Monday, May 1, 2017

The Priest, the Philosopher, the Economist, and the Sociopath

I’ve been thinking recently about how various people approach morality in modern Western societies, especially in the United States.  Morality is approached in various ways, many times causing conflicts among various groups of people.

I’m going to try and classify some different approaches that people make.  The idea here is not to incorporate all possibilities but to help break down and understand different approaches.

The Priest

A priest is the type who approaches morality in a spiritual sense.  In many respects, this approach is the most common.

For a priest, morality comes from some supernatural, sentient source.  As such, morality tends to be more absolute for the priest since it comes from a being who is higher and greater than himself.

With morality coming from a higher authority, the priest tends to approach immoral acts as a sign of spiritual sickness, one that requires some form of divine discipline in order to appease the offended higher authority.  Usually this involves some kind of sacrifice on the part of the priest, though not always.

The priest, however, tends to engage in black and white thinking when it comes to morality.  In extreme cases, small infractions can be considered to be devastating to society as a whole.

This is not a bad thing, per se, but it can be depending on how such modes of thinking are applied.

The Philosopher

The philosopher approaches morality by questioning why.  Humanity has an innate desire to be moral, to shun evil, and a common understanding of what evil is in most cases.

The philosopher seeks to address these questions without defaulting to a higher power, though they may invoke one in their musings.  They seek mostly to rationalize why morality is structured in a certain way.

For example, a philosopher might read about the various ceremonial clean laws laid out by Moses to the Israelites and reason that humanity didn’t have the capacity to understand germ theory.  Ergo, the cleanliness laws were designed to keep the people as healthy as possible without having to delve into scientific truths that would have merely confused a bunch of low-IQ ex-slaves.

The philosopher, though, fails to recognize the fundamental nature of man to be irrational.  He usually assumes that man is inherently good, or rational, and that morality is merely a product of evolution designed to get rid of the people who do wrong.

A philosopher is also less about black and white thinking, sometimes running their logic circuits into weird junctions that many outsiders find repellent (such as rationalizing sex with child, though not many do this).

The Economist

The economist’s approach to morality is about what party most benefits from certain actions.  For them, humanity is nothing more than a complex organism of interactions where benefits change hands.  The approach is like taking a look at a monetary interaction and trying to apply such tangible benefits to intangible benefits.

This is where you get the dumbed down form of Karma in Western society.  You do good things and you are rewarded with good.  You do bad things, and you are punished.

But that’s the low-Church Economist view.  Higher Church economists view human interaction as a trade-off and that the highest form of good is the maximum people who benefit from a particular transaction.

This can apply to supernatural means as well.  When the pagans of old would sacrifice animals or children for a bountiful harvest, for instance, to them this a kind of divine economic transaction.

In essence, to the economist, morality is about obtaining the maximum amount of happiness with minimal amount of harm to others.

The Sociopath

The sociopath is a will-to-power type and not the clinical definition of the mental illness in this case.  They are opportunists who seek out their own well-being, much like the economists, but have less concern on how it affects others.

The sociopathic approach to morality is about whatever benefits him personally.  As such, they will always seek more and more power as they see attaining power as the best means of achieving happiness and self-fulfillment.

There are people who are good sociopaths.  Often times, they are hidden from view from the rest of society because they usually don’t harm others as that is how they maintain power.

Sociopaths view life as a game and power as the ultimate good.  Those in power are the superior beings while those without it are immoral in some way.  Indeed, immorality does tend to lead to poverty in most cases.


Those are four different approaches I’ve thought about.  These categories are by no means absolute and I don’t believe that people fit into each individual category perfectly all the time.

The point of this was to highlight some of the differences to which people approach defining right and wrong and how they react to it.  And you can usually see how they deal with morality in the way that they apply justice.  The economist strives for restitution, the philosopher understanding, the priest redemption, and the sociopath punishment.

In any case, I’m sure there is more to this than I have written here.  I will try and explore this further later on.