Morals and ideals(for example love,human rights , justice)are individual or local Essay

Human beings from time immemorial discovered the fact that they could only survive the earth if they came up and lived together. According to Graham at lower levels of existence, nature has provided some kind of disorderly order, and instincts of self preservation on the one hand and herd-instinct on the other” (Graham 2009).Thus according to this flow of thought this realization paved way for units such as families, communities, tribes and societies to be formed. However within these communities it was also very necessary to regulate the behaviours of human beings against themselves as each one strove for the limited resources to sustain their needs. There was need for guidelines to harmonise human beings and this led to the establishment of morals in the human societies (Diener, 1997). There have been many scholars and philosophers who have sought to try and explain and clearly understand the context to which morals and ideals should be understood. This paper seeks to investigate and discuss whether morals and ideals are individual or local by firstly studying some of the key philosophers who have delved into analysing and explaining this concept are such as Aristotle, Emmanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill.

Morals and ideals can be defined as those societal principles of right and wrong behaviour and which one within a specific community is expected to adhere to. In the event that one does not adhere to them, he or she is liable for sanctions. Sievernich says,” these sanctions can be external or internal. External sanctions entail and reward accomplished through social instruments while the later are characterized by the feeling of guilt and a loss of self respect” (Sievernich 1998). However the controversial question that this paper seeks to address is whether morality and ideals should be individual or local.

It is prudent to point out that by the term individual, what is meant is that it applies to human beings at a personal level and thus a person should be left to decide what works for him or her. On the other hand local is taken to mean that which applies to a group of people in the same area or within a given field of commonality.

One of the major scholars to date to have contributed to this argument is Aristotle. He represents the school of thought of virtue ethics which basically holds that happiness is self sufficiency thus what is moral is that which will bring happiness to the individual. He goes ahead to assert that the good of the man outweighs the good of the few and individuals should be thought of and taken care of first. To this extent Aristotle does take the path of knowledge which holds morals or rather what is good or bad should be applied at an individual level with the basic aim of creating a good life for the individual first before the society as a whole. In a sense this can be accepted as logical since it is the individual beings who make up the building blocks of the local, thus if morals and ideals are successfully employed by them to have a good life then it follows that the general whole will also have the success of experiencing the good life as Aristotle puts it.

On the other hand Kant represents duty ethics which basically holds that morality should be arrived at after a serious rational process and that morals should apply to all moral agents without exception. Emanuel Kant coined the term The Categorical Imperative to define this moral law. He is a systematic thinker and therefore the reason why rationality is central to Kant’s morality is because he believes that what one takes to be moral should be universalistic in nature. It should be able to apply to one person just as he or she is willing to apply the same treatment to others (Diener, 1997). The three basic tenants of Kant’s perspective on morals and ideals are that; humans are required to act in ways that require everyone else to act the same way. This is the principle of universalizability. Secondly human actions should be such that they respect other people thus actions should not merely be a means to the end but an end in themselves and lastly humans should always act in a manner that they end up both as the legislature and the legislated in the kingdom of ends. Can be said to be of the school of thought that holds that do unto others what you would like them do to you. Therefore he routes for morals and ideals to be understood and be implemented in the context of local and not individual as Aristotle held it.

Mill however, advocates for a utilitarianism view of morality. According to Mill what is moral is that which brings about the most happiness. Therefore the effects of one’s actions according to mill are the most important determinant factors. He holds that if an action is bound to adversely affect more number of people as opposed to if another option is taken that will affect relatively fewer people than the first action is morally wrong. Following this train of thought, morals and ideals are greatly influenced by how individuals act in the local. To Mill it is important that the aggregate impact of individuals’ actions on the greater majority that should be the determining factor as to what is right or wrong (Sullivan 1989).

In my own experience and understanding as a young man in the twenty first century, human freedom is paramount to everyone. Each and every person should be given some room to develop themselves as they desire. It is important that human beings wherever they may be should be given a chance to self actualize, that is see and decide for themselves what is moral and how they should act it out. In this case morals and ideals will make more sense when they are pursued in the context of individual and not local.

However on the other hand my take on Kant’s view on morality appeals to me and is more practical more so in my community. It is most prudent to have a system of checks and regulations that sees all men equal. This ensures that justice prevails since the same way one is treated is the same way another will. A good example of how practical this view is to me is exemplified by the constitution in my and other democratic governments across the globe (Graham, 1990). The constitution is a body of laws which has its major tenet as all citizens are equal before it and it applies to all and sundry without any discrimination. Being a first born and male in my family I also have come to terms with the fact that I need to ensure that how I relate to my siblings is equally fair and just. I am obligated to show them a good example which they are also expected to follow. Thus I cannot engage in reckless behaviour such as heavy drinking in as much as i can choose to do this to gratify my spirit just as Aristotle holds (Grčić, 2000). This cannot be the case; I have to ensure that just as I want my siblings to grow up as responsible people so I too should fully live up to my words. This cuts across a majority of the families in my community. If the humans would be allowed to act in the ways they each desire beyond the confines of the local it would be utter disorder and chaos. I believe that man is basically social but has a competitiveness built in him. This can be illustrated by how much struggle we have to go through in our lives in order to sustain or develop our welfare. The earth resources are not growing exponentially as the human population rather these resources are dwindling daily. The fact that humans have to compete for these limited resources has not made it any easier to apply individualistic morals. It is for this reasons that governments have been instituted to govern the relation of human beings to an extent that the morals, laws and guideline placed upon them applies to each and every person. This ensures a universalistic and logical application of morals and ideas.

Thus from the arguments above it is safe to conclude that morals and ideals can only be effectively applied in the context of local and not individual


Diener, P. W. (1997). Religion and morality: An introduction. Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press.

Graham, G. (1990). Living the good life: An introduction to moral philosophy. New York: Paragon House.

Grčić, J. (2000). Ethics and political theory. Lanham, Md: University Press of America.

Sullivan, R. J. (1989). Immanuel Kant’s moral theory. Cambridge [England: Cambridge University Press.