Mind and Morality

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 25 November 2016

Mind and Morality

The external factors play a huge role in shaping one’s decisions. One may think that his genetic and background history has the most influence on his actions, but in reality, the intensity of a given situation has greater impact in the choices of the individual. The surroundings one lives in ultimately influences his perception, decision, and morality. In his essay, “The Power of Context,” Malcolm Gladwell states how it is the little things in life that makes the bigger difference and in many aspects this is true. In Daniel Gilbert’s essay, “Immune to Reality” he talks about how human perception about reality is not always accurate.

In Oliver Sacks’s essay, “The Mind’s Eye” he shows how there are many different perceptions to view the world. So at the same time, is it possible to dictate what is right and wrong in one’s life if all the decisions are a result of his given situation and surroundings? Also the morality for each person varies depending on their circumstances and perception of their world. Ultimately, an absolute form of right and wrong does not exist because the context of the situation always changes, but still it is possible to achieve an applicable standard of morality in society.

Each individual has his own way of looking at the world that is completely unique when compared to the way another person does. This is perception of reality and this form is always open to discussion because the person generates this viewpoint. Each individual makes his decisions based on his perception of the world. “The processes by which we generate positive views are many: we pay more attention to favorable information, we surround ourselves with those who provide it, and we accept it uncritically” (Gilbert 134).

In many instance one creates his own perception to suit his way of thinking, so the individual could be in the center of his world. “He seemed to regard this loss of visual imagery as a prerequisite for the full development, the heightening, of his other senses” (Sacks 304). Most people see becoming blind as unfortunate event, but according to this person it helped him to improve his other senses. “The tabloids dubbed Goetz the subway vigilante and the death wish shooter” (Gladwell 153). Rather than seeing Goetz as a lunatic the newspapers depicted him as a hero.

So this shows the difference in perception between people and how it varies from individuals. Importantly since each person’s perception varies it is hard to claim whose perception is right or wrong because ultimately is there a “right” perception of the world that everybody should be following? Even when viewing a painting everybody has their own interpretation of the art. No one claims there is only one “right” perception; rather the different perceptions are simply different approaches towards looking at the world. “It was simply inconceivable that someone could pull a gun on someone else on the subway and be called a hero for it.

” (Gladwell 154) shows how different viewpoints affect the verdicts of a situation. A hero to some people might be a villain to others and it is hard to claim who is the “right” hero. The difference in subjectivity among people will always create a discrepancy of opinions among people. Since a variety of perception exists, then is it possible to have a perfect set and stone “right and wrong” rules in life? The context of a given matter plays a huge role in deciding the morality of the event. Morality is very much depended on the background information of the event.

It is very hard to dictate the morality of an issue without seeing the bigger picture. Most people might see stealing as a wrong act, but what if someone stole a piece of bread in order to make sure he does not die from starvation, is that still a wrong act? In a situation like that one might feel sympathetic to that poor fellow and probably will see stealing as reasonable in that given situation. “We do not realize that our views will change” (Gilbert 135), the idea of morality varies on the situation because the context of the event directly affects morality. “Blindness now becomes for him a dark paradoxical gift.

This is not just compensation, but a whole new order, a new mode of human being” (Sacks 305), in many aspects blind people do not see their condition as a curse or burden rather a different approach towards living and for most sighted people it might be hard to understand and accept this approach. “That there are instances where you can take normal people from good schools and happy families and good neighborhoods and powerfully affect their behavior merely by changing the immediate details of their situation” (Gladwell 162) this shows how the little details of an event plays huge role in the outcomes of an event.

Essentially, context of a situation is what dictates morality and it is going to be almost impossible to label morality as set and stone as something like the Ten Commandments because the context always changes. Even though the standards of morality vary according to the situation there are some aspects of morality that one subconsciously accepts. Some ethics are universally considered wrong and one’s mind without even one knowing already knows that some choices are not right. That is why the mind tends to usually question the choices one makes.

“When we cook facts, we are similarly unaware of why we are doing it, and this turns out to be a good thing, because deliberate attempts to generate positive views” (Gilbert 134), subconsciously to some extend individuals are aware of the morality behind an action and this will help individuals to make their decisions wisely. “To what extent are we our experiences, our reactions shaped, predetermined, by our brains, and to what extend do we shape our own brains” (Sacks 303), There are some emotions and judgments that are simply preinstalled in one’s mind which aids an individual in making choices that are difficult.

“After a while the bad guys wised up and began to leave their weapons home and pay their fares” (Gladwell 157) this shows how there is a consciousness inside individuals that helps in guiding with decision making. When making a choice that might inflict pain to us or others one’s mind will usually try to suggest against that decision. That is why the idea of taking an innocent person’s life is universally seen as a wrongful act in societies.

Therefore, there is a sense of unconscious morality that lies within the hearts of most individuals. Achieving a complete form of morality is a very idealistic thought because practically it’s not possible. There are infinitely many ways of perceiving morality and it would be impossible to set a standard that would suit all the time. “Too often people with sight don’t see anything” (Sacks 310). There are parts that even one’s eye sometimes cannot capture meaning that sometimes it’s simply not possible to account for all the possibilities.

“The benefit of all this unconscious cookery is that it works, but the cost is that it makes us strangers to ourselves” (Gilbert 135). People sometime engage in activities without being aware of the magnitude of the situation. ”They are both based on the premise that an epidemic can be reversed, can be tipped, by tinkering with the smallest details of the immediate environment” (Gladwell 157) the intensity of the situation has a huge influence on the decision of the individual.

Due to all this, perceiving morality completely would be very difficult. Also having a perfect morality would require infinite knowledge which humans do not possess. As an individual one is limited at what he observes at a given time and there are limitations for each individual in this world. However, through the perceptions of many individuals, people will be able to come up with a better understanding of morality. Even with the limitations each individual has a small understanding of morality in the back of his head.

Essentially, when all these understanding that are possessed by individuals are combined then a suitable set of standards will be formed that can accompany most situations. The collective effort of people will help to generate a better set of morality that will help in creating a peaceful environment for people to live in. That is why it is important to have many different perceptions of morality because they all eventually lead to creating appropriate rules that will be suitable for the well-being of a society.

Despite not being able to have an absolute morality with infallible accuracy and with infinite knowledge, an applicable method of sensing morality is still practical. Individuals lack the ability to have a perfect morality because for one to acquire it in completion one needs to possess infinite amount of knowledge. Despite this back drop each individual innately has the ability to know morality in small parts and therefore combining the small parts of every individual will help to achieve a suitable set of codes.

The differences in perception between people only aids to benefit humans in portraying a better understanding of morality. That is why it is important that there are different types of perceptions because if there was only one view then a very limited and narrow minded principle would be prevalent in the world. The different pathways of thinking done by people finally leads to achieving a suitable mode of morality. An absolute form of morality will never be possible in this imperfect world, however, that does not mean accomplishing a reasonable standard is impossible.


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  • University/College: University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 25 November 2016

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