What distinguishes us from animals? Maybe the fact that our behavior is regulated not only by the natural instincts? Let us try to understand what role moral values play in our life.
Virtually from the very beginning, every one of us is taught to tell the difference between the good and the bad. It is only natural that the good is what helps us survive. A good relationship with a fellow creature, assisting weak, mutual aid — all that is beneficial not only for an individual but a species as a whole. I think that this is where we have the cradle of moral values.
However, you may object that similar manifestation observed in higher animals. For example, in the event of emergency horses herd together protecting female and young animals. Adult, healthy species protect them possibly risking their lives. Does it mean that horses also have some moral values?
Of course not. The main difference between human and animal behavior is that people are aware of their actions. That is, we knowingly sacrifice our interests for others.
A curious paradox: the further we are from animals, the nobler we are, however the nobler we are, the more moral are our values.
If I am a well brought-up person than to help someone who fell, for instance, would be my natural move that does not require much deliberation or any decision making. However, in some more complex situations, it would be much harder to follow the moral rules without direct compensation. Why do we do it then?
Ethical norms are what help us adapt to our environment. The society is open and ready to interact when an opponent is a well brought-up person. For such a person it is easier to make contact with others, which means it would be simpler for the person to satisfy his or her needs.
However, all that is what is lying on the surface. Not always our deeds are dictated by even such an inexplicibly obvious benefit. For example, would you dump you foam coffee cup right where you stand or take it to the next litter-box? What would it be on a crowded street? Would it be the same where nobody sees you? If you are a person of settled moral convictions, your answers will be identical.
It is possible that some people would think that observing ethics is like moving on the highway with several tailbacks. It is like we deprive ourselves of choice, infringe on our freedom. However, as a matter of fact, our moral values are exactly our choice. Each of us has his or her rating of moral principles, that is us who define what is more and what is less important, sorting out our priorities. The more final your score of such values is, the easier it would be for you to comply with your moral attitudes.
By no means, all our deeds are explicitly morally motivated. Our daily activity is made up of a significant number of seemingly neutral steps and minor actions. Nevertheless, this is what the canvas of our lives woven together. And it is the most often when such small and insignificant daily activity is what defines our opinion concerning another person or the person’s opinion concerning us, which, in turn, determines the individual’s attitude toward us.
In their extreme manifestations, relationships, regulated by the morality, metastasize into relationships, governed by the law. However, if the society ensures a person who has broken the law, pays his debts with his money or freedom, the payment for the ethical violations is our feelings. Morality is where we are our judge and punisher, which sometimes is much harder to withstand.