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Ellen Feig

Professor, Bergen Community College

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Based upon a discussion we are having in the Idea area, I wonder - how do you define morality and why? Where does your definition come from?

I have been working on curriculum for college students that incorporates literature and the notion of being a moral, ethical person; it is clear that I need to step back and first come up with a clearer definition of morality or ethics.

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  • Jan 26 2013: Ellen,
    Could we assume morals 10,000 years ago are the same as today, i.e. there always have been morals for humankind to discover? Or are morals a collection of good human beings recognize as valuable for all persons, the collection amassed by experience? I like to the think both as correct. Morals infers relationship with others; a loner not relating has no comparison.

    Now, if morals are accepted ideals and people relate kindly, respectfully, and are tolerant for their harmless behavior, then being immoral would suggest behavior not found to be in harmony with the epitome of human understanding of right and good behavior. Consider for example, if two persons want a marriage, a family and children are in the home who need guidance, love, training for future self reliance, would it not be immoral for one of the adults to have an extra marital affair which threatens the family? Consider any other example of relating to persons that result in harm. Anything. Being not in harmony with the larger definition, amassed over large amounts of time in culture and law, seems immoral to me. Apply this to any life situation.

    Consider adults squander family funds on drugs or maybe adult toys and hobbies while family is in need of care. Is that out of harmony with the larger definition? I think so.

    So, for me it boils down to quality of relationships. Being moral means love, caring, sensitivity, respect---any behavior not threatening to others.

    Could these thoughts fit into your definitions somehow? To me these are ideas worth spreading.
    Thanks for a great topic.
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      Jan 26 2013: Yes I believe that relationships and the way we treat others can either be moral or immoral...of course it again becomes an issue of subjectivity and culture
      • Jan 26 2013: Subjectivity and culture, indeed. Would the ultimate possible definition involve the very best humankind has amassed over long periods? In other words, the highest ever achieved? To me this is a vital consideration when applying moral judgements in any culture.

        Good topic!

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