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Sneki95's avatar

If no one follows any rules and morals, why should I? (see the details)

Asked by Sneki95 (7012points) March 19th, 2017

As everyone else, I’ve always been thought about “good” and “bad”. I’ve been thought the rules, principles, morals. “This is good and people that do this are good; this is bad and people that do this are bad”.

However, the more I think about “good” and “bad” deeds, I notice something:

a) everybody does the bad anyways. Everyone lies, cheats, bribes, breaks the law, uses people, even kills to achieve what they want. There is no soul on this earth that hasn’t sinned in one way or another at least once.

b) our notion of what is good or bad is based solely on the context: who did it, why, when and how. When you kill your girlfriend out of jealousy, you’re a monster. When you kill the enemy soldier in war, you’re a hero. When you gamble, it’s illegal and bad; banks do that all the time and no one bats an eye. Being gay was a sin centuries ago, but is acceptable now. All in all, the deed never changes in it’s core in any way, it’s neither good nor bad by itself; it’s condemned or justified solely on the context and circumstances.

c) if no one knows you’ve done bad, it’s like you haven’t done it. Really, how can anyone react on what you’ve done if no one knows you’ve done it? If you kill someone and no one knows it, you never face consequences. How can we say you’ve done wrong if we don’t know that, and if you never took punishment for what you’ve done? In other words, if you’ve done wrong and no one knows it, have you really done anything wrong?

Which brings me to:
If good and bad depend on the context, how can we say something is good and bad in the first place?

If everyone does bad anyways, is it really bad?

If there are rules, but everyone not only consciously break them and don’t fear any punishment, but don’t face any punishment either and even get benefit from what they did, what’s the point in following any rules and principles anyways?

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23 Answers

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Because with teamwork you can fight and survive better than going alone.

Sneki95's avatar

@RedDeerGuy1 How is teamwork relevant here?

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@Sneki95 You need rules and morals for teamwork to function properly.

kritiper's avatar

Honesty is always the best policy. And to be civil, and thus civilized, one must set a good example, whether anyone else follows suit or not. Be the person you wish everybody was. Don’t be a douchebag just because everyone else around you is.

cookieman's avatar

You’ve made some very broad observations. ”No one follows the rules.” – ”Everyone does bad.” Really?

Putting that aside for a minute: I think all any of us can do is define what we consider “good” and “bad” (which you can draw from a variety of sources – religion, history, family perspectives, etc.), and then do your best to stick to your own guidelines.

Don’t worry about what other people do.

canidmajor's avatar

a) nope.
b) nope.
c) nope.
I get that you’re deeply and grossly jaded, but what a load of crap.

Sneki95's avatar

@canidmajor Prove it. Just saying “that’s a load of crap” without any argument to back it up has no merit.

@cookieman ”... I think all any of us can do is define what we consider “good” and “bad” ”
So, it comes to the “who” criteria in b. We decide what is good or bad. Is it really good or bad just because we decided it is?

Danebiggs's avatar

Some people don’t live by any moral code.
I too start to wonder if being honest and respectful puts me in the minority these days.
I also think as a society we make up rules and follow them until they don’t suit us anymore.
Like killing vs. killing on the battlefield or monogamy vs. Open marriages or issues surrounding abortions, carrying firearms, legalizing drugs for recreation, pretending global warming doesn’t exist etc.
The world is just inching toward doing whatever the hell we want and finding ways to justify it.
I struggle with maintaining my own values.
It would be easier to not care and not have my heart broken over anything anymore.
You know, what is really right these days?
Who can you trust?
Am I the crazy one for caring?
My ex didn’t want to be married anymore, just wants to sleep around so why am I in pain over it?
It’s her life, why would I care.
In fact why wouldn’t I just put on a condom and hook up with her too like everyone else?
Why treat anyone better than they treat you?
I don’t know, maybe this is the dog eat dog Trump world we live in, everyone for themselves, I guess?

canidmajor's avatar

Prove what? That a moral code exists? Or that your broad generalization is a load of crap? This is a subjective query you’ve put up here, there is no “proof” per se. you think people suck, I don’t. That simple.

flutherother's avatar

You could turn your question round and ask “if I don’t follow any rules and morals why should anyone else?” The answer is simple, we do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

edit remove.

Jaxk's avatar

“To thine own self be true.” If it’s all about whether you could get caught or not, you’re not much of a person. We all slip up but if you only do the right thing when someone is watching, you have no conscience. If you steal my wallet but I don’t know who did it, does that make it alright? If I steal your wallet but you don’t know I did it, does that make it alright?

We all have a code of honor, some less than others but if you know the right thing, at least be true to your own.

NormaPadro's avatar

In my experience I have watched most of the good have been done by brainwashing others to think the same. While brainwashing others into doing the wrong things is also the same. You can let yourself be brainwashed anyway you want. Just make sure you will stand up to your consequences.
I came across many that have done ugly things meanwhile pretending they are saved only because they attended church. Then there are others that hide behind the church pretending they are perfect.
There are nice people in the world it’s just that they are hard to find. Being a good person is always nice. As your answer to the Gay part. There are nice Gay people and then there were those of Sodom and Gomorah that did awful things. Not everyone is horrible there are really good people in the world even if they are Gay. Usually the ones that are bad people are the ones that hate Gays and other groups of people in general. They are bad, because they believe all the ugliness others say about them instead of giving others a chance to prove that they are nice people. Some people will always be followers instead of great thinkers and changers of society.

Zaku's avatar

You seem quite confused about what makes something good or bad and why. If you rely on wrote rules to tell you this, and think of good and bad mainly in terms of rules and punishments, no wonder you’re confused, as those are very different things.

Really, how can anyone react on what you’ve done if no one knows you’ve done it?
They probably can’t. But that’s about punishment, not about good and bad.

If you kill someone and no one knows it, you never face consequences. How can we say you’ve done wrong if we don’t know that, and if you never took punishment for what you’ve done?
Again, that’s about calling things bad and giving punishments, not about good and bad.

In other words, if you’ve done wrong and no one knows it, have you really done anything wrong?
Only from a perspective that judges it is bad or wrong. If the wrong-doer has a conscience, then they will know if they judge themselves to have done wrong. If they don’t, they won’t. From the theoretical perspective of an omniscient reader who knows about it but doesn’t exist in the same world, it could be wrong because they do know about it. If someone just known that they mom was murdered but not by whom, they probably judge that the murdered did evil even though they don’t know who it was.

Again, I only see this as potentially confusing if for some reason the thinker (i.e. you) has confused good and bad with judgement and punishment.

If good and bad depend on the context, how can we say something is good and bad in the first place?
Either through adequately sophisticated means of assessing good/bad (e.g. Buddhism has extensive literature on such subjects; one of the foundations of their assessments have to do with minimizing suffering of everyone), OR by non-analytical feelings. People with a functional conscience tend to have a sense of what is good or bad.

Also, reality is complicated and has many perspectives. Trying to paint everything black or white is a very limiting and inaccurate filter.

If everyone does bad anyways, is it really bad?
In most moral philosophies, yes. I am not sure if there are any interesting logical philosophies where it is interesting to accept whatever logic you think you’re following there. Why would everyone doing something bad at some point make bad meaningless?

Also, why are you seemingly trying to reduce moral questions to binary good or bad? Why are those even mutually-exclusive things?

If there are rules, but everyone not only consciously break them and don’t fear any punishment, but don’t face any punishment either and even get benefit from what they did, what’s the point in following any rules and principles anyways?
Good question. Those may tend to be signs that the some of the rules are very poor, and ought to be abolished.

cookieman's avatar

@Sneki95: Yes, exactly. What is “right” and “wrong” is completely decided by us, either individually or collectively as a society.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

The more people you stick together, in a small area, the more importance of rules and morals. If you want to get away with stuff you need to live in a less dense area. Like an isolated area where no one cares.

elbanditoroso's avatar

To think own self be true.

(not original by me)

Be a good and moral person because you want to meet your own expectations. The hell with everyone else.

dappled_leaves's avatar

All the people quoting Polonius realize that he was written ironically, right?

Mimishu1995's avatar

Calm down @canidmajor. At least do what @Sneki95 said, “prove it”, and make yourself more convincing before calling her out for being full of crap.

@Sneki95 this is actually a good question. It is actually very tricky to point out why good people do good things. You don’t know what people are thinking in their head, you can only see what they do. Beside, as your question has already hinted at, “good” and “bad” vary among people to people, culture to culture, time to time, not to mention the complexity of life itself. So like @Zaku said, many people are confused between “good” for the sake of it and “good” that conforms to social rules.

I may be able to understand your question better than some people here, because I know that you have an issue with empathy and your question seems to reflect how you reason your actions. As someone with too much empathy, I will try to help you understand why empaths strive to be good despite the “facts” that you stated:

What you are wondering is exactly what distinguishes sociopaths and empaths. Sociopaths have no emotion, no sympathy to anyone. They may be able to put themselves into someone’s shoe, but not in an emotional level. Whenever they do anything, their reasoning pattern is like this: I have to do this/should not do this because if I don’t/do, something bad will happen. I don’t know why it is bad, but it is defined by this society to be bad. And if they find out that it is me, they will punish me, and of course I don’t like to be punished. This is a reasoning based purely on logic. This is why sociopaths are so manipulative. They do their things just because they don’t want to be punished and if they have any chance, they will try to cover up what they do without feeling any guilt.

Empaths are the polar opposite to sociopaths. The difference between a good deer done by a sociopath and a good deer done by an empath is that the empath is also supported by conscience, unlike the sociopath who is only supported by logic. Look at their reasoning in the same situation above: I have to do this/should not do this because if I don’t/do, something bad will happen. Someone will get hurt, I can feel it. And I can’t stand seeing someone getting harmed, it breaks my heart, especially when they are harmed by me. You can see the empath has their emotion hold them back from wrongdoing. They do good things not because the society expects them to, but also because they naturally feel responsible for their actions.

A truly empathetic person has their own set of rules of good and bad. The rules don’t necessarily have to conform to the society’s rules, but they try their best to make the rules beneficial to the society and match their conscience. This is why you see social rules that changed from time to time, great thinkers who were only recognized after their death.

A sociopath can easily use your question to justify what they do. They, like your question, only think of “good” and “bad” in term of what the society expects from people. They don’t know or don’t want to know that true morals come from the feeling that one is responsible for their actions and the well-being of others. So, like some people here have already stated, you have to follow moral code because you want to meet your conscience’s expectation. But I have something more to add: to do so, you must have a certain level of empathy and sense of responsibility, the lack of which you seem to be suffering from. So you need to be open to feedbacks. No one is perfect and feedbacks are what help us complete ourselves.

This response sounds like a repetition to what has been stated above, but I try to make it easier for you to digest as I know in some way you don’t seem to think of morals the same way people responding to this thread do. No wonder why this question rubs some people the wrong way.

Mariah's avatar

I disagree with point 3. Even if no one else finds out you did something bad, you know you did it. And going through life feeling like a bad person is not fun.

ucme's avatar

Be wise, as the fat bald orange guy said when his bread was served with margarine…

“I can’t believe it’s not Buddha”

Sneki95's avatar

@flutherother “we do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.” You’ve explained the thing by itself. That’s not an explanation.

@Mimishu1995 That’s interesting, thanks.

flutherother's avatar

All I mean is that you know your own heart what is right.

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