Human Responsibility

JONATHAN CARROLL | OPINION COLUMNIST

In the modern day and age, technology has allowed there to be an immense wealth of interconnectivity throughout the entire world. As much as this has led to the sharing of uplifting stories of global hospitality and news of great strides in the field of medicine, so too has technology allowed instances of terrorism, genocide, slavery and many other such acts to become known worldwide in a matter of minutes. By and large, the international community condemns these acts, but the basis of such condemnation is not always clearly valid. Typically, morality is based on any one of four arguments: evolution, morality, religion or reciprocation.

On the basis of evolution, humans have a responsibility to care for one another to ensure the survival of the species. If as many humans as possible are allowed to live and reproduce, nature may run its course and pick which traits are desirable to preserve for future generations based on a full range of choices. This shotgun approach consequently requires care for each and every being, in case he or she possesses a desirable trait. An issue with this approach remains, though, in that a justification for why the survival of our species is good is never provided, although this may be resolved by taking on the next approach: morality.

On the basis of morality, there exists certain universal laws under which certain actions can be judged as being either “good”or “bad.”With this approach, then, the “goodness”of the survival of the human species may be ascertained, although it also works on its own. According to these laws, we may determine that caring for one another is “good”and that the threatening, killing or abuse of others is “bad”and consequently ought to be avoided. This approach may encounter a similar problem to that of evolution in that it presupposes that each human has worth, but this concern should be addressable on its own grounds: look to the universal laws, and determine if they dictate that human existence is good. Still, there is the issue of how we determine these laws, although we may resolve this through the third approach: religion.

On the basis of religion, we are to treat other humans with care and respect because of the divine. We may actually view the religious approach as a subset of morality, with respect for the divine being either the universal law or simply one of many. Just so, the existence of an intelligent divine allows for that divine to instill humans with knowledge of what the laws we are to follow are, resolving that issue for the prior approach. However, whether the divine exists within us or without, an issue with this approach is that often times the divine is so potent and eternal (providing our need to respect it) that it is determined to be inscrutable to us in our finitude, and so we are faced with the same issue of in-determinability as in the approach by morality. Still, one final approach remains for consideration: reciprocation.

On the basis of reciprocation, care for other humans is conducted solely with the hope that by caring for others, they will care for you in turn. This approach demonstrates the least care for humanity as a whole but allows for the nuanced approach to care for one another  demonstrated globally by not aiming to tap into anything universal but rather merely acting according to one’s own preferences, thus falling in line with the Golden Rule. Accordingly, it may be the least meaningful approach, but it is also, perhaps, the most defensible.

The fact that any one of these approaches may be taken demonstrates that there is no clear answer as to a definitive WHY we should practice care for one another. It is entirely possible that there simply is no reason why, and that, in truth, we have no human responsibility. Still, with these many approaches as possibilities, it is more likely than not that there does exist some responsibility which we ought to observe in our daily interactions. The reason why, however, until further notice, is entirely up to you.

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