I probably would have thrived in the era of Greek philosophers. What better way is there than to spend the day doing nothing but observe and think. One of the recent fascinations I had was a brush up on deontology. This study or philosophy, holds a guide to making moral choices — that is, the end does not justify the means. It asserts that what makes a choice right is its conformity with a moral norm. The right reigns over the good.
I used to think that I personally adhere to this philosophy. The general criticism for deontology is the relativity of what is right, since it is based on conforming to norms. Norms, by essence are a set of rules agreed upon by a group as appropriate beliefs, attitudes and behaviors, which may be explicit or implicit. Therein lies its fall, explicit rules are sometimes difficult to observe, especially in exeptional situations, but what about the unspoken rules? Doesn’t make this doubly hard to follow?
This is the reason why I posed the question in my older blog about finding out the right thing to do. The rightness or correctness of certain beliefs and behaviors seem too be too relative to establish. I was thinking, what is more correct? Doing what you think is right and consequently make you happy, or doing what everyone else thinks is right and make them happy? Ultimately, I know for myself that I will not be completely happy knowing I did not make the people that matter to me happy. So I guess what is right is really dependent on a set of norms. Yet, the majority isn’t always right.
I remember talking about this concept when I was handling a group of senior high school students some time ago. I asked them about the unspoken norms in their class. I know it all too well myself: copying assignments, cheating in exams, eating inside the class, among others. All of these are morally wrong, and yet, since the majority is doing it, it becomes implicitly acceptable. No one wants to be squeal and be a whistle blower. You’ll be the outcast, the butt of everyone’s joke, and be branded for life. And in high school, this is worse than death. Acceptance by a group means the world to every teenager.
Sadly though, it doesn’t deviate much in adulthood. It is still difficult to go against the crowd, especially the crowd which has the power to dictate what is right. So essentially, which should matter more: the right thing or the good thing? But to define what is good, is an altogether different story.