Tuesday, 14 April 2015

On Bottom Up and Top Down Thinking - Part 17

17. Ethics and custom

The bottom up thinker knows that it’s natural for us to distinguish truth from falsehood. So, he comes to understand that it’s also natural for us to distinguish right conduct from wrong. Thus, we develop a sense of Ethics.

The bottom up thinker sees that there’s a benefit to all in behaving right, as long as others do the same. So, it’s in the long term interests of each of us to seek to do what is right. Furthermore, it’s natural for each of us, as we gain experience in life, to expand and refine our ideas of right and wrong. And so, to enlarge our understanding of the obligations, which constitute the core of civilized behaviour.

The bottom up thinker comes to recognize that many of the moral rules passed down from ancient times are good and valid. For example, Confucius’ Golden Rule: don’t do to others what you wouldn’t like done to you. It’s also possible to derive some core rules from the Judaeo-Christian Ten Commandments. For example: Don’t commit aggressions. Keep your freely made promises. Don’t steal. Don’t lie or mislead.

But he recognizes, also, that many customs (mores) or traditions of particular cultures or religions – not eating pork, or not drinking alcohol, for example – are not part of the core ethics of civilized behaviour. For anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the religion or culture, these moral rules are optional.

The top down thinker, on the other hand, often likes to pontificate about how people should behave. He usually bases his ideas on religion, or on the traditions and morality which are customary in a particular culture. He wants to enforce obedience to them, as well. But top down thinkers too often fail to live up to the obligations they parrot. Worse, they fail to condemn those that routinely disregard those same obligations.

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