A code makes you free

Living and dying by an ethical code makes you free. We are all constrained by those around us. By the web of social norms and expectations and the punishments for breaking them. Most people are simple and respond to incentives predictably. If doing something will cause more pain than pleasure, they avoid it. If the reverse is true, they seek it out.* All societies are different and some allow more and some less freedom. Still, even the most liberal societies force compliance with a range of norms. From what you can and cannot say to how to dress to how and when to sleep. Since material incentives are omnipresent, there is only one path to true freedom. Living by a code.

When you decide to do what is right, regardless of the costs to you, you are free. You’re free from social control and manipulation. From the laws and norms which punish dissent. You’re free from nature’s coercion, from the dark part of your mind telling you to gain status and power, to be a good mate and create a good life for your children.

Counterpoint:

  • An absolute code of ethics is both freeing and binding. It frees you from worldly constraints and the manipulations and coercions of the tribe. If binds you much more tightly to a set of moral rules which may well be more constraining than any society. I still think that embracing a code of ethics means eventually becoming it and at that point it no longer binds you any more than you being you binds you. Still, this is my view and your may differ.

*(Simplistic. It’s not the balance that matters, it’s the relative utility of the option compared to other available courses of action. People will choose to suffer when they other choices only promise more suffering)**

**(Still simplistic. People aren’t utility monsters. Most people do assign weight to their moral preferences, they just assign less weight to them than I would like.)

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