Rules without rules

Morality is not as it seems. It is wrongly portrayed as the following of rules, because that’s as it seems. In fact true morality is the antithesis of rules.

Following rules for moral reasons does not moralise the rule, since in morality it is not the rule that takes the lead. Robots may be said to follow rules and abide by moral rules for non-moral reasons, but people can do so only by moral neglect, which neither releases nor absolves them of a moral obligation. Meanwhile, the creation of moral rules is but the moral diversion of those who think they can think for others.

Morality is more of a matter of what can be done than what has to be done. Morally ‘neutral’ reasons for what needs to be done always flow from a moral decision, and it can’t be someone else’s decision, otherwise we turn ourselves into the slaves of the rationalists, pragmatists, moralists and rule makers. But still we don’t escape our personal involvement in matters of morality, because morality is the condition for being human, the condition made human, the human condition that overrules the need to follow and obey.

Moral dilemmas are meant to be dilemmas. They are not meant to be solved and forgotten about. ‘Moral solutions’ are debased in the belief that they have been taken care of, or that they can be looked after by others, or that we can spread moral responsibility through shared moral decisions – that the majority knows the right thing to do, therefore it is right to abide by the consensus as a moral duty owed, as if a social conscience amounts to and accounts for morality.

However, no one else can make a moral decision on your behalf, in all conscience, even if it is with your consent, because conscience is not a thing that can or should be delegated in a moral society, especially for pragmatic reasons. For a moral sensibility is the only thing that can put pragmatism and reason in its place. It is the only thing in which you can truly find yourself.

Mike Laidler

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