The Written Word, The Writer, and Morality

Sam Harris, philosopher, neuroscientist, writer and author writes, “Human well-being is not a random phenomenon. It depends on many factors – ranging from genetics and neurobiology to sociology and economics. But, clearly, there are scientific truths to be known about how we can flourish in this world. Wherever we can have an impact on the well-being of others, questions of morality apply.”

     I believe that Morality is complicated. Morality is subjective. Morality is ethics. Morality is judgment. Morality is not universal. Morality is societal, Morality is personal.  As writers, we often write about heroics, doing-the-right-thing, righting wrongs, standing up to injustice, caring for others, human rights as moral convictions, judging as a moral imperative, life-saving as a moral imperative, killing evil-doers as a moral imperative.

    What I do know is that morality is in the eye of the beholder’s belief systems. Writers, whether consciously or unconsciously, liberally sow the seeds of morality reflecting their visions of the world at large. Writers often change concepts of morality by storytelling. Writers suggest ways of behaving by allowing the protagonist to behave in a moral or immoral sense of their own belief system, that either promotes heroic actions, self-sacrifices, doing good needs or “its every man for himself.”

  I wonder, do writers have the moral obligation, as Sam Harris states, “Wherever we can have an impact on the well-being of others, questions of morality apply.”  Yes, morality is complicated.

 

23 thoughts on “The Written Word, The Writer, and Morality

  1. Wow! I love this post with so many questions. Morality is complicated to those who may struggle with it’s basics. I think it naturally comes forth in the words of a writer who has a good sense of self. Great post, Karen!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. Surprisingly, I have had so far, only 3 comments on this post. Are writers afraid to comment on morality, when in fact, consciously or unconsciously we do write with every word, a moral story given the heroic efforts of the protagonist and present conflict regarding good and evil.

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    1. I would never advocate morality. What is morality? It is different for each person. Morality lives in the mind of each person, often in a very subconscious form, depending on one’s belief. Good and evil are subjective by nature, by belief systems and difficult to qualify. Fiction stories are about the protagonist and the problem he or she must decide what to do about it or not. This is what makes a fictional story interesting, to see how this fictional situation is resolved. As I said in my article, “morality is complicated and no two people see it the same way, there are always significant differences and that is a good thing. Sorry if I didn’t make that clear, as I said the very word morality is complicated. Thank you for your comment it was good to hear. K. D. 🙂

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      1. Hi Annabelle, Thank you. I had only a few responses, lots of likes but It was nice to here from someone with a great response and I am so glad that you commented and I agree with you too. Karen 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Popped over from Dr. French’s post. This is a good article. I agree. Writing is a big responsibility. I have learned many of my moral lessons from books. Many of us didn’t learn things at home in our growing up and we are always being informed by the world at large. This will be in the back of my mind each time I write something now. Thank you.

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    1. Hi John, how right you are! I never sit on the sidelines, I am always the first one to state clearly what I see as fact or fiction, truth or deception or shades of gray. As my mother always told me, you either stand for something or you will fall for anything. I picture you as brave, strong, and honest! 🙂 K D

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    1. Jasmine, thank you so much. Some writers think that they are free of writing about morality, yet there has not been a novel every written that does not have a morality message. Ergo, that is why we always have a protagonist and a antagonist, and that is why we have different moral attributes depending on each person’s belief system and so, morality is difficult to define. K D 🙂

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  3. I think morality is merely a set of rules which tells us when to empathize, where to empathize, and most importantly, for whom to empathize.
    I’m not entirely against a book of “indications” (not to be confused with “rules”), although
    it’s preferable to withdraw from such idealistic ideas, as it creates a case for authority. All authority is moral authority.

    Just my little opinion 🙂

    Nice article by the way!

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    1. I don’t think your views are wrong. Morality is in the eyes of the beholder. It is when a group of people decide that everyone should view their notion of morality as true and that we should relinquish our personal views of morality, that is wrong. Morality encompasses a wide range of perceptions. For instance, in china if you leave something of value in place without regard for its’ value, an individual has a moral right to take it. In the Muslim world if you take something that does not belong to you, it is a capital crime and will lose your hands. Stealing is a cause for morality, Letting children suffer is a cause for morality. Many people think that morality only means sexual morality. Sexual morality is a non sequitur, meaning that sexuality is a very personal prerogative, unless society has ruled otherwise and I seriously doubt that anyone, except child molesters, rapists and others, should control anyone’s sexuality, these would be common sense rules/laws, no encroachment on personal privacy. There are societal perceptions that we agree upon, that are generally accepted: murder, stealing, cheating, lying, and so forth. The problem is that certain religions try to gain power and control over people by controlling all of their thoughts and what to believe. These people are poor representatives of morality. Since they are immoral to being with, as they steal another’s honest perceptions of the world around them. Morality is only a perception of an individual world view and if there is a consensus, then that world view becomes the norm. Thank you, for commenting very much. K D 🙂

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