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- Jonathan Lockwood Huie (jlh @sail7.com)

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Thursday, January 9, 2020

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What is "Moral?"

Question I received... I have been trying to decode the enigmatic statement by Isaac Asimov: "Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what's right."  What do you think Dr. Asimov meant by that?  Kindly advise.  Thank you very much.

My response...

It depends on how you define morals. If you define "moral" as doing what you yourself believe to be "right," then the Asimov quote makes no sense.
But if you define "moral" as following the "settled customs of a stable society" (that is, doing what your family, church, and government "teach" you is "right"), then the conflict becomes clear.

Thus, I interpret the Asimov quote this way...

"What is Moral" is what we have been taught by our parents, teachers, religious leaders, and other influences.

"What is Right" is what we know in our heart to be compassionate, generous, honorable, and noble.

Laws are often cruel.  Here are two great examples...  And religious teachings and family/community traditions are also often cruel.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/nov/12/arizona-migrants-trial-scott-warren

https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-homeless-feeding-arrests-20180115-story.html