A logic-based take on morality

An attempt to logically analyse what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I will meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.

– Rumi

I am not a philosophy student, neither have I seriously delved into treatises on that subject. However, as a human being whose basic existence is just the same as any other human, I believe I am entitled to speak about debated topics that concern human lives. I’ve been thinking about the topics of morality and sin for a long time, and in this (rather long and boring) blog post, I’d like to share the some of my thoughts about a very simple and general rule of morality based on logic.

We are surrounded by innumerable scriptures and unwritten societal norms that tell us to do, or not to do a lot of things. As an Indian, I daily wake up to news of moral policing, honour killings, atrocities by Gau Rakshaks, ongoing fights for the legalization of homosexuality, and similar issues and debates. The major issue here is that different all-perfect religions and cultures have different and many-a-times conflicting notions of right and wrong, of morality and sin. These groups are not only on a constant quarrel with other groups over their moral superiority, but also tend to oppress anyone inside their own group who sings a different note. The ones who ‘stray off’ are effectively ‘committing blasphemy’ and deserve to be punished, they believe. Clearly, there is some serious issue with the definitions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, as believed by the respective sects/groups, in these cases.

All these flaws associated with the current morality rulebooks can be associated with their subjective nature. The question “Why so?” is discouraged or prohibited according to these rulebooks, exactly because those questions cannot be answered – again, due to their subjective nature. An ideal concept of morality should be able to define right and wrong beyond the limitations of faith or personal differences. In other words, such a concept of morality would be based on logic rather than emotions, which would make it seem harsh and heartless and undermining the very purpose of morality to some people. However, that concept would be universally applicable and not providing chances for misinterpretation, thereby faring much better than the current concepts.

Surely, a concept of morality with these qualities should make only assumptions that are universally applicable to every human being. For building my idea of a logic-based moral code, I assumed the following two premises :

1) Every human is free.
2) Every human is equal in rights.

‘Every human is free’ means that anyone has the right to do things according to their wish. ‘Every human is equal in rights’ is self explanatory. It might be debatable whether these premises are the most basic while explaining morality, or whether they are even correct. However, I believe that these are fairly basic and certainly universal.

Once we have accepted these premises, it is surprising to see how easily we obtain the logic-based moral code that we were looking for.  This ‘moral code’ can be stated in just one line –

You have the right to live your life as you wish, provided that you don’t interfere with others’ right to live their life as they wish.

in other words, live and let live.

It is very easy to see how the premises sum up to this statement. According to the first premise, every person should be able to live their lives according to their wishes. But they cannot interfere with others’ lives because that would hinder others’ right to live their life freely. That’s not allowed because, according to the second premise, everyone is equal in rights.

Now that the logic-based moral code has been stated, let us take a look at how it applies to different debated topics –

1. Murder, Robbery, Theft, Rape, Molestation, Causing physical or mental harm – Obviously wrong, as in all these cases, there is obvious violation of others’ right to live his/her life according to his/her wishes. Going one step further, one can generalize that doing anything to another person without that person’s consent is wrong.

2. Sex, Relationships & Marriage – Two persons, irrespective of their religion/caste/sexual orientation or any other attribute, have the right to be in sexual or any other kind of relationship provided that both parties consent it. This is because, such a decision by two persons does not interfere with any other person’s right to live his/her life freely. Prostitution with consent can be seen to be permissible, using the same argument.

3. Causing physical/mental harm to self including suicide – Not wrong, as there is no other person involved.

4. Alcohol, Smoking & Drugs – Usage of these is not inherently wrong. However, harming others in any way under influence, including DUI which has a high probability of harming others, is wrong. Also, if any particular drug is proved to make its user violent, the usage of that drug can be classified as wrong.

5. Freedom of religion & Freedom of opinion – As religious belief is a person’s private affair, he has complete freedom in it – to choose any religion according to his/her wish, or to ditch religion and god altogether. But religion cannot be forced on anyone, as it would invade their personal rights. This includes the rules of religion, such as the ban of beef/pork – which is completely wrong as it interferes with the right of the persons who don’t follow the respective religions, to live their lives according to their wishes.

Also, a person has complete freedom to have and communicate his/her opinions as long as they are categorized as personal opinions, and are not forcibly fed.

6. External appearances – Again, as it is a personal matter, everyone is free to present themselves to the society as they wish. A person should be free to choose his/her external appearance including clothes, hairstyle etc.

7. Euthanasia & abortion – It gets trickier here. There is an other person involved, but cannot make express their wishes. As the moral code being discussed is based on logic, it makes sense to consider scientific knowledge while making decisions about these matters. As an unborn baby, in its initial stages of development, has no conscience or life (although calling it that would be highly vague) to speak of, and hence abortion can be considered not wrong, if the consent of parent(s) is available. Similarly Euthanasia can be termed not wrong if that is the wish of the closest relatives.

In similar fashion, our logic-based moral code can be applied to various issues with utmost simplicity.

I’m in no way claiming that the concept of  a logic-based moral code is totally foolproof. In its quest to drive emotions out of the idea of morality, it tends to become heartless and cruel sometimes, as I previously said. However, there is no doubt that a logic-based moral code is extremely superior to any religion-based or culture-based moral codes, as it is devoid of any flaws mentioned at the beginning of this article.

That’s what I think. What about you?

I realize that some might feel that the ideas discussed in this article are offensive / plain wrong. Let us have a healthy, informative debate about this 🙂