Drafting the disciplinary bounds of Moral Science

Reclaiming the ‘science’ in Moral Science: Part 2

In part 1 of the essay [see previous posts], we emphasised that morality is to be deliberated upon within a broad framework of ‘being’ and ‘becoming’, and the plurality of these states at any point of time among individual actors and among the groups constituted by them. We also considered the forces that propel the paradigm shifts in the human understanding of what is moral and what is not and arrived at the conclusion that the universality and intransience of ‘belongingness’ deserves to be recognized.  ‘I belong to’ some one, some place, or some thing, and some one, some place or some thing ‘belongs to me’  can be described as the primal emotion from which emerges an individual’s every thought, word and action, we argued.

In Part 2 of the essay, we consider how the bounds of a ‘discipline’ will:

  • allow individual actors, institutions and societies to approach the science of ‘what ought to be done’ in a systematic manner, and further,
  • help organize the evaluation/s of ‘what has been done’ in a logical manner that will find resonance and acceptability with humankind, which in turn will serve to inform future actions.

What ought to be done does not naturally precede what has been done. Very often, in fact, the thought, word, or deed has already been committed before it is evaluated and a judgement or opinion passed about whether it ought to have taken place. Nevertheless, our attempt here is to draw a framework that will help make these evaluations, post-action, more meaningful. It is believed that making a habit of going back over the thoughts, words and deeds that have occurred will eventually make such re-visitations second nature. While cultivating such reflexivity is likely to directly impact individual morality, making reflexivity a habit will also strengthen collective attitude towards moral standards, and thus impact societies and their organs. It is important to reiterate here that moral standards is in the plural because, while being universally acceptable, they may not be universally applicable across time and space. A science of morals would recognise the plurality of worldviews and lifestyles as well as the inevitability of change. Thoughts, words and actions, therefore, will be deliberated upon rather than subject to scrutiny while considering their adherence to the principle of not being tainted by greed, hatred and/ or delusion. ‘Belongingness’ in the sense of feeling part of and being possessed by would be the one measure used to comprehend motivations before providing a moral ascription to an act.

[To be continued]

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