The Ethic Within
By Dave Henderson
A discussion of ethics oftentimes leads to quotes and references to written material which are regarded as sacred and/or spiritual. There are of course a variety of valuable such documents. And no doubt there is good to be gained by reading and reflecting upon writings which prove inspirational and motivational. Yet, documents oftentimes merely reflect the culture and conditions of the author, whomever that person may be and in whichever time and locale the writer may live. A dependency upon such writings for inspiration and direction my prove beneficial in some regards, yet such may prove to be a distraction or worse yet even a determent from actual ethical thinking and conduct.
For example, a document which inspires one to place the needs of others before themselves in one citation may very well glorify violence or justify exploitation elsewhere. Inconsistencies and internal conflicting information within so called sacred writings are not at all uncommon. Placing one’s trust in such documents as a reliable source for direction and consultation then could lead one astray as to just what actually constitutes ethical thinking and proper conduct. Which leads to the query as to whether any external source should be our guide, and as to whether there is any reliable source for such to be found.
As to whether any external source should be our guide, the natural question becomes: What source guides or directs the heretofore mentioned external source who would guide us? Efforts to justify the source of guidance and direction oftentimes lead to theories as to direct influence by a deity or some other such form of the allegedly supernatural. Yet, the quandary of such a theory is that there is no reason why such supernatural entities would not merely directly guide and so inspire us all. Yet an alarming reality check is worthy of momentary consideration. What if there are no such supernatural entities?
The speculative theories as to external and supernatural guides seem to be as many as are the various cultures of the world. Though possibly overstated, the fact that there are a variety of speculative theories as to the supernatural by no means prove that such actually exist. (I leave the question as to whether there is proof that the supernatural does not exist for minds more speculative that my own, for how can one prove that something which is unseen does NOT exist?) Rather, the abundance of speculative theories merely reflects the reality that most everyone feels a need to justify their code of conduct. The question then arises as to whether it is possible to rely upon any source for guidance in the arena of ethical thinking and proper conduct.
The obvious is oftentimes so easily overlooked. The common source for reason and reflection within all rational beings is our own natural selves. With the exception of the unfortunate few who are born with mental disabilities, every person is self equipped to reason and rationalize as to a variety of subjects and topics, including that of ethical thinking and proper conduct. The very fact that each of us is so naturally endowed then would lead one to wonder why beings self equipped would seek guidance and direction from any external source. Granted that research and instruction on any and all topics are a form of self help known as an education, yet can anyone educate another as to what is right and what is wrong? Reason and argument may be offered, but ultimately one must rely upon ones own inner self as the source of guidance and direction with regards to ethical thinking and proper conduct.
The nature with which each of us was born is free from prejudices, preconceptions, and/or preferences of any kind before being conditioned by culture and circumstance. The very act of daily conditioning and continual external influences distracts us from that preconditioned nature with which we are all self equipped. The reliable source which should guide us with regards to ethical thinking and proper conduct is as close as our own selves. The ethic within has always been. The solution to finding our way back to our preconditioned nature is to reject sources which prove to be a distraction from such, and to refrain from relying upon external sources as our ethical guide. In so doing, we can then reflect upon our own self equipped ability to rationalize as to what is right and as to what is wrong, in order to more clearly and objectively rely upon that with which we have been endowed since the day of our birth: The ethic within.