hours of the morning completely disrupting my REM sleep)….I will say just that not killing anyone around me shows that I am a very calm person. Actually the thing about the parents of freshers is that they are ONE SICK SOUL! Raging lunatics who bombard you with questions which are not even remotely related to their child’s education and can create a fuss over the crappiest detail of the stupidest issue they can think of. I am not against taking care of one’s child but doing so at the cost of other people who are there to aid you in every possible way is one of the sickest thing that comes to my mind. And their complaints! Apparently everyone should live in a single room. If you try to pair them with roommates…you get a freakin’ lecture on homosexuality.

But you can find something good in everything…and even in a pathetic mood…i did.

On the eve of the orientation…I saw a bunch of freshers talking and it immediately surfaced those cherished memories of my first year…..when my behaviorally diverse gang used to spend so much time fighting for a better view of the movie screened on a senior’s laptop( acquired after hours of desperate pleading and persuasion) and yet somehow everyone settled comfortably on a single bed ….The time I practically experienced General Relativity when I spent so many useful hours listening to our dear ol’ Mand’s lecture on each insignificant detail about each n every insignificant thing in what seemed like minutes and on the other hand when I passed ten minutes in RKSR’s class in what seemed like a decade…When beating the crap out of our dear Kadka and getting that look of anguish on his face by bothering him in any way possible way  was an ecstatic ritual (it still is but  it used to be more fun then) …..The thrill of bunking neogi’s “MIT” lectures and playing cricket with a 15 feet long pole used as stumps…. The moonlight cycling and the hall 4 canteen.. the “charlie sheen” ways of Ravin and Bhajni…the compulsive shopaholic Compu…..the constant jokes of Chhotu’s father…Barthwaal….The unknown whereabouts and sexual orientations of Chintu….The ridiculous hindi of Dada…..the constant tussle between pauva n the fati baans ….the horribly good mathematics and Kyaaaas of Sarthak(We still have nt figured out a name for him)…the terrorist wayz of Aatankwaadi and the best of all..Exam Nights at Kelkar Library!!!! A lot of things haven’t changed but back then, they had a special charm. Boy,  I miss those moments.