We turn our attention to truth and looking at its core in our development of a framework for decision-making. The reason for emphasizing the core is simple – we will not attempt to explore a concept that can consume a lifetime to understand a fraction of its full meaning. Our purpose is to build a usable tool or system for assisting us in making decisions, both in business and life, in general.
We start with defining a few terms for common understanding as a baseline for our conversation.
that which is true and correct. From the beginning of time, human beings have been on a quest to discover truth and understanding of the world around us.
“it is as we say” establishes an understanding of the situation. It is also used to help build an explanation of a system of thinking. For instance, in geometry we start with three baseline definitions (point, line, and plane) to begin the development of this discipline.
“it is what it is” captures the notion that regardless of how we define something or have an understanding of a situation, the fact is beyond our control. It was just a short four hundred or so years ago the earth was believed to be at the center of our solar system, or around 2400 years ago that the earth was flat (thanks to Aristotle for some observations of a spherical earth). These were truth as understood at the time. However, beyond any human-defined terms, the fact was and is the earth is not flat and it is not at the center of our solar system or universe.
“it is right and good” is the area of truth and decision-making that impacts human life more than any other. Knowing whether the earth is flat or round does not effect anyone’s daily life or necessarily impede it in any way. Bringing harm to a person does effect one’s daily life.
There are plenty of facts and knowledge that are neutral regarding the effect on one’s life. We have an understanding of how certain molecules interact in a particular way that provide a great convenience we label electricity. Science is a discipline of discovering and understanding these facts of the world with the ultimate purpose of benefiting us in some way.
As we dig deeper into the understanding of truth, we come to the impact of the decisions we make on people’s lives. Ultimately, we can break everything down to some affect on human life. A simplifying definition for our discussion will be that if there is no negative effect on someone (either positive of neutral) then that is good or right, with a negative effect being bad or wrong. With this in mind, we conclude that discussions of truth at its core should be centered around moral truth.
[Let us pause our discussion for a reminder. This series of conversations on ethics and decision-making is far from exhaustive. We touch on highlights of concepts and discussions in order to capture and synthesize them into a workable model. We can find too many examples of discussions with no usable conclusions. As we build our framework of decision-making, there will be room for adjustments. Thus, your comments and feedback are appreciated and useful on this journey.]
Across different cultures over the span of history, there have been and are differences in how people are acceptably treated. Even though differences exist, there is never a complete and total difference. There is and has been disagreement to what group of people one should treat with care, respect and unselfishness, whether the group is family, neighbors, fellow countrymen, or everyone. However, across the board, complete selfishness (placing self-interest above that of others) is never admired.
Are there other common elements of morality across different cultures? Or at its core, can we simply think of not bringing harm to others, placing others above self as the moral compass we should cling to?
We cannot avoid including the idea of motive in this discussion. When we are placed in a defensive position, our motive of self-preservation kicks in. We may even take an offensive position to defend and preserve self. However, this is drastically different than an offensive position taken to harm others simply to protect a convenience of life. Conclusion here: motive is important, but not the only factor in making moral decisions.
So, to regroup before trailing off into waters deeper than this one article post will allow…
We can conclude there are facts beyond our understanding. Similar to the discussion of ownership, since we did not create the earth, we cannot have a complete understanding of its characteristics. We have discovered or rather uncovered some facts about it; one being that it is round, not flat.
In like manner, our understanding of moral truth is limited. There are many different paths of discussion and argument one could travel down from this article.
Let us conclude that in the area of making decisions we should not intentionally and knowingly bring harm to others.
How have assumptions become “fact” for you? How can we have healthy conversations about life without knowing all of the facts?
Photo Credit: NASA is owner of image, found at Visible Earth. [http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/]