counting morals.

No one actually wants to wrestle with morality. That's why we have things like religion that tell you what's right and what's wrong and if we follow that we get to move on to the sky/garden/other person's body/volcano. In morality, you get the big things that are fairly intuitive: don't kill other people, don't rape people, don't spit in my coffee, Jason (I saw you). But there's also a big huge grey area. Even when it comes to religious ideologies, there's things contradictions and exceptions to the rule. Like in Islam, you're not supposed to kill people, unless they kill you first (my translation's a bit rusty, but that's the idea). Also, what's right to some people may be wrong to other people: I love eating me some dead cow, but to some vegans it's as bad as literally murdering a human child. Any way you look at it, morality is subjective; there's no way to quantify it so that everyone is on the same page. Except that there is. And the way you do that is by deconstructing what is right and what is wrong. First of all, I don't like those terms: they don't properly capture the spectrum on which morality lies. Somethings are kinda right and kinda wrong, plus the definitions change all the time. Back in Game of Thrones time, it was perfectly acceptable to solve your land disputes my murdering Ted for letting his sheep eat your crops. Nowadays, it's immoral for you to kill Ted because you recently found out that he moved his fence two feet into your yard. However, when countries to that, it's fine.

What we need to do is adopt new terms that better describe the fluctuation of what is moral and immoral. In my personal life, I've adopted the terms Constructive and Destructive and I use them in the most literal sense possible. And then, you can look at the ramifications of the action in its constructive or destructive sense to quantify whether it's right or wrong.

Constructive Actions

Constructive actions are exactly that. They consist of creating or maintaining actions that benefit those involved. Actions can be described as constructive when they promote the preservation of life (obviously) or allow future benefit (emotionally or otherwise) to the parties involved. For example: holding the door for someone provides the benefit of ease to that person; without other things interfering, that's a constructive action. When it comes to preservation, it could be the preservation of a good thing, or a bad thing. (The important aspect to consider is that the act of preserving is the constructive act. I'll get into the complexities of that later)

Destructive Actions

Destructive actions are the opposite of constructive actions because duh. They involve either destroying or disrupting. Destructive actions are any time members of the involved parties lose something out of the action. For example, stealing something disrupts ownership (conversely, not stealing preserves ownership).

The Arithmetic of Morality

Here's where it gets mathy. Actions, just like anything else is the sum of its parts. So when we look at the morality of the actions, we need to understand the morality of each of the individual parts. That's where this whole constructive/destructive thing comes into play. If you look at each (foreseeable) ramification of the action in relation to those directly involved. It's simply a matter of adding them up: constructive is plus one and destructive is minus one. It's so easy, even a child could do it.

Here, let's have an example: if you can travel back in time and kill Hitler as a child, would you? Let's take a look at what happens: you commit infanticide (that's destructive) but you also preserve the lives of 11 million people (that's constructive). Plus, you're making great strides in the scientific understanding of the mutability of time, that's probably constructive, too. So in the end, you have 1 vs 11 million and one, so constructive wins out and you do it. Okay that's a bad example. How about you hold the door open for someone: their day is a little bit better (plus one constructive) and nothing bad happens to you (zero destructive). Maybe they'll even smile and say thank you; that's two constructive and no destructive, ergo you hold the door.

This simple calculation can help simplify the conflict between moral and immoral, clearing up that gross, murky grey area. Try thinking about that next time you have to make a big decision.

the big dumb dummy's guide to writing a paper.

hey you: video.