"How many times in life can we make decisions that are important but will not hurt anyone? Are we obligated- maybe we are- to say yes to any choice when no one will be hurt? We use the word hurt when talking about things like this because when these things go wrong it can feel as if you were hit in the sternum by a huge animal that's run for miles just to strike you."
-Excerpt from How We Are Hungry by Dave Eggers
My Moral Philosophy
My moral philosophy is constantly evolving as I also grow and change. I believe the right thing to do is an act that helps others and does not cause any harm. This starts with an individuals actions. When faced with decisions, I believe a "good person" takes into consideration those who are affected by your choices and what those results entail. A decision that does the greatest amount of “good” is best.
I am referring to “good decisions” in a utilitarian sense. When I park my car behind my apartment I have to pull in at an exact angle or the other two cars cannot fit. I’m often the first to park and I could easily park carelessly causing my neighbors to have to find street visitor parking for who knows how long because they could not pull into their own spot. I spend an extra ten minutes parking so that my neighbors do not have this problem and instead of me just being happy, we all are.
An example on a larger scale may be that I enforce using torture to obtain information from an individual if it means saving lives. That one individual will be in pain but the information he or she provides will help many more people.
I try to live my life in a way that takes into consideration the needs of others and how my actions affect populations in a global way. I try to separate my needs from my wants and respect the reality that I have the opportunity to make choices when others don’t. I can choose to take a hot shower while many live without running water. I strive to keep my priorities in perspective and not get caught up worrying about the little things.
I had a life changing experience when I lived in the developing world for four months without running water or electricity. Experiencing other cultures and learning about others perspectives in such a direct way allowed me to place my own priorities. I felt more at peace in Uganda and Ghana that I ever had in America. I felt I was beginning to understand the meaning of life and what is truly important-family, friends, health, and giving back to those in need.
My time in Africa has shaped my moral philosophy. When I returned home after each adventure, I felt this beautiful perspective I was so proud of, fade over time as I adjusted back to Western culture. I make a daily effort to think about my time in Africa and how my decisions can affect those even across the world in a positive or negative way. I realize how privileged I am and the amazing opportunities I have been given simply because of where I grew up. I feel a strong sense of urgency to give back to those who may not be given the same. Helping others help themselves is as much of a learning experience for me as it is for those in need.
I attempt to look at situations from a cross-cultural perspective and then form an opinion. I don’t believe there is an exact right or wrong. I think each situation needs to be looked at individually and there is never an absolute.
I identify strongly with utilitarianism but am also aware that my moral philosophy is constantly changing with each new experience I have.