Knowledge == Morality
I came across this blog entry from LightContrast tonight that raised a few very interesting questions, the first of which, is “Is knowledge natural?”. I think the answer to this one is quite simple, really (not to downplay or trivialize the importance of said question to L/C or her research): Some knowledge is natural, some is not. For instance, human newborn babies are born knowing how to suck; it’s a natural reaction that they just “know” how to do. Such knowledge is more often referred to as “reflex”. Like breathing, sucking is something the vast majority of us are born “knowing” how to do already.
Some knowledge, however, and equally as obvious, is not natural. I, for instance, have no clue how to operate a boom crane. On the other hand, I do know how to solve simultaneous equations, take double derivatives, and solve Taylor series, Geometric series, and power series. On the other hand, there’s a guy out there who can pluck the seed out of a split peach with a 150′ crane and who has know freakin’ clue as to what a Taylor series is.
So what? you ask. Well, it’s very obvious that some knowledge is natural, some is not, and I would submit that the “natural knowledge” is the most primitive form of knowledge (let’s face it, no one is born knowing how to design Corvettes).
Her next, and what I thought to be her more thought-provoking question was “Can morality be taught?” To research (and perhaps argue) her supposition that morality can (and should) be taught, she utilizes a passage from Plato’s Republic which states:
“Knowledge itself is of what can be learned itself (or of whatever we should take the object of knowledge to be), whereas a particular knowledge of a particular sort is of a particular thing of a particular sort. I mean something like this: when knowledge of building houses was developed, it differed from the other kinds of knowledge, and so was called knowledge of building.”
The heart of this quote is stated in the first line: Knowledge itself is of what can be learned itself. Strip away some extra language, and we have “Knowledge is what can be learned”.
The argument that morality can be taught supposes, in a rather unstated fashion, that morality does, in fact, equal to knowledge. But this leads us to another, underlying question: Morality equals knowledge of WHAT, exactly? Well, the simple answer to that complex question most people will give you is that Morality = Knowledge of Right and Wrong. One may even take it a step further and say that Morality = Knowledge of Right and Wrong PLUS action based upon that knowledge, and I would agree with that adendum. Simply knowing what’s right, and what’s wrong doesn’t necessarily make you moral, it’s what you do with that knowledge. Everyday, people choose to do the wrong things, making them immoral (in this sense of the word).
But then, you have to ask yourself, “Who gets to decide what’s right and what’s wrong?” Well, society at large does, base upon the laws that society agrees to be governed by. In our form of government, we elect people from the masses to represent us. Those representatives are to listen to the voice of the masses and present their ideas and ideals before the governing body to be drafted into the laws that we all agree on and agree to abide by (whether or not they actually listen is a topic reserved for another entry). The knowledge of the will of said society (in the form of laws) equates to, on one level, a form of knowledge of right and wrong. With that knowledge, one is now in possession of everything needed (provided their brain functions properly) to be judged moral or immoral.
Of course, one could go on pass the purely governmental into the religious (which is what most people think when they think of being moral), but that’s a can of worms best saved for another day.
L/C, I hope my comment on your blog helped, and I hope you all enjoyed this little book of mine.