Human Moral Status

A baby girl was sick with dengue fever. She needed blood transfusion which prompted her parents to look for a blood donor. Her parents have exhausted all means to find a donor and could not find one which could match the child’s blood chemistry. At the moment, only one possibility was there, to let the patient’s seven year old elder brother be the one to donate the blood. In that extreme situation, the parents decided to talk to their son if he was willing to donate his blood. With sad and anxious facial expression, the boy agreed after a moment’s hesitation.

When blood was taken from the boy; he was allowed to lie on bed. After long silence, the boy asked “Mom, dad, how much longer before I go? ” That moment, his parents realized that the boy must have thought he was going to die and was actually giving his life to his younger sister. Human being is rational and is capable of making moral judgment. It is this innate capability which differentiates human from animals. Aristotle considered virtue as an ultimate good, which means a state which is an end in itself and not a means to an end.

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Animals operate according to the mandate of instincts, they eat when hungry, drink when thirsty, and do things as an expression of their biological needs designed for their own survival. Both humans and animals share the same needs when it comes to this aspect. These physiological needs are at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy. But man does not live by bread alone. There are other needs aside from food that is needed for our own survival. And the peak of this hierarchy of needs is the ultimate good which is the core of one’s being from which moral values sprout.

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Abraham Maslow used the word “Self-actualization”, which is highly characterized with the “attainment to one’s highest potential”(Santrock, 2007). Moral virtue is integral to the humanistic concept of the highest state of being. In the final analysis, we take the view of Rollo May which says that the full blossoming of the human potential is the deepest realization of the interrelatedness of life. It goes as the Zen saying: “No sane man cuts the tree upon which he is seated. ” But one could ask “If human beings are made according to the likeness of God, then why are they capable of committing horrible crimes of violence?

” Think of the brutality committed in the Nazi camps during Hitler’s regime, or the 911 terrorism. This question poses serious re-assessment of human nature that created controversy in the field of Philosophy, Religion and social sciences. It is one of the perennial questions about human existence since time immemorial. The issue of moral status or dispositions could best be understood when the human dynamism is uncovered with its many facets. Human behavior is cradled but not only with one crib.

Its formation is multi-dimensional which includes heredity, social and cultural influences, childhood upbringing and memories, neural and cognitive processes and even nutrition. It is also multi-directional, moving in all directions although some aspects may be hampered by disease, deprivation or lack of exposure which could result to a lopsided development in humans. The moral status could be affected by a genetic factor. A child who has a genetic disposition of violence can easily be provoked with little stimulation from the environment.

Sad to say that sometimes, there are freak mutations in nature. The moral status is highly nourished by environmental stimulation such as family upbringing, peer pressures or the influences of media. Albert Bandura has demonstrated in his experiments, how children can easily imitate the behavior of others, peers or grown-ups, in their day to day interactions. The most important thing to bear in mind, which is very crucial to understanding about what morality really is, is to know that morality is not just about social norms to conform.

It’s beyond social respectability, beyond having a “good image” to project, even beyond the rewards of the after life. Lawrence Kohlberg, a prominent psychologist conducted a serious study about people’s moral status. He put the stages of morality into three categories: the Pre-conventional which morality, the Conventional morality and the Post-conventional morality. People in pre-conventional level do make their moral judgment based on the concept of reward and punishment or the give and take motive.

I found money and I have to return it to the owner with a thought I will be rewarded for doing that, or I will get something, maybe money in return. In conventional level, people do things because they want to maintain respectability, they want to sustain the good boy/good girl” image in society. I return the money because that is what is expected from an honest person, and I have to maintain that image so that people will trust me. According to Kohlberg, most people attain only up to this conventional level, and only few people attain the post conventional morality.

When I return the money because I feel one with the owner, I feel the anxieties, the sadness for losing that amount, I return it not because I want to get a reward or to maintain my image as an honest person, when I return it because I feel enormous compassion for the owner with his family, that is an expression of the post conventional level of morality. The story I illustrated in the beginning of this essay is an example of the post conventional level, wherein the child was thinking that he was laying down his own life for his sister.

He did that not because of a reward or a good boy image to project but because of his love for his younger sister. This is the highest level where moral values are the innate expressions of one’s being. It is in line with the golden rule:”Do unto others what you want them do unto you. ” It is in line with the Christian principles:”Love others as you love yourself. ” It is a realization in line with the Zen moral dictum: “No sane man cuts the tree upon which he is seated. ”

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