Golden Rule Of Morality
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I believe in the Golden Rule: treat others as I wish to be treated. In order to treat myself and others with fairness and consider all perspectives, I employ empathy. The title suggests that nurturing contrasting perspectives assures the health of a discipline, but how can one nurture contrasting perspectives? The best way to do this is by placing oneself in the shoes of others and considering situations from other points of view, also known as empathy. Furthermore, the word nurture implies that these contrasting perspectives must not only be considered, but encouraged to assure the health of a discipline. In the context of this title, health refers to strength; therefore, nurturing contrasting perspective assures that the knowledge supporting a discipline remains strong. When I read this prescribed title, I immediately thought about the controversy surrounding freedom of speech for people with contrasting perspectives. To what extent is this speech beneficial if it potentially threatens overall stability of a country, or mental stability of citizens?
History is based on Memory and the use of Language to communicate these memories; however, both Memory and Language are susceptible to bias based on personal knowledge of how an event occurred or was communicated to them. Therefore, there are multiple perspectives to be considered when analyzing the strength of knowledge behind historical facts. Ethics is the branch of knowledge concerned with moral principles, but how do we arrive at these principles? Emotion and Reason are the building blocks of our moral codes, yet both of these Ways of Knowing are influenced by personal knowledge of what is right and wrong. Thus, in order to assure the health of any ethical code other emotional and rational perspectives must be nurtured. Overall, this title claims that personal knowledge is not enough to assure that strong knowledge supports a discipline. Nurturing contrasting perspectives by sharing knowledge is essential to a discipline’s health. Last year, I hosted an exchange student named Jin from Japan. We became close friends and frequently spoke about the different ways we were raised.
One day, we somehow started talking about the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II. We soon discovered that we had a completely different understanding of the event. She was taught that the Japanese were left with no other option when they attacked Pearl Harbor. Apparently, they glossed over the event in her history classes and approached the subject in a very objective manner. On the other hand, my history classes dedicated a great amount of time to this event. I learned that the attack on Pearl Harbor was an unprecedented, surprise attack on innocent civilians. The subject was always approached in a very emotional manner, acknowledging it as a tragedy. She only knows the information passed down to her and I only know the information passed down to me. What is the truth? To what extent has the personal knowledge of Memory and Language shaped our different understandings of this historical event? Perhaps neither of us are correct. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between both our viewpoints.
Perhaps both our perspectives need to be nurtured to assure the health of this knowledge. However, will sharing these contrasting perspectives benefit the respective countries if it potentially threatens their stability? In order to discuss the strength of Historical knowledge, I must first evaluate the relationship between Memory and History. Memory plays a major role in History because most, if not all, of history is derived from the memories of those who experienced such an event (primary sources) and those that studied these records and wrote about them (secondary sources). However, memory has its limitations. Primary sources are the eyewitness testimonies of people who were present at an event, yet the memories people acquire from witnessing events are not perfect. In fact, they are mere constructions of what the person witnessed. Consider the theory of Selective Memory, which states that we have an ability to remember some facts while forgetting others, especially when they are inconvenient.
The selective nature of memory means that we subconsciously pick up certain points of significance that we encounter, and then fill in the blanks with our biases based on personal knowledge. Thus, no matter how authentic a source or undeniable an event is said to be, there is undoubtedly an element of unreliability. That being said, it is not surprising that my learning of Pearl Harbor was different from Jin’s. I do not think many people in the U.S. would appreciate Jin’s interpretation of Pearl Harbor, and likewise with my interpretation of the event in Japan. This is wrong, though, isn’t it? For the sake of healthy historical facts, sharing and nurturing contrasting perspectives is necessary. It is the duty of the people to speak freely when their perspective contradicts that of another, because this assures that the strongest knowledge prevails. If a nation feels threatened by said contrasting perspectives, the nation was not strong to begin with. While the shared knowledge of Memory is an essential way of knowing history, history is completely dependent on Language because without the ability to communicate memories there is no knowledge of past events.
Of course, in this context language refers to any form of communication, not necessarily just words. People use Language to express their memory of an event. Language is a tool, and how they use that tool depends on the wielder. In other words, one person’s recitation of an event might greatly differ from another’s solely because of their different uses of Language. Language allows for the inclusion of a high level of detail, to organize data in a meaningful way and thus create a complex interpretation of history. In this way, both Jin and I were taught different interpretations of history, but are either interpretations necessarily wrong? Because they are just that: interpretations. Jin did not tell me anything that necessarily contradicted what I had learned about the events at Pearl Harbor, they were simply a less extreme interpretation of the events. Neither are incorrect, but both are influenced by biases. Personal knowledge, or the interpretation of one person, is not enough to classify historical facts. Shared knowledge, or the sharing of multiple interpretations, will assure the knowledge supporting a discipline remains strong. Thus, nations encouraging freedom of speech, even when citizens have contrasting perspectives, assures knowledge health of that nation.
However, the rise of social media platforms is giving the phrase ‘freedom of speech’ a whole new meaning. Social media gives people the power of anonymity. There is a distinct disconnect between people when they are communicating through a device, as if they forget it is another human on the other end. The continual rise of social media coincides with the downfall of empathy, as shown through the widespread cyber-bullying epidemic. A young girl named Elle Trowbridge became a victim of cyberbullying at just eleven years old. She immediately told her family how she was being treated online, and never once isolated herself from her loved ones. She did everything right, and yet after five years of torment she resorted to taking her own life. This begs the question, is freedom of speech always beneficial? Do these contrasting perspectives actually assure the health of a discipline? Many will argue that because of stories like Elle’s social media should be regulated, but to what end? How can an Ethical dilemma such as freedom of speech best be evaluated? Perhaps, by taking the personal knowledge of Emotion and Reason, the building blocks of Ethics, and sharing it. How can we do this? Speaking freely.
In an instinctive way, Emotion can help to guide us when we are trying to work out the ‘right’ way to behave. We have a strong sense of self-interest, seeking an outcome that will benefit us personally. Being social beings, we also have empathetic feelings for others where we consider outcomes that will benefit them. Our emotions are also reinforced by what we know other people feel is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, meaning that the perspectives of others greatly impact moral codes and ethical standing. It follows that people with very different moral codes are surrounded by people with different perspectives. Despite how hurtful or controversial some speech can be, allowing all of it will ensure the strength of beliefs. It is up to people to decide what they choose to believe in, but eliminating these ideas from society eliminates the choice. In sharing different perspectives, different knowledge, people are able to fully decide for themselves what they choose to believe in, and with the understanding of contrasting perspectives, this belief will be healthy and strong.
We can also use Reason to evaluate Ethics. We use it whenever we make a decision and, most of the time, our Reasoning occurs as we decide on the best path to take depending on previous experiences involving similar situations and rational thinking. This works regardless of any desires or Emotions, and can help to establish a solid framework for formulating moral codes. Approaching Ethical dilemmas, from a rational point of view means letting go of bias’ as much as possible. In letting go of bias and personal opinion, we are able to consider contrasting perspectives; we are able to place ourselves in the shoes of others and consider how it might feel to have our beliefs suppressed if not granted freedom of speech. Regulating speech on social media and otherwise for the sake of stability takes away people’s freedom of thought. Everyone has the right to share and understand contrasting perspectives. In this way, the health of a discipline is assured.