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I was going to write about this in the lead up to 8.28, forgot about it, put it to other blogs, and now remembered it.

My Dad has a saying that he got from some book that he read once, “A society can only have the morals that it can afford.”

I disagree with this vehemently. In many cases, I can see some parcel of truth in it but I radically disagree with it because a society must have a moral foundation or it’s not a society, that there are some lines you must not cross, as a people, or you risk losing your identity and changing.

But yet…well I can see the pearls of wisdom in it, I can see where it might be necessary.

How to reconcile the two? I have always thought about this…and I hope I have come up with at least a partial answer.

The answer lies in Universal Morality…though everyone has their own unique perspective.

But there is a Universal Morality.

That there is a difference between good and evil and they are two ends of an extreme. They are absolutes, you violate them at your peril, and you are usually striving for one end of the spectrum or the other.

Like it is immoral to steal, to kill, or to torture. These are three of the more accepted bits of morality out there, and where most people do not feel like violating them and most of us can agree.

But yet we do kill, we do torture, and I have even heard it is ok to steal. Why, and how?

The answer is the morality is not fluid, but the situations usually are.

Tough moral choices are only tough moral choices because they are a choice between two goods, or two evils.

For example, I hate torture, I am not sure we should be torturing the terrorists, and some of the torture methods of the Inquisition truly boggle the mind.

But yet…we have to chose what is the greatest immorality.

What is the greatest immorality?

You have a situation, you have captured some Terrorists, and you have pretty good intel that…a nuke is about to go off in a major metropolitan area.

What to do? Do you let people…millions of people die…or do you torture the bad guy and go all Jack Bauer on them in the hope you can get some information to stop them?

No one likes to kill, but if someone invades your house, who do you choose, your family or that random person when you cannot be sure of their intentions?

This does not make killing and torturing any less immoral, it does not mean that those things suddenly become ok, but the alternative is a lot more ghastly to imagine, and thus worth the consequences.

On the individual.

Or stealing, one of my favorite examples because I have never done it.

Your family is starving, dyeing, do you steal? My knee jerk reaction is no, to rely on charity, and help, and starve in order to not commit that vile crime.

But I have to wonder….

What is the greatest immorality?



  1. Good blog and it’s gets me thinking as usual. I think you are right it always does boil down to what is the lesser of two evils unfortunately and we many times are forced to choose….and that is never a good position to be in *sigh*

    • Or the lesser of two less then perfect positions. 😉

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