Yesterday I was clever so I changed the world.
Today I am wise so I am changing myself.
Do what you think is right and therefore be the change you want to see in the world.
Knowing what is right and what is wrong is the basis of wisdom. Doing what is right and not doing what is wrong is the basis of moral responsibility and human decency. It is about having a critical sense that questions what you are doing, or not doing, and why?
What is right?
Our behaviour is moral to the extent that it does good and doesn’t do harm. The Moral Foundations Theory, proposed by Jonathan Haidt and others, defines a set of innate foundations that underpin all moral reasoning, These foundations are stated as opposing factors, namely:
This relates to our traits as mammals who nurture, protect and support their kin and who also have an ability to empathise with and aid non-kin.
This foundation relates to the survival factor of reciprocal altruism. It underpins justice, rights and responsibilities.
This foundation relates to human evolution as tribal beings who can form coalitions with kin and allies. It underpins the notion of “all for one, and one for all.”
This foundation was shaped by our evolutionary history of hierarchical social structure. It underlies virtues of leadership and obedience to legitimate authority and respect for traditions.
This foundation was shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination. It underlies notions of striving to live in an elevated, less wanton, more noble way.
This foundation is about the need for freedom of choice and self-determination as well as the hatred of being bullied, exploited, coerced, dominated or oppressed in any way.
Critics of this model include those who believe that there is redundancy among the foundations in that they can all be reduced to the Care—Harm foundation. That is, cheating, betrayal, subversion, degradation, and oppression are all forms of harm. On the other hand, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity and liberty are all forms of care.
Care, in its broadest sense, is right. Harm in its broadest sense, is wrong. So, first and last, do no harm.
You have to take responsibility for your behaviours. If you are simply obeying anothers’ moral guidelines, perhaps under threat of punishment, you are not being true to yourself. Laws, doctrines and creeds all allow for reprehensible behaviour. You must make up your own mind what is right and then do that. You can talk to others about what you were doing but you can’t tell them to do it because they have to make up their own minds. If you live in a virtuous way this will rub off onto others without you saying anything at all. The same is true if you live a life of vice as well. Virtue breeds virtue, vice breeds vice.