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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Morality & Ethics, Character & Integrity

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I have a little notebook which I use to jot down all sorts of notes for me to take action on in the future (I guess a little bit like the main character in the movie “Momento”).  I often get brainstorms of distinctions that I want to include in this book series and rigorously write them down.  Sometimes, and this is one of those times, I absolutely can’t recall what exact distinction I had in mind!  Sometimes I’ll make up a new distinction on the spot.  This chapter will be a little bit different.

Would it be ethical of me to write a chapter in this book without really diving into any particular distinction?  Probably not, based on the title of the book.  Would it be moral of me to do so?  It depends on what my intentions are.  I intend for this chapter to be a special chapter, and to give you something worthwhile within the context of this book.  A “distinctionless” chapter may not meet the rules of ethics, but it does meet the rules of morality.  If, on the other hand, this were to be a paper on a distinction without identifying any distinctions, it too would be without moral.  Since it is a chapter of a book, the morality than finds a place for itself.

Ethics look at specific rules and protocols of a criterion to meet.  Morality is concerned with the overall coherency of a particular question.  Robin Hood may not have had ethics, but he was moral.  Those who play by all the rules, yet seem to give off a bad scent, we know which category they belong in.

Character and integrity are then analogous.  Character has to do with being complete with one’s self, knowing what we have done is right and just.  Integrity has to do with being complete with others, knowing that they feel justly served.  Suppose we get back too much change from a transaction, attempt to rectify the error, but get interrupted and slandered before we have a chance to explain.  Most would probably say “I tried; their loss” and walk away.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but it is a model of character, and not a model of integrity.

What if we were to persist?  Yes, it would be uncomfortable and would feel very unnecessary.  Yet the possible outcome of the other person being overly embarrassed, and heaven forbid, changing their attitude in the future because of it, would certainly be worth the effort.

Can people have integrity without character?  You bet.  Those are usually people who have poor self-esteem.  They habitually disregard their own needs in order to make sure other people’s needs are met.

What’s the moral of the story?  We don’t need to know exactly what the distinction between two words is in order to make use of it.  We simply experiment until we discover what the truth is.  Anytime we catch ourselves being righteous with a particular word, let us try to replace is with so-called synonyms and see what happens.  Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche said “Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.”

I’m glad I didn’t have any convictions about what this chapter would be like.  For, in the process, I have created a couple of profound distinctions.

Let's love the world together...

Danish Ahmed, blind visionary

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