Moral Principles Learned via Social Osmosis


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Moral Principles Learned via Social Osmosis

I came across this statement “for everything human beings do by intelligence rather than instinct, any course of conduct they choose when they might have chosen differently, is a moral action” in “The Metaphysical Club” by Louis Menand and it stopped me in my tracks. I had to study this statement and make a decision about its validity.

I consider the words ‘moral’ and ‘ethical’ to be interchangeable.

We all have the ability to do harm or to do good to other people; and we all are fully aware of that capacity. How can we know this? We can know this because we are capable of imaginatively placing our self into the boots of the other person?

Young children know this, as is evident by there shouts of condemnation:
“That’s not fair!”—“She won’t share!”—“He hit me and I didn’t do anything to him!”—“He promised!”—“Cheater, Cheater!”—“Liar, Liar!”—“It’s my turn!”

I suspect most of us, adults and children; learn these ‘ethical principles’ through social osmosis (without conscious effort). We ‘know’ these principles of ethical behavior but often fail to practice them because there are always so many other forces pulling us in another direction.

The forces pulling us into unethical behavior are many; for example, ego and social centric forces, self-delusion, selfishness, and especially because of our ignorance and the complexity of the problems we face.

Webster defines educate as—to develop mentally, morally, or aesthetically [beauty] especially by instruction. Webster defines indoctrinate as—to imbue [infuse] with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle.

I think that it is imperative for each adult to become conscious (aware plus attention) of the difference between these two terms--‘educate’ and ‘indoctrinate’--and also to recognize just how much of our attitude toward matters of ethics results from our education or from our indoctrination.

I agree with the statement in the first paragraph, do you? I find it I to be staggering to realize this to be a fact, do you?