Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Identity Is Better Than Any Moral Code

Your moral crisis is actually an identity crisis in disguise.

Mar 2, 2023

And here we are again, talking about morality when we should be talking about more interesting things. No one can help themselves, I suppose, myself included. We simply cannot resist getting up on our moral soapboxes, can we?

Let’s start our discussion by examining the condition of the mongoose and the snake. Both have a set identity and concrete goals that they wish to achieve that are opposed to one another. Watching their deadly dance at home on the cable, we do not choose sides when the mongoose enters into battle with a snake. Well, I do actually, on account of the mongoose being a mammal, and my mammalian in-group preference kicking in. But, in general, we simply see these two creatures as enemies because of their innate identities and do not view their conflict through a moral lens.

“It’s just nature,” we say.

Yes, and nature is “immoral”. Red in tooth and claw even. But that is not to say that nature is not beautiful though. That it doesn’t seem to be possessed with a certain kind of wisdom. That we cannot learn from it and so on.

Is it moral to kill? Well, no. Of course not.

But then, no one gets angry at the mongoose for killing the snake. Or at cops and soldiers for killing the enemy, do they? Sure, some people try to moralize even this simple scenario like they do everything else. They feel compelled to portray the dead enemies as literal demons that had to be killed to save the world. Modern wars and cop-killings are routinely portrayed as moral crusades. All the more so nowadays. But there is less and less of that the further back in history you go though. The ancient Greeks, in particular, would have considered such moralizing to be in very bad taste.

Is it moral for the snake to kill the mongoose? Does it consider that the mongoose’s pups will go hungry? That there are too many snakes now and that it is damaging the ecosystem? That the mongoose had a right to self-defense?

Somehow, I doubt it.


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