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Edge of Morality

It is human nature to believe that what we do makes perfect sense, even if it needs to be rationalized, and things we do not do are not reasonable, even if it is popular.

Examples I can come up with off the top of my head that make no sense to me include diving off cliffs, using heroin, and pulling wheelies on motorcycles. It is highly unlikely I will do any of those things in whatever life I have left to live. Others, though, may find these things exhilarating, even if they must rationalize why doing these things makes perfect sense.

Examples of things I do, or have done, that others may not think are reasonable include riding motorcycles, smoking cigarettes (I now vape instead of smoke), and eating more than is healthy for me. Though I recognize the potential dangers in each of these things, I can offer up some rationalizations about how each and every one makes, or made, perfect sense.

To someone who dives off cliffs, uses heroin, or pulls wheelies on motorcycles, things that may not make sense might include reading the Bible, watching football, or getting married.

There simply is no consistency in what makes sense and what does not make sense to people. It is, however, part of our natures as the beasts we are to reason as moral or worthwhile the things we enjoy, and to look upon things we would not do as immoral or wastes of our time.

The problem is not so much that we naturally do this; the problem arises when we believe others should not do that which we deem immoral or wastes of our time, and try to impose our morality upon other people.

We rise above our basic natures by making principles more important than our natures. If we are to remain monogamous, we must place that principle above the natural urge to procreate at every opportunity. I could come up with more examples, but that is not really what this article is about.

It is about believing that what we do and think is okay, but that which others may do or think that is beyond what we think is okay should not be done or thought. It is what I call our "edges of morality."

Conceptually, it is like standing on the edge of a cliff with everything on the grounded side being okay, and everything that is not okay is off the cliff. There is obvious danger when our edges of morality is visualized like this. The danger, however, is just as real in life even though we are not literally standing at the edge of a cliff.

The danger is that our edges of morality may extend beyond the edges of morality of others. Just as we are apt to believe that things we do not do are unreasonable, those other people may think things we do are unreasonable.

In rare cases, these differences may mean the difference between life and death. It is more likely that the danger is restriction of liberties we may choose to enjoy thereby making us, at the least, amoral, and at the most, criminals.

A libertarian philosophy is that what others do is none of our business, except when what others do harms other people or the environment. If restrictions of liberty only applied to those who would restrict liberty for others doing things that do not harm other people or the environment, then it could somewhat be justified as karma or fair trade.

Unfortunately, that is not the way it usually works. It usually works that people who rationalize their own immoral actions, perhaps alcoholism or rampant infidelity, impose restrictions of liberty upon others for things they deem immoral, like smoking in a park or walking a dog without a leash.

It is a much higher principle to allow others liberties that we have no intention of exercising than most other principles because it deals with a nature that is one of the most difficult to control - the nature to judge other people as moral or immoral based upon our own edges of morality.

Some other things I've written about: 

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