Since the birth of inks and papers, we know that morality centers around humans i.e., helping people is the gold standard of moral behaviors. “Give to him who asks you, and don’t turn away him who desires to borrow from you”(Matthew 5:42). By satisfying the needs of fellow humans proactively, we are praised, and believe that we have fulfilled our moral duties. Rarely has morality been mentioned without humans as the direct beneficiary1. This deep-rooted paradigm is what I call as “anthropocentric morality”. However, we have gained new knowledge since the old days of philosophers pondering about how best to create an ideal, stable society from small, agrarian communities. Reality is far from ideal, we are now confronted with the harsh reality that: we, as a species, rely on resources out of our own bound i.e., from Mother Nature, and they are not unlimited and come with a price to obtain. Dwelling on the guidance of anthropocentric morality put us inside an isolated blackbox because of our uncertain relationship with Mother Nature.
As such, the ability to truly help others can only come from a ground of abundance, it is thus worthwhile to take a step back from the human-sphere and pay more attention to the changes in our once abundant vital resources. In fact, some of us already did and are continuously doing it, all that is left to do is to unite as norm, rewire our mindset and re-prioritize what behaviors constitute a higher moral weight based on the “first principles” laid down so far. Next time, show your care by practicing frugality, bringing your own reusables to shop if necessary, hanging out with friends by helping in a copious, biodiverse community garden, making ethical products that do not linearly deplete/pollute natural resources, supporting ethical jobs that monitor, enforce and educate about the maintenance of natural resources, and most importantly don’t forget to praise others for their adapted moral behaviors. In the end, this may speak of a “typical eco-warrior”, but consider the arguments leading to this very conclusion, as in what matters in morality is the rationale behind why a priority should exist, not the mere physical act per se. This enables morality to be adaptive and evolvable, rather than a monotonic anthropocentric paradigm.
Consider morality as doing the “right” things, not just doing “OK-ish”, ”peer-accepted” things, should our moral teachings and duties guide us to a better future with Mother Nature (perhaps a bit of consequentialist view)? Or should it be a separate concept from ecological responsibilities? What then is moral guidance for if it fails to lead us to a better future? Leave me a comment!
Read a post-script about some contentious implications here and check out Part-2 and Part-3!
Footnotes1. Buddhist moral teaching of being kind to all life is perhaps an exception among mainstream religions and cultures.
2. Heterotrophs are organisms that obtain their energy from other organisms to maintain their own life, whereas autotrophs derive their energy from either the sun or inorganic chemical reactions.
3. Since long ago, prominent naturalists like Charles Darwin had recognized there are all sorts of “strange” cultural traditions and superstitions (that people ought to follow by peer pressure) emerging relatively recently in the evolutionary timescale and Darwin referred to these as a “lower form of morality”, distinct from the higher form of morality he called “social instincts”, which are endowed directly by biological selection occuring in social animals, and these two forms of morality can be in conflict. This line of thought is apparent in his famous book “The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex”. pp.76
4. Here I argue that both the immediate social instincts and the ritualistic, habitual cultures should bear low importance in the debate of morality. These two categories of behavioral motivation are ingrained in our subconsciousness, as opposed to a motivation derived from conscious understanding and reasoning based on our ecological reality, which in my opinion is the only form that liberate us from ruthless, passive natural selection and take control of our own path for the better.
5. “Happiness is for opportunists. So I think that the only life of deep satisfaction is a life of eternal struggle, especially struggle with oneself. If you want to remain happy, just remain stupid. Authentic masters are never happy; happiness is a category of slaves.” – Slavoj Žižek.