TED Conversations

lukwago hilda

Visual artist, photographer

This conversation is closed.

How do you define your moral code? What influences moral codes and how do they affect our communities?

this questions require you to share how you define a moral code,what influences the different moral codes and how is our surrounding being affected both postively and negatively by the way we are choosing to '' live our lives'' .

  • thumb
    Jul 9 2013: “You were born to be real, not to be perfect. You're here to be you, not to be what someone else wants you to be. Stand up for yourself, look them in the eye, and say Don't judge me until you know me, don't underestimate me until you've challenged me, and don't talk about me until you've talked to me. (RuPaul)
  • thumb
    Jul 9 2013: For one, I do not believe that there even exists something called a 'moral code'. The term morals suggests that there is concrete imperatives that need to be adhered to in every situation, and this concept, frankly, is too black and white when we live in a world that is painted in shades of grey. Everybody else seems to be replying in relativistic terms, I too believe that life is to be lived subjectively, but I would not call my interpretation of life a moral code I would call it an ethical code. For I truly believe that there can be no morals without universal standards either set down by God or The State and honestly I am not at a stage in my life where I believe that anybody or anything has jurisdiction over what I want to do and achieve with my life. The laws of state are often preposterous and motivated by some unseen hand and I am more than willing to disregard these if they do not come into line with what I believe. Similarly the commandments of religious belief are mutable also, who can honestly say they would not kill somebody if there life or the lives of those they loved were threatened, I couldn't.

    An ethic begins where an ethos ends. And in order to build an ethics one needs education to nurture that spirit.
    • Jul 9 2013: Uh, another proponent of subjective morality, you make the heathens proud. Lets be honest, even those who subscribe to religion rarely implement the given moral codes provided by their dogmas through out their daily interactions with others.

      Universal standards set down by The State?
      So, let me get this straight. You're suggesting that it is not possible for morals to exist with out the presence of The State and the implied imposed laws?

      I'll throw you a bone here, because I think I understand what you're trying to convey here, or maybe I'm wrong. The laws of state, as preposterous as they may seem are often in accordance with an established framework often denoted as a Constitution.

      Which then leads me to the following. Our adherence to any 'defined moral code' is not solidified by the very creation and enforcement of law. It is an individuals capability to rationalize their means referenced against multiple factors that differ from individual to individual. Like you have said, ethics is a construct of education, but not in the sense of 'formal education' or 'indoctrination', rather... experience and the bias' they manifest.

      Ethos never ends, it may be established, but no landscape remains the same and is being altered constantly. The beauty of rhetoric is that even the devil has an advocate. There for, an individual who suggests that morality is 'established', or that apparent competency supersedes freewill, truly fails to see the non-linearity of our social interactions.

      Granted, social engineering works, soft wars buffer, and tolerance fades to black while taboos perpetuate ignorance. It's not until we tare down walls and adopt tolerance that we will accommodate any said universal 'moral code' . For our boundaries define the social landscapes creating an environment of fear, this being the justification for separation, condemnation, while suppression manifests illicit activities, manipulating integrity and bringing about societal anomie blah bla
      • thumb
        Jul 9 2013: I was asked a subjective question 'How do you define your moral code?' and so the likelihood of me giving a subjective answer is rather high...And I don't appreciate your need to be condescending and 'throw me a bone' when I'm giving a perfectly cogent answer to the question that I was asked.

        The point I was trying to make in regards to religion and the state is that in my opinion, for something to be even remotely moral it needs to exist outside of ourselves and religion and the state are probably the two most dominant aspects in life that meet this criteria.

        It is more than tearing down walls and adopting tolerance that are needed for implementing a moral code. We need principles of universalization, something that can be accepted by all races, colours, creeds, genders etc etc etc, and this frankly can and will not ever happen because we are all ultimately greedy, passionate subjective creatures with our own interests deeply embedded in our hearts. At the very least we need an open and frank dialogue to start the ball rolling on this process and that will not happen either because people do not like it if it seems that their values are being attacked.

        So subjectivity in my opinion is the very best we can hope for, because it is all we have ever had.
        • Jul 9 2013: You're absolutely right, for I was mistaken and you really did mean exactly what you said. Unfortunately at the time I was refusing to realize the truth in your statement, as I must say that I agree in some respects.

          It is my opinion that the 'big 3' religions of the world will never be the vessel that brings humanity together for our maiden voyage towards a world moral code.

          "Every day for us something new
          Open mind for a different view


          So close no matter how far
          Couldn't be much more from the heart
          Forever trusting who we are
          And nothing else matters"


    • thumb
      Jul 9 2013: Our laws, morals and rules are treating us as potential criminals, or irresponsible individuals. It seems that humans create their man-made laws for to break them. It is impossible for one to be perfectly "moral" in our crazy society, if one wants to survive.
      • thumb
        Jul 9 2013: ok......and what should we do about that my dear friend how do think we can create a bettter and healty society for i believe in solutions.
        • thumb
          Jul 9 2013: Replace the old problematic Golden Rule with The New Golden Rule. This is the helpfull answer, I think. So I suggest that young children and stidents in schools shall learn:
          NEVER treat others as you would like to be treated yourself -- unless they agree to it first --because what is good for you may be damaging for others.
  • thumb
    Jul 12 2013: I try not to be selfish. I think selfishness is the root of all that is immoral.
  • thumb
    Jul 10 2013: My moral code is being myself all the time. And the simplest to follow is never doing to others what I wouldn't like them doing to me. Not trying to fake also helps, too. I think that's it.
  • thumb
    Jul 9 2013: The outdated Golden Rule needs to be changed.

    THE NEW GOLDEN RULE SHALL TEACH: NEVER treat others as you would like to be treated yourself -- unless they agree to it first --because what is good for you may be damaging for others.
  • Comment deleted

  • Jul 18 2013: I am pleased that most, for lots of reasons, seem to be proposing the Virtue "Golden Rule" route. This seems to be, despite the variability of our character throughout life, the only way to improve one's character throughout life. To live a life attempting to treat all others in the best way (for them) is possible - kindly, helpfully and hoping for the best results of an action for them. This is impossible, but in one's life one should attempt constant improvement and lessons learned from past mistakes. What is best for others is ambiguous as does it mean "in your own or their opinion?" Equally, the standards of behavior will vary from culture to culture. None-the-less an attempt should be made to learn from mistakes and treat others as bast can be done.
  • thumb
    Jul 17 2013: Morality has 7,000,000,000 different meanings,a different meaning for each person on earth. For me it's about "recycling" You come into the world, from space dust all in the soup together. You swim around mixing, experiencing, loving,laughing, crying, mating, reproducing, trying to sustain your family. You try not to destroy the environment that all humans share. You practice (empathy) "look it up". Then you exit in peace, and dignity trying to leave some positive legacy behind, and recycle into the space dust we all came from without making a fuss.
  • Jul 16 2013: My Moral code is trying to be perfect as father in heaven is perfect. The moral code should lead you to be peaceful, happy being. Only ways are
    - Love everyone and never hate anyone.
    - It is not the actions but the intentions behind those that are important. If the intention behind an action is self promotion at the cost of others, then stop doing that.
    - Every action of yours should help humanity not rob it of its dignity.
    • thumb
      Jul 17 2013: your three dot points seem like worthy moral objectives.

      just on the heavanly father, how do you know he exists, or heavan exists. what do you mean by perfect? how do you know it is perfect. just defining a god concept as perfect doesnt make it so.
      • Jul 17 2013: The question is not whether "heaven exists or not", the question is if such a place exist (heaven is a place of peace and happiness as mentioned everywhere, let us take it for granted), how did the ruler as well as residents of heaven achieve it.? Those attributes of ruler/father/residents of heaven is what every human being should follow as their moral objectives.
        • thumb
          Jul 17 2013: Your statement said your moral code was around trying to act as the morally perfect heavenly father. If this is just a metaphor, fine, but it is confusing given all the cultural baggage associated with these terms.

          Made me think you were talking about a god concept based on the bible. Obviously the biblical god Yahweh is often described as an evil tyrant, a tribal war deity, that is far from moral perfection.

          If you were living according to the confused code of Yahweh you would kill homosexuals, and people who work on Saturdays, and be able to keep slaveS.

          If you just said live in a way that makes this world a place of peace and happiness, I agree.
    • thumb
      Jul 22 2013: ANIL KUMAR thank you for that tip
  • thumb
    Jul 16 2013: Morality is for me a en enculturation (changed through education, learned and acquired by our culture and society) and modification of some of our moral intuitions or biological tendencies towards cooperation.

    As for a moral code, I think what Sam Harris says in "the moral landscape" is a very good book as a reference in thinking about morality (he starts from the worst possible harm, and says that there is at least one dimension of improvement towards less harm).

    If you define good as beneficial towards a living creature (i.e. nurturing, improving growth) and bad as damaging a being (destroying, hurting, wounding, inhibiting growth), then you can look for each act to which extent it harms and damages.
    Then there is good vs evil, where you include intentionality... or the involvement of an agent that has at least some intelligence.

    I think that a moral code should have (in principle) a calculus of the beneficial and harmfull effects of the different options, and actions towards positive sum games (where every agent benefits) should be seen as the better ones.
    Of course this calculus cannot always be done in reality, so we let our intuition guide us (and the laws of your country or state or community or culture)
    A moral code is indeed a code and not a law or something definite. I see it as a set of guidelines that can be applied to any specific situation (I am a proponent of a casuistic approach).

    Differences in moral codes are due to different historical and cultural habits and agreements and laws &c. This does not make us relativists in the sense that you can say that all moral codes and cultures are equal. some of them have more reject-able and immoral practices (or sub-optimal). So looking around for improvements in your own culture is possible.
    One can, as Sam Harris says, discern a moral landscape with peaks (of benefice) and valleys (of poor moral conduct). And sometimes it is hard to get from one peak to a higher one.
  • thumb
    Jul 15 2013: Moral Codes when defined by the RIGHT authorities and followed by the general masses is what makes sense. And that is how the society grows in right direction. That is what the work of the leaders of society is. If everyone is allowed to make their own moral codes then a terrorist would come up and claim to kill people is his morality.

    Watch this lecture for more interesting facts - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8t5OGqjnpXQ (Discourse in INTEL Corp USA on Spiritual Knowledge)
  • thumb
    Jul 15 2013: Every one is a keeper of its own moral code.
    • thumb
      Jul 15 2013: and all of them are equally good?
      • thumb
        Jul 15 2013: List of moral codes do not help, morality lies within.
        You are your best moral judge.
        • thumb
          Jul 15 2013: what about the suicide bombers of mumbai, 2008? they are the best judges of themselves? i refuse that notion, and i claim they were immoral persons, or at least what they did was immoral.
      • thumb
        Jul 16 2013: Not all moral codes are equal in the suffering they generate.

        The different assumptions of what is divinely commanded include some pretty poor moral positions.
      • thumb
        Jul 16 2013: Krisztian Hi
        You got me wrong,
        Here i mean

        Every one is keeper of his own conscience

        You may have fantastic list of moral codes, but you are the only one, who knows where do you stand in following them.
  • thumb
    Jul 15 2013: Satya and Ahinsa (Sanskrit)

    Truth and Non Violence (Translation)

    He who follows truth and non-violence In thought, in speech and in action is the highest evolved individual with priceless moral codes.

    Communities led by such people are places worth living in.
  • thumb
    Jul 14 2013: IMO, the most basics of any moral code is very simple and can be summarized in the sentence:
    "Don't do to fellow person something that you don't like to be done to you."

    A little abstract expansion of the above principle is that don't do to fellow person something that is unliked upon him/her, even if you might like it or don't care about it if it is done to you. This is little abstract because it needs some imagination and abstract thinking to know what can hurt the else even though you don't find it hurting for yourself.

    Anyway, the first sentence is more easy to grasp. Our incapability to follow persistently this simple and obvious rule is the reason why we need so much external enforcements in the forms of moral codes, religious commands, complicated laws, huge & complex justice systems which are all aimed to elucidate the above principle and to punish those who break this simple principle.
  • thumb
    Jul 14 2013: The second you feel the need to justify your actions you should probably take a moment to analyze and introspect.
  • thumb
    Jul 13 2013: Moral codes set the boundaries to the behavior patterns one is expected to conform to in order to remain part of a given tribe/clan/group.
    One should not say; "He dont have any morals" but rather; "He and I dont share the same moral code values".
  • thumb
    Jul 13 2013: The golden rule. Watch Karen Armstrong on TED.
  • thumb
    Jul 12 2013: Thanks for the question! I think all moral codes spring from the universal moral of any species that we should not kill another in our species (unless you already reproduced (looking at you spiders!)). That usually evolves into a couple of things: we should not harm each other, we should help each other. Most of my morals spring from these simple foundations. Some religions take it farther than others, but they mainly seem to spring from these three (as far as I know and have seen—do give examples that contradict since I'm sure there are some).

    I don't think our surroundings are affected by the way we choose to live our lives, but are defined by it. Someone being kind versus someone being mean can alter those directly affected by him or her who then affect those interacting by those first affected continued until one person has shaped his surroundings because he helped someone with their troubles rather than walking by. Also, we affect our natural environment/habitat by the way we choose to live our lives (looking at carbon footprint and that stuff). If any country, city, etc. chooses to indstrialize, then that group has to cut down and flatten their area to make room for factories and pathways to the factory, not to mention the pollution created by the factory or whatever the building may be. I'm not trying to say we should all live in a cave or in the woods, but trying to show every decision we make directly affects our surroundings.
  • thumb
    Jul 9 2013: Hi, lukwango,

    Here are some links:


    And some thoughts:

    My moral code, if any, is simple - never hurt or harm. Be aware. Know what's true. Learn, do not succumb. Live and let live, be wise. Think and feel.

    Thanks for your question. More to come (answers, I mean... :))

    Regards, best wishes and cheers.
    • thumb
      Jul 11 2013: But the links do not offer a statement on a moral code. Although I've heard much about the Atheism of Christopher Hitchens, I've heard nothing about the source of his moral code or where he finds the ethical underpinning of his choices. And what, if anything, makes/made him more 'moral' or 'ethical' than me? Such that he could judge my faith as irrelevant or erroneous? No, by Christopher Hitchen's own rules - more is needed.

      He's right. Much needs to be trimmed away and/or reinvented or reinterpreted. Who needs female circumcision. But faith is with us. 'Fiddler on the Green' - as a song, might not be possible w/out the transcendent experience that originates w/an education in faith. We teach our children faith for a reason. Even in Russia. How popular is the Russian Orthodox Church - in an officially atheist nation.
      • thumb
        Jul 12 2013: You're right a bout the song, I'm not really know why I put it here.

        My comment was weird when I look at it now. It can stay, just for further review.

        Not everybody teaches their children faith though. I think it's culture and experience that teaches such things, external influences. I'll add that it's better to teach or implant faith in oneself than in external influences.

        Best wishes, nice picture :)
        • thumb
          Jul 12 2013: I quote from and reply to your insightful comment above. Best wishes. JV
  • Jul 9 2013: Moral codes are basically laws. The laws of the U.S.A are so flawed that the federal government was unable to prosecute ANY of the many people who could have prevented the recent financial collapse.

    Moral codes are frauds, based on the false notion that human beings can and would choose to live their lives according to a set of rules. There is no evidence to even suggest that this is possible. On the contrary, in my experience, people hate rules, regulations and laws, especially those that are imposed by others. When people make up their own rules, they invariably break them due to some exceptional situation.

    We need a new paradigm of social relationships that is not rule based, but based on the reality of human behavior. Since the study of human behavior is still in its infancy, this will require a great deal of time. Until we understand ourselves much better, we can continue discussing moral codes, but please, let us try to be honest about how much and how little they affect human behavior.

    One of the biggest influences on the community is the prevalence of hypocrisy and the many forms of insane behavior that result from hypocrisy.
    • thumb
      Jul 11 2013: Barry: Unbelievably thoughtful reply. Was very happy to read it. I wrote "The Noble Society" some years ago - it's my philosophical (comical) utopia where denizens of this very small "place" live beyond the theater of our universe, and are individuals, not "people" . (That is where the "Old" and "New Golden Rule" has been "found" among their old books, and astonished them with our horrific primordial human history, I mean our history.)

      The basic law of Nature which we constantly violate by using our made-up rules and laws - is that everyone is unique, every living creatures in this world. In order to make man-made laws possible, we must become identical units, living in the same recycling conditions. Nature's law would not allow this. .

      Man-made rules and "morals" are invented for Controlling societies and groups, cults and all sorts of mentalities, "making" or forcing everyone behave and think the same way, convenient for the rulers .

      If we were all ethical and wise we would not need any man-made morals, rules or laws to control us.
      Unfortunately we live under this humongous pressure of the majority, which is neither ethical nor really intelligent. They Need rulers and laws to tell them what is what.

      Bless those who are bringing to our hysterical society some sanity, grace and wisdom.
  • thumb
    Jul 9 2013: My moral code is to leave the world a better place than how I found it. If I can leave a smile, that's good. If I can make someone safer, or happier, or with some facts or thoughts, those are all good. I don't try to impose this on anyone else. My moral code is designed to guide me in a world that's often insane, cruel, and heartless. I don't worry about 'changing the world' (though the situations often fill me with horror, shame, anger, and grief). I try to focus on my own performance. Some days I'm able to do a lot of good. Other days not.

    I don't share a good bit of the 'moral code' of folks living around me. Not my problem. I simply try not to offend and if I think some things I find moral are not shared by others, I simply keep to myself.
  • thumb
    Jul 9 2013: I define my moral code as the one that is based on greatest common good or lowest common suffering. My intelligence and power of reasoning being limited, the code is short and possibly ineffectual. It is harmless so I think I am harmless too.
    The same applies for my community. The code is more elaborate. It seems harmless too but it will be wise to be careful.
  • Jul 9 2013: I would say that living your life without negatively impacting someone else's life is the first and most important. The golden rule is not relative to todays society, as religion would rear it's ugly head. For example, a gay person treated like a westboro baptist person would like to be treated would cause the gay person great distress, and therefore would be negative impact. Religion, as a whole, is the most positive, and most negative influence we have on morals today. The problem is, the negative side usually wins.
    • thumb
      Jul 9 2013: thank you ...and am guessing you have answered the question from a religious view....right ?
      • Jul 9 2013: Having been brought up very religious, I can only say part of me sees what things could be like if everyone followed the teachings that most religions share in common, but that is not where I am coming from. Religion really is the best, and worst of things that can happen to people. Maybe it would be better to say people are worst things to happen to religion, because it's the people that mess it up. The view I am seeing would be Native American if I could put an actual title to it, so I guess it would be spiritual. We are all connected, the Earth, water, sky, rocks and especially the beings.
  • thumb
    Jul 8 2013: Nobody has the right to impose any moral code upon anyone else. The only wrong in my view is premeditated physical violence against another person. Everything else is just living. You might not like it but it is their right as a unique human being to live their life their way, even if they life next door to you. Society has created rules that we must obey or we will be punished, like children. The truth is most of us live outside some of these non-violent rules. The fact is all of us will do whatever we can get away with. The society we created with all its rules and regulation is not what we want to grow up into. Because a person has to judge violators and that makes it subject to interpretation where money, power and influence prevails.
  • thumb
    Jul 22 2013: thank you much for sharing .hopefully we have learnt or borrowed something each other. THANK YOU
  • Jul 22 2013: I believe moral codes are driven by societal needs, the larger the society, the more complex the moral codes. Two simple examples: pigs use twice as much water as a man to live and alcohol dehydrates a person. In water poor environments, it would make sense to restrict the growing of pigs and the drinking of alcohol.
  • Jul 18 2013: I am pleased to see that for lots of reason most seem to be following the virtue "Golden Rule" approach. This seems to be the approach most amenable to self improvement through life.
  • Jul 18 2013: Yes, it just a metaphor. Idea is to make this place as beautiful as heaven (may be imaginary world as described in texts) so that all humans can live in peace and happiness.

    I strongly believe that anywhere self takes precedence than others fellow beings (including animals and other creatures), we disturb this beautiful world. Shedding of EGO is one of the most important factors for a peaceful being and world that I learnt from my religion.

    - Love everyone and never hate anyone can only be achieved if we lose our EGO.
    - Everyone action of ours is always directed for the benefit and welfare of ME and at times when it endangers others (even in minimal way of hurting others feelings), we continue to do because our EGO says me first. So look behind every action and if intentions are bad, stop doing it
  • Jul 17 2013: ...as long as one is morally concienable.