Friday, June 05, 2009

Rate yourself as a moral person

Do we really do a good job of living up to our own moral standards? If you were to carefully introspect over the past 24 hours, would you be able to reach the conclusion that you live up to our own standards. Have you behaved as a good person ought to behave, even as you define a good person?

We have a way of shielding ourselves from negative consequences here, and that is by comparing ourselves to other people, and finding people we think are worse than ourselves. But if we don't grade ourselves on a curve, can we say that we make an A based on our own standards.

Suppose someone were to do a survey. We ask them "Do you think of ourselves as more moral than most people, as moral as most people, or less moral than most people." How many people would put themselves in the bottom half ethically. How many people are in the bottom half ethically. Half, maybe?


Joshua said...

My 2c:

The most honest answer would be to say "I cannot accurately estimate that".

The problem with estimating is that people suffer from all sorts of cognitive and psychological biases (framing, confirmation, neuroses, etc.) that lead them to perceive what they are doing as being mostly "moral". Humans are nothing if not rationalization factories.

After you have once or twice escaped from a cognitive or psychological bias and had your conscience awakened to be more moral, you can begin to realize that you probably have additional self-deceptions which must be removed in order to improve your moral character. But you cannot know how many, or of what magnitude, since by definition your awareness of these biases is incomplete.

JanusMagus said...

Ironically, I bet the moral people would underrate themselves, with the worser putting their scores up high. I wonder just how good you have to be before you can sincerely start to, well, be righteous in that knowledge?

philip m said...

I experience akrasia all the time. By any standard involving the word "holy" . . . well, let's just say there's plenty of sanctification left to go!

And I find comparing yourself with other people to be a quite pointless exercise. Some person may exhibit behavior which is in fact "bad," but for them is quite an improvement. You can't know because you don't know all the variables involved. Their considerations are only in their mind. The world is many layers deep; sanctification is an internal process.

"What can you ever really
know of other people's souls-of their temptations, their opportunities, their struggles? One soul in the whole creation you do know: and it is the only one whose fate is placed in your hands."

Joshua said...

@philip Wow, I had to look up the word "akrasia". And I agree with you. Akrasia is definitively human.

Isn't that one of the major points of the garden story? We proved at the fall that we are the only creatures willing to do something that we have every reason to believe will bring death.

unkle e said...

Surely one of the difficulties is the difference between external morality and internal? I reckon on the outside I'd probably look pretty OK, but I know myself on the inside, and from that perspective things don't look so good (to say the least).

Important to remember: when we make judgments about others (good or bad) or compare ourselves to others, we only know the outside.

Matthew said...

I'd say I'm not very moral, unfortunately.

legodesi said...

not 40% there.