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What are the ethics/morals of the US Constitution?

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Lostlittleboy
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What are the ethics/morals of the US Constitution?

Post by Lostlittleboy » December 22nd, 2018, 7:13 pm

I'm kind of a uncritically examined die hard when is comes to the essence of America, and want to live in its spirit, but is it fallacious to just take national pride like that?

I realize slavery was an issue, but I think it kind of contradicted itself against what they believed should be for everyone. I'm sure there were other things, so it is by no means perfect, but the ideals were there.

What kind of morals were they? Was it virtue, utilitarianism, etc. or all of them together?

I'm kind of searching for a way to conduct myself without really being hung-up on doing the wrong thing (which I'm probably breaking everyday anyway). It's gotten me to be paralyzed and a lot of self-sacrifice. I'm not happy at this point, but I don't want to end up being unethical/immoral and just do as I please either (deep down I'd love to but I know better).

Like my name says I am totally lost in this. It is so complicated it makes my head spin... should I just stop analyzing and be myself?

I'm searching, and I feel I was doing good, but now I see other people aren't as concerned and seem to be happier. Is ignorance bliss?

I want to maximize my freedom without infringing others freedom, but feel guilty when I assert myself, and end up taking a religious stance on helping others instead of myself.

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ktz
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Re: What are the ethics/morals of the US Constitution?

Post by ktz » December 22nd, 2018, 11:35 pm

Probably a better history student than I can give you a better breakdown, but I believe the Founding Fathers were deeply influenced by Montesquieu and Locke, among others. These two I think, with my admittedly shallow understanding, can be identified primarily as deontologists although Montesquieu makes numerous references to the necessity of virtue in law and politics. You can see their influence directly by the founders' adoption of Montesquieu's separation of powers and Locke's idea of man's natural right to life, liberty, and property (wisely restated as the pursuit of happiness, to avoid some anticipated slavery issues), which the founders called truths that could be held to be self-evident. The core practical ethical position you might take away could be something like, select a virtuous code of ethics, and accept as your moral duty the adherence to your personal code.

Regarding your question of ignorance being bliss, I would of course answer no. Imagine driving a car being ignorant of the fact that your brakes will give out during the course of your journey. You may be quite blissful and enjoying your trip -- until the instant where you are on the highway and press down on your brakes and you are rudely awakened from your ignorance. An advance warning of your ignorance -- in this analogy, through the pain of regular automobile maintenance -- may cost you time, money, and short term happiness, but it saves you from what Nassim Taleb calls "Black Swan" events -- the rare occasions when it comes time to pay the piper for adhering to a misguided principle. Sure, right now with your ethical considerations you are the unhappy guy who is regularly stuck under his truck covered in grease and motor oil, comparing himself to the happy-go-lucky ignorant souls speeding down the highway in bad need of a oil change -- but your maintenance of ethical principles, assuming you develop them with a pragmatic efficacy in mind, has the capacity to help you avoid some of the big time accidents and mechanistic failures that await those who do not behave in accordance with ethical principles. Right now you're less happy being made aware of these issues, but you have the advantage of being able to resolve these issues on your own terms, instead of whatever nasty learning lesson the universe will get to inflict on your friends who currently get to enjoy their blissful existence.

I've given you my more complete stance on ethics in the other thread you posted, so I'll take this opportunity to provide guidance in the other question you are raising here, which is that of happiness. If personal satisfaction is one of your goals, I might direct you towards my own entry point to existentialism, which was Viktor Frankl. Frankl had the idea that happiness must ensue, rather than be something to be pursued directly. Frankl would recommend you instead devote yourself to the pursuit of meaning, which he identified as being sourced in three ways: purposeful work, love, and courage in the face of difficulty. If you can identify for yourself a meaningful cause, like a consistent method in which you can provide skilled help to others, or the pursuit of excellence in a chosen calling for example, you may find a quiet confidence in your own purpose and direction that would be help make your personal sense of satisfaction immune to comparisons with others. Defining yourself concretely in this way can also help you identify yourself to others who sympathize with similar goals. Frankl's main work, Man's Search For Meaning, is kind of a doozy since in support of his positions he recounts his experiences as a holocaust survivor, but I found it to be a powerful mindset that has stayed with me for a long time. Other posters here may have good recommendations for you too, for example I've learned a lot about the stoic position here which I think is quite a reasonable choice as well.

Regarding what you're saying about feeling guilty about infringing on the freedom of others, it might be good for you to consider George Bernard Shaw's take on the matter -- "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man." If you can, I would encourage you to try to develop the courage to stand up for what you believe in, even when it is difficult. It's good to have humility and self-awareness so you don't take this too far, but remember that you too are a child of the universe and you have a right to be here and assert yourself to others. You have a right to make mistakes and struggle with ethical understanding and the kinds of normal problems which you are reflecting here. But once you do finalize your ethical choices into something that makes sense to you, make sure from that point on that you aren't sacrificing your principles because you are afraid that others will dislike you or accuse you of infringing on their freedom to do bad things to themselves, or worse, influence you to do the same. Perhaps I am assuming too much here, but based on your mentioning of your classwork, all I can say is that I was in college once, and though our experiences surely have many differences, I remember the essence of what it could be like sometimes. If you establish your position and refuse to budge on it, you will find that others will adapt themselves to you, instead of the other way around.
You may have a heart of gold, but so does a hard-boiled egg.

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Re: What are the ethics/morals of the US Constitution?

Post by Lostlittleboy » December 23rd, 2018, 1:01 am

This is an awesome post. I definitely need to stand up for myself. Exactly, I'm just as valuable darn it!

Meaning over happiness... something to meditate on. Can reading books and generally being a learner in this world be meaning enough? I feel self-improvement is enough meaning is some ways (mind,body, soul). It's so awesome there is a community that learns and shares knowledge. I've found I need people in my life. I'm going with whoever said "No man is an island."

This is just so inspirational and gives me a lot to consider! I dunno how else to express it.

Frankl has got to have something to say about the human condition. I think I need to major in philosophy haha. I think most people would benefit from it.

I'm into autodidactism so I need some good books too. I dunno if I can handle the classics just yet, but when will I?

I was listening to Roger Scruton, some of it was really hard to follow. I have mad respect for every profession.

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Re: What are the ethics/morals of the US Constitution?

Post by chewybrian » December 23rd, 2018, 7:23 am

Lostlittleboy wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 7:13 pm
I'm kind of a uncritically examined die hard when is comes to the essence of America, and want to live in its spirit, but is it fallacious to just take national pride like that?

What kind of morals were they? Was it virtue, utilitarianism, etc. or all of them together?
People are quick to find fault with our country and with the founding fathers, and not without sound reasons. Yet, this attitude is somewhat unfair, and ironically assumes many of the blessings of democracy while criticizing their shortcomings. Compare their results not with some abstract ideal of perfection, but with what was around prior to their creation, and it looks much better in that light. Their imperfections and failings do not detract from their accomplishment, and they left us processes for remedying their oversights and mistakes.

You can take pride in the good stuff, while not turning a blind eye to the bad. I guess the spirit is to celebrate freedom while hoping that you or anyone else does not take unfair advantage of it. We are free to be good, and we should try.
ktz wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 11:35 pm
I believe the Founding Fathers were deeply influenced by Montesquieu and Locke, among others.
I don't consider myself any kind of authority, but I think Rousseau also had a very large influence. I suppose his primary impact would be the idea that the rights of the individual must be protected from the tyranny of the majority. It was not enough to have democracy as 'majority rules', as many came to America to escape the pressures on their chosen way of life that came from the majority imposing their ideas on the rest. It was a critical starting point, then, to establish rights held by the individual which could not easily be taken away by the state, even if the majority would approve of such action. Checks and balances followed naturally, along with the Bill of Rights.

I think Rousseau also had a large influence on socialism and communism, so go figure. His ideas did drift about, though his style is inspirational.
"If determinism holds, then past events have conspired to cause me to hold this view--it is out of my control. Either I am right about free will, or it is not my fault that I am wrong."

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Re: What are the ethics/morals of the US Constitution?

Post by Alias » December 25th, 2018, 2:29 pm

The document itself has no morals or ethics. Each of its contributors and signatories had their own convictions, but could not be reduced to a single code of personal conduct, any more than fifty prominent citizens of any country can be considered to embody the "ethics" of their nation's constitution.
Each of them was influenced by his own background, education and experience; collectively, they shared a concept of governance that was still, then, in its early formative stage.
The document is not the ideal one any one of them would have written. It was a compromise; a political expedient.
That's why they included and amending formula.

Since democracy is now in a later formative stage, it still requires constant review and occasional amendment.

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Re: What are the ethics/morals of the US Constitution?

Post by Fooloso4 » December 29th, 2018, 5:19 pm

It is in general a rights based morality as expressed in the “self-evident” truths expressed in the Declaration of Independence:
that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
It goes on to say that governments are instituted to secure these rights.

The Constitution is an instrument of government designed to secure these rights. It is instituted:
… in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity …
One should act so as to promote the moral or ethical values of equality, justice, tranquility, the general welfare, and liberty.

There is also a recognition of what has come to be called Aristotle’s virtue ethics - a natural aristocracy that serves to represent the best interests of the people. On a personal level this means the development of character, phronesis - prudence or practical wisdom, and sophrosune - moderation.

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Re: What are the ethics/morals of the US Constitution?

Post by h_k_s » December 31st, 2018, 11:50 am

Lostlittleboy wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 7:13 pm
I'm kind of a uncritically examined die hard when is comes to the essence of America, and want to live in its spirit, but is it fallacious to just take national pride like that?

I realize slavery was an issue, but I think it kind of contradicted itself against what they believed should be for everyone. I'm sure there were other things, so it is by no means perfect, but the ideals were there.

What kind of morals were they? Was it virtue, utilitarianism, etc. or all of them together?

I'm kind of searching for a way to conduct myself without really being hung-up on doing the wrong thing (which I'm probably breaking everyday anyway). It's gotten me to be paralyzed and a lot of self-sacrifice. I'm not happy at this point, but I don't want to end up being unethical/immoral and just do as I please either (deep down I'd love to but I know better).

Like my name says I am totally lost in this. It is so complicated it makes my head spin... should I just stop analyzing and be myself?

I'm searching, and I feel I was doing good, but now I see other people aren't as concerned and seem to be happier. Is ignorance bliss?

I want to maximize my freedom without infringing others freedom, but feel guilty when I assert myself, and end up taking a religious stance on helping others instead of myself.
If you stick to the Bill Of Rights (first 10 amendments) then I think you have U.S Constitutional ethics down very well.

As far as slavery goes, it was simply still an unresolved issue back in 1789 when the Constitution was ratified.

According to the Memoirs of Pres./Gen. U.S. Grant, slavery triggered the Civil War. The Civil War and subsequent 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments ended slavery in the USA finally.

Slavery is ancient, and even Aristotle justifies it. He is wrong to do so, but he does so.

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