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The Acquisition Of Morality Essay

1320 words - 6 pages

Would you describe a dog as capable of being evil? Or a cat? Or a chimpanzee? Most likely you could not. We humans belong to the taxonomic kingdom of Animalia and are therefore animals. Our species has evolved from animals that looked and acted more like the modern chimpanzee than we do. So at what point did we go from being creatures of instinct do developing the concept of morality? A great deal of literature has been written about morality, examples of which can be located in fiction and non-fiction as well as in scientific, theological and philosophical fields. Specific examples include the bible, as well as the writings of Plato (c. 424-348 BCE), Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) and John Steinbeck (1902-1968). Morality is a trait that is developed as a result of practical material situations and experience as exemplified in The Grapes of Wrath, challenged by St. Matthew, but reinforced in the writings of Plato; we humans are born morally neutral.
John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath tells the story of the Joad family as they travel from Oklahoma to California. The story has some very realistic examples of people learning lessons in morality, whether they realize it or not, as well as the values of being moral. Steinbeck wrote:
The families learned what rights must be observed—the right of privacy in the tent; the right to keep the past black hidden in the heart; the right to talk and to listen; the right to refuse help or to accept, to offer help or to decline it; the right of son to court and daughter to be courted; the right of the hungry to be fed; the rights of the pregnant and the sick to transcend all other rights (Steinbeck 194).
He wrote that families learned about these rights, meaning at one point they did not know them. They gradually received this knowledge overtime by enduring hardships and living in a society with other people; by experience. The origins of these rights came as a result of practical material situations. The people going to California were for the most part very poor so it gradually they learned to try to help each other. Which led to learning how to sensible about helping people and not to harm yourself by giving out help to others, and people leaned to respect declining to help someone.
Although the case for neutral human morality is pretty straightforward there are two other views on the topic. The case that humans are innately good and the case that we are innately evil and must be taught better by religious or spiritual influences. This sentiment that people are sinful and need to be “saved” is common view shared by Christianity and other major religions. There are several parts of the bible that can be used to look at this assertion, in particular we will turn to the writings of St. Matthew. The Sermon on the Mount section from the gospel of St. Matthew is a speech given by Jesus to his disciples. The speech contains many famous beatitudes such as “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the...

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