Sh*t To Help You Show Up February 4, 2022
Everyone hates moral philosophers
I have a dirty, little secret to confess. Despite the subtitle to this newsletter, I love moral philosophers. I love their unwavering determination to try and make some kind of sense out of the ways in which we bump up against each other as humans. They’re earnest and thoughtful and a little annoying when they get on a tear. You know, kind of like me.
I even love Immanuel Kant. Oh, he of the categorical imperative. He’s undeniably an absolute prig, but still. My feelings for him are kind of like those for my mom’s cousin Sharon, who in a fit of pique once proclaimed loudly, “Jesus wasn’t a vegetarian so you can’t tell me that I have to be one!” Aw, Sharon! Using only things that Jesus did as your ethical rubric is…admirable? But also, I think you might have some practical problems with application?
What can I say? Kant and Cousin Sharon… they’re family. A little crazy, but your people are your people.
I bring this dirty little secret affection to you today because, let’s be real, if you’ve been paying attention it’s not that much of a secret. The whole notion of integrity is an ethical construct. This whole newsletter project is a rambling conversation about how we put our beliefs into practice, which is inherently an expression of our moral philosophy.
But many of you have maybe not even really ever studied moral philosophy? I haven’t (technically). My first exposure to philosophers were those guys in college— the philosophy majors— who always sat together in the cafeteria (probably because no one else wanted to sit with any of them). They all wore heavy, Elvis Costello-type glasses, smoked unfiltered cigarettes, and took themselves way too seriously. Philosophers were self-important bores, in other words, and totally not my jam.
Except, I’ve come to appreciate that moral philosophy kind of is my jam, and if you’re here then I suspect it is kind of your jam, too. So, given that most of us weren’t philosophy majors in college, nor do we have the time or inclination to dive deep into classic moral philosophy texts, how do we even figure out what our moral philosophy is?
Not our beliefs, mind you. That’s a separate topic. Instead, our moral philosophy tells us how we apply our beliefs in real time. How we make the decisions that, hopefully, keep us (mostly) in our integrity.