Moral perspective:
It’s one I hadn’t thought of.  Am I my memories, my desires or my sense of right and wrong?  The answer is actually in scripture: knowledge of good and evil – the “apple” – right?  Well now there is evidence: (GJC Me me me SCIENCE vol. 343 no. 6176 March 14, 14 page 1178 reviewing work by Strohminger and Nichols published as Cognition 131, 159 (2014)) they queried a bunch of folks and found that consistently we all think of our identity as being more our moral selves than the alternatives.  We also think that another person is primarily the sum of his or her moral attitudes.

So of course I can’t let it lie there, can I?  I suppose I think that we should distinguish between what constitutes the self and what identifies the self.  Biologically speaking, I suppose having a metabolism is what is most important.  I must have some sort of energy flow through some sort of system or I am inert: just a hunk of stuff, pretty maybe (ho, ho, ho) but having no personality except what some real living thing guesses about me.  The good old painting Mona Lisa positively breathes personality.  Leonardo worked on it for years, maybe decades.  There are countless layers of semi-transparent paint.  He poured himself into it.  But he isn’t there.  The Mona Lisa has no inherent personality.

But we all have some sort of metabolism.  In fact we all have an almost identical metabolism.  So the very fact of energy flow is paramount to my constitution, but it does not specify me as distinct from anybody else.  I think we have what you might call a moral metabolism.  We interpret things as just or unjust.  But that really does not distinguish us, the one from the other.

I know I am flying in the face of common opinion – surprise, surprise.  We have courts to help us specify whether a person has acted properly or not.  Sometimes a murderer, even after a conviction, will gloat on the event.  That seems wrong.  But I tend to go along with Mohammed on that one, “Only Allah can peer into a man’s heart.” 

All this I cannot prove, but it does seem to be the simplest way to account for my very long, if undisciplined, accumulation of experience.

So what, then? 

I would say, “Gumption.”  We all have resources.  We all make decisions.  The important thing to me is whether we use those resources to make decisions regarding our moral environment and then act on them. 

Forgive me, oh loyal and much loved if shadowy reader, on that one I find the baseline to be very low.  Crucially there is an enormous difference between some and others.  Some with the greatest gumption are those I like the least, to tell you the truth. 

So I say memories are wisps; they can be rewritten.  Desires are deluded.  Morals and metabolism are universal.  The impulse to take the opportunities of the moment and try to carry forward the moral imperative – that is what makes the person. 

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