• Facebook
  • Twitter
ADONAI On April - 11 - 2011

Every man, in his own opinion, forms an exception to the ordinary rules of morality.
William Hazlitt

Welcome back to”Exploring Morality”. In this chapter we will have a more general discussion about morals and ethics than in previous chapters. Moving away from academic theory and into the area of personal ethics. For most of us, the words morals and ethics are basically interchangeable. In this case we will refer to ethics as the collection of your moral principles. Your ethics. We’ll go through a short history of a few moral/societal codes and how each was interpreted on a societal level and an individual level. First, though, we’ll begin with one bit of academic theory. Specifically the psychological theory of New York born psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg.

Lawrence Kohlberg

In 1958, while studying psychology at the University of Chicago(Go Fighting Maroons!) , Kohlberg wrote a dissertation that would be later known as Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development. He theorized that moral development is divided up into 6 stages, each supplanting the earlier one to better deal with more complex moral questions.  It was not the first study of it’s kind, but Kohlberg followed development later into life than most others did and wrote more thoroughly on the basic elements of change at each developmental level. The six stages were divided in to three different levels, as follows:
Level 1 (Pre-Conventional)
1. Obedience and punishment orientation
(How can I avoid punishment?)
2. Self-interest orientation
(What’s in it for me?)
(Paying for a benefit)
Level 2 (Conventional)
3. Interpersonal accord and conformity
(Social norms)
(The good boy/good girl attitude)
4. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation
(Law and order morality)
Level 3 (Post-Conventional)
5. Social contract orientation
6. Universal ethical principles
(Principled conscience)

The first level develops in young children through interaction with parents and other authority figures. The first stage being punishment. Children are experimental and will push boundaries. Their own ideas of right and wrong are very much, at this point, based on the justice dealt out by authority. “I got spanked for doing this, so I best not ever do it again!”  After  a bit of seasoning, the child quickly develops a moral approach that concerns him or herself and how they can benefit. Maybe they expect a favor in return as the basis for even helping at all. Helping someone is on a case by case basis and judged mostly on how it may benefit them most. Sociopathic? Yes. But, again, they’re developing children.  Some, sadly, carry a great many traits from these early stages on into adulthood.  Well past the point of knowing better. The second stage also translates into children avoiding doing wrong for fear of being disciplined. An action that does not benefit them at all. Again, the standard set forth by those early authority figures will very much effect their moral decision making on into adolescence and their teens.

Level 2 concerns the moral reasoning of adolescents and adults.  With the guidelines set forth from the development in stage one, the individual begins to form a sense of societal morality. how their society works, where they fit into it, and how they can be a “good boy”  or  “good girl”. The individual moves past concern for praise or punishment and simply follows rules to keep the social norm. Authority is still questioned but fear of reprisal or concern for reward is no longer the sole factor when judging right and wrong. The distinctions are more nuanced in adults but adolescents and teens  begin to develop social bonds outside their family network  and realize that they are part of something far larger. When it all finally sinks in is anyone’s guess. But, in my opinion, most adults seem to” get it” around their late 20’s. The rule of law becomes important as  a means to ensure  social harmony and respect for people. By stage four, moral actions are no longer ruled by personal consequence but by a need to maintain social stability.Looking out for more than just the individual. Social morals. Societal laws.

Level 3 is where Kohlberg begins to distinguish himself from his predecessors and garner a bit of controversy with his work. At this level, many adults begin to realize the world is made up of different people, different cultures, and different standards. Morality is no longer about social norm or acceptability, but about justice. A realization that many “laws” are unfair and should be disobeyed. That the greater good of all is worth more than the laws any society has created. We are involved in a social contract and when a law or ethical standard cannot meet that, it musty be thrown down. In stage six, the individual operates outside excepted law as he or she believes that a social contract is not broken by a single person’s unilateral action.  if you see injustice would you step in regardless of law? “putting your self in their shoes”(empathy). Will you act? In this way, the act becomes the end. not the means. A just act is justice served. Though Kohlberg admitted he can’t imagine many people operating on this level for too long. Then they eventually become the injustice they were trying to counter.

Kohlberg drew heat for this by focusing too much on a highly vague term, “justice”. Almost as if he were promoting a form of consequentialism. His work is highly regarded though as a more than suitable outline of  a person’s moral development. It is a framework used by many psychologists all around the world and a good starting point on discussing personal morals.

Speaking of which, let’s look at some famous moral codes from history. Laws and rules that shaped people and nations. We will begin in 12th century Japan with the code of Bushido, the moral code of the samurai. Bushido is believed to have formed from the teachings of several Japanese texts from the time including the Kojiki , the oldest existing book from Japan, dating back to the 7th century. It is a collection of history and myth that shaped the foundation of the honor code that would become Bushido. The Kojiki mentions the honor of the sword and the warrior’s devotion to master and land. All strong tenants of the samurai. The term Bushido, formed from the Chinese word “bushi”(warrior poet), did not appear in the original Kojiki and would not enter everyday Japanese language til around the 13th or 14th century.


Basically, they'll cut your head off in one clean slice, then write an awesome haiku about it.


By the 13th century, samurai were a special class in Japan and tasked with waging war for their masters, the shogunate. It is in the war torn era between the 13th and 16th centuries that Japanese Bushido becomes the code we know today. Duty and honor were above all else for  a samurai.  Duty to one’s land and master, and always honor in every action . Through this, a moral code was shaped for on and off the battlefield. A samurai code had already existed but Bushido expanded it and formalized it for all of Japan. Now you not only honored your enemy on the field of battle but honored the common farmer in his field. Not only loyalty to your master,  but loyalty to a greater Japan(for your master). A samurai did not solely dedicate himself to knowledge of war and the blade but also spirituality and the discipline of the mind. Though samurai were instruments sharpened to kill, Bushido was a code that respected life and venerated the fallen. By the 17th century many of the tenants of Bushido were made state law by the Tokugawa shogunate.   The Bushido code was easily applicable to the lives of all Japanese people. Respect for your fellow countrymen, honor and duty to the Japan and to your community, and a focus on personal responsibility and spiritual peace. After the fall of the shogunate, the code of Bushido remained a central tenement of Japanese culture. Passing through Imperial Japan and on into modern times, the duty and respect bound in Bushido still dictate the personal moral codes of millions of Japanese citizens. The samurai are highly regarded not just in Japan but also in the west where a similar code or conduct sprung up around the same time as Bushido.

On a personal note, there has never been, and there will never be, anything as badass as the samurai.



In Medieval Europe the knight class, very similar to the samurai, were developing their own code based on many of the same principles of honor, duty, and respect. The code of Chivalry. Chivalry is the English version of the Old French word “chevalerie”, meaning knighthood. Like Bushido, it was  a code formed on the battlefield between knights competing and battling for their lords.  Between the 13th and 15th centuries, the term became romanticized by  poets and bards and became a form of etiquette and proper moral behavior. Chivalry was very much a code rooted in  a particular religion, Christianity. This separates it somewhat from Bushido, which did give praise to a god or gods but was much more spiritual and esoteric. The chivalric stance toward women is attributed to the veneration of the Virgin Mary. though, in practice,  women of lowborn class were still looked down upon by many knights and nobles. The code of Chivalry honored duty and commitment to one’s lord and the willingness to sacrifice for the greater good. Even if it be your life.


Honor, duty, and funny helmets.


At the dawn of the Renaissance in the early 14th century, chivalry had undergone a change to appeal to a moral standard for most of Western Europe.  There is still debate as to whether the exploits of chivalric knights   set these standards   or if they were merely conducting themselves in a way that had already existed but was little practiced.  Either way, like Bushido in Japan, many Europeans honored the values of the knights. Even if many of them never seemed to serve them, the lower class still saw them as a standard to set yourself to. GOD, country, family. This was a creed most Europeans could relate to. Do right not just for you but of country and the glory of GOD.

While on the subject of religion, let’s move onto our final topic,  Zoroastrianism. Created by the ancient Persian(Iranian) prophet and philosopher Zoroaster sometime before the 6th century B.C., his teachings would form the base of one of the largest religions of its time. There is debate as to when Zoroaster was born or if he even existed at all. Ancient Greeks do refer to him though and call him “the founder of  Iran’s religion”, but they declare the rest as fantasy.  Mush as modern scholars would think of Jesus. Zoroaster was born into a family of priests and spent much of his life wrestling with the philosophical questions of the times. Primarily with the conflict between  ašaTruth) and druj(Lie). Zoroaster was the first noted moral philosopher to speak on “free will” and man’s “moral choice”. Zoroaster dismissed any kind of monasticism and taught that one must remain active in the Earthly to ever affect change and promote   aša. Moral choice was the central principle of Zoroastrianism. Asceticism was also frowned upon as, again, the world was  a series of choices and any predetermination was thought of as working against the aša.

Zoroaster? Who knows? He loved over 2000 fucking years ago! Wanna take a guess? that's how we got white Jesus!


These principles set Zoroastrianism apart from Hinduism, the major religion in the surrounding  area of South Asia,  and the fellow fledgling religion of Buddhism.  For many, Zoroaster’s moral teachings can be summed up in one phrase: “Good thoughts, good works, good deeds.” Simply living a “good life” did not make you a moral person. You had to be active in bringing about truth to your community and safeguarding it against evil influence. If not, you were the idle hands of evil(that sounds familiar).  Zoroaster promoted a strong connection to people and the earth. That worldly pleasure was not inherently evil. Men made it so. He preached  discipline and moderation while teaching a love for the joys of life and the companionship of your fellow man. Much like the samurai of Japan and the knights of medieval Europe, Zoroaster valued honor and respect and felt those ideas translated into proper moral conduct. Many philosophers added bits here and there to Zoroaster’s teachings over the years, much like the teachings of Jesus and Mohammad,   and Zoroastrianism has influenced many religions including Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.

Well folks, that about does it for this chapter. Hope you enjoyed this look at a few of the more well known moral codes that have existed in the world. I chose these three as many of their teachings either borrowed from or added to many of the ethical principles our society still values today. Trust, honor, loyalty, duty, and respect. Principles that have shaped the world many times over. Most men and women who carry a personal moral code fall back to many of these disciplines. A sense of honor that maybe no one but them understands. Hope you’ll join me again for our next installment. Still haven’t decided on the subject matter yet so I guess we’ll both be surprised!



Happy Travels!

Written by ADONAI

For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many.

112 Responses so far.

Click here to leave a comment
  1. Khirad says:


    This gets my seal of approval.


    At the bottom is “Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds” calligraphy written in Avestan by me (scanned and altered, of course).

    That handsome guy that you see in my avatar probably lived no later than the 10th century BCE, and as early as the 12th-14th). The Greek narrative falls apart in several regards, and linguistic analysis demonstrates an archaic form of Avestan in his Gathas (hymns) concurrent with Vedic Sanskrit (its sister language). The date is indeed hotly debated; but the 6th century date has mostly been dismissed by Zoroastrian scholars, and Iranic linguists/historians.

    Don’t feel bad, I just happen to be an amateur Zoroastrian expert. No matter, good job! (Honestly, Zoroastrians just love to be noticed. They’re like the religion that never gets asked to dance at the party.)

    Nietzsche’s choice of Zarathustra was also no accident. He saw him (rightfully) as the father of Western moral systems.

    Oh, and good stuff on Bushido (one can indeed see it to this day) and chivalry (to which Joseph Campbell has talked of a lot).

    But screw them, they get talked about all the time. 😛

    And why would we want to know where the concepts of the coming Savior, final battle between good and evil, hierarchy of seven angels, hell, devil, and quite a few more familiar concepts originated? Oh, right, they just happened to appear after Jesus from nowhere! Had nothing to do with the extent and influence of Persia in the Levant at the time. Of course not!

    • ADONAI says:

      Khirad, glad you enjoyed it and thanks for the additional back story. Wiki and the Britannica Online gave floating dates for his birth and life, and the Greek history was just a random choice of many. Zoroastrianism doesn’t get mentioned nearly enough, I agree. In it’s hay-day it apparently had a following rivaling modern day Islam.

      And I really connect to a lot of Zoroaster’s teachings. Especially the positive thought turning to positive work notion and the celebration and elevation of free will.

      Predestination is such a Christian thing. And thanks for the video! It’s a great addition. I encourage everyone to watch it.

  2. Haruko Haruhara says:

    I wish I were smarter and could think of an intelligent response. That was very heavy. This makes me feel very self-conscious.

    All I can say is if you think Samurai are tough, how about Afro Samurais?

    Sensitive people probably shouldn’t watch this.

  3. ADONAI says:

    This is a question for everyone:

    If you “follow the rules”, try not to hurt people or interfere in any way, respect the rights of others, but never actively seek to invoke change or correct wrongs on any level

    Are you a “moral person” or simply self serving? Is it fine to just be good, or do you have to be good for something, as Thoreau would say.

    • KillgoreTrout says:

      I don’t think Thoreau was talking about morality when he wrote that about being good for something. I think he was just saying, don’t be useless. He got a lot of his ideas from Emerson. And Emerson believed that all of us have our own particular genius. That we all are capable, in one way or another, to contribute to society.

      • ADONAI says:

        KT, I think that is what he meant too. The full quote has him saying “aim above morality”.

        I think, especially considering his work on civil disobedience, he believes good people must act to counter evil. Otherwise it is a hollow gesture. Good in thought, but poor in practice.

        • KillgoreTrout says:

          I wouldn’t say “evil,” exactly, more like unjust laws. In Thoreau’s case, taxation.

          • ADONAI says:

            KT, he does mention evil several times but you are probably right that he was referencing evil as something unjust such as the tax mess.

            • KillgoreTrout says:

              Yes, his use of the word evil is convenient to his argument. Basically, Thoreau believed very much in individual resistance to an unjust authority, governmental laws. He didn’t believe in waiting for consensus from the majority, in order to oppose these laws. He even says that waiting for consensus in opposing unjust (evil) laws may at times, be worse than the evil itself.
              I am glad you brought up Thoreau. A very interesting individual. We could really use his advice today.

    • whatsthatsound says:

      There is a great passage in Anna Karenina about this subject. Levin, one of the main protagonists of the book, is talking with Stephan, who is the brother of Anna. Both are very much of the nobility class of Russia, which means they didn’t really have to work.
      Levin is a landowner, and he complains bitterly about bankers and railroad magnates who he feels are immoral, just rapaciously taking and exploiting.
      Stephan reprimands him, pointing out that he himself makes large profits off the labor of his peasants, who earn only daily wages for doing work that he benefits the most from. If he TRULY felt that way, he should walk the talk and give the land to the peasants who are working it.
      Levin argues that he feels responsible for his inherited land, that he considers it his duty to the soil and his ancestry to hold to the traditional ways.
      Finally, his only argument in his defense is that he is not ACTIVELY behaving as a usurer or a robber baron, merely “negatively” (as he puts it) behaving in a moral way of doing things as they have always been done.
      Stephan calls him out on this, and accuses him of just using silly notions to justify the inauthenticity of his own position. In other words, as you put it, “simply self serving” rather than being a “moral person” who has grounds to accuse others.

      • KillgoreTrout says:

        But simply being self serving is not the same as being good. As I said earlier, being good requires action, just as being bad does. Human beings are not static. Levin IS a robber baron. He is NOT being “good.”
        I realize I may be arguing your point for you, but what sort of “change,” are you referring to? Activism? Is it not enough to be a good person and through the acts of being good, you are benefiting others?

        • whatsthatsound says:

          KT, in this particular instance I am not arguing for any point at all. I just find the passage interesting, and like how it can add a literary dimension to the discussion. It’s the same as when people drop lines from Shakespeare, etc., just to see the current conversation as part of an ongoing historical dialogue.

          • KillgoreTrout says:

            I may have misunderstood your intent. I am just caught up in arguing that being good, is often in and of itself, moral. I don’t feel that someone has to be an Earth shaker to be considered moral. As far as preventing immoral acts, there are as many arguments for as against, I would think.
            I think WWII is a great example. The average German citizen didn’t have much of a choice in going along with the Nazis. If they disobeyed (a cardinal sin for Germans) they could be shot, or made to witness their families being shot. That’s a pretty cut and dried example though.

            • KillgoreTrout says:

              whats, I agree. I also think heroes come in many forms. Like in Campbell’s Hero With A Thousand Faces.

            • whatsthatsound says:

              I agree with you, KT. I think a person can be a good person who nevertheless doesn’t put everything on the line in reaction to the evil that others do. Such people are heroes. Most of us aren’t. But we do go about our own lives, and in most cases, adding more good than evil to the world, I suspect.

      • ADONAI says:

        wts, Fantastic contribution. That does apply very well to the spirit of the question.

    • KillgoreTrout says:

      Adonai, I was thinking about that yesterday. I wasn’t quite sure how I would answer. But I think that being good in and of itself has worth. Being good serves the larger whole. Although I think the term “good,” is a little too subjective. But, if one acts in a way that serves the greater whole he IS being good for something.

      • ADONAI says:

        KT, But have you really contributed? Or just not detracted?

        If your impact is negligible, is that any impact at all? Can you be good for something if you stand for nothing?

        • whatsthatsound says:

          I think that one can ask too much of people, not only that they be their brother’s keeper, but that they must step outside of their own predilections simply because some asshole or other doesn’t choose to behave well. Is it really our responsibility to not only do the best we can amidst our own situations, but go beyond that to try to counter the actions of evil people who in fact are the ones neglecting their OWN responsibilities to be moral?
          I don’t think so. I have great admiration for all the people who are so brave that they sacrifice their time, their careers, perhaps even their lives, in fighting the systemic evils of corrupt regimes. But to hold that as a standard for morality is, I feel, both arbitrary and too demanding. We as human beings have not evolved for heroism. Like any other animal, we have mostly evolved for tending the nest.

        • Artist50 says:

          Adonai- whatever job you have if you’re “good” I would say you are probably influencing those around you in a positive way, therefore you’re not “good for nothing”. If you are a teacher or a nurse your influence would have a far greater impact but just being a fair small town merchant that treats his employees and customers with integrity can be a force or role model for good. We aren’t all going to be activists or ministers, listening to a friend or stranger in need is a “good” act.

        • KillgoreTrout says:

          You can stand for the good of the whole. Being good (or bad) requires action. I think one’s good behavior ultimately benefits others. It helps keep the whole intact.
          Bad behavior is the detractor. It takes away from the whole and adds nothing.
          Again, the terms good and bad are a little too subjective for this argument. But there are basic morals that don’t change from individual to individual. Like murder and theft, or rape.
          What should one be “good for?”

          • ADONAI says:

            KT, True enough. Right can often lead to wrong when enthusiasm carries us away.

            Good debate. I think I see your side of it, and I agree.

            • KillgoreTrout says:

              Thanks Adonai. What’s the old saying “The road to hell is paved with good intentions?” But that’s where nuance comes in and gets a little complicated for me to explain. I’ll leave that to the Kants and Schopenhauers and Platos.

    • audadvnc says:

      Articles and comments like these are what keep bringing me back to PlanetPOV. Thanks.

    • AdLib says:

      Morality is inescapably subjective so, one who believes that taking direct action is the moral thing to do to when witnessing wrongs, to do otherwise would likely be seen as immoral.

      However, one who believes that practicing passive resistance is the best way to confront oppression may be classified by the previous person as being immoral, while performing on their own view of morality.

      As for those who don’t take action, if one does so purely out of selfishness, that in itself is a self-defining lack of morality. But what if one doesn’t take action out of fear of losing a job that sustains his family? Is that immoral?

      Clearly, those Republicans taking action to block health care for women felt it was the moral thing to do. So, would a Republican who refused to take action to destroy Planned Parenthood be moral for not taking action while his colleagues who did are seen as immoral for doing so?

      This subjective nature of morality makes it more situational as to who is being moral and for what reason.

      If the proposition is that, if there was an evil that was universally seen by all as evil and one did not take action against it, would they be immoral, I think I would have to say no.

      Not because I don’t think they should, I would be disappointed in such people but if it was fear that kept them from doing so, I don’t think that one could fairly accuse them of immorality.

      As Joseph Campbell said, we all choose what role we want to play in life. Some choose the role of the hero, other choose roles that aren’t heroic but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are any less moral.

      Calling people who aren’t emotionally strong enough to be heroic, immoral, because they are weaker than others would be similar to calling someone immoral because they lacked physical strength.

      There are those who confront wrongs and bring so much to the lives of others and the world around them, there are those who live much less influential lives by choice but are nonetheless still moral.

    • funksands says:

      Adonai, that is an interesting question? Is there a third choice? The Hindu Sadhu are solely dedicated to achieving liberation through meditation. Many are ascetics. They have renounced nearly everything except their clothing and enough food to live to tommorow. They are in a legal sense dead to their country as well.

      Are they moral? Or self-serving? Or are they simply “there”?

      • ADONAI says:

        funk, The renouncement of worldly life is a moral choice in and of itself.

        In my hypothetical, the individual still maintains a connection to society but does little to ever change it while trying their best not to cause harm.

        But it sounds as if the Sadhu are simply, “there”. It’s hard to judge since they seem to live outside of society.

  4. AuntieChrist says:

    We have two kinds of morality side by side: one which we preach but do not practice, and the other which we practice but seldom preach.

    -- Bertrand Russell

  5. foxisms says:

    I don’t have the super power of learned introspection that you have Adonai. Frankly, I’m happy that someone does such as yourself so I can learn something and broaden my understanding of certain things now and again from reading the thoughts of others on just this sort of subject…but isn’t morality simply, for the most part the accepted norm of the tribe,culture, ethos, society, commune or collective that we are born into and/or later move toward and relocate to because it makes more sense to us individually?
    Some “groups” throughout time have found cannibalism or human sacrifice morally acceptable. Others are morally content with cruelty and an ongoing attraction to slaughter justified by war….while others forbid things which to many seem completely benign such as public dancing or revealing an exposed ankle.
    While many of these acceptable or inexcusable “morals” have a foundation in one religion or another is peripheral in that “organized” religion in any hive or collective is by it’s nature established to enforce/reinforce/indoctrinate within the terms and conditional moral confines of a chosen communal body or to overcome (or be overcome) and over ride an existing moral code for a different (newer?) one… as monotheism and it’s practices overcame polytheism and it’s practices or (just for example) Christian missionaries replaced the moral code of the Aborigines, the Mayan or the indigenous people of North America.
    Morals…a sticky wicket! And I applaud your bravery and confidence, Adonai in taking it on in your very interesting series.
    I may not be able to follow it all…but I’m learning stuff and new ways to look at it. Thanks.

    • ADONAI says:

      fox, You give me too much credit. Before I began this series, I didn’t really think about many of the things I have written about. Part of the fun in writing it is learning as I go along. Don’t know why, but not too long ago I just became interested in the question of morals.

      I see so much hate and evil committed in the name of good and righteousness and I wondered what is morality? Is it this fake thing we invented to keep the peace or a natural product of human empathy?

      Most early religions were indeed a way to control the masses. Not in an openly sinister way but merely to keep order. These religions provided moral guideposts to help people understand how to function in a society.

      I thank you for your applause, I do very much appreciate it, but know that I too am learning new thing as we go along. I just felt like sharing. :)

      • foxisms says:

        Adonai, Just a short note to express my appreciation for your taking the time to present us with topics and discussions such as this, here on PPOV regardless of whether you see yourself as a worthy recipient of any applause.
        It’s very refreshing for me to see, learn from and discuss things on occasion that in no way involve the fierce debate on which political party is responsible for the mess this country is in.
        It often seems to be the ongoing thread of many articles and I often find it an absolutely thread bare debate.
        Thanks, Mate!

      • KillgoreTrout says:

        Adonai, I thank you also. I find the discussion of morality and metaphysics enjoyable, AND important.

  6. KillgoreTrout says:

    I have a question about individual morals. Does morality increase or expand as one grows older? Is there an experience based morality? I know there are things I did as a much younger person that I wouldn’t even consider doing now.
    I was exposed to religion (Christianity) as a young child and I learned some of the basic moral tenets. Mostly the 10 commandments. After growing really tired of my objections to going to church every Sunday, my mother finally gave up and said I didn’t have go to church anymore. My dad never went with us. He never really talked about religion and I got the impression that he wasn’t too fond of it, yet he was a moral man, to a large degree.
    While young, my morality was based on the general morality I found among my peers (and some immorality as well).
    As I got a little older I began to notice that morality varied somewhat between differing groups of people. I found that a lot of people made moral choices according to their politics. Which still goes on and will go on after I’m long gone. I guess it’s sort of the “chicken/egg” conundrum.
    I didn’t find a guide to daily living until my mid forties. And that was the accidental discovery of Taoism.

    • agrippa says:

      I think that morality does expand with maturity. As we grow and get wiser, our morality can become more nuanced. We, also, learn from experience and learn about consequences.

    • Artist50 says:

      KT -- At the risk of being sexist, I must note that Adonai makes a point that the age when most adults “get it” is in their late 20’s. I think most women are spiritually and morally more aware than men earlier because we are already imparting values on to our children at that age, especially women in my generation. Many women married out of high school or certainly right out of college -- by my late 20’s I had two children in school -- I was already responsible for their moral upbringing. At the same time, no offense to my ex-husband, though he provided for us financially I look back and realize how incredibly immature he was. Perhaps that’s because I had no choice but to grow up or maybe there is a difference between the sexes, but I saw this pattern often with young couples.

      • foxisms says:

        A-50…that’s why the original Gods were in fact Goddesses.
        And would still be so today in very real and tangible ways.
        Of the two genders, only the female has the greater capacity to feel, sense and create the life surrounding them.
        Unfortunately, the warriors are locked in an anxiety closet and couldn’t see a partnership, only a threat from such genuine power.
        ..bearing in mind that without this (Yin/Yang) struggle, there would be no life at all.

        • bito says:


          Of the two genders, only the female has the greater capacity to feel, sense and create the life surrounding them.

          Really? Thats writing off around half of the human species that may have those same feelings.

          • foxisms says:

            Genuine apologies, Bit.
            Perhaps I could have explained my rationale better.
            You referred to feelings and on that basis yes, I should not exclude anyone from their ability to have feelings of any sort. Males can feel and sense just as readily as women can be warriors and hunters regardless of XX or XY chromasomes.
            But if you notice, I specifically stated a “greater capacity to feel, sense and create the life surrounding them”.
            With respect to this point, only women can accomplish the creative process as such it is and according to that role, I believe women are given the tools to perform this act of creation and nurturing intrinsically where men are not.
            Do they all use it? No. Of course not. Are there men who can have exceptional qualities that might be abundantly more apparent than those particular women who for one reason or another don’t accept or apply them? Certainly.
            But given the raw product that humans are originally born with, the mothers of this world (potentially or effectively) are graced with the more potential for intuition, nurture, and caring of the two genders.
            Since there are no absolutes, my original post should have not advanced any. And if this is what raised your eyebrow, I can certainly understand that perfectly.

            • bito says:

              No apologies necessary, Your clarification was perfect. My radar just beeps when it detects what my be a generalization. I felt a little left out on the that one part. Pardon my sensitivity to it.
              (of course, I don’t like puppies, kitties and especially children, so you may be correct. 😉 )

          • foxisms says:

            That would be the half who can’t gestate or bear children wouldn’t it, bit?
            Sorry. I didn’t make the rules.
            Some things are immutable and that’s all there is to it.
            Nature trumps “fair” every time.

            • bito says:

              foxisms, I have some idea about that gestation thing, it was the “only the female has the greater capacity to feel, sense” part that left a bunch of people out of the picture.

            • KillgoreTrout says:

        • KillgoreTrout says:

          I think the goal is to achieve a healthy balance between ying and yang. You can’t have one without the other.

          • KillgoreTrout says:

            K, I must have really loved her to a large degree. I am not bragging here, but I’ve been with many, many women since and not one of them measured up, in my eyes. My ex is a really good woman.
            We did produce a lovely, smart, hard working daughter, that I’ll cherish to the day I die.

            • KillgoreTrout says:

              artist, I don’t feel you are “listening in.” This is a public forum.
              I know exactly what you mean in regards to your situation. My sister has pretty much the same relationship with her ex. Her present husband is actually good friends with the ex-husband. There are children involved in their situation, as well. I think it is a very civilized approach.
              Solitude is not for everybody, that’s for sure. I did not always find it enjoyable, but have learned to. I have a few friends and family if I feel an absolute need for company, but I DO enjoy my solitude. It’s sort of a selfish thing, because I like that I don’t have to make compromises that are essential to two or more people living together. I have, in the past, had quite a few room mates and maybe that is why I enjoy living alone as much as I do.

            • Artist50 says:

              KT -- I feel like I’m listening in to your conversation with Kalima. I also married very young and we stayed married for almost 30 years, most of it happily. He remarried a friend of mine (she had nothing to do with our break up) and we are good friends. Most people don’t understand that relationship but we shared a lifetime together, two sons and now grandchildren, how could we not remain friends? We literally grew up together but also grew apart as our sons moved away. I’ve had another long term relationship but I understand your feelings of contentment in solitude, even though others don’t. I like where my life is now.

            • Kalima says:

              Ok, I wasn’t talking about another wife, just someone who understands you to talk to. I would have been quite content to just continue living together, but he wanted to get married, the families expected it, so we did.

              Have a good evening, I’m off to do my recycle trash.

            • KillgoreTrout says:

              Thanks K. I love my solitude. I don’t think there is any constant happiness in life, but I have reached a level of sustained contentedness. I don’t really feel the need for a wife. So basically, I don’t look for one. I haven’t really denied myself of the pleasures of female company.
              That may sound a bit crass, but it has been important to me. I’ve packed a lot of living into my 58 years, and have very few regrets.

            • Kalima says:

              Yes, there is always that special one, and you do share a daughter together, that is a huge part of it too. Hope that you are happy or will find happiness soon. Comparing one to another is maybe not the fairest way to judge, then again, not really for me to say, sorry.

              We seem to be running out of Reply buttons, must remind AdLib to order some more. 😉

          • Artist50 says:

            KT. -- I think that balance is needed for a good marriage, which is the best place ( but not the only) place to raise children who are introspective and try to leave the world a better place.

            • Kalima says:

              It’s never too late to find that special person I’ve heard say, for me it would be I’m afraid. I’ve put every last drop of energy into what I have, starting over would never be an option for me, but i would never feel lonely I believe. My father never remarried after losing my mother, it was his decision to make, I didn’t utter a word. He has lived a full life alone, and now that he is 88, he misses her more with each passing day.

            • KillgoreTrout says:

              K, I firmly believe there a lot of people out there who are inwardly very jealous of people with successful marriages. Hence the common question “are you and so and so still together?” It’s almost as if they hope you are not. Kind of the misery loves company thing.
              Yeah, at the age of 19, I was so in lust, I mistook it for love. Partly.

            • KillgoreTrout says:

              Can’t disagree with that.

            • Kalima says:

              I’m sorry it didn’t work out KT, but yes it was rather young. I was 21 when I met my hubby, and after many ups and downs, I strongly believe that we have been together in another lifetime, and are still just trying to work things out before the next. We had quite a few things working against us, the cultural difference, he’s a Scorpio, I’m a Taurus and I’ve seen enough evidence of similar couples breaking up after living here in Japan with their Japanese husbands to know that for many it was not easy. In fact I think we are the only couple out of our many friends here and in London who are still together. The most asked question when he travels abroad seems to be, “Are you still with K”? It never fails to make me laugh.

            • KillgoreTrout says:

              Oh, no doubt Kalima. My marriage only lasted 3 years. But then I was only 19 when I got married and was far from being the “grown man,” I thought I was.
              But yes, I believe a marriage has to be a true merging of spirits, or souls. Ying has to complete yang, and vice versa.

            • Kalima says:

              I resemble that remark KT, and would add that give and take, and being the other’s friend is also important. After the mad passion wears off, and it does, in the first 7 years, you have to decide if what is left over is worth staying for, and do you really LIKE the person that you love, not as easy as some may think.

            • KillgoreTrout says:

              Marriages that last until death do part, are the ones where ying and yang have successfully achieved harmony.
              People who marry, purely for sexual reasons, and have children, often split up after the children go out into the world on their own. They haven’t found that balance.

          • foxisms says:

            True that, KT.
            It’s always, in whatever we do, a question of balance.
            Not only the prime incentive for individual morality, but a great Album by the Moody Blues.
            (But I know, you know that you ol’ music dawg!)

      • KillgoreTrout says:

        Artist, I don’t think you are being sexist. This is simply your opinion based on your own observations. An opinion that I don’t really disagree with. Mothers are nurturers, and part of that nurturing is moral in nature. How can it not be?

    • ADONAI says:

      KT -- Well ,let’s look at Taoism. Like most Eastern philosophies, it places a heavy emphasis on honor and integrity.

      What is honor? I often hear people a “code of honor”. A personal set of morals they supposedly live by.

      Now, a man, of his own right mind and free will, makes a code of honor for himself. In that code, there may be things that don’t quite equate to current laws or preset standards.

      Is it less honorable for this man to break his code and bow to the full authority of the land or to keep his code and defy that law?

      And your particular moral development is a good fit for Kohlberg’s model. Mine too.

      • KillgoreTrout says:

        Actually, Taoism isn’t really about honor. It is a guide to living that suggests we can learn much from Nature and we are in fact just as much a part of Nature as everything else. It’s commonly referred to as a Nature religion.
        It places emphasis on the individual only in relation to the whole. There are several of the 81 ideograms in the Tao Te Ching that may prove my point and this is just one of them;

        “Accept disgrace willingly,
        Accept misfortune as the human condition.

        What do you mean by “Accept disgrace willingly/”
        Accept being unimportant.
        Do not be concerned with loss or gain.
        This is called “accepting disgrace willingly.”

        What do you mean by “Accept misfortune as the human
        Misfortune comes from having a body.
        Without a body, how could there be misfortune?

        Surrender yourself humbly; then you can be trusted to
        care for all things.
        Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care
        for all things.”--Lao Tsu

        • ADONAI says:

          KT, I get ya. I just read that one of Taoism’s major tenants is a word that can best be translated as virtue.

          Virtue, honor. They really go hand in hand.

          • KillgoreTrout says:

            The Tao Te Ching says the greatest virtue is to follow the Tao and the Tao alone. I am not sure about virtue and honor going hand in hand. Honor is more about respect and/or distinction.
            The Tao suggest that one can be virtuous without recognition. Not taking credit. It stresses humility more than anything else I think.

            • KillgoreTrout says:

              Adonai, as a Taoist, I see it differently. But hey, that’s OK. What a boring world it would be if everybody agreed on everything.

            • ADONAI says:

              KT, That is true but debating the moral correctness of their definitions of honor and virtue is not what I’m going for.

              Again, like you said, this is all subjective.

              But let’s go by textbook definition. Honor is a virtue as they say. And there can be no honor(respect) without virtue(righteousness). Otherwise that honor is hollow. At least that’s how I look at it.

            • KillgoreTrout says:

              I disagree with that. Honor is not dependent on virtue. Look at gangs for example. Or the mafia. They speak of honor, and on the outside, relay to their members that honor is the most important thing among them. They have twisted ideas of virtue. Hitler bestowed honors on many in the SS, but I would never call these men virtuous. But, among the Nazis, they were seen as virtuous often for doing the most horrendous things.

            • ADONAI says:

              KT, There is no virtue without honor. One cannot hold to a moral discipline if one does not respect it. Honor is a compliment given but it is also a belief held. To act with honor is to succeed through virtue.

              But thanks for the brush up on Taoism. I admit I am not as up on Eastern religion and philosophy as I should be.

        • Artist50 says:

          I’ll have to do some reading. My sister is obsessed with material goods -- she doesn’t understand why some people are happy with what they have (me). Obviously, she’s as right as I am left. We are ying and yang and often don’t get along. It used to hurt me because I know that she looked at me as a failure, yet she’s not worked since her husbands been out of med school and I’ve had my own business and had several interesting jobs and taken care of myself for quite sometime. It’s all perspective.

          • KillgoreTrout says:

            Artist, yeah, I have a brother like that. He is my opposite in many ways. He loves material things, but he works hard for them, and is quite generous with his earnings. Almost to a fault.
            Desire is the real bad guy here. Desire can set up all sorts of unhappiness. Wanting this or that and not getting it, jealousy, greed, hoarding, keeping up with the Jonses…etc.
            Simplicity in living is greatly under-rated.

          • kesmarn says:

            Artist, isn’t it strange how some people use material wealth as their gauge of human worth?

            My father is really a very nice guy, but he was crushed when I started working in nursing, which he regarded as menial. He once told me: “I had such high hopes for you. I really thought you were going to be a success. You could have been making at least $500,000 a year by now.”

            He and I obviously have differing definitions of success.

            • whatsthatsound says:

              Kes, WOW! Your father is disappointed that you chose one of the most noble of all professions over taking a position that could have brought you an income that would be nearly ten times what any sane person truly needs to survive and find fulfillment?
              Um, okay. I’m very happy you didn’t swallow his value system hook line and sinker.

            • kesmarn says:

              The A-bomb, yes, KT — it very much changed the way non-combatants looked at war…and at life in general.

              And then the rising level of education made a difference, too. It was most parents’ dream for their children to be able to go to college, as so few of them had been able to.

              But with more education came an increased ability to think critically, to research, to question the legitimacy of the war they were being asked to fight. No longer was it a case of mobilizing naive farm boys and tough but poorly educated city kids to go overseas and fight a war that they didn’t begin to understand.

              The feeling became one of: if you’ve going to draft me and send me over there, there had better be a damned good reason for it. If not — ignite those draft cards!

            • KillgoreTrout says:

              Another advent in history that greatly moved people toward the counter culture and the Beats before them was the creation of the atomic bomb, and the cold war. People began realizing that they could be killed at any moment by a nuclear war. A death totally removed from their individual behavior. And it nearly happened during the Cuban Missile crisis.
              Kids began to realize the many failures of their parent’s generation and wanted no part of it. They didn’t want to be killed or lose a loved one in a senseless war half way around the world. They didn’t want to climb corporate ladders after seeing that such a thing did not make their parents happy.
              The Beats and the counter culture were silly and a little bizarre, but their ideas and perceptions were not.

            • kesmarn says:

              Right, KT! And can you imagine what the double trauma of the Great Depression and the foxhole experiences of WWII did to so many of that generation? I would imagine that a little boxy house (made out of ticky-tacky) in the suburbs and Saturday backyard barbecues with the neighbors would be all you’d want for the rest of your days after that. But to the kids of those survivors, it looked like a stifling and tedious existence. Perspective is everything.

            • KillgoreTrout says:

              Good point kes. Especially considering that WWII was not too long after the great depression. It was the war that made us into the world’s richest nation. Vast improvements in manufacturing.
              I remember, not long after 9/11, those who survived the attacks drastically changed their outlook on life. Many of them discarded their goals of getting rich and climbing corporate ladders, in exchange for the simpler things in life. That event really made them examine their priorities in life.

            • kesmarn says:

              B’ito, can you spare a dime?

              Indeed I am seeing the Ghost of 1937… But I have to ask you: do we have a voting public like the one that existed back then? I’m thinking not… :-(

            • kesmarn says:

              KT, I used to feel more irritated with that generation. But then I realized to what extent their view of success and the value of money were determined by having survived the Great Depression. It left them with an anxiety about security that people who grew up in a more secure time could hardly comprehend.

              I think I’m starting to “get it” now, though!

            • bito says:

              k’es, are you feeling a deja vu of 1937 all over again?

            • KillgoreTrout says:

              That’s funny. I think the counter culture of the 60s is largely responsible for the idea that life is not all about making money. I am sure those in the counter culture are not the originators of such beliefs, but they made it almost a general knowledge.
              It’s sad that so many people only see the counter culture as a group of drug crazed hippies. But that is generally how our parents see it. (supposing we are about the same age) Mid to late 50s.

            • kesmarn says:

              Yes, KT, I’m sure he’s utterly baffled by my attitude toward money.

              He must wonder where I came from and if my real father is some sort of alien from the Planet Assissi2510…! :-)

            • Artist50 says:

              It’s interesting that it’s not my sister’s success, but her husbands, but her identity is tied up with that. Unlike KT’s brother she isn’t generous, not that I want or need her money, but her politics has overtaken her. It’s as if she’s not the same person and actually I feel a morally wrong speaking ill of her, speaking of the topic at hand.

            • foxisms says:

              What ever happened to those parents who would say, “If you want to be a ditch digger, go do it! Just be the best damned ditch digger you can be and I’ll be proud of you!”
              Man, that animal became extinct in our culture by the mid 60’s…early 70’s tops!!

            • KillgoreTrout says:

              kes, I’m sure he did. I doubt there was any malice in his words. That’s just how many people see life. Unfortunately. But it really doesn’t do him or you any good.

            • kesmarn says:

              He said it so innocently, though, KT, that I couldn’t hold it against him. It was simply what he honestly thought.

              I can’t say it didn’t sting, though. 😉

            • KillgoreTrout says:

              Wow, how unfortunate. What a terrible thing to say to one’s child. There is great nobility in nursing.

    • foxisms says:

      KT, is it at all possible, that being moral is simply living in such a way that one would quite comfortably admit and describe it to the “tribe” they are associated with, without fear of ridicule, judgment, imprisonment, social banishment or repercussion?
      And if that comes anywhere near close to possible wouldn’t that provide a distinction between individual morality and social morality, making them separate topics of discussion entirely?
      I don’t have the answers nor do I pretend to. Just thinking out loud, so to speak.
      I genuinely believe everybody’s winging it on this subject.

      • KillgoreTrout says:

        foxisms, LOL! philosphers throughout history have been “winging it.” I stated below that morality and spirituality are forever linked. Of course this is simply my belief, but it based upon observations made throughout my life and the observations of some exceptional others (exceptional in depth of thought).
        What improves the individual, ultimately improves the whole.

        • foxisms says:

          KT…”What improves the individual, ultimately improves the whole.”
          A very noble sentiment and if anyone is interested in ultimately improving the whole as an ultimate goal, Umbuntu (“Unhu”) philosophy of the Zulu might be of interest to them.
          (Not necessarily as “the answer” to anything, but as an interest.)

          • KillgoreTrout says:

            foxisms, great suggestions. There is the same sentiment throughout many cultures. To me, that is the essence of spirituality. That all individuals add to the greater whole. The whole being all of Nature.

            • KillgoreTrout says:

              foxisms, That what I love so much about the Tao Te Ching. There are no punishments or rewards (other than the betterment of one’s life). There are only suggestions. No heaven and no hell. No rules or scriptures, just the 81 ideograms, that can be used as a guide to living, parenting and even governing a nation.

            • foxisms says:

              I hope you are on the right course there, KT.
              If not, I’m in good company and will be in as much trouble as you are if there’s any penalty involved.

    • bito says:

      Where is the morality found in this ” A person in full control of his consciousness will steal a beggars bowl from a blind man.” ?

      Does morality increase or expand as one grows older?

      Perhaps it adjusts to ones perception of what ones responsibilities become, the maturity of brain cells, hormonal changes, wishes, wants, needs.
      Breaking a “law” in ones youth, with no responsibilities-family, shelter, food-and breaking it later has greater repercussions.
      Writing some in stone even the stone degrades.

      • KillgoreTrout says:

        Bito, I don’t really equate laws and a moral consciousness. Laws are preventative. A forced morality is not the same as a chosen morality.

        “Writing something in stone even the stone degrades.”

        But I am not talking about degradation, I am talking about amelioration. I understand the general meaning of your sentence. That morals don’t remain stagnant.
        I think “moral growth,” is one of the main purposes of life. If indeed there is a purpose to our lives.
        I am not a religious man, but the Buddhist and Hindu beliefs concerning reincarnation may indeed have some merit.
        In a Taoist sense, we are part of nature, and the conduct of nature (life) is to improve, or ameliorate.

    • whatsthatsound says:

      Hi KT, my belief is that morality most definitely SHOULD increase and expand as one grows older, and often does. What else are the lessons of life for, if not to increase our understanding and wisdom, thus helping us to make wiser, i.e. more moral decisions? The sad thing is when that doesn’t happen.
      I think it goes back to Socrates’ saying that an unexamined life is not worth living.
      If we don’t take the stuff of our lives, the things we’ve learned, the times we’ve been hurt or have hurt others, and use that as our main source of enlightenment and education, what are we doing?

      We can accumulate all sorts of new skills and achieve greater worldly success, but ultimately we are “failures”. Our life was right there, in our face, so to speak, teaching us all these things about how to live, and yet we failed to learn. This, to me, is the only real kind of failure.

      • KillgoreTrout says:

        This is why I agree with the belief that technology will not save us.

        • foxisms says:

          I gotta agree with you there, KT. All speculative evidence on that subject points to an eventual robots rebellion and humans are found ineffective, redundant and illogical. 😀

          • KillgoreTrout says:

            I don’t believe that machines will ever be spiritual, or act in a spiritual manner. Interesting thought though. Could machines be developed that are moral? I don’t see how, but then again, I have little knowledge about software design and Artificial Intelligence.

  7. BlueStateMan says:


    ~~ A farewell to Life from Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    (This poem was sent to all of his friends in the last days of his life, when he knew he would not ever see many of them again. It shows the thoughts of a person who knows what is truly important in life, it is his secret to life.. )


    If for a moment God would forget that I am a rag doll and give me a scrap of life, possibly I would not say everything that I think, but I would definitely think everything that I say.

    I would value things not for how much they are worth but rather for what they mean.

    I would sleep little, dream more. I know that for each minute that we close our eyes we lose sixty seconds of light.

    I would walk when the others loiter; I would awaken when the others sleep.

    I would listen when the others speak, and how I would enjoy a good chocolate ice cream.

    If God would bestow on me a scrap of life, I would dress simply, I would throw myself flat under the sun, exposing not only my body but also my soul.

    My God, if I had a heart, I would write my hatred on ice and wait for the sun to come out. With a dream of Van Gogh I would paint on the stars a poem by Benedetti, and a song by Serrat would be my serenade to the moon.

    With my tears I would water the roses, to feel the pain of their thorns and the incarnated kiss of their petals…My God, if I only had a scrap of life…

    I wouldn’t let a single day go by without saying to people I love, that I love them.

    I would convince each woman or man that they are my favourites and I would live in love with love.

    I would prove to the men how mistaken they are in thinking that they no longer fall in love when they grow old--not knowing that they grow old when they stop falling in love. To a child I would give wings, but I would let him learn how to fly by himself. To the old I would teach that death comes not with old age but with forgetting. I have learned so much from you men….

    I have learned that everybody wants to live at the top of the mountain without realizing that true happiness lies in the way we climb the slope.

    I have learned that when a newborn first squeezes his father’s finger in his tiny fist, he has caught him forever.

    I have learned that a man only has the right to look down on another man when it is to help him to stand up. I have learned so many things from you, but in the end most of it will be no use because when they put me inside that suitcase, unfortunately I will be dying.

  8. jkkFL says:

    With conventional religion at it’s lowest participation ever, I would question the ‘personal god/salvation’ rationale.
    . Perhaps they just yell louder..and people believe there are more of them, because of the noise.

    • KillgoreTrout says:

      I believe that morality and spirituality are forever linked. Spirituality being the recognition that we are all connected, not only with each other, but with all of Nature. What benefits an individual spiritually, benefits the whole.

    • agrippa says:

      You maybe right about the falling influence of convential religion.

      I do think that US convential morality is largely legitimized by religion.

      • Artist50 says:

        I don’t really care where people get their morality I just want to live in a world where people have “it”. Somehow I think even as children we know what “it” is -- we may choose to disregard what we know is right like standing up to the bully as a kid or shoplifting as a teen-ager. These dilemmas prepare us for the big ones like cheating on our spouses and leaving the scene of an accident. It starts young but we work on ourselves everyday.

      • jkkFL says:

        Yes, conventional morality may seem to be legitimized by religion- but it appears be more like ‘my version of conventional religion revised’ to serve my purposes.

  9. agrippa says:

    Those six levels make sense to me; but, I think, that they will not make sense to many others.

    Most of US conventional/mainstream morality is grounded in the Bible. US society basically uses that book to make our morality legitimate. Other societies have a different basis.

    Our morality tends to be personal; our personal relationship to “god”, and our personal salvation. There is little talk about the here and the now; and, little talk about the public sphere.

    • foxisms says:

      Excellent point!
      In a nut shell, agrippa, our religion AND our morality is very personal and hinged on a “might is right” perspective.
      “God is mighty” and “in god we trust” and “we are made in God’s image” thus “we must also be mighty for our cause it is just!”.
      A nasty piece of circular secularism, that. And morally forfeit based on self aggrandizement.
      And while victory and vengeance are consistently awarded to this god and then to the US, who is “his” progeny, failure and being the victim of retribution from others is never attributed to this particular personal-ity.
      Schizophrenia is an equally personal experience.

Leave your Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Back to top
PlanetPOV Tweets
Ongoing Stories