Good and bad and morality is sadly in the eyes of the beholder (Working idea

I was asked this question this morning and have been thinking about an answer. It similar to the Good vs Bad post and is very much related.

Good and bad and morality is sadly in the eyes of the beholder. What else could explain things people do to others who do not share their beliefs?

Yes it is in the eye of the beholder, to a degree. Please don’t think I’m attacking you because I’m not, just trying to make my point salient. Lets say for whatever reason you loose your temper with a person. Let say you lash out and actually attack this person, in a moment of bad judgment and reaction. Let’s say this is totally uncharacteristic of you. Are you now a bad person? Of course not, but if a person passing by saw this and it’s their only impression of you chances are you will be labeled as a ‘Bad person’. You could even, possibly, be lumped in as part of the evils of humanity in their mind.

People that seem to have different ideas of good and bad only seem, from the outside, to be evil or good when viewed with limited information. Good and Bad only seem relative when viewed narrowly; however, if we could actual piece the entirety of the persons being together we would see that their process of formulating ideas isn’t any different than ours. If we would ask them, they have their story as to how and why they do what they do. **Please note that I’m not saying there aren’t bad people with bad intentions but things aren’t always as straightforward as we sometime categorize them in our minds.**

I understand that their ideas could be totally inverted of what is general thought of as Good or Bad compared to our view; but, we need to also know this is only one person, or one culture, or one religion. To get a grasp on what good or bad is to us as humans it’s about many examples, coupled with time, that we see Good and Bad emerge amongst various cultures and various religions that has a general direction; it points to what is Good and points to what is Bad. A lot of times its hard to see one for one equivalents of Good and Bad amongst individuals and cultures. Its upon stepping back we see patterns across cultures, history, we know that there is something akin to Good and Bad but it’s not as clear as we’d like it to be.


About not sharing beliefs it’s hard to share a set of beliefs without accepting some brute suppositions but these suppositions are usually an amalgamation of all prior knowledge, individually and culturally. However, there are easier and hard things to simply accept as good or bad. The harder it is to accept the more likely life, genetics, societies, social pressures will influence what we are willing to accept as good or bad. Again, this at face value seems relative until we step back. As we step back the clarity of relativity becomes blurry because we see similar patters of behavior that transcend culture.

What else can explain why we attack or hurt other with different belief systems? Keep the above and the other blog in mind and let’s back step to the example of you losing your temper and attacking someone. Unless this person thinks holistically and knows and understands human nature you will be forever a bad person in their mind. It is far easier to say, do, attack physically or verbally someone that we deem as a bad person. If we are trapped in our own world view, individually and culturally, and trapped by viewing things too narrowly it becomes easier to attack someone. We loose our humanity because we can’t see them as people. We can’t see them as people like us and instead of seeing the world in ‘squares’ as I do, or as we do, that person, or those people, see the world as circles. Viewed to narrowly we literally see ourselves as totally different people with totally different ideas and this from our minds perspective justifies an attack.

Good and Bad (Working Idea

There is sort of a part 2 to this post click here to read: Good and Bad Morality is Sadly In The Eyes Of The Beholder. It was a question I was asked in relationship to this post.

For the one person that might actually read this. The whole thing below is a mess and I’m continuing to work on it. I read and updated and then come back later and read again, and not always to completion so sometimes it’ll be open. Right now the idea doesn’t feel coherent or at very least not in the way I actually see things or feel about it.

My basic premise is to describe some basic human tendencies to think, reason and draw conclusions about a particular object, person/people, group, or idea/set of ideas. My point isn’t to argue about any particular moral system it’s to simply show how the mind computates moral actions. I realize it might sound like moral relativism but sounds like and are are two different issues. It’s very clear that not all issues and consequences carry the same weight. To slap or kill someone out of the slightest provocation are clearly not the same. For the time being I’m not going to address the moral relativism at length, because as I stated at the beginning it’s to show how minds work. My goal is that by trying to explain some basic human thought processes and how it blurs this line of those we see and feel as our enemy, and the other, and can give us some insight into how and why they see the world the way they do.

This idea struck me in almost an ah ha moment as I was listening to various political commentators regarding the Illhan Omar’s statement that some people did something. I don’t recall fully but I believe I heard her making a comment and it was slightly sympathetic towards ISIS fighters or those that joined ISIS. I’m not sure at what moment but I felt like I was close to something. If not Ilhan Omar there are people of the left that view the US with distain. They view all our actions and see most of our history as some sort of repressive system. However, they can more easily dismiss the faults and flaws of others for what they feel is ‘Good’. As in Ilhans case, it’s easier for her to dismiss the actions of ISIS members because it’s closer to her in many ways.

There are people on the right, American patriots, and those with a positive view of American that view ISIS with distain and are symptomatic towards American actions. They can more easily dismiss our faults and flaws for what they feel is our ‘Good’.

I should note that I’ve always been inclined to, when reflecting, to see things from others peoples perspective and/or at least try to understand them. My genetic makeup seems to lean me more conservative but have learned and grown to the point that I’m basically a centrist (hated by all) with a conservative nature.

Good vs Bad from the Religious perspective.
What is good and what is bad? From a religious standpoint the good and bad are things that we know of because ‘our book tells us so’. It’s more like adding something into us. For example, it’s wrong to kill people; we take this idea in and park it in our mind as a bad.

Good vs Bad from the experimental perspective.
I think the experimental perspective is best captured by this illustration. Let’s say you are at a party and there is music playing. It’s a vibrant atmosphere with lots of socializing, general busyness taking place. Someone decides that it would be funny to turn up the music but only by the tiniest of decibels. Every time they turn up the music it’s basically unnoticeable to the ear of the party goer. However, there comes a point when you realize that the music is blaring, or at very least much louder than it was a short time ago.

From this perspective noticing the music is not a 1+1=2 as with accepting religious ideas. It has more of a feeling to it but there are most certainly elements of concert facts. So a feeling is just that, a feeling. Once we formulate the feeling it becomes an idea that can be expressed with words. Some of these words are what we see in religion text labeled as good or bad. It starts with a feeling becomes concrete and then can blur back into a feeling, that might later need to be expressed again.

For example, is it bad to kill? A dogmatic religious person would say yes; but, what happens if you are attacked by someone and you then kill them? The idea of bad becomes slightly blurred. It’s no longer as solid of a statement that it once was.

It seems natural to have ready made labels in our mind of things good or bad. Sometimes is by accepting other times by personal experience. Life offers tons of flavors of nuance and there are tons gray areas but that’s not the point

We can examine our own life and question where it all came from and to what degree my parents, my culture and my genes have a role in playing to whom I give a pass and what I hold in contempt. What will being to emerge is that I see might see the world as a bunch of triangles and someone else might see the world as a bunch of circles. We can argue over theses views, no big deal unless we make it a big deal. It’s the thinking and seeing the other person or people as a solid ‘good’ or a solid ‘bad’.

What we can do to bridge the gap between us is know that the person I’m arguing with has formed their view exactly EXACTLY as I did but for the widest of variety of reasons they have concluded differently. For the social media warriors we see the words as a person that might not be expressing themselves properly. Or that person might be caught up in only see words on a screen rather.

It’s when we can’t see this we lose our humanity. Seeing this in others isn’t just a oh I see it, like a 1+1=2. It’s more analogues to a spectrum where black is absolute and white is to not see at all. The closer we can get to seeing how closely related we are to those we disagree with the more hormones we can act and be in the world.