Note: Worthy of Attention was a column that I used to write in the online blog Panangelium.
The question of morality is always a sticky one. What is or is not considered to be ethical changes with each person you ask. Nevertheless, it is clear that the vast majority of human beings agree on a few so-called 'basic' moral judgments, such as the undesirability of killing one's own family without any professed provocation. Why there is agreement on such matters is not entirely clear. Some would say it is a product of evolution, while others would use it as evidence of a defensible moral standard. Bur regardless of how one views the evidence, it cannot be denied that such widespread agreement on some moral judgments does in fact exist, and it is the job of the ethicist to attempt a determination of what exactly these moral judgments may be reduced to.
It is in this spirit that my column is dedicated. Not because I wish to impose my own normative claims upon the world at large, but because what is most worthy of attention in this world of ours is to take stock of reality itself, which we all too often gloss over; and morality is by far the most important of all glossed-over ideas. After all, addressing moral issues, even if it is just in determining whether or not normative claims exist, is the pre-eminent ideal that comes before all else, even the concept of god. As Plato so astutely pointed out, if one places god above morality, then whatever god happens to consider good would be okay. Since we would not follow a god whose morality differs wildly from our own, then we must consider morality to be even above god.
The thing about morality, however, is that (assuming a sufficient level of sophistication) no matter how hard one tries, no one can ever change what you may or may not consider moral, unless they do so with social brainwashing (such as school, parenting, or the like). Certainly, I in particular cannot affect (or effect, for that matter) your normative standards merely by employng argument. Indeed, it takes something considerably more theistic in nature in order to manage another's views on ethics.
Nevertheless, by starting with the preconceptions and prejudices on morality one already has, along with an ideal of logical consistency, I can use 'mere' argument to force one into a logical contradiction that may only be resolved by 'working out' one's own moral system, and perhaps realizing that what they believed all along means something that they had never fully comprehended it to mean at all.
Effecting change in this manner is not an ability that only I possess. We all have the capacity to argue out of a logical inconsistency, and improve one's vantage point of morality in the process. In fact, if normative standards do exist, then it is of paramount importance that we educate both ourselves and others to the existence of such a moral standard -- so not only do we all have this capacity for introspection, but it is right and just for us to employ that ability at every opportunity.
In future editions of this column, I will be showing much of what is worthy of attention, yet goes unnoticed by so many. I will be taking stock of reality itself, and showing how the reality of the world you and I live in does not always jibe with the moral standard each of us claims to possess.
In the meantime, may we all look closer to our prime beliefs, and act accordingly each day that we live our lives.