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Morality and the Middle Way

According to public understanding, morality is a collection of fixable rules with a high degree of general obligation, while in the personal sphere the latter is quite frequently questioned. The extent to which this tendency is pronounced depends on the degree of personal insertion in the respective society or community.   

Sociologists clearly distinguish between societies with strong binding laws and communities with a limited range of interests, but without necessarily obliging agreements. A society is primarily concerned with protection and power interests, while a community has a flexible pursuit of certain interests.

In this sense, morality also depends on whether it is seen as a social or a private phenomenon. Historically, social morality was mostly, but not exclusively, fixed in rules and served as instrument for maintaining power. However, it developed from local environmental conditions and thus gained experience from evolutionary adaptations. These adjustments were and are much more important in the personal than in the public area.

A society is on the long run likely to be more successful when having better interactions on the personal sphere of its individuals. To channel these tendencies is certainly one of the tasks of modern democracy. It is therefore increasingly necessary to strengthen the dynamic component in a formerly rather static situation.

To what degree can morality be derived from a modern, ie dynamically understood Middle Way, or even increasingly be replaced by it? This would certainly be more in the interests of individuals than of the society, which requires statutory morality for consolidation of power. The extent to which this is justified can hardly be decided without referral to beliefs. As a matter of fact, success will sanctify the means, that is, Darwin will have a strong say.

The more strongly the evolutionary thought plays a role, the more we should take note, which kinds of animal behavior can already be interpreted as a precursor of human morality. Recent investigations have brought more and more facts, which point to a complete underestimation of this share.

In any case, it is important to create a general awareness that every morality is tied to the peculiarities of the individual in the respective environment and in the particular space and time.

We can also say that any morality according to the ideas expressed in connection with a modern Middle Way has certainly a rational component, but also other parts, which derive directly from the emotional life, the sexual sphere and eventually even from experiences far from the domestic world without having to be rationally filtered before.

In modern dynamic view, morality can not be fixed in principles. It is constantly being explored by the individuals of a society at close range, and can only be determined approximately. It must inevitably change with space and time and can also include long-range interaction in times of greater mobility.

A society would therefore be well advised or considered to be better if it reacts unhindered to such changes and is not rigid. The currently still not negligible static portion should deliberately therefore be continuously reduced. That this may occur as disruption, for example, after warlike events, must be acknowledged, but not accepted without further ado. 

© Copyright and all rights Hans J. Unsoeld, Berlin 2017/2018

Updated June 11, 2018   

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