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Thread: Grandpa, how can I remember all the things I ought to do?

  1. #1 Grandpa, how can I remember all the things I ought to do? 
    Forum Ph.D.
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Grandpa, how can I remember all the things I ought to do?

    Darling, you will remember many of these things that you ought to do automatically without even trying. Our brains are always organizing our experiences into what we might think of as containers. Just as you keep your marbles in one container and your socks in another container your brain automatically, without your conscious effort, organizes things into containers.

    For example, you felt that you ought to give a cookie to your friend. Imagine that some other children saw you do that and your behavior made them realize that you were doing the right thing. In other words, your action created an example of correct behavior for other children to see. Children see examples of such behavior constantly and it soon becomes part of their brain’s determination of something that ought to be done.

    When you have an experience that pleases your parents, copies of that experience goes into your ‘ought to do container’, grown-ups call this container ‘morality’.

    Grandpa, what is morality?

    Darling, morality is concerned with how we feel about the well-being of others. Do you remember earlier today when you asked mommy for two cookies rather than one and when your mother asked why you said “because my friend Mary Ann gave me some of her candy yesterday and I want to give her a cookie”?

    Morality is about many things and one thing morality is about is reciprocation, which means paying back to others what we owe to them because of something good they did for us. On the flip-side of that is something we call revenge. Revenge is about our feelings that if Mary Ann does something mean to me then I owe her something mean back.

    Morality is partly about our moral accounting system. We seem to have a moral balance sheet in our head and we are often careful to pay back ‘good with good’ and ‘bad with bad’.

    But Grandpa, mommy said that I must be strong to be good, what does this have to do with reciprocation?

    Darling, morality is a complex issue and is about many different kinds of things; one of these things is that I must be strong so that I can remain upright and balanced when I face evil forces. When I am morally healthy I can best withstand the temptation to give-in to all the forces that tend to make me do bad things. Evil is strong and thus I must be morally healthy and strong if I am to overcome these forces of evil.

    Moral weakness is considered by many to be an act of immortality in itself. We must develop the character traits of courage and willpower, while simultaneously fighting the inclination to self-indulgence and the deadly sins of greed, pride, and envy.

    To summarize just a few of the many things that goes into the morality container:
    Being upright is good
    Being low is bad
    Falling is evil
    Strength is virtue
    Weakness is evil
    Returning ‘good for good’ is good
    Returning ‘bad for bad’ is bad
    Keep your moral balance sheet on the sunny side

    Grandpa got his ideas about the relationship between morality and cognitive science from “Philosophy in the Flesh”—Lakoff and Johnson

    Questions for discussion

    Do you have a ‘moral balance sheet’? Is it in the red? Do you keep two sets of books?

    Do you like the container metaphor?

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